November 10, 2008
The South Bend Tribune's Jeff Carroll is brutally honest about Notre Dame's direction after the Irish's sixth straight loss at the hands of "little brother" Boston College: ND is 1-15 against teams that finished with winning records over the last three years, and the shutout in Chestnut Hill may have been the anvil that broke the camel's back in terms of goodwill among the faithful:
... if you do not have grave concerns at this point about his ability to steer a college program you are obstinately refusing to recognize what is right in front of your eyes. If your faith in his ability to motivate isn't shaken to the core, you are electing delusion.
When the book is closed on Weis' tenure at Notre Dame, there is a good chance that this may be the evening that revealed once and for all an irreversible downward spiral. The Irish offense, formerly a unit on the move, was an undisciplined, penalty-ridden mess. Special teams were a gaffe machine, with Golden Tate's fumble of a punt return, along with yet another blocked punt, adding to the comedy of errors.
Weis put it on the line this week, announcing proudly that he had hammered his players mentally for last week's second-half collapse against Pitt. And as it has countless times during his reign in these make-or-break games, Notre Dame responded by coming out as flat as a highway blowout.
Weis' answer: Not enough Weis. Now that the "hot seat" talk is migrating from ignorable rival chirping (and upscale, urbane, contrarian finger-pointing) into the local press, Weis is going to take "a more active role" in getting the offense untracked, or at least preventing Jimmy Clausen from another four-interception disaster when the ND defense is holding up its end of the deal. That probably means Weis is taking command of playcalling duties from Michael Haywood, his forté as a Super Bowl-winning coordinator with the Patriots and in briefly resurrecting the Notre Dame brand with Brady Quinn pulling the trigger. X-in' and O-in' is what the man does, after all.
The question is, how much trouble is the ND offense really in, to the extent that Weis needs to -- or is able to -- step in and save it. Clausen is on pace to go over 3,000 yards passing with 24 touchdowns. The Irish scored at least 24 points in six of seven games before Saturday's debacle. Yeah, the results have been fairly grim against decent teams, but what's so critical about that all of a sudden:
Service academies included as teams w/ < 7 wins, for the sake of honesty.
By comparison, in fact, this year's offense has been about as productive, and slightly more consistent from one pole to the next:
2008 to date has been right down the chalk of previous returns under Weis, though Michigan's collapse has softened the schedule a little, maybe. That must be it. So welcome back Weis to the control panel for the last three games, and a presumptive bowl game, somewhere or other. Expect great immediate returns against Navy and Syracuse, and one very ugly finale at USC. These days, until Clausen turns the corner the way Quinn did as a junior, that's just Notre Dame football as usual.