Mike Haywood has more important things on his mind right now than who will call the offensive plays for Notre Dame against Navy on Saturday.
Haywood had a cousin who struggled with health issues for about four years pass away on Friday. Charlie Weis suggested that Haywood fly home on Tuesday night to attend the wake, but he will fly to Houston on Wednesday night for the funeral before rejoining the team in Baltimore this weekend.
"It's really unfortunate when you lose a loved one, however I think it's a little bit more shocking when you lose a loved one who is only 24 years of age," he said. "Her mother took care of us when we were kids, baby-sat us all of the time so we developed a close relationship with her kids as they grew older. A beautiful young lady that struggled a lot throughout life, the last few years of her life, but never lost her smile and never lost hope and was always in good spirits. And God bless her soul."
Haywood said he was able to keep the tragedy out of his mind during the Boston College game, but admitted that it was difficult.
"When I go to work, personal life stays at home. I really don't think about anything other than the moment," he said. "Whenever it's family everything is tough, but you learn how to deal with adversity."
When Haywood does return his role will be more like it was his first three years as offensive coordinator with Weis handling the play calls.
"It gives me more time where I don't have to think about selection of plays," he said. "He'll always ask what are we getting here, so I have to give a calculation of what's going on and at the same time always give a calculation of situational football and what we think is best to run."
Haywood will use it as a learning tool, but that is nothing different for him.
"It's always a learning experience," he said. "I've always said that I've had great mentors. You talk about Nick Saban being a great mentor, Coach Mack Brown being a great mentor and then Coach Weis also, being a great mentor as an offensive guy. As long as you have an open mind, you always have an opportunity to learn. And I learn each and every day that I come to work."
OFFENSE GIVEN TOO MUCH?: The Notre Dame offense was rolling once it started to rely on Jimmy Clausen and the passing game, but it hit a wall starting in the second half of the Pitt game and Haywood attributed some of that to the staff giving the unit too much to process.
"We hit a point in which we may have had an information overload because of mental errors," he said. "When you look at the number of mental errors in which we had it could be information overload."
As the offensive coordinator, Haywood accepted blame for that part.
"It's not the players' fault, it's the coaches' fault. It's my fault, it starts with me," he said. "Anytime you give a young man too much information in which they can handle, it always comes back and sits in the coordinator's lap and it sits in my lap. I think that was part of the problem in the Pitt game and it probably carried over a little bit to the Boston College game."
Left tackle Mike Turkovich agreed that the offense probably did get a little more than it could handle.
"I think the main thing was we had a lot of mental errors on the offense," he said. "I thought it was a good game plan, but we just didn't handle it well as players. We made a lot of mental errors and when you do that it kills you."
"I didn't feel that way, I think that, what the coaches give us, I'm confident enough that what they give us will work," Wenger said.
"For me personally no," said Olsen. "But I can't speak for any of the other guys on the team on that matter."
Haywood received a sympathy card from Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and after looking that Boston College taped determined that the Eagles actually did less than the Irish prepared for. Both Pitt and BC did one simple thing, they took away Michael Floyd and Golden Tate as deep threats for Clausen.
"Philosophies have now changed where defenses are saying, ‘You're not going to beat us with the deep ball. You're going to have to take what we give you. You're going to have to methodically move the ball down the field,'" he said. "It's what Pittsburgh did in the second half, it's what Boston College did from the first snap to the last snap."
There is no doubt that Navy will take the same approach this week, so Haywood showed his unit tape of Duke throwing the ball and Rutgers running the ball to score against the Midshipmen.
"Two different offenses, two different philosophies, but understand it is methodical offense as they move the ball down the field and there are no big plays," he said. "You may have a run of eight yards, you may have a run of 10 yards, but they're moving the ball down the field methodically. It's just a lesson learned of how to move the ball against people that are playing soft coverage."
WEIS UNDERSTANDS CONCERNS: Weis is not ignorant to the concerns that the fan base has expressed and admits that from that point of view it could be warranted.
"I think that I'd be perturbed, too, if I were them, to be honest with you. I wouldn't be very happy the way the Pittsburgh game lasted, the way it ended, should I say. And I wouldn't be too excited about how the offense and special teams played," he said. "Now, the difference between the Pittsburgh game and the Boston College game you can't give enough credit to how the defense played in the game. So you could not say that in the Pittsburgh game. There was plenty of blame to spread around in that game between the coaches and the players and everything that happened. But you can't say that about how the defense played in the BC game, because they played darn well. And I think that now the offense has to step up and they have to do it this week. They have to do it next week. They have to do it the week after that, and we'll see where we are after we go through that three-week stretch."
Weis is confident that the Irish are still on track in the big picture of things.
"I'm encouraged with the personnel. I'm encouraged with the holes we're filling on a regular basis both currently and in the future. And to me, as far as the mechanics of our staff, to me everything's starting to fall into place to me very clearly," he said. "Remember, I went through this whole thing myself this year as I was going through this, go away from being the offensive coordinator/play caller to the head coach. And now all of a sudden you're back in the ringer here this week, where I won't be spending nearly the amount of time worrying about the defense.
"But I believe at this stage I don't need to, because I think the defense is in good hands. And I feel very confident with the defensive staff and what they're doing. With that being said, I hope they can stop the run, put the pressure on them. But I'm saying that in jest. I think that we have the personnel, the uptick on the personnel, the talent level on the personnel and the mechanics of the coaching staff I think are all in line for everything to go in the right direction."
Weis acknowledges that some may question the direction of the program, but not him.
"I think that the bottom line is where's the program going to go?" he said. " I think that's the big question. And I'm confident that the program's going to go where we all want it to go. And that's as honest as I can be."
Why is he so confident?
"Because I think we've got pretty good players," he said. "And I think when you've got pretty good players, you have a chance of being pretty good."
But Weis was not completely ready to discuss the meaning of the Navy game for his personal future with the program.
"If you're asking me is everyone going to know that Weis is calling the plays, and do I know that everyone knows I'm calling the plays, yes," he said. "But other than that, I think they're all big games. I mean, I don't try to minimize any of them."
WEIS: RECRUITING WON'T SUFFER: Notre Dame was able to haul in the nation's best recruiting class after one of its worst seasons ever and by comparison, keeping this year's class together should not be nearly as tough. But losses are never good for recruiting and until the Irish prove that they are clearly turning things around, opposing coaches will use it as a negative.
"Our kids have been pretty solid, because when we get involved in recruiting, especially when a kid has said yes, they want to come, we involve them in everything that's going on on a daily basis," Weis said. "They know all the good and all the bad. So when a kid's one of ours, we make him one of ours so they feel the good and they feel the bad. So this way, just like last year's class, one of the reasons why our players have proved to be resilient when it comes to that, is because of our involving them in what we do on an everyday basis."
Weis feels that Notre Dame does a better job of that than many schools.
"One of the biggest mistakes I think people make in recruiting is when somebody says yes, they go start spending more time on getting the next guy than the guys they already have," he said. "I think that that's where it starts from. Once these guys feel part of the family, like part of the involvement, usually there's very few guys that ever waver from that."
WEIS UP, HAYWOOD DOWN?: Weis' right leg– not the left one that he injured against Michigan - was clearly bothering him at practice on Tuesday and there is a chance that he could go to the box for the Navy game, but not right now.
"I've called the plays from the field for the last bunch of years. The only way I would go upstairs is if my legs hurt me that bad where I had to do that," he said. "Did I at least broach the subject? Yeah. I've at least broached the subject. Right now I'd say I'd be on the field. But if it went the other way it would be leg-related and I'd let you guys know before it happened."
Haywood said that it would be decided before the game, but that if Weis goes to the box, he will come down to the field.
"We're still discussing all that, but right now I'm still in the booth," he said. "If he goes upstairs then I'm coming down."