Is There Anybody Out There?

Will he? Won't he? If not him, who? When might we hear something? Anyone know what's going on? Anyone?

Since Notre Dame's 38-3 decisive loss against USC last week, the only thing we really know for certain about the Notre Dame football program is that head coach Charlie Weis and ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick are going to meet on Monday, Dec. 8. That's it. That's all we really know that's factual. And for all we know, even that may not end up being factual.

And the uncertainty is driving people nuts!

Fans are like rabid dogs searching for any shred of information—true or not—to satisfy their thirst.

Recruits, well they'd like to know who would be their coach at Notre Dame if they so decide to come to South Bend.

Coaches, they'd like to know if they have a job or if they need to be looking for another one.

Uncertainty is never a good thing for a football program, but sometimes it's a necessity when it comes to making the right decision. Sometimes we all just have to wait, no matter how difficult it is. There are times where you have to let go of something to get something even better. And sometimes the "the grass is always greener."

That's the decision Notre Dame and Swarbrick have to make. Do they believe in head coach Charlie Weis? Do they think it's time for a change?

There are many good reasons to keep Weis. Unfortunately for Weis, he's given the powers that be at ND some reasons to not keep him. While this decision should factor in what's happened in the past, as the past can be a good indicator of what might happen in the future, this decision is about the future. Do you believe Weis can get this job done moving forward? That is what Swarbrick and others need to decide from this point moving forward.

Identifying the problem

Before you can know what to do, you have to first identify the problems. Why has Weis struggled to win games? Where has he failed? What has he done right to fix the problems? What has he done wrong in an attempt to fix the problems?

Separating the problems from the results: Some Irish fans seem to have a problem doing this. Irish fans will list multiple reasons why they believe Weis should be fired, but they're just the results of a few problems. The results seem many. The actual problems are few. Fix the problems and the negative results go away.

For instance, the Irish don't run the ball well. That is a result.

They don't run the ball well, in my opinion, because they don't use the proper fundamentals and techniques that allow a team to run the ball, and it isn't just the offensive line. It's running backs not blocking well at times, it's tight ends, it's wide receivers. Not always, but enough to stop the running game. Fix the problem (proper techniques and fundamentals) and the Irish will run better.

The same thing can be said for the passing game and lacking the proper fundamentals as being a problem they're struggling.

Another common reason many Irish fans use as grounds for the dismissal of Weis is that his team doesn't show up prepared to play. "They're not emotionally ready to play." I'll agree. It certainly appears that way, but why is that?

I grew up in Nebraska and I had plenty of opportunities to hear Tom Osborne speak. This is not a man who inspires, at least in "pre-game speech" type of way. Did Tom give a "fire and brimstone" each week when they won all those games? Hardly.

You ask any good college coach about how they get their guys fired up to play and they'll tell you the work is done Monday through Thursday. It's through preparation, and the teaching of the proper fundamentals and techniques that give the players the confidence that they have a good game plan, and that if they execute, they can win.

But the key word there is "execute." When teams don't execute, it's usually a breakdown in fundamentals and techniques, a mental breakdown, or just not giving enough effort. The first two are usually on the coaching staff (unless the player didn't do his homework). The third is on the player.

So is it Weis just not giving the proper speech before the game? Or is it that they don't execute? The defense plays with plenty of emotion to start the game, and that usually continues. Why? Because they usually execute.

The offense doesn't execute enough early, and that's why they look lethargic at times. Sure, it's not all about fundamentals and techniques. Confidence comes into play as well. But when things go bad it's hard to have any confidence, especially when things go bad from the start, which has happened too often.

The Case for Keeping Weis

Weis can recruit: Weis puts a big priority on recruiting and he works very hard at it. This, especially at Notre Dame, is so vital to the program. All one has to do is look at the impact of one Michael Floyd to this program. Look what he added. Look at what happened when he wasn't available. It's very difficult to land the elite players for any coach. It's harder when you coach at Notre Dame. While Notre Dame has many advantages other schools don't, they have disadvantages as well, and sometimes they're almost impossible to overcome. Recruiting is vital to Notre Dame's success, and sometimes I think some fans don't realize just how important recruiting success is. And I don't mean stars and rankings. I mean finding elite athletes, but also filling your needs in every class.

The defense appears to be in good and capable hands: The Irish defense has not been spectacular this year, but there's no question they play with emotion—they're buying in. They also play sound, fundamental football most of the time. The players appear to be improving, especially the younger players. For the most part, the defensive side of the ball appears to be in good shape.

We've seen it before: Weis has proven that his offense can be successful when he has the right players in place. What I mean by this is when he has players who execute his offense, it works. We know this. We've seen it. We've witnessed an explosive offense that put a lot of pressure on the defense, and a lot of points on the scoreboard.

So what's the problem?

Player development: I believe players aren't developing on offense—at least not fast enough. I don't see players improving much. I don't see players playing with a high level of execution, thus they look like they're not playing with emotion. It's my opinion that ND has players looking for solid direction and they are not finding it.

Who is at fault? Ultimately it's Weis. He's responsible for the results. He's responsible for the hiring and firing. The results on the field are poor. The fault falls directly on his shoulders. And yes, he probably made a mistake by not addressing some problems he may have on his staff last season, among a host of other mistakes he's made.

But that's the point. This is about the future. Has Weis learned those lessons and won't make those mistakes again? I think everyone knew this would be situation of a first-time head coach learning on the job. This is why it's never a good idea to hire a first-time head coach at Notre Dame. There is too much for a first-time head coach to learn before he can be successful at Notre Dame. But Weis has learned a lot of these lessons already.

The question is: Will Weis do the right things to right this ship? That is the question Swarbrick must look at. Can Weis fix these problems? Has he learned enough to know what to do from here on out?

I don't know the answer to that.

The Case for not Keeping Weis

9-15: That's all anyone needs to say. That is the combined record over the past two seasons. Despite having "his guys," Weis can't seem to win enough games with them. It's really that simple. When in year four it takes three full quarters before you can pick a first down against your rival, that's not a good sign.

When your offense, while somewhat young, is filled with five and four-star players, and you lose four out of your last five games, that is a problem.

Weis has had the opportunity to identify problems and has yet to fix them. Does he know what the problems are? If we do, I'm sure he does. But, can he fix them? So far he hasn't. He's fixed some, but not nearly enough.

Probably the most damning for Weis is the fact that any good coach can now come in and win with his players. Any good coach who can teach the proper fundamentals and techniques should have enough talent to win. All he'd need to do is to continue recruiting as well as Weis, and you have a recipe for success.

However, there aren't many coaches who have had the same success recruiting as Weis. And if Weis starts getting this team back to the BCS (I know, it's debatable if he can), his recruiting will only get better.

The Solution

To me, it looks like the biggest problem with Weis and his program is his offense isn't executing. That is his fault. Nobody questions that, even Weis.

Can he fix it? Will he make changes on his staff? Can he attract quality assistants who can teach the proper fundamentals and techniques to get the offense executing again? Has he lost the team? Can he regain their confidence if he has? These are the key questions in my mind as to if you keep Weis or let him go.

Could the solution be as simple as replacing a few assistant coaches and hiring some who can teach these kids to execute to get the Weis offense up and running again? There's certainly enough talent. The defense plays well enough to win games. Fix the offense, and the Irish win at least nine games and we're not having this discussion.

But there's one question that continues to linger. Can you find a guy to take this job that you believe will do a better job than Weis at this point? Weis has set this program up for success, no question. Any good coach should be able to have success with the talent he's assembled.

Regardless, something needs to be said about the future of the Notre Dame football program and soon. Notre Dame and Swarbrick need to take the proper time to evaluate the situation and come up with an answer, and Irish fans will just have to be patient. However, uncertainly is a damaging thing. If Swarbrick intends to keep Weis, he's going to have give Weis the stamp of approval soon as many of the recruits and coaches that plan to help Weis be successful will start to look elsewhere if he doesn't…..if they haven't already.

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