How In The Irish

Just how? With a day to let Notre Dame's 46-44 loss to Navy marinade, the answers to how the Irish have gotten to this point just leads to more and more questions.

It's head scratching, mind boggling, surreal, unbelievable. amazing in a sense, weird and totally unexpected. You've felt at least one of these. Notre Dame football is 1-8, and with three possible excruciating games remaining, there might be no bottom in sight.

For 2007 anyways, and keep that in mind.

Pete Carroll said he saw it coming. Mark May would concur, yet he boasts the same miserable prediction for Notre Dame every year. But even those two, and really nobody else, could've envisioned a 1-8 Irish football team might still be searching for rock bottom with three games to go.

Third-year head coach Charlie Weis, owner of four Super Bowl rings, the architect of those New England Patriots offenses, the fire that sparked Notre Dame to two straight Bowl Championship Series appearances and 19 wins in two seasons, shoulders the blame on a weekly basis. Being human, he's made mistakes, but there is a lot more issues other than Weis.

Many many more.

Skipping over things like trying to reach the 85-man scholarship limit (a mess the previous staff left Weis), the top-heavy schedule, implementing a new 3-4 defense, and the lack of upperclassmen in the program, the biggest question mark is offensively. Weis put together offensive game plans during his seven years as an NFL offensive coordinator that made the best defensive minds in the game look silly. He came to South Bend and took an offense that ranked 81st nationally the year before, and turned it around with the same players, ranking eighth nationally in scoring and 10th nationally in total offense. Last year's unit was not bad either.

But this season, one of the most respected offensive minds in football, has the country's worst total offense. Yeah, Weis had to replace seven starters on offense. Yeah, he's had to play a boatload of young players. And yeah, there has been injuries. Despite all that, this unit should not be this inept, and that leads to the how, and all the other questions and wonderment stemming from that.

Weis could probably talk for days about it.

"Not to be evasive, it is too broad a question at this time right now because there's a whole litany of things I could talk about," he said following the loss to the Midshipmen on Saturday, snapping the NCAA record 43-game winning streak Notre Dame had over Navy.

"The bottom line is we've tried to do a number of different things this year either by scheme, personnel group, formation, motion and have basically been inconsistent on offense. That's probably the best word I could say.

"And I can sit there and make excuses for all -- for lack of production. But today there's at least -- for example, in the running game, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today was a day where you can sit there and say, okay, we can take and run the football. I think the sooner we start resolving problems, the better off we're going to be in the big picture."

Another thing that makes this situation that much more perplexing is that indeed, the big picture is bright.

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator and current holder of the same position at Washington, Kent Baer, made the statement a couple weeks ago we didn't become stupid overnight. Baer was defending himself and the coaching staff of the struggling Huskies. A brilliant Irish Eyes poster wrote that took years of hard work. The statistical trend supports that statement.

Well, Weis didn't become stupid overnight either. One bad season doesn't change the fact that he has had as much success as relatively anybody in the business. On top of that, the very intelligent Notre Dame graduate will not go down the same road as Baer and company. This year is one big brutal mulligan.

That bright big picture has Weis working with what's going to be arguably three-straight top-10 recruiting classes, the latest one holding down's top spot for now. Wide-eyed youngsters getting a feel for the ropes together, will soon become grizzled veterans that have tasted a season they will never want to experience ever again.

Keep this to yourself at the office or watering hole, but it's not obscene to think Notre Dame could win the National Championship in two seasons. The biggest reason why is Weis. His ability to sell Notre Dame to recruits is his top strength. His resume is still quite impressive as a coach, and the defense is getting bigger and faster by the recruiting class. The story next year will be the huge turnaround the Irish and their offense has made.

For now, that is far cry from what anybody relevant is thinking. Weis has to try and get a good effort out of his kids this weekend against Air Force, the next weekend against Duke, and in the finale at Stanford, or rock bottom will get more hellacious each week.

Weis is a confident man, and up until this season he had no reason not to be. Struggling mightily at the thing he does best has to be wearing on him, though he'd never come out and say it.

"Personal doesn't really make a difference," Weis said when asked how he is dealing with the season on a personal level. "I think that my job is to keep moving the team forward and talk about the future of Notre Dame football. That's my job.

"My job is to prepare the team on a weekly basis to try to win that game and develop the team and develop the individuals so that the program can move in the right direction. I think that's where we're going to head."

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