Weis is overmatched at Notre Dame
It takes a unique indivudal to succeed at powers like ND, Texas and Alabama
Many schools have to go through a series of coaches before they find the right fit
In four season, Weis has a lower winning percentage than Bob Davie
Moments after last Saturday's brutal loss to Syracuse, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis stood on the field for his postgame interview with NBC's Alex Flanagan. There's a lot of nasty stuff getting thrown at Weis, some of it simply because he's the Notre Dame coach and some of it perhaps because the Fighting Irish (6-5 after going 3-8 last year) don't look or play like an elite college football team, despite the gold helmets and Touchdown Jesus and all that. Much of America loves to see the Irish struggle, and even more love a good coaching deathwatch.
And there's the deeper layer of mean. Weis is being treated like this suffering is karma for his arrogance. The man can bring some hubris, no lie. In the spring of 2005, I was assigned by Sports Illustrated to write the obligatory new-coach-at-Notre-Dame story upon Weis's arrival. On a weekday afternoon I was ushered into Weis's office and given a seat across the desk from him. The only thing on his desk was a copy of a 2000 SI story I had written, detailing Notre Dame's problems in admissions, scheduling and, well, winning under Bob Davie from 1997 to 2001. The story was not well liked in South Bend and now Weis greets me with a copy of the article sitting on his otherwise spotless desk.
It was a pretty obvious attempt at intimidation, and all I said at the time was, "You know, I've written a lot of stories about Notre Dame, and you pick this one?'' But this was the first time I had met the guy and we were just getting started, so I passed on taking off the gloves. And Weis was cordial and professional in our conversation. That, of course, was 100 years ago.
Back to last Saturday. Watching Flanagan interview Weis it's clear that Weis is hurting. You can see his mind is miles away from their chat. The man is obviously stunned because of all the losses, but he's trying to answer.
This loss was the worst. Syracuse is an awful program with a lame-duck coach and, just to make the hurt as bad as possible, the kid of former Notre Dame All-America Adrian Dantley plays quarterback for the Orange.
In the ensuing days, media and blogs (and media blogs) and talk shows conclude that Weis is not long for Notre Dame, after he takes his whipping Saturday at USC. The Irish are 9-16 since the penultimate game of the 2006 season. His signature game is a loss, the 34-31 defeat at the hands of Leinart and Bush at Notre Dame Stadium in 2005.
You look at all this and think of Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, when he describes himself as "overmatched.'' That's what Weis looks like. Overmatched.
But think about this. Almost everybody who takes a job like Weis' -- head coach at a storied traditional power like Notre Dame or Texas or Alabama -- is overmatched by the job. Weis might get his sizeable derriere bought out sooner than later, but he's not the exception in his position. He's the norm. Coaching gods are hard to find, especially in places where gods once resided (or at Notre Dame, went to mass on Sunday mornings). And getting from one legend/genius/gubernatorial candidate to another often involves sifting through a series of misses.
Oklahoma is one of those places. After dismantling Mike Leach and Texas Tech last Saturday night, the Sooners might get a shot at playing for the national championship, which would put them in position to win a second title in Bob Stoops' 10 years as head coach. Stoops is the next Barry Switzer (OK, they're not remotely alike, except in the win column), but to get from Switzer (who won three national titles and nearly 84 percent of his games in 16 years from 1973 to '88) to Stoops, Oklahoma had to first go through Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger (a charter entry in the Hall of Fame of Bad Hires) and John Blake.
Texas is one of those places, too. Darrell Royal (not the first great Texas coach, but the last before Mack Brown was hired in 1998) won 167 games and three national titles from 1957 to '79. The Longhorns didn't win another one until 2006, Brown's eighth year, and long after Fred Akers, David McWilliams and John Mackovic had failed to live up to Royal's legacy.