Being a Notre Dame fan is an emotional roller coaster I wouldn't wish on anyone. Coming into this season I was very excited about the prospects of the Fighting Irish. Finally, after two rough seasons the chips had fallen into place.
After week one's shutout of Nevada my opinion hadn't changed one bit. The offense looked unstoppable and the defense was aggressive and able to make timely plays.
But just as soon as that roller coaster soared into the sky did it come tumbling down with a tear-jerking loss to Michigan. Now, my opinion changed quickly.
Suddenly the defense appeared average at best and Nevada could have easily scored 20 points or more, I thought. A close victory over Nevada and a loss to Michigan is not the way I envisioned the season beginning.
Then there's all those terrible ghosts of Charlie Weis which seemed to come flying out of the closet last Saturday. Wasted and avoidable time-outs, poor halftime adjustments, another horrible third quarter, and questionable play calling to end the game brought back memories of 2007 and 2008.
Not surprisingly, many people are calling for Weis' head, or at the very least, willing to admit that his days in South Bend will not last much longer. However, there are probably just as many voices, if not outright defending Weis, then at least pointing out that the loss to Michigan wasn't clearly the coaches fault entirely.
So what does the future hold for Weis? Like many, I've bounced all over the place debating what should be done regarding this topic.
As of right now however, my faith is still in Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Or to put it another way, I think he should stay in South Bend barring a momentous collapse this season or if Notre Dame cannot win nine games. At least I think that's what I believe.
We will get a clearer picture of what this season holds after this weekend's game against Michigan State, but I still firmly believe the Irish can win nine or 10 games and build on that success, however hard of a pill that may be to swallow for those of us who sought greater expectations.
The biggest issue that kept creeping into my head when I was debating if Weis should be fired, was which coach would replace him? What coach out there could Swarbuck and Co. bring to South Bend that we know could take this team to another level? Immediately two scenarios came to mind.
First, there's a good probability that Notre Dame would be getting a better game day coach if Weis is fired. But that would most likely be followed by a dip in recruiting, because let's admit Weis has been able to bring in some talented players and I'm very suspect that the next coach will be able to. At this point, which do you think is worse or better for the Irish?
What I was thinking is this: After this season Notre Dame fires Weis and replaces him with Coach X. Odds are this new coach would have a better grasp of the college game but his players would have to adjust to a new system during a year (2010) where even outsiders are predicting at least a small window chance at a National Title.
With this scenario, would Notre Dame be better off heading into next year? What do you think the odds are that Clausen or Floyd bolt to the NFL is this happens?
The other issue I was grappling with was Weis' ability to recruit and build up an offensive juggernaut. However inept he seems to be during games as a coach, at least Weis can put sufficient points on the board to the point where top recruits want a piece of the action.
On this topic, I've thought about Weis continuing to bring in top athletes, on offense especially, but seemingly getting out coached and struggle to win big games. This scenario would more than likely bring us an average of 8 wins a season I presume.
On the flip side, Coach X would probably not be as good of a recruiter, but his Irish team would be better coached and I presume they'd win an average of 9 games a season.
Obviously, Coach X sounds like the better option right? Or does it?
The thing about Coach X is that I think he would be consistently above-average. Notre Dame would be winning most of the time, kind of in the style of say Oregon or Oklahoma State, but never seriously challenge for a title.
The consistent winning would probably bring in a few blue chip recruits from time to time but we would have to deal with everyone shoving it in our faces that Notre Dame is just a second-tier program.
The one thing about having Weis as coach, and thinking about this year's team (or the 2010 squad), is that the offense is going to win us some game we should probably lose. At some point in the future, those stellar athletes are going to win a big game or two. It could be this weekend or it could be against USC in a few more weeks.
And that's the one thing I can't stop thinking about. What if Notre Dame hires another coach but he doesn't have what it takes to bring in the special talent the Irish have been lacking since the early '90s and that which Weis has at least been able to slowly stockpile.
Sure, Coach X and his team's would probably overachieve and sometimes beat a top 15 team, but I get the feeling we'd be falling back into mediocrity and it be a lot less maddening then the current Weis regime, better than the Willingham regime, but more like the Davie regime.
I guess there's two points that we just can't escape. A) Charlie Weis is a great recruiter. B) Charlie Weis has yet to prove he's a good coach. It's like one big yin-yang of contrast that doesn't seem to make sense.
First, Weis wins more games in two years than any coach in school history. Then he turns around and loses more games than anyone over a two year span. What have we learned from this? Heck if I know.
A lot of the problem is that there's probably only a half dozen men out there who could realistically bring Notre Dame back to elite program status. Even then, I'm not so sure even the best coach (and recruiter) in the world could hold on to excellence for very long in South Bend.
The academics, the weather, the growing parody in college football, and the last 15 years all demonstrate that the days of perpetual football dominance have come to an end for Notre Dame. With Weis, at least we know we have someone who can bring in top talent and have a shot at things like BCS bowls and National Championships.
So that's why I'm still behind Weis at this point. I'm not sure who could come in and do a better job and I'm at least excited about the explosive offense and the impending first round draft picks that are going to make Notre Dame look really good.
While that may not satisfy some fans who clamor for a dominant team, I think we should be happy that the talent assembled today gives us hope that there is a shot at something bigger on the horizon.
The loss to Michigan was bitter and gut-wrenching, but I think we have to look at the big picture and see an upward trend in all things Fighting Irish.