Posted by BrianBoru at 3/15/2009 2:48 PM EDT
The 2009 football season will be pivotal in the coaching career of Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis. Four years into his regime in South Bend, Weis has made very few decisions which would provide hope for the future.
Electing to eschew the ground game in 2008, Weis opted instead to focus his offensive identity almost exclusively around the talents of enigmatic sophomore Jimmy Clausen. After enjoying a relatively small measure of early success, racing out to a 4-1 record behind the gun-slinging Clausen, Notre Dame faltered down the stretch losing five of its next seven games. Recognizing Weis’ penchant for aerial display, teams began dropping an extra man into coverage in order to stop the predictable Irish offense. Trouble followed.
Unsettling losses to Boston College and Pittsburgh hinted at a very alarming trend: Weis was losing to programs with inferior talent. After defeating Notre Dame last year, Boston College Head Coach Jeff Jagodzinski stated, “I asked our guys before the game to raise their hands if they were recruited by Notre Dame. After none of them raised their hands I told them, ‘You may not be good enough to play for Notre Dame but you’re sure damn good enough to play for Boston College.’” Cloaked within the subtext of Jagodzinski’s remark, one can plainly see is an indictment of Weis by one of his peers in the coaching profession.
Already saddled with the ignominious defeat to Navy in 2007, Weis nearly pulled off an unprecedented consecutive loss to the Midshipmen in 2008. Leading 27-7 with just over 11 minutes remaining, Weis curiously decided to empty his bench and sit on the lead. Buoyed by its spirited fan base, the resilient Midshipmen proceeded to impose its will on the bigger and more talented Irish. Unable to make necessary in-game adjustments, a common issue for Weis-led outfits, the Irish appeared very rattled and disorganized in the waning minutes of the game. Alas, the Irish were able to hang on for the victory despite managing to allow Navy to recover two onside kicks in the final few minutes.
With their confidence seemingly shaken, the Irish concluded its 2008 regular season with an embarrassing defeat to a moribund Syracuse program and another pounding at the hands of archrival Southern Cal.
Serving as cold comfort, Notre Dame drubbed a suspect Hawaii team in the Hawaii Bowl punctuating an eminently disappointing season.
Perhaps the two biggest issues Weis will face in 2009 are developing a competent ground game and protecting his quarterback. Color me skeptical of Weis’ ability to accomplish either task. Even with a veteran-laden offensive line in 2008, the Irish did not play with any consistency on offense.
Entering his fifth year leading ND, Weis has failed to demonstrate a desire to establish even a semblance of a rushing attack. Instead, Weis prefers that his team attack the opposition through the air; rather than winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, Weis believes his team can succeed only if his quarterback is heaving the ball with abandon. This presents a huge problem for his offensive philosophy: what if the quarterback is having a bad day?
Grading Charlie Weis over his four seasons, the answer is evident: Notre Dame loses with him at the helm.