That’s Where We Went Wrong
Before Charlie Weis was officially announced as the new head coach at Notre Dame, he was preceded with praise from his colleagues and the press touting him as an offensive genius—a guru of X’s and O’s that, if anything else, could get the Irish offense firing on all cylinders. Six years later, Charlie Weis has more or less lived up to those expectations, save one season. Six years later, Irish football fans are not satisfied with just a powerful offense, and it’s hard to blame them. Are the expectations of Irish fans too high? Maybe. If so, it’s because most fans have seen an incredibly talented team showing flashes of greatness, yet continuing to perform at a mediocre level.
The 2009 season is nearly over and the outcome of the match up with Stanford will have little to do with the future of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Whether he is retained for next season or let go, the decision of Weis’ fate has already been made by President Jenkins and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick. And as rumors swirl about Brian Kelly, Brian Billick, and Jim Harbaugh as Weis’ possible replacement—should he be let go—one thing is certain: Notre Dame must have a head football coach that has an understanding of the particulars of being successful at Notre Dame.
The head football coach at Notre Dame must be a person who arrives on the job with a firm grasp of what it takes to be successful. And as the coach at Notre Dame, not only do you have to deal with the never-ending, intense scrutiny that comes with the most high-profile position in college football, but you also must be ready to make decisions that not only affect an offense or defense, but an entire team. That understanding only comes from having spent time at the position, and, through no fault of his own, that’s where Notre Dame went wrong with Charlie Weis.
For now, Irish fans must wait to learn of the fate of Charlie Weis and the entire program. The firing of Weis could leave a disastrous wake including the dismissal of several great assistant coaches, the loss of several high school recruits to other schools, and a mass exodus of All-American players to the NFL, headlined by Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. However, retaining coach Weis could delay the inevitable and set the development of the entire football program back a year or more—years that could be spent retrofitting the current team to the schematic needs of a new coach.
Whether Weis is roaming the sidelines in South Bend next year remains a mystery to everyone outside of those involved with the inner-workings of the University. If Weis remains at Notre Dame for a probationary sixth season, he must fully embrace the role of a head coach. He must stop trying to outsmart his opponents while outsmarting his own team in the process. He must put his faith in his assistants and coordinators to do their jobs. And above all, he must take ownership of his position and make decisions for the team without polling his friends in the NFL and beyond. If Weis is relieved from his position, a viable candidate must be found who has a long history of possessing these qualities.
A leader who makes bad decisions is not as harmful as a leader who makes none.