Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Coach Weis's press conference yesterday was one of the most illuminating I've seen in a while. He mentioned some things that might help explain the offense's poor showing last Saturday. If you're really curious, you can read the whole presser here:

These are just some tidbits I found interesting.

Coach Haywood

If you haven't heard (I suspect an Observer article is imminent, though I haven't seen the paper yet today), a relative of Coach Haywood's died last Friday (or possibly late on Thursday). Not sure exactly who the relative is--Coach Weis tactfully didn't say--but you have to wonder how much that affected Coach Haywood's play calling at the game on Saturday, if at all. An interesting quote from Coach Weis suggests even more that he might not have been all there:

I think that having gone through a death during a football season myself at one time, you show up for the game but you're kind of in a fog. You're there, but you're kind of not there at the same time.

I can't help but agree. Death has a way of fuzzying up everything else in your life. It's not that you don't care or can't function, necessarily (although depending on the death, it might mean those things), it just...makes it harder to focus on everything. It overwhelms you, to say the least.

So I think it's probably safe to assume Coach Haywood wasn't exactly 100% on Saturday. It's not a case of assigning blame--it's just a fact. Death at any time is never easy to deal with...but in the middle of one of the most crucial weeks of your team's football season? It would throw anybody for a loop.

Knowing this now, though, I do think it was probably a factor in the offense's (temporary) breakdown, but looking at it from a team perspective, you can't really place the blame on one person. And besides--what else are you going to do in that situation? At that point in the week, Coach Haywood's the one who has implemented the game plan, he's the person most familiar with the opposing team's defense, he's the one who has been coaching the players toward a particular set of plays and scenarios on first, second, third down,'s not a point in the week where you can really flip the switch. So you chug through and trust the players to execute. (Which should have happened, but, for whatever reason, didn't.)

And obviously this is something that's still affecting the team this week.

Coach Weis Back on Offense

Coach Haywood will be flying home to Texas for the funeral this week, and though he is expected to be at the game on Saturday, this week it's Coach Weis making the game plan, strapping on the headset, and calling all the plays. This likely won't be a permanent change (it seems like Charlie's pretty well handed the power over to Coach Haywood at this point), but it will be interesting to see how it affects the game play on Saturday.

In other news, our QB should be looking a little improved

Apparently, Jimmy was sick last week. (Too bad no one was there to give him a bowl of chicken soup.) You can imagine how this might have affected his game play. Coach Weis said he didn't think it was a situation where Jimmy should have been pulled, because otherwise Evan would have been in there calling the shots, but still...if your offensive coordinator's not 100% mentally and your QB's not 100% physically, you're going to run into some problems. I'm not saying this explains absolutely everything about the team's game play on Saturday, but piecing these things together really helps explain some of the collapse we saw against BC.

Also according to Coach Weis, Jimmy may have been trying to "force it" a little bit.

Said that after the game the other day. I think we have guys that are just trying to make a play and they're trying to do too much. So it goes away from my premise that you're supposed to just do your job. Then when you start trying to do too much then you start forcing it and bad things happen.

No. Kidding.

This is one of those situations where you start to wonder--is it just a maturity thing? Does Jimmy need to grow a little more as a QB? Thankfully, a stalwart reporter posed this question during the presser, and Coach Weis said he thought Jimmy was past that "in a normal football game," but he added that even pro QBs sometimes make poor decisions when their team is down and they're trying too hard to play catch-up. He even cited Tom Brady as an example:

not to give an analogy to Tommy, but we played a game against the Miami Dolphins where he threw four interceptions and we ended up losing on a year when they were really terrible.

One interception he threw, it's a close game, and he's got a guy wrapped around him, throws it right to a defensive lineman, who runs it in for a touchdown and we lose. This is a guy going to the Hall of Fame, winning Super Bowls.

Which you can't really argue with it. Even Peyton Manning's had his interception-happy days. I'm not saying Jimmy Clausen should be put in the same league with Tom Brady or anything, but it's a fair point. Desperation brings out a lot of uglies.

However, Coach Weis also said something that thrilled me near to death, because it's the same thing I've been saying for the last two seasons:

So I think what he would tell you, which is the same thing that Jimmy would tell you, is that he was just trying to make a play. And what you have to do as a coach is explain to him sometimes taking a sack is a good thing. Sometimes throwing the ball away is a good thing. Sometimes you can throw the ball away and taking a sack is better than the end result where you throw the ball into traffic.

Didn't I say that a bazillion times last season? Didn't I?? DIDN'T I??????????????????

.....'m just saying.

It's not the most deep and insightful observation on the game of football, but it's clearly true, and it's good to know that even if there's sometimes a disparity between understanding and execution, at least Jimmy's getting the message from somewhere--and not just somewhere, either, but from the exact right source: da coach.

Further Words of Wisdom

Immediately following this question about Jimmy, Coach Weis addressed a question about the fans' reaction to the season thus far. I appreciated the question, and I doubly appreciated the answer.

Q: I think it's probably fair to say or maybe even conservative to say some people who are interested in Notre Dame football are a little inpatient now based on the way things have gone in the past couple of weeks. Given where this team was last year, the current composition in the roster, do you think that's fair?

COACH WEIS: I think that I'd be perturbed, too, if I were them, to be honest with you. I wouldn't be very happy the way the Pittsburgh game lasted, the way it ended, should I say.

And I wouldn't be too excited about how the offense and special teams played. Now, the difference between the Pittsburgh game and the Boston College game you can't give enough credit to how the defense played in the game.

So you could not say that in the Pittsburgh game. There was plenty of blame slash to spread around in that game between the coaches and the players and everything that happened. But you can't say that about how the defense played in the BC game, because they played darn well. And I think that now the offense has to step up and they have to do it this week. They have to do it next week. They have to do it the week after that, and we'll see where we are after we go through that three week stretch.

Damn straight.

So we shall see how the team fares this week, with Charlie at the offensive helm again, the team reeling from a nasty loss, Jimmy getting over a cold, and Coach Haywood dealing with a loss in the family (and speaking of which, you should probably keep him in your prayers). I'm exciiiiited to head out to Baltimore and see them in action...I expect them to be much improved.

Oh, and if you see Jimmy around LaFortune this week, offer to buy him a bottle of orange juice. And maybe a can of chicken soup.


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