Saturday, September 08, 2007

Carr Raus!







6 comments:

Ed said...

Can we just call off next week?!.... Though I do have to admit, the matchup between your soft, plodding, shellshocked defense and our soft, undisciplined, and completely inept offense is rather attractive - in a sick way of course.

Michael said...

Given Michigan's performance over the first two weeks, do you have any interest in giving Demetrius Jones another start?

Ed said...

Starting Jones is tempting, but I would be against it. I’m pretty sure that we could put together a pretty effective gameplan with Jones and the spread (see Jay’s Blue-Gray Sky post “I come to praise the Spread, not to bury it”), but I’m not sure I trust the man under center to carry it out. Can he consistently make good decisions? Can he avoid the big mistakes? The answer against Ga. Tech was a definite “no” on both counts.

That’s not to say I trust Clausen entirely either. But, if you will allow me to put my team psychology hat on for a moment (always a dubious proposition), I think there’s a much higher gamble with putting Jones under center for this one. An adequate performance by Clausen in, say, a 10-14 point loss is something to build on for Mich. State and Purdue. There’s no reason why that can’t happen either, given the atrocious nature of Michigan’s defense and slight difference in audience between Beaver Stadium and the Big House. An adequate performance by Jones in the same scenario only leads to some unsettling questions, like “who starts next week? “If it’s not Jones, have we just wasted September by switching between quarterbacks?” I think Weis risks losing the team with anything short of a really strong Jones performance/ND victory.

In short, I’m all for playing it safe and attempting to forge an offensive identity with our drop-back quarterback behind center. Sound conservative enough? Maybe, I’m really a Meeshigan man!

Michael said...

Ed,

I stole this post from a discussion regarding Pat Forde's typical hatchet job on Weis and wanted to know your opinion on it. Try to contain your emotions at the end when it refers to ND football as a cult of personality:

There is no doubt that the ND program flatlined under Willingham at ND. It was awful. You can't make a reasonable case that he could have been successful there.

You can try to make the case, I think, that Ty is a better coach than he exhibited at ND, and will perform better in another environment. How much of the disconnect is Willingham's fault and how much of its is ND's is debatable.

Weis' tenure is similar to Willingham's in two respects, both bad:

(1) They both quickly hired a range of crappy assistants, and

(2) Neither of them have any meaningful capacity to provide leadership on defense.

Weis tenure is distinguishable from Willngham's in five major respects: two good, three bad. First, the good:

(1) Weis' recruiting is getting progressively better, whereas Willingham's reecruiting momentum worked in the opposite direction,

(2) Weis has shown a proclivity to replace his underperforming assistants with objectively better candidates.

Now, the bad:

(1) Weis' practices are low-intensity and compromise fundamental football at the expense of installing a cumbersomely large playbook,

(2) Weis' game-to-game preparation focuses on creating individual gameplans with cute little gimmicks to exploit the opponent, which to date have proven to be disadvantages becasue of their predictability, and

(3) Weis' post-game adjustments are so particularized to his statistical analysis that they're always solving the last problem, rather than anticipating the next.

Most of Weis' failings are related to his intellectual hubris. He thnks of himself as a smart guy who is responsible for whether his team wins or loses. That is true sometimes in football, but not very often. Winning, over the long-term, is much more a function of creating a culture that respects intensity, consistency, and fundamentals.

Weis does not do these things. The "culture" of ND football is a cult of personality with Weis at the center. That's his basic problem.

Ed said...

Interesting post, Michael. I think you may have found the only reaction to the Forde drivel that doesn’t sound like it was written by a two-year old. My thoughts – paragraph by paragraph:

There is no doubt that the ND program flatlined under Willingham at ND. It was awful. You can't make a reasonable case that he could have been successful there.

You can try to make the case, I think, that Ty is a better coach than he exhibited at ND, and will perform better in another environment. How much of the disconnect is Willingham's fault and how much of its is ND's is debatable.


Agree with all of it. Ty’s record at Stanford demands the recognition that he is, at the very least, a decent coach. If I’m not mistaken, his 2001 season at Stanford was the first season in which Stanford lost fewer than 3 regular season games since 1951. His 1999 season was the first Stanford Rose Bowl appearance since 1972. Etc.

He was a terrible coach at Notre Dame. He could not adjust to both the culture, and most importantly, the exhausting recruiting obligations of a place that does not have a hold on one firm, fertile recruiting base.

Weis' tenure is similar to Willingham's in two respects, both bad:

(1) They both quickly hired a range of crappy assistants, and

(2) Neither of them have any meaningful capacity to provide leadership on defense.


I agree on point 2. I do not on point 1. Obviously, Weis’s choice of assistants has come under question recently (Minter, Latina, Polian, etc.), but to suggest they constituted a hair-trigger hire of mediocre resumes does not accord with memory. Weis had an easier time getting respected assistants than top-level recruits in the days after his hiring in 2004, when he was still the OC of the Patriots (for obvious reasons). His immediate hires were David Cutcliffe, Mike Haywood, Bill Lewis, Rick Minter, etc. All guys with great resumes: some of whom did not pan out obviously. But given the god-like stature afforded Cutcliffe at Tennessee, for example, I would hardly bundle Weis’s choices under the heading “crappy assistants”.

Willingham, on the other hand, simply brought his staff from Stanford. A slight difference.

Weis tenure is distinguishable from Willngham's in five major respects: two good, three bad. First, the good:

(1) Weis' recruiting is getting progressively better, whereas Willingham's recruiting momentum worked in the opposite direction,

(2) Weis has shown a proclivity to replace his underperforming assistants with objectively better candidates.


I could not agree more.

Now, the bad:

(1) Weis' practices are low-intensity and compromise fundamental football at the expense of installing a cumbersomely large playbook,


If true, how is this distinguishable from Willingham? It sounds quite similar.

(2) Weis' game-to-game preparation focuses on creating individual gameplans with cute little gimmicks to exploit the opponent, which to date have proven to be disadvantages because of their predictability,

USC 2006 just went through my head…

(3) Weis' post-game adjustments are so particularized to his statistical analysis that they're always solving the last problem, rather than anticipating the next.

Most of Weis' failings are related to his intellectual hubris. He thinks of himself as a smart guy who is responsible for whether his team wins or loses. That is true sometimes in football, but not very often. Winning, over the long-term, is much more a function of creating a culture that respects intensity, consistency, and fundamentals.

Weis does not do these things. The "culture" of ND football is a cult of personality with Weis at the center. That's his basic problem.


Obviously, this last section is a lot to digest, and I wish this poster had given a concrete example of this type of statistical analysis. Nonetheless, let me give my broad analysis of ND’s current situation and try to cover as much as I can the various points above.

I thought at the beginning of the season that ND would lose its first three games. I think now that it could very well lose its first nine. A lot will depend on whether Weis can right the ship against the Big Ten over the next three weeks, starting with Michigan.

Much of it is not his fault. The catchphrase “perfect storm” is applicable to the problems facing ND’s various units right now: the offense contains a mix of several veterans who are quite mediocre (Grimes, Thomas, Schwapp) and many young players who are simply not ready to play Top Twenty Five competition. The result of this degree of inexperience is catastrophic. Each player’s mistakes are bad by themselves, but combined with those of their peers, lead to a complete paralysis of the offense. The offensive line’s pass protection was bad 70 percent of the time Saturday, but on those occasions when the quarterback had plenty of time to throw (and there were more than a few), Clausen couldn’t execute….because he’s a freshman who can’t make quick reads right now, or his target Grimes couldn’t get off the line, because he shouldn’t be a starter on a quality football team. And so on.

In addition, ND is attempting to break in a 3-4 defense under a new coordinator with personnel that doesn’t quite match the scheme. And they start the season with a relentlessly difficult schedule.

There are problems however that do point to a coaching problem. In 2005, Notre Dame rushed for 275 yards against Pittsburgh in Charlie Weis’s first game. ND fans were excited because the vision of Rashon Powers-Neal barreling through a demoralized Pittsburgh defense seemed to fulfill Charlie’s celebrated – and perhaps notorious – objective of “nasty”. That total hasn’t been approached since. Now Pitt had a bad rushing defense that season, but so did BYU. And in week 8 against the fighting Mormons, we rushed for a grand total of 44 yards. At the time, we took this as sign of Charlie’s ability to construct an individual gameplan for each opponent. But I think the question now has to be asked, at what price?

There’s no question that the offensive line has deteriorated tremendously during Charlie’s tenure. With basically the same cast of characters in 2006, the line play was much worse both in terms of pass protection and run blocking than it was in 2005. In 2007, it can’t do anything. Obviously, youth and experience play a large role in this year’s failures. But I think Irish fans have to wonder that the time spent cribbing the spread offense from West Virginia, for instance, could have been spent installing and teaching much more basic offensive game-plans that featured a strong running attack with easier blocking schemes and getting the ball to one’s All-American tight end who, for the love of god, was actually open quite a bit against Penn State. In other words, the accusation that Charlie out-thinks himself and sacrifices fundamentals in the process carries some weight.

I’ll cut this short by simply saying that no problem facing the current coaching regime at ND is irreversible. Charlie is a smart guy who has cut his teeth at the NFL level. No experience can best illustrate the gap between the NFL and college level than the one Charlie faces right now, in which he has to teach a bunch of 18, 19, and 20 year olds to compete. In the process he’s watching his gameplans fail miserably. This is a much different scenario from the one that Charlie had in 2005, in which he took over an underachieving, but experienced football team. The lesson, I imagine has to be sobering.

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