Where does leadership come from? Those that lead are those that aren't afraid to go against the norm. Leaders speak up and speak their mind. Others listen because they respect them and what they have to say. People turn to leaders in times of crisis because they don't know what to do. The Irish will have to find some leaders this week.
Some fans suggest an internal rift amongst the team might be the reason for the recent problems with the Irish. This could be true but I seriously doubt it. In my dealings with the team, everyone seems to get along very well and enjoy their coaches for the most part.
This is a young team that probably doesn't feel very good about themselves right now. The offense can't feel good about themselves and the defense hasn't played well in three of the last four games.
Tyrone Willingham inherited a team that didn't feel too good about themselves in Notre Dame. This group of men had been on a rollercoaster ride of emotion and defeat. They didn't get to choose Willingham as their coach like they chose Davie but they certainly responded to Willingham reeling off eight straight wins.
Willingham has righted the ship before and he can do that again but he is going to need some help. He had help last year in Shane Walton, Gerome Sapp and Jeff Faine. Plenty of others like Courtney Watson, Cedric Hilliard, Darrell Campbell and Glenn Earl were leaders last year and remain on the team this year. The Irish will have to turn to this group and others to find help and the desire to be a great team again.
My concern turns to the offense however. Who is leading the offense? Is it starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday? Is it the ailing Sean Milligan along the offensive line? Is it Omar Jenkins? Who is leading this offense?
Watching Holiday after the Michigan game, I felt sorry for him. Holiday stared in the face of danger for 30 minutes answering questions. He knew every single reporter asking him questions would take his words and slaughter him. No other player or coach answered questions for more than 10 minutes but Holiday stood there and fielded them all. He admitted he played poorly, he knew he needed to get better but they kept on digging looking for any phrase to hang him—they hanged him anyway.
I don't know if Holiday's actions were a sign of leadership but it certainly took courage. He could've walked away like others but he stood there in the face of danger and did one of the more unpleasant jobs of being the Irish quarterback.
I have no idea if Carlyle Holiday is a leader but this offense certainly needs one. I have no idea if Holiday is the best guy to run this show but I do know he won't back down from a challenge or responsibility. A lot has been said about Holiday the last two days but what hasn't been said is that he's a good guy, from a good family, a good student and a team player—none of which wins football games but Holiday will win in the game of life.
Holiday never asked for this job. When he committed to Bob Davie, his thoughts were that he would run some option, throw the football some and use his skills to help Notre Dame win football games. Circumstances have changed and now he's being asked to do something he's never done before. That's life and life is not always fair.
What bothers me about this however is Holiday can't help the fact that nobody on the team can play quarterback better than he at this point. I wouldn't blame him if he had moments when he wished they did have someone else. Nobody wants to be the reason Notre Dame loses a game—he wasn't the only reason but he certainly was treated as if he were—welcome to Notre Dame.
Regardless, someone will have to become the leader on offense. Willingham and his offensive coaches will have to find someone on offense to lead this team—someone who wants to step up and make this unit believe in themselves. Someone who will speak up in the huddle and get this team focused on the job at hand. They will need more than just one.
Irish fans will learn a lot about Tyrone Willingham, his coaches and these players in the next few weeks. Will they fold their tent and accept losing like the Michigan game or do they keep on fighting like they did so many times last year? Willingham has changed their thought process in the past and can do that again. He'll have to do that again to avoid what could be a dismal season.