Monday, December 03, 2007

CSE: Coach-Season Evaluation

Right about the time Notre Dame profs are being forced on the annual exile from the classroom known as TCEs (ever think the professors are actually more giddy to be rid of the students for 20 minutes than vice versa?), Charlie Weis conducted a lengthy post-mortem evaluation. Video's already up at the UND.com main page, and full transcript for your literary pleasure.

So, Coach Weis, let's cut to the chase on the first question: Are you already knee-deep in planning changes for next season?
No, I'm recruiting. That's what I'm doing. I'm recruiting until December 17th. I was gone until late Thursday night, I came in on Friday morning, I watched the game on Friday morning...I met with the team at 2:30 Friday afternoon to get the weight program going because we started that this morning at 6:00...Other than that, football-wise right now, flying Thursday to get ready for the banquet weekend, and we've got a bunch of recruits in this weekend and I'll go back on the road again and I'll be out Monday through Friday of that following week and then Saturday we have to be off the road, and that's the Saturday before the 17th, so that's really where I want to be.
Again, place this in sharp contrast with Coach Weis' predecessor, who even in the middle of bowl game prep found a way to sneak in 18 (or 96) at TPC Sawgrass. While there is no shortage of issues that need to be addressed and changes to be contemplated, let's not put the cart before the horse - a year ago the Irish faded down the stretch in recruiting, partially because an overemphasis on change within the program caused some concern among high-school seniors and certain SEC coaches sensed an opening.

Alright Coach, Dec. 17th represents the beginning of the dark period, the holiday break. And you said you'll be seeking out advice on how to change and critically evaluating what you did wrong, namely by paying a visit to your old buddies in New England. But don't you think you're being a little close-minded by obsessing over a pro franchise mentality when asking for help this offseason?
I'm definitely going to use college resources, but I think you guys greatly overrate the pro system when it comes to Xs and Os. All you're doing when it comes to that, an analysis of your system, is the X and O part. That's one small part of the grand scheme of things. When I say that I'm going to utilize the Patriots as a resource, why wouldn't I? They're the people that have the most familiarity with the Xs and Os part of the system. That's just one small part of this job. I mean, there's a lot of facets that we've passed down through the years. There's different ways of doing it, and I think that you have to make sure you at least exhaust -- make sure you've gone through those different alternatives, and right now to say what you're going to do would be a bit premature.
Again, fair and balanced without putting the cart before the horse. When Weis went on his dorm-storming tour of the campus back in February/March of 2005, the one constant in his addresses was how he came from what he considered to the best sports organization ever assembled. Looking back, he didn't say it was the best organization in pro sports, nor did he talk about how awesome the Patriots were at game-planning or how ruthlessly efficient Bill Belichick was at herding a group of steely-eyed professional athletes. He talked about how the Patriot Way was built on selflessness, strong work ethic, an overriding sense of team. In many ways the Patriot Revolution inside the NFL happened because the Pats are not a status quo NFL franchise (I've tried explaining this to Stewart Mandel, but to no avail). Take this excerpt from Sports Illustrated's recent cover story on the Patriot linebacking corps:
The point is not in the substance of the argument, but in the passion. Belichick is a member of the 'backerhood, too. Last spring he took Colvin into the bubble behind Gillette and held a tackling dummy while the linebacker worked on pass rush moves. Colvin got better; Belichick got a nasty set of bruised ribs, which he could neither hide nor live down.
Now, doesn't that sound like the kind of thing a pro head coach is too busy to bother with? The sort of thing he foists on an assistant while he locks himself in the tape room, obsessing 22 hours out of 24 on how to outsmart the Colts?

That's what Stewart Mandel wants you to believe; he and other columnists of the college game paint Belichick to be a smarmy, dictatorial leader with no personality who just taps into the mind of a professional athlete in order to achieve maximum returns. Which leads nicely into their next point that Weis' obsession with being "just like Bill" will simply lead him further down the road to ruin. Funny, I didn't hear any of that when another college coach professed his desire to be the Next Belichick:
The one thing about Bill Belichick's team, the New England Patriots, there are no issues. You never hear about a guy from the Patriots getting in trouble on Main Street. You watch them play and you don't see them do those silly things after a touchdown. They go hug their teammates. It's the best team in all of professional sports. Think about that. They are the best - I don't care, I'll fight ya and argue on that - but they're the best team going.

Why are they the best team? Who's their superstar? Tom Brady? Tom Brady is not a superstar, but he's a great football player that raises the level of play of everyone around him. Tedy Bruschi. . . he's not a superstar. What is he? He's a great leader.

What's happened is he's created, with the help of all his players and leaders on his team, he's created a team that everyone wants to be like. I want to be like that...We had a great player, our quarterback was phenomenal, but he wasn't one of those guys that brought attention to himself. Here's a guy that circled the troops and made the average players around him play great.

If you don't think that's important, you haven't really been reading the sports section with all the trouble these SEC schools and other schools; a bunch of kids acting like knuckleheads. If you don't truly think that's important then you don't truly understand 18-22 year-olds. What they need is direction but they need direction from within that team.
That's Florida head coach Urban Meyer, ladies and gentleman, further solidifying his reputation as pompous and arrogant buffoon with no clue how to relate to college kids because he's obsessed with being like Belichick. At least, that's what people would say if his name were Charlie Weis.

And Meyer, whatever your opinion of him and how close his program has gotten to the Patriot Way, hits it pretty much on the head. That's what coaching boils down to - being smart enough to bring in high-character kids who will lead on the field and off, and then being deft enough to get out of their way when it really counts. Brady Quinn was unquestionably that type of player, which was why he took a good system and molded himself in that image, why Weis said having Quinn in the huddle was akin to having another coach on the field. 

So that's my reaction to Weis saying he'd like to hear from the Patriots about what he did wrong - why the hell wouldn't he? He was pretty clear today that his intention is not just to sit in a dark room with a telestrator and crunch X's and O's (though he botched that up plenty well during the course of the season). Somewhere, a disconnect occurred and it wasn't simply because of the playbook. Might be helpful to hear from the best on how to fix that.

All things considered though, Coach Weis, how would you assess the team coming back, in particular the progress of your first-year players?
Well, obviously our skill players, our freshmen skill players, we were pleased at the progress. We have a couple of guys on the horizon who really didn't get into the action like Gary Gray and Harrison Smith at the end of -- by this time of the year, these two guys looked like really, really good, solid players. We have four linemen who really didn't get any action this year, one on defense in Emeka and three on offense, that we really liked their progress, as well. In addition to the guys playing, there were some guys that are on the cusp of being legitimate contenders on the depth chart going into the spring. I think it'll be interesting to see how they push their way up.
Good to hear. But I think even you would concede the season can be partly explained by the old adage, "Tradition Never Graduates, but Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, & Victor Abiamiri Do." Right?
There's a whole litany of things that you can place blame on, but I really have a tough time placing blame just on graduation of players. Did we lose a whole bunch of key players? You bet we did. But that still shouldn't lead to going 3 and 9 for a season.
I see. How's the big football banquet recruiting weekend shaping up?
I've got like 14 of them coming this weekend, so I said, I'll see you this weekend. We're going to have a whole bunch of them in for the banquet and get a hoops game. We're going to go break this record on Saturday night, so we're going to be a part of that. We're rooting for Coach Brey and the basketball team.

I think that really the mess that we got into, every home of every kid that's already said yes this past week and a bunch of others on top of it. I think the message is they're going to be a part of something special. I think that's the way they feel. It's really encouraging that -- it's really encouraging that we toed the line and said this was going to be our stance on recruiting last year to see how guys under a very turbulent type of year where you had a really -- you had all these roller coaster ebbs and flows and a lot more downs than ups, that these guys have all toed the line. And not only that, but these guys all become boys with each other, too, which is kind of nice to see.
Corwin Brown also talked about "being part of something special" when he spoke at the pep rally prior to the Navy game. How do you feel after Year One of the Corwin Brown Experience?
I'm very biased towards Corwin, so I mean, I'm going to have a whole list of nothing but good things to say. But more than anything else, Corwin is very, very disappointed in the year just like I am, and more than anything I can say is I'm exactly on the same page with Corwin about where we are and where we need to go. I think that he's driven just the way I'm driven, to make sure that not only will we not ever be in this position again, but we're driven to get to the top, and that's where we intend to go.

We can go over pros and cons in the defense, but statistically you know what they are. You know what the pass defense was, you know what the rush defense was, you know what the stats are. I think more than anything else what he has done is given me a guy that I've known for a long time, who I'm very close with, that I know feels things and sees things exactly the way I do. I can't get any more glowing a recommendation than somebody that is eye to eye on everything I do.
A helpful addendum here might've been: if my offense hadn't thrived on the 3-and-out & combined with our special teams to provide 23 drives for the opposition that started inside our 40, the defensive numbers (particularly in points allowed) might've been a little closer to reality.

And finally Coach, on the subject of special teams...
Yes, it has to be changed. I was not pleased with the way it went.

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