Search Was One Big Fish Story

IrishEyes tonight presents commentary from "Rock Kanutski," a popular online commentator from UHND.com. The Rock provides his thoughts on why Bob Davie had to be fired, why Jon Gruden couldn't be hired, and why Kevin White had to announce George O'Leary when he did. It was an exhausting ride, the Rock writes. IrishEyes will present Rock's commentary on a regular basis.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com

December 11, 2001

Davie Didn't Understand;
O'Leary Another Brey?

By "Rock Kanutski"
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
(courtesy UHND.com)

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I started writing this article, and a lot of fish have swum in it. The Mariucci Trout, the Bellotti Mackerel, the Stoops Big Tuna, and of course, the Gruden Golden Salmon have flashed beneath us, along with a number of perch, sunfish and anchovies.

All courtesy of Bob Davie, who tried, but couldn't get the job done.

Now we've landed George O'Leary, a man who Kevin White believes fills the bill, or at least fits the net he's been casting. And while O'Leary could be the biggest catch of all, no one will know for sure for a year or so.

Either way the final phase of the Davie Drama is over. Notre Dame has a new head football coach. It's been an exhausting trip.

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WHAT DAVIE DIDN'T GET:  It has beens widely reported that Davie failed because he didn't "get" Notre Dame, didn't get it that at ND, you have to win. Jim Litke wrote an article that said just that, and others have implied as much.

Davie supports that claim. He recently revealed that when he was first hired, Ara Parseghian warned him, "Bob, just win." Davie notes in retrospect he should have listened.

Reporters have also pointed out that Davie missed White's introductory meeting, the one where White laid down the level of excellence he expects and intends from his coaches. If only Bob had made that meeting, we sigh, his regime might just have been different. If only he'd heard the word.

Gee.

Before we go further, let's lay this one to rest. It's not that Bob Davie didn't get Notre Dame. Bob Davie didn't get excellence.

Let's say it again, so it's clear. The problem wasn't Notre Dame. It was excellence.

Davie didn't fail because two 9-3 seasons in five attempts wasn't good enough for White. He failed because that level of success was good enough for Bob Davie.

I take you back once more to Davie's shocking comments before the Nebraska game. A few days prior to that memorable blowout, Davie said, "At some point, we've got to go in and win a game like this."

I knew then that Davie would be fired.  I'll bet when Kevin White heard that comment, he got chills from his scalp to his heels. "At some point, Bob?" you can hear Kevin ask. "At some point? How about now, Bob? Is now good for you?"

In light of Davie's comment, the outcome of the game, the season, and indeed the regime, was predictable, the natural result of Davie's poignant wish to win "at some point."

(One call we missed in that article, by the way, was the timing; it seems that Kevin didn't start his search until after he'd fired Davie, which made the Hamlet-like gap between the funeral and the wedding longer than I expected. I said I'd eat crabgrass if I got that wrong. This is me munching.)

In contrast to Davie, White thinks differently. He said in his statement firing Davie, "We also expect and intend to excel on the field." Another quiz for you—what's the key phrase here? Clue—it's not "on the field," though that's the part noted in the press. The key phrase is "expect and intend."

The best don't just want to succeed. We all want to succeed; we all want a lot of things.

The best do more than want; they expect and intend to succeed. And they do so for themselves, not for some employer. They do so because it's in them, because they're incapable of less. Did Lou Holtz win for Notre Dame, or did he win for Lou? Did he expect to win, or just want to?

Look around you. What are the standards of the best in your own profession? That are their expectations? Not wishes, expectations. Now look at the pretty good also-rans. What are their expectations? Of those two groups, whose standards are born of urgency and intention, and whose are adopted, chameleon-like, veneer-like, from their surroundings?

You know those answers with your eyes closed. Now open your eyes and look at Bob Davie.

If Davie had failed to meet his own expectations, he wouldn't have asked to stay. Then again, if Davie had higher expectations, he might still be coaching at Notre Dame.

So goodbye, Bob. We wish you well. Thanks for the effort, the hard work, the lesson. We really appreciate it.

And thanks for all the fish.

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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY:  The one that got away, of course, is Jon Gruden. Never has the Nation seen such a star-struck confluence of talent, mutual interest, career timing, and fan frenzy. Had Gruden signed on as the next HC, we'd be mauling him in the end zone right now, and toasting trophies even Beano Cook hasn't given us.

So what went wrong? I haven't confirmed this yet with Al Davis' sister's boyfriend's niece, but one name does come to mind—Al Davis. Unless Gruden didn't want the job, it's more than even money Davis told him, "You announce, you're fired. Now go coach my team." Given Davis' history, even Vegas might not want the back end of that one.

I said the high-level timing—the career timing—was right for a Gruden move, and it was. Gruden's career stock has never been higher, and it's rising. This would have been a perfect time for Jon to come to ND, perfect for ND and perfect for Jon.

But the low-level timing was terrible. The yawning gap between when White needed an announcement and when Gruden could make one was huge, a good six weeks. In dog years, that's forever.

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WHY KEVIN NEEDED TO ANNOUNCE:  Why, you ask, did Kevin White need an announcement? Why couldn't he just blow past that problem with a "gentlemen's understanding" (wink wink) that after the Raider's last game Gruden would resign to become the next ND head coach. In this scenario, no one says a word, in a silence that speaks volumes.

That approach, while clever, has two drawbacks. One, without a "real" agreement we could get stood up, with all good intentions. After all, a contract is a contract, and no contract is, well, less than that. This is a risk that Kevin would have to think about. What if we got CJLeak'ed once more—what if we waited until February and came up empty. There are many ways to spell disaster, and this is one of them.

The second reason is less practical, except in its implications. If Notre Dame had engaged in a secret agreement to avoid admitting the truth (in other words, had signed Gruden without telling Davis), the deception would be transparent. In fact, transparency would be a requirement—we would want potential recruits to see right through it.

The problem with that tactic is its dishonesty. Would White and Malloy, who root themselves in personal integrity, approve such dealings? Hardly. And the ND bashers would be out in force, throwing the H-word around like Halloween candy. (Credit to UHND.com's Morris Goldberg for analyzing in print the integrity issue. An excellent read on his part, and to my knowledge, he was first to market with it.)

So no announcement, no Jon. And oops, there's that plane to catch.

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WHAT'S


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