The Mendoza Whine

Ryan O’Leary over at B&G posted a new piece about Strength and Conditioning called “The Mendoza Line”, using the recent combine results of 4 players to defend CoachMendoza’s performance as S&C Coach over the past few years.

While it’s a good read, and there are some valid points, I don’t buy it.

I have 2 main issues with the crux of his argument.

First, he uses the performance of a few players at the combine, in particular categories, to evaluate an entire program.

Yes, ND guys put up some good numbers at the combine. In some places, our guys finished in the top 5 or top 10 at their position. But in other exercises, which Ryan conveniently leaves out, our guys didn’t finish in the top 5 or 10. So I could’ve just used those stats, and written an article on how BAD Mendoza was. So he’s really only telling part of the story. I mean, if I just use Olsen’s bench numbers (#5 of all those in the combine) to make the argument, that’d pretty much be the same thing. Because he picked the measures where our guys did best and said “Hey, hey, look how great they’re doing! Mendoza was really good”. But what about all the places where they didn’t do great? Those numbers are just as valid.

Speaking of numbers, ND has 5 guys at the Combine. 1 of them, Clausen, isn’t even working out. So we’re looking at 4 guys on a roster that’s HUGE. So now these 4 guys represent the entire report card on Mendoza? Last I looked we had 11 guys playing offense, 11 D, plus ST’s, on the field. And we’re going to use our 4 best/most athletic guys as the barometer for how well Mendoza did? Seems a bit skewed.

My 2nd beef with the argument is that he puts a bunch of emphasis on a few meat-market-ish tests designed for NFL Scouts to pick and prod top athletes for the pros. This isn’t necessarily what translates into a program-wide result of fitness. For example, ND’s issues in the latter half of the season in ’09 and ’08 were clearly endurance-related. The ability to keep going, for a full-game, non-stop and 100%. ND dropped long, hard-fought games to teams like Pitt and UCONN, and they faded late in the year 2 years in a row. There’s no 2-mile run at the combine, so there’s no metric for how well Mendoza taught and enforced a discipline that would lead to stamina and endurance in the face of adversity.

Going along with that, it seemed that the Irish didn’t quite have the fight left in them in the 2nd half of the season. And while that could largely be put on Weis’ shoulders, or the captains or other coaches, you have to wonder how much the S&C program’s personality, attitude, approach might have fed into it. Did Mendoza preach commitment? How much did he push his guys to go longer/harder?

To be honest, I have no clue about Mendoza or his program. When I was there, Mickey was the S&C guy, and I know his program well. But I can’t really speak to Mendoza’s process, attitude, philosophy or ethic.

I just know that ND faded in the 2nd half of the season 2 years in a row, the guys seemed skunked at the end of games, and we couldn’t ever just seem to put a team away. So I don’t know if Ryan O’Leary is right or wrong. I just don’t buy the argument as presented.

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  • SDI

    More than a few NFL coaches have pointed out just how absolutely worthless it is to see how many reps of 225 lbs. a guy can bench. It’s completely useless in determining how good a guy will do in the league.
    So in cherry picking events, he didn’t even pick one that is important.

  • SDI

    Oh, yeah, nice title. Isn’t Mendoza the wine making region of Argentina? Clever.

  • panicstreak

    Attributing these fella’s combine results to Mendoza its tenuous at best. Knowing first hand, (a friend of mine runs a performance camp in FL for potential draftees) most of these guys hire outside trainers the day their NCAA football seasons are over, to specifically train their muscles to excel in the combine events. Since the Irish season ended in November, Im sure all of these guys never even saw Mendoza again, and were being trained by their own coaches.

  • IanY77

    Great dissection of the article. I know it’s the off-season, but c’mon, B&G can do better than that.

    I can’t find the link, but I remember a sportswriter saying that watching ND players warm up next to Pitt players, ND’s guys just didn’t look like the same calibre of athletes as Pitt’s (in terms of conditioning or physique). Ouch. Also, remember after last years spring game, the D coach saying that the players were gassed by the end of the game? I’m sorry, but while the first part of that article is fair, the fact is that ND’s conditioning wasn’t up to par, and BK has to fix that NOW, especially if he wants to run a high tempo offence. That D will spend a LOT of time on the field next year.