Charlie Weis did not feel comfortable answering big picture questions in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's devastating 24-23 loss to Syracuse.
"It was important yesterday for me not to respond to that because I think that I would not have given a thoughtful answer and I'm not exactly sure how it would have come across," Weis said.
But after a day to reflect the coach was ready with an answer. Weis said that he thought it was important to look at the path that he sees his team on since last year.
"Last year I think we were a pretty crummy football team. We were 3-9, playing a whole bunch of freshmen, sophomores and first-year players and it really looked that way. There were multiple games last year where we didn't just lose, I thought that we were basically non-competitive as the game went on," he said. "Then we go to this year. Now these guys have all grown to have a year under their belt. So now we're sitting here at 6-5, you sit there and look at the five losses. In three of the five losses you had double-digit leads. North Carolina, Pittsburgh and yesterday you had double-digit leads, as a matter of fact in none of the games were you non-competitive. There wasn't one game where you didn't have a chance to win the game, unlike last year when there were multiple games where the games were over early and just put away.
"So what you're really doing is you're taking these guys who are a bunch of pups, now have got a year under their belt and you go from a crummy team to what I think is a decent team. I wouldn't say that we're anywhere near good, but I'd say we're decent."
Weis said that he expects that process to continue into 2009.
"As you take a step from three wins, to six or seven wins not including the bowl game, going into the next year you should expect the progression to be at least as good if not better," he said. "You stepped up from where you were last year to where you are this year. A good portion of these guys now with two years under their belts coming back for next year, you'd have to say you have a chance at being pretty darn good."
Weis added that most of the strides that need to be made would come in the offseason and through growing up.
"We all, whether media or coaches, can identify that one of the major issues that we're dealing with is finishing the game," he said. "Where I expect the biggest change or the biggest uptick is in that quality because experience is usually one that puts you over the edge in that one."
But Weis would not answer a question about how secure he felt in his job status.
"I think that the team has a chance to pretty darn good next year," he said. "I can't worry about my job status. I'm the head football coach and that's what I intend to be."
After a tough loss like Saturday's, head coaches have other things to worry about beside themselves.
"Your own players, your own family, recruiting, all of those things have to mix," Weis said. "They have to coexist and sometimes it's tough going from one end to the next."
"You sit there and say to them, ‘Could you have been the difference between us winning and losing?'" Weis said. "That's the first question you ask them and in a one-point game most every recruit would look at a game like yesterday and say that they could see themselves being the difference between winning and losing."
When he talked to the recruits before they left on Sunday, Weis gave them the same talk about the progress of the program.
"I said, ‘Do you want to come in the crummy year, the decent year or the year that we're going to be pretty darn good?'" he said. "They look at the depth chart, they see the players, they hang around the players. Our players do a very good job in recruiting. In good times and in bad, they always do a very good job in recruiting and usually by the time I have an in-depth conversation with them on Sunday, they usually have a really good feel for the place. And very seldom is there much of a negative overtone in that conversation."
On numerous occasions, Weis has told the story of making an angry phone call as a student to Father Hesburgh to complain about the performance of the 1975 Notre Dame team. But Weis said that he was never disloyal and does not expect today's students and fans to be disloyal to this year's team.
"I felt that no matter what happened I was going to be there and feel that I was a part of that team. I was going to feel the wins and I was going to feel the losses," he said. "When we won the game, even though I wasn't a player, I felt like I won. When we lost the game, even though I wasn't a player, I felt like I loss."
For that reason, Weis admitted that students hurling snowballs at the Irish sideline on Saturday dismayed him.
"I was taken back by it to tell you the truth," he said. "It's a dangerous thing and it's just something that I wish would have been avoided."