Monday, September 17, 2007


ND is in dangerous waters at 0-3, and I'm choosing to navigate some as well in bringing a suggestion to help Charlie Weis succeed.

Let me start with what seems to be the required disclaimers. I still believe Weis can be a successful coach at Notre Dame. I still believe ND was right to fire Tyrone Willingham when they did, and still believe Weis was the right man for the job when hired. I am also not calling for his removal any time soon.

But Weis now stands at a crossroads. One way lies college coaching success, and the other lies college coaching oblivion. The result will depend on which path he takes.

And I believe the first step on that path is for him to look in the mirror and both say and believe, "It's not all about me".

Do I think Charlie Weis is a selfish man? Hell no. No selfish person could do what he does in the name of disabled children and adults, especially to the extent he does it. Charlie is a person very giving with both his time and his money, for which he deserves every commendation that comes his way.

But he's not nearly as giving with his trust. There's a very fine line between self-confidence and self-insulation, and I think Charlie's been tiptoeing up to it way too often.

Charlie believes in himself, but I don't know if he necessarily believes in anyone else. He's fine delegating when it's a subject he feels he doesn't know, but when Charlie knows something, he's the only one who can know it because no one else can know it as well as he. I like he's willing to take responsibility for the program, but I don't like it if it means no one else can do the same. That's not a viable long term solution.

Here's an example. Last Saturday, Notre Dame was on the road facing a team with a first-time starting quarterback. The last couple of games, the Irish offense wasn't able to get on track immediately. The previous week, the first-time starter on the other side had been shaky in decision-making.

I'm not a coach, but it seems to be the logical choice if Notre Dame won the toss to start the game would be to defer the decision to the second half and put the defense on the field first. This would force the first-time starter out on the field immediately, where he might make a mistake and give ND needed momentum.

But that's not what was done. Charlie's influence is on the offensive side of the ball, and only his offense can be trusted to take control of the game at the start and get ND rolling towards a win. So ND got the ball first, and the only thing that got rolling was the ball towards the Michigan goal line after a bad first snap.

If Charlie can say "It's not all about me" to himself and mean it, it becomes easier to trust other people to do their jobs to help you. It becomes easier to listen to other viewpoints which, while you may not agree with them, may open unconsidered possibilities up to you. It gives you the broader perspective crucial to the success of a head coach as opposed to a coordinator.

Once Charlie can start trusting others, he can take two more steps I believe crucial to his development as a college coach as opposed to a professional one:

Install a true offensive coordinator. He may already have him on the coaching staff, but if Mike Haywood isn't that guy, he should be replaced by someone who is. That coordinator should have full reign over the offense, and be responsible for the assistants working under him. Charlie will have his input, of course, but should spend his time macro-managing the program and not sitting down with the quarterbacks or sketching out the first X number of plays for a game. That's the OC's job, and Charlie is no longer an OC.

A true OC may also expose Charlie to a word I think he needs to hear more often: No. Some ideas are good, some bad. If your assistants are unwilling to promote the former while warning you away from the latter, they're useless to you. As I said, the more viewpoints, the broader the perspective.

Adapt practice strategies towards what works in college. Charlie knows what he knows, but I think it's time for him to get to know other things. The biggest of those things is how the college game differs from the pros.

According to folks who know, pro practices don't usually involve a lot of hitting and fundamentals. The players already know how to do what they do, they just need to be told when to do it. They also spend a long season getting hit by other pros, so it's not smart to wear them out beating the crap out of each other. This doesn't hold in college. College players need to learn the skills they'll take to the NFL, and their college coaches must teach them.

College players also need inspiration. Pro players are paid very well to eat, sleep and breathe football 24/7. College players have a lot more on their plate, and sometimes need that extra mental edge. They want to be told to "Win one for the Gipper", if only to give them something to hold on to when things go wrong.

Not all is lost, and there's a prime example of how to do it on our schedule. According to a story I heard, Pete Carroll found himself in this same position at the end of his first season at USC, a season that didn't go so well. He decided to embrace his inner Poodle and (in turn) the college atmosphere. He abandoned the NFL-style practices and started hitting hard all the time, and brought in assistants who not only knew the game but could also fire up his players. Hard to argue with the results.

This is where Charlie must grow and adapt. There's no doubt he has a fine understanding of the game, but being a head coach requires a different kind of understanding that goes beyond the Xs and Os. Sometimes the solution is simpler than that, and in this case, it has to start with trust. Once he starts to trust, his life gets better.

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Anonymous jimkress76 said...

From your mouth to Charlie's ear. A very insightful analysis of what Charlie needs to do.

Thanks for your analysis. I only hope he embaces it.

9/17/2007 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a thing I can add, very will said.

Very hard to believe that it came to this, lets hope Charlie can adapt.

Go Irish!

9/17/2007 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right. Charlie for all his good points has that one great fault- a total inability to delegate.
In addition his negative style of motivating is not meant for the students of today. There is only one big Tuna and his name is not Charlie!!!

9/17/2007 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, all the offensive numbers and progress that he's produced now should be disposed of because they're 0-3 and haven't put an offensive point on the board? Where's the faith...the paitience? 3 Super Bowls as OC...2 BCS appearences...once the wins start coming in again this year or next we all will see how fast you change your opinion and thought process. My question to all your writers is, why isn't the University actively seeking your opinion on this situation?

9/17/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

No one is saying that, so please don't bother with that strawman.

His first two years, Charlie had an experienced team, and a more NFL-style could work with a team like that. But he won't always have a team like that, and it's up to him to adjust accordingly.

My opinion and thought process on this won't change no matter how much he wins next year.

If you don't like what people are writing, don't read it.

9/17/2007 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it any better.

9/17/2007 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Vairish84 said...

The hardest thing to do for any new boss is to learn how to delegate. I don't know of know for sure whther he does or does not delegate well. He may have over delegated to Minter.

He may have overly delegated to Latina.

Not all smart peole can learn to delegate, and many can't without a crisis. This is the crisis. I don't mean that word in the literal sense, football hardly gives rises to true crises, but from a certain point of view.

I agree he will come through this ok.

9/17/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. I agree completely and hope Charlie hears and heeds it, one way or the other.

We often hear how much "he gets it." But the emotional phase of the college game seems to be one area where he doesn't or at least has forgotten about it, due to all his years with the pros.

Although they didn't look good coming out of the gate, it took 3 games for the team to fold like an accordian. I'd like to give him another 3 to turn it around.

9/17/2007 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger auburnirish said...

Excellent analysis of Charlie only problem with it is that he probably will not read it.

9/17/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger IrishGlory said...

One of the most balanced articles I have read. Nice job. I firmly believe Charlie will succeed because he has shown that he is not afraid to change, but you make some very fair points and solid suggestions.

9/17/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well written article. Just don't get so defensive when someone (right or wrong), challenges your viewpoint. People are allowed to have varying opinions!

9/17/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

No defensiveness here. I simply prefer to have people challenge what I actually wrote rather than what they think I wrote or something I didn't write at all.

I also prefer when people don't go the "the people who count don't care what you think" route, as it tends not to advance the discussion.

9/17/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous lifelongfan said...

Amen! Most of the players must first learn the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Get that right and the other things will start falling into place. Charlie is right to go back to "training camp".

9/17/2007 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at the situation without the emotion. Weis' offense is complicated and there are too many freshmen and sophomores getting time that only get 50%-75% of the playbook and only 25%-50% of the reads and adjustments. His offense depends on the team making the proper pre-snap read and resulting adjustment. Unitl the young ones get it, they will struggle. The easy solution is to dumb it down, but that slows the learning curve.
At some point the program had to pay the price for the problems of the past. Pay it now and don't defer until later.

9/17/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous lifelongfan said...

Additional thought to my earlier post: The fact that Charlie has said that the team is going back to training camp means that Charlie can adapt. I have full faith in Charlie that he'll turn it around.

9/17/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry me a river..."don't read my article". You know nothing about football...your a cry baby...a fair weather stand for everything ND haters despise...excuses! I'm surprised you're not blaming Tyrone Willingham. Oh wait, he gave Charlie the veteran players, right? "He needs to delegate" Are you in the meetings with the coaches? Your opinions and thought process most definitely will change...give it time. Charlie will definitely NOT waste his time with this garbage article. Mike Coffey should resign!

9/17/2007 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article -- I believe in CW. However, I'd rather not have to believe, I'd rather just watch us win. Soon...

9/17/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, I have written some of the same thoughts on other sites. I do disagree however, that the head coach can't be the OC. Can anyone name Holtz' offensive coordinator? I seem to recall he scripted the first 20 or so plays of every game and based the rest of his playcalling on what he saw from the results. I don't mind Weis wearing the OC hat.

9/17/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Charlie's style in terms of delegating, but I totally agree on the Pro vs College approach. Since his first year I've always said Charlie appeard to treat the college players like the pros. I wondered if that would ever backfire. I think they are two totally different styles (look at Holtz and Spurrier college vs pro). You did a fantastic job of summarizing this. As to the issue of a full time OC and Charlie in the clouds, I'm not there yet. Recruits want to know the head coach is involved-specifically, quarterback recruits. I also think he does know best how to attack a team's weaknesses. He did admit to not feeling comfortable with defense and hired someone he truly trusted. I think the D is better, in spite of what we've seen.

Time will tell if Charlie can make the 'jump' from the pros to college. I feel strongly that he can. He is a very bright individual. As long as we see improvement and agressiveness for the rest of the year, then I think we'll be ok.

9/17/2007 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been fan a lot longer than most here - 40 years. Longer than some have been alive, frankly.

This is the most inept ND team I've ever seen. Simply awful. The laughing stock of the nation. It's painful to watch and hear.

Is it Charlie? Certainly it is.

I knew this year would be rough - but until last week, I never would've imagined that Charlie was a bad coach.

Now I'm beginning to wonder.

This program is on the precipice of dangerous territory - we're becoming more like Northwestern and less like LSU. Oblivion, from which you can never come back. I'm surprised we haven't lost commitments yet.

I hope he turns it around. Truly. We may win no games this year. That would be a disaster from which the program may never recover.

9/17/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one of the most significant factors, one which you touched on, is that, to this point, the only time he has been responsible for teach football fundamentals was likely a high school coach. He came to ND with a fairly veteran team - one that needed strategy and direction more than football basics - and he was successful with them. Most of the players he has coming in are manchildren with unlimited potential, but the something that comes along with having been a manchild in high school is that the enormous jump in the level of competition is shocking. No more beating kids because of your ridiculous size; you really have to learn how to play now.


PS Why even allow the comments of feckless illiterates to be published here?

9/17/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good commentary, but I'd like your thoughts on the offensive line.Though young , they are not without talent. Maybe we need to take a harder look at Latina and Mendoza.
Sticker '66

9/17/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused. How much individual coaching does CW do vs the position coaches. I agree the pros are coached differently, but they still practice basics. CW has a staff for each position, why can't they teach blocking and tackling?

I think what's missing here is the motivational aspect of college coaching. I don't know that CW is a master motivator- a la Holtz. However, I do think he has the ability to get in someone's face and make things happen when necessary, for example, the 'tough love' comparisons with Quinn last year. He will figure it out this year and put ND in a great position to explode next year. I don't think the '3-headed monster' did much to start the year and DJ's defection hasn't helped solidify the team. I think CW will weed out the losers this week and will show up ready to play vs MSU. Don't know if we'll win, but we will compete!

9/17/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That was the most credible analysis I've heard to date. Absolutely right on!

9/17/2007 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things 1. It was mentioned above that Weis came in with a veteran team which made running his offense much easier. Right now, we have a young team, with a very young offense. In 2-3 years, we will once again be a veteran team and I expect to return to the '05-'06 offensive output.

2. Why not have Weis as OC? He is supposed to be one of the best, so why would we want Mike Haywood picking the plays. If Charlie isn't picking the plays, we might as well have Joe Pa or Bobby Bowden ( or Ty?) walking the sidelines doing nothing.

9/17/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie is well beyond doing what you are recommending. Insight like that hasn't appeared in his coaching style yet. CHARLIE has not won the big game. His record to date is only becuase of ND being football. I've been to a few other and college...and what ND administration has done to put down the fan...has really hurt the players. Make sure you do't stand in front of the old people at the game, or an usher may just throw you out. Also, it's ok to drink and get drunk before the game, but God forbid any of that after the game starts. Kind of paralels ND football at the time.

9/17/2007 03:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's face it, talented athletes win! Forget the excuses, just start winning!

Go Irish!!!

9/17/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Jerry said...

Jesus, Mary and Joseph ---Charlie's paid 1 mil a year and it takes someone like you (please, no hard feelings) to bring out the truth as to what is wrong. One needs to also read Aaron Taylor's tidbits. It is very enlightneing. All players and the coaches need to read your article as they do Aaron's. GO IRISH

9/17/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting and insightful comments. You have to remember the coaching tree that Charlie comes from. Both Bills limited exposure to their players in the form of interviews. As far as the hitting in practice issue: The policy that has worked in the past for Charlie he will continue to use going forward. It is extremely hard for head coaches who were OC's to give up play calling. Ask any of the pro coaches such as Mike Holmgren. Regarding Pete Carrol and his embracing the college game. Most definitely but look at the stockpile of talent he has there. No matter how good or bad a coach is he is nothing without getting the most from that talent.

9/17/2007 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Mike, I believe many of your points are on target. The problem is will CW be exposed to what you have written? Is there any chance CW will read this? Is there someone close to him who might bring it to his attention?

9/17/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aldrige and allen = lendale white n reggie bush.. he should establish a run game like usc did with these 2. once the run game comes, everything else will come like charlie said. it will be the nitch. once the running game is established clausen will be able to do throw short passes for first downs and give the offense some momentum... if they didnt have as many messups vs michigan, bad snaps etc that game would been totally different. michigan had momentum they were playing BALLS OUT every play. nd just lacked motivation and poise.

9/17/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous JJT '65 said...

Blocking, holding on to the ball, and identifying who has intensity and heart would be a good place to start rebuilding the team's psyche on offense and also keep Jimmy Clausen out of the OR.
Once the running game becomes productive, it will open up play action and keep the defense off the field.

9/17/2007 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger zahm93 said...

Great input...much more salient than my own thoughts post-game--I would have advocated gettin' medieval on everybody, particularly Charlie. After reading a number of posts, it seems to me that a large number of us have proposed similarly disturbing conclusions to explain the anathema posing as ND football--it is not talent, it is COACHING.
Coaching has failed to prepare these generally inexperienced 18-21 year old KIDS for the speed and intensity of real-world, bust-you-in-the-mouth football the ND and its opponents demand on a weekly basis. Fail to show yourselves emotionally and mentally ready to battle, and its lambs to wolves, brother--I don't care how high you were rated out of HS. Not that I dismiss the technical coaching by Charlie and Co. from Spring thru Fall camps (I, as a ND geek watched every minute of practice video and interviews), but, rather, I am shocked at the obvious failure of the coaches to nurture their confidence and nastiness. Even the most intrinsically B.A. young players' hearts will fade in the face of abject team failure on a monumental scale. If you do not drill the kids day in, day out, via our best "game speed" situations (1's vs. 1's), and constantly celebrate doing SOME THINGS consistently well (have some damned some shit...loosen up while your busting your asses!), then you have NO HOPE for breeding true heart/confidence/never-say-die attitudes in the youngsters when they face the real deal. They'll collapse in a whirlwind of confusion, panic, and self-loathing, because they don't know why they have failed so absolutely. Even the "veterans", who take the burden upon themselves to bolster the others and solve the problems will ultimately break as well--they cannot fix the situation...only the coaches can change the circumstances. How? As Charlie said, by going back to basics, and practicing a small number of plays/situations until the team starts to feel confident in their mastery of those plays...and build from there. I don't care if I see only 5 run and 5 pass plays against MSU, as long as the team runs them with some fire, some balls...and, hopefully, a little success...something for the young kids to feel good about. What has Charlie not said he will do?(but I hope he will)...You hit the nail on the head (although I think Charlie should still call plays)--there is not only a SERIOUS DISCONNECTION between the coaches and the players emotionally, but also between Charlie and the coaches (most of whom have a wealth of experience coaching this age group) in terms of else can you explain the apparent ignorance of Charlie with the psychological health of the team. As you said, Geetar, this ain't the Pros. I just hope Charlie has realized how he has to not only reduce his scheme, but allow our very capable assistants to let the kids have some FUN and generate some confidence and energy as necessary parts of the game plan as well. Okay...I'm off my soap box. Go Irish!

9/17/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous biff said...

Read your analysis. Trust this isn't your day job...

..kind of a shame though, because it should be...

9/17/2007 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous DOMER90 said...

I am truly scared for this team.

I know we have talent, and also know that we are very young at most skill positions and just plain lack skill at others, but the team lacks the fire and dicipline that we have come to see from Weis' first two teams. The O-line is bad, and it is hard to do anything without them.

I trust in Charlie and that he will do what he thinks he needs to inorder to improve. My question is whether there is an "intangable" that is missing, and if so can it be found and inserted.

Jones' defection is extremely disturbing not because he left, which we all knew he would, but because Charlie didn't know!!!

There is something seriously wrong with this team beyond what we are seeing on the field.


9/17/2007 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on guys... stay the course. Times are very bad right now, but there is a brighter tomorrow. Charlie will do what's best for ND. Have faith.

9/17/2007 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Wrath of McGrath said...

It's been a long time since I checked out this page and I'm glad I did. Way to go Mike Coffey and, actually, most of the commentators.
To me, it's like watching Bill Murray in "Ground Hog Day": ND coaches and players caused the problem (like the Murray character did) and it's up to all of them to suck it up, change tactics, work hard, and, most importantly, work together. Wrath of McGrath

9/18/2007 03:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This year's a waste. I give him 4 more years. No title by then? Then get the HELL OUT!!!!

9/18/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"According to a story I heard, Pete Carroll found himself in this same position at the end of his first season at USC, a season that didn't go so well. He decided to embrace his inner Poodle and (in turn) the college atmosphere. He abandoned the NFL-style practices and started hitting hard all the time, and brought in assistants who not only knew the game but could also fire up his players."

Untrue. Pete's practices are the same way today that they were then. I was there and I watched them practice.

That's not to say that Charlie shouldn't institute full contact gladiator fights the way USC does. While it takes a toll in injuries, the players come out stronger for it.

9/18/2007 03:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a hell of alot of what has been said (other than an obvious idiot or two in there). In review Charlie needs to learn to adapt to the college game. Most definately true. These kids have been coached by high school coaches. Some good some bad. They have gotten to where they are at by pure God give ablities for the most part. I just can't believe it has taken a man as smart as Charlie to realize that he has to get back to basics. EVERY new recruit should be doing basics over and over and over and over again when they 1st put the golden helmet on. That's why you don't see many Freshmen and Sophomores starting unless they have far superior abilities that outweigh their mistakes. They are learning and relearning the basics the 1st two yrs. This team will win again. Not this year and maybe not next year. ND faithful look to '09 when these kids have got the basics down pat and can learn what Charlie and Corwin really want them to learn. We have alot of young talent here. You can see it on the field if you look close. The kids just have to learn to use it. Unfortunately for us impatient ND fans ... it takes time .... sorry!

Charlie should delegate the offense to the coordinator. NO WAY!!! This man got here because of his abilities to coach the offense. Plain and simple. You want to give these duties to an understudy?!?!

Tyrone Willingham was brought up a couple of times. I believe the man could coach. He couldn't recruit or motivate real damn well, but he could coach. Just one wishful statement ... Wouldn't it be nice if Charlie had Ty on his staff???

Finally ... Weiss and Corwin have until 2010 in my mind. If we haven't done something big by then, (and I don't necessarily mean win the National Championship)then we're not going to. Move on, admit your mistakes, and hire another coach.

Dave Walker

P.S. How loud are the doomsayers going to be yelling if we lose to Navy??? Dear, Lord. If we only win 1 - game this year let it be NAVY!!!!

9/18/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments brought up some interesting points and ideas. After reading them, I felt a little more optimistic about the future of Charlie Weis and Notre Dame Football. But I’m just wish I felt better about of the present. I agree some of the problems are due to the inexperience of the young players. But I’m most concerned about the lack of intensity and team communication that also appear to be problems. Those basic issues need to be addressed, too.

9/18/2007 10:27:00 PM  

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