Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More Kicking of Jason Whitlock

Having just finished watching Boogie Nights last night, I can best compare this post to the scene towards the end when Jack Horner beats the crap out of a college student for telling him that his films now suck and then, as the poor kid is lying on the ground bloody and semi-conscious, Rollergirl skates over and kicks him in the head with her skate. In this instance, Jack Horner is played by MGoBlog, the hapless college student is played by Jason Whitlock's knee-jerk column about Charlie Weis getting a massive extension from Notre Dame, and I get to be Rollergirl (minus the perfect chest and desire to be mothered by a coked-out porn star.) Anyway, here's what I have to add to Brian's fine takeout of Whitlock's argument:

As an initial matter, it needs to be said that major college football programs put themselves at risk for arguments like this because of their lousy collective history in hiring African-Americans. That history creates the context for reactionary writers looking for the next emotional hot button issue to ride to Stephen A. Smith-dom to view any story in college football with a hint of race as a big deal. That's why Fisher DeBerry's comments were such a big deal (aided by the fact that he's a older man who has previously voiced socially conservative views, both of which add to the impression that he could be prejudiced) and that's why the Weis extension is news. The irony is that Notre Dame is one of the few college football programs that has hired an African-American coach, so they shouldn't be punished for the context in which they find themselves. Brian makes a great point when he states that other programs will look at the heat that Notre Dame has taken and will be less likely to hire the next Tyrone Willingham, although he probably overstates the importance of the Jason Whitlocks of the world.

What Whitlock completely misses in his piece is the way that Notre Dame has gotten to 5-2, as opposed to the way that Notre Dame got to 8-0 under Willingham. Notre Dame has looked very good in every game they've played this year. They've blown out every bad team they've played, they won a reasonably close game against a good Michigan team on the road, they suffered an upset to Michigan State, an entirely reasonable result given State's history of playing up to the name opponents on its schedule, and they came within an eyelash of beating a team that hasn't lost in two years. In other words, they've looked like a very good team. (Incidentally, when Whitlock pillories the Notre Dame schedule, he glosses over who's coaching one-win Washington.) I'm by no means a Notre Dame fan and I have no problem saying that they look like a good bet to win a national title in the next five years. I NEVER got that sense about Willingham's first team at ND, a team that was one of the weakest 8-0 teams in recent memory and a team whose subsequent collapse over the next 2 and 1/3rd seasons was entirely predictable.

And why is Notre Dame only 5-2 this season, despite having an offense that ranks 9th in total offense? Gee, could it be because Willingham did a lousy job of recruiting on defense, specifically the defensive backfield? Any team with a semblance of a passing game can stay in a game with Notre Dame this year because the Irish can't stop the pass and were unable to do so for most, if not all, of Willingham's tenure. Weis has taken a team from which Willingham could coax six wins and has produced a top ten team. Is that not worth an extension? Whitlock gives Willingham credit for recruiting the offense that Weis has turned into a machine and Willingham did do a fairly good job recruiting offense skill position talent (although his offensive line recruiting was not good,) but Willingham was unable to get any production out of Quinn & co. Before the season, Quinn was viewed as a marginal NFL prospect. After a year with Weis, Whitlock now says he could go ahead of Leinart and acts as if this was fait accompli.

And what was the motivation for that extension, Jason? Could it have been the fact that the NFL is eyeing Weis like you eye all-you-can-eat riblet night at Applebee's? I don't recall NFL teams going ga-ga over Willingham in 2002 when Notre Dame was 8-0 because they played opponents who had a remarkable ability to hand the ball to Irish defenders at inopportune times. Weis, unlike Willingham, has a proven track record in the NFL. Willingham does not. The NFL is full of teams that are willing to pay $4M per season for a head coach. The NFL drives the monetary market for top-end college coaches, which is why Weis needs a raise and Willingham didn't.


Anonymous said...

Deberry is not a conservative, he is a nut who has tried to bring religion into a governemnt institution and should be run

Anonymous said...

I heard Whitlock do a radio interview this morning. He says he didn't care either way about Ty being fired. His point was just about the treatment of Weis (and he included the media's fawning as well as ND's financial rewarding) at this point in his first year versus Ty in his first season when he had a better record.

Where I think he's completely wrong is he said Weis has no leverage right now because there are no NFL head jobs available in November and likely won't be until after the season, so why didn't ND wait to at least see how the rest of the season plays out. Whether there's an opening right now doesn't matter because everyone knows there will be several once the season ends, and that most of those teams would love to have Weis. So the extension sends a message to recruits right now that Weis intends to be there (at least for now).

I also agree with you that ND looks like a much stronger (or, as Michigan grads, scary) program than at anytime under Ty.

Ian said...

I was going to write something myself on this topic, but damn, what's left to be said? Well, the thing that no one seems to mention, before you brought it up- that Ty's really coachin' 'em up at U-Dub. Yes, the cupboard was pretty bare in Seattle, but any moreso than in Columbia, SC? The point here is that you couldn't read one ND article in Ty's first year without some sort of "Luck Of The Irish" quote. Not so for Weis. That being said, they'd better f-in' beat Tennesee, or it's "I told you so" for months.

Anonymous said...

As a huge ND fan and alum, I've beaten this to death on the chat boards at Blue and Gold Illustrated, and my consistent argument has not been one of race, but of schedule strength.

While people continue to use hindsight to point out how "unimpressive" and "lucky" the '02 Irish looked to this point in the season, I continue to remind them that the 8-0 record we had amassed to this point was against SIX bowl teams, FOUR of whom finished the season nationally ranked.

So far, we've played TWO bowl teams this year, lost to one, and had our closest victory against the other. The other NINE teams on our schedule either have NO prayer of making a bowl (Washington, Navy, Syracuse, Purdue) or basically need to win out to qualify (Michigan State, Pitt, Tennessee, BYU, Stanford).

There's absolutely no comparing the schedule strength.

Yes, it became obvious in '02 against USC and NC State that Ty's team couldn't generate offense against good teams.

But Charlie's '05 team has lost two games basically just being outscored (last team with the ball wins), and has given up 28 points in a win to a 2-6 team, 21 to woeful Pitt, 23 to cupcake BYU and 17 to dismal Washington, who conveniently fumbled on the goal line and threw a pick in our end zone. So you might say this team can't stop a good offense, either. Thank God Tennessee's about as far from a good offense as it gets in D-1 football.

If you blame Ty for Charlie's pass defense, you have to credit him some for the offense, as well - he recruited the guys on both sides of the ball. And even that argument would have holes, because Davie's teams and Ty's teams with Davie's players were consistently poor against the pass, Shane Walton aside.

I love Coach Weis, and I *do* think this team is better than 2002. But 3 years ago today, this extension would look really, really wrong, and I think it has to be viewed without the benefit of hindsight (specifically, the 13-16 record AFTER FSU '02).