Crossroads

The flight home from New Orleans will be a long one for the Irish players, and probably even lengthier for Irish head coach Charlie Weis. Like Irish fans, Weis will certainly be looking for answers to fix the problems the Irish have when facing these elite teams. There seem to be just three possible problems and solutions as far as I can tell.

Any objective person watching the Sugar Bowl should've clearly been able to see a talent gap between Notre Dame and LSU. We all knew this heading into the game; ESPN wouldn't let us forget it, but is the talent gap difference 27 points? That's the most important question in my mind. Does Boise State have more talent than Notre Dame?

Is it talent? Is it coaching? Or maybe even effort in a few players? It only takes one person blowing an assignment and catastrophe can strike….and it did strike, to the tune of 41 points.

Weis is right in that it's unacceptable to play like they did on Wednesday. It's one thing to take the blame, as all good coaches should, it's something entirely different to be able to fix it. But this is why the big guy gets paid the big bucks. And sometimes being the big guy means you have to make hard decisions.

In the last four big games the Irish have played (OSU, Michigan, USC, LSU), the Irish have surrendered 166 points (41.5 points per game) and 1,938 yards (485 yards per game). These are not the numbers of a top 10 defense.

However, the Irish have also scored an average of just 21.5 points per game in these games. Notre Dame averaged under 85 yards rushing and just 237 yards passing in these games. The Irish also completed just 53 percent of their passes in these contests.

The passing numbers aren't meant as a slam on Brady Quinn, those numbers reflect overall poor offensive performance. Again, not the numbers of a top 10 team.

So where does Weis start?

If the problems are talent related, the only way to fix that is to recruit more talent. Weis is doing that and has a number of top offensive and defensive players already committed to Notre Dame. They will certainly help, and he landed a good group last year as well, but he needs even more.

The Irish must finish this recruiting season strong to give them a chance to play with these elite teams. If the Irish don't finish strong, especially leaving holes on the defensive side of the ball, Weis has to reevaluate his recruiting process and figure out a different approach.

The Irish are definitely in on some elite talent, but to be in the race means little if you don't land them. And waiting for plan A without a plan B in sight is not a good plan in my opinion. It didn't work last year. I'm hoping it will this year, but I'm not banking on it. Not landing a second, and talented, defensive tackle would be catastrophic in my mind. The next few days, weeks will be very important for Notre Dame recruiting.

If the problem is coaching, you have to make a change or changes. I once had a coach tell me: "While I appreciate coach X's loyalty to his coaches, his loyalty got us all fired." Some ask: Will it affect recruiting? I'd suggest standing pat might hurt more, especially in the future.

What if it's an effort issue with some players? I can't say if it is or it isn't an issue, that's for Weis to judge. Regardless, if it is an issue, Weis has some hard decisions here make here as well. Weis can't bench players for poor performance when he's shooting for a BCS berth. The stakes are too high. But when your team is struggling, like they likely will next year, he certainly can.

There are three possible problems as I see it. What Weis does to fix these problems in the next few weeks and months will dramatically impact the future of the Irish football program, and his tenure at Notre Dame.

Lastly, Weis has to evaluate himself and his performance. Some suggest Weis is arrogant. I don't believe he is. Actually, I think he's probably harder on himself than he is on anyone else. Weis knows when he makes mistakes. He gladly points them out and takes the blame. I fully expect he'll take a look in the mirror, find the flaws, and do what it takes to fix any problems he finds with his performance as well. I'd suggest patience in playcalling is one area he'll find, and I'm sure he'd be the first to point that out.



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