An occasional foray onto the nation's hottest seats.
Boy, 2005 seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? The Republicans controlled everything in Washington, New Orleans was nice and dry, and Charlie Weis, football supergenius, seemed like a money bet to return Notre Dame to the lofty heights of the most unapologetic nostalgia. The Irish went 19-6 his first two years and swung invites to two BCS bowls. But then Brady Quinn graduated, the clock struck midnight, the carriage turned back into a pumpkin and Navy won in South Bend for the first time since the Kennedy administration. Off 3-9 and 7-6 records, with 15 losses in the last 16 games against winning teams, Weis looks like less of a genius than just another guy in a sweatsuit getting paid way too much to blow a two-touchdown lead to Syracuse.
Why he was hired. Weis’s initial reputation makes more sense in light of his stint as the offensive coordinator for three Super Bowl-winning Patriots squads earlier this decade; he was also the guy who helped mentor Tom Brady from a sixth-round draft afterthought to the record-breaking, MVP-winning, Gisele-wielding übermensch he is today. Charlie’s also a Notre Dame graduate, which counts for something — though he didn't play for the Irish, at least he had the good sense to be upfront about it.
The "Uh-oh" Moment. Say this for the 2007 Irish squad — they didn't allow anyone's hopes to get inflated. Instead, they face-planted virtually from the minute they took the field for their season opener, getting crushed at home, 33-3, by mighty Georgia Tech (final record: 7-6). With the Irish displaying a turnstile of an offensive line (nine sacks allowed), complete lack of a vertical passing game (only one completion for more than 15 yards) and an indifferent run defense (259 yards allowed on six per carry), the Tech blowout was a microcosm of everything that would doom the ’07 team to nine-loss humiliation.
Embarrassing attempt to right the ship. After getting nuked 38-0 by Southern Cal at home in October 2007, Weis evidently decided that there’s no veiled threat like an empty veiled threat. "Let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now," he told a reporter when asked about public ridicule of Notre Dame’s 1-7 start. Navy took him up on his invitation two weeks later, Air Force the week after that. Michigan State, Boston College and USC continued to have their fun the following season: All beat the Irish by at least two scores in '08 for the second year in a row. (On the other hand, Weis did get his revenge against 3-9 Michigan, 4-8 Purdue and 8-5 Navy, so there’s that.)
Can this marriage be saved? Of course it can: You know how the Catholic church feels about divorce. But according to Matt of ND blog Her Loyal Sons, that hardly means an annulment is off the table:
Even the casual ND fan (hello, Mother-in-Law!) knows this is the last chance for Weis. He either performs up to some set of expectations (10 wins), or ND starts looking for yet another head football coach. We’re getting the feeling that we’ll know success or failure when we see it not after a full season, but just three games into the schedule. Weis, even in his "good" years of 2005 and 2006, has never begun a season 3-0, and with Nevada, [Javon] Ringer-less Michigan State and in-the-toilet Michigan making up the first quarter of the '09 schedule, he’d better start going 3-0 this year or the momentum just won't exist for Weis to meet the expectations for the entire season. In fact, one loss before the Southern Cal game on Oct. 17 could well foreshadow yet another loss to the Trojans by 30-plus, and that alone could hang Weis regardless of final record.
Approximate heat of seat. The underside of the space shuttle during re-entry, or approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Notre Dame doesn’t shell out multiple millions for seven-win seasons; anything less than nine wins this year and two phone calls get made — one from Notre Dame to Urban Meyer, the other from Weis to Tom Brady, to see if Mr. Bündchen has a couch he can crash on.