Thursday - September 20, 2007
Willingham vs. Weis
I had my fun with Charlie Weis and the Willingham comparison. But seriously, as talk builds of how Weis is being treated differently than Willingham was, I think some of the comments are off-base, so I'm going to offer my rebuttals and missing pieces.
1. The Biggest Missing Piece: Urban Meyer
It's my firm belief that Tyrone Willingham was not fired simply because of his record or because the Tyrone Willingham Fact Sheet convinced the administration there was a problem, nor as a result of his repeated losses to USC. He was fired because Notre Dame thought they were going to land Urban Meyer, and if you have a chance to land Urban Meyer you do it. The PR hit of firing Tyrone Willingham would have been worth it. That's why Charlie Weis is being held to a different standard, if you believe he is; there is no Urban Meyer out there for Nore Dame.
It's my belief that Notre Dame missing out on Urban Meyer will be a story that will be remembered and retold for years. In 10 years, when USC or Oklahoma is doing a job search and a hot candidate may be asking for too much money, people will say "Remember when Notre Dame could have had Urban Meyer but they balked at his demands ... how did that work out?" as a cautionary tale about how rare opportunities at great coaches are. Missing out on Urban Meyer will be recorded as a bigger story than landing Charlie Weis.
2. The Talent Argument
I briefly got into the talent argument with respect to the Notre Dame offensive line the other day. But let's state this again; however weak Tyrone Willingham's classes may have been that he left for Charlie Weis, they are better than the classes that Willingham inherited at Washington, better than what Mark Dantonio inherited at Michigan State and better than the ones Appalachian State works with every year. You can use the lack of veteran talent as an excuse to not live up to Notre Dame's usual expectations, but you cannot use it as an excuse to be abjectly horrible.
3. Charlie Weis Going Forward
Lots of Notre Dame fans, the non-delusional ones who aren't simply blaming Tyrone Willingham, are saying some rational things about Charlie Weis going forward. He's got some learning to do. He has to understand that in college you don't just scheme your way to victories. You don't beat teams with your Xs and Os mastery alone. You can't implement a 120 plays from 14 different sets before you've taught them how to block and tackle. You have to understand the college game and the college players and treat kids differently than you would treat NFL professionals. Still, Charlie Weis is a smart man, and he's identified the problem, so he will go about fixing it.
But a post on a Michigan message board poster (from ScottAC, in a non-archived post) raised a great point; what they are saying boils down to an admission that all the things they salivated over and bragged about when Weis was hired aren't going to win games. He was hired because of his Xs and Os mastery, his complicated playbook with multiple sets, his professional and businesslike approach, etc. Basically, they are saying, Weis needs to learn that all the stuff that was being pumped out by the PR machine as proof of his greatness won't win him games, and now he has to *learn* how to be a good head coach.
Good luck with that.