Monday, October 19, 2009

Charlie Weis and Dan Snyder – Cut from the Same Mold

I gave up the pretense of so-called unbiased reporting years ago. For one thing, when you write a column you are allowed to be biased--as long as you're fair. For another, I reached the conclusion that none of us is unbiased--we're all affected by where we grew up, who we know, who we don't know and by the way the people we cover behave. The key, I've always believed, is to be aware of your biases and say what you have to say within the boundaries of what's fair and, one can only hope, accurate.

I also know that no matter how hard you try to adhere to those guidelines there are going to be people who disagree with you who are going to see you as unfair regardless of what you write or say. One poster wrote in last week and said I didn't like The President's Cup because I couldn't get the access I wanted to do a book. Are you kidding me? If I wanted access to write a Presidents Cup book, Tim Finchem would send his private plane for me and personally escort me into each team room. Hell, he might make me an assistant captain for the U.S. team so I could learn about golf from Michel Jordan. There would only be one problem: outside of friends, family and the folks at Ponte Vedra no one could care less about the Presidents Cup.

I bring that up only to make the point that you can't please everyone. I get that. In fact, I've been very pleasantly surprised by how upbeat the tone of almost all the posts and e-mails to the blog have been since it started. Outside of Mr. Presidents Cup and a few folks ranting about me being a liberal--guilty and I don't consider it a four letter word--most people have been positive, really smart, funny and, in some cases, have told me things I didn't know.

All of which leads me to today's subjects: Charlie Weis and Dan Snyder.

Unlike Snyder, who I doubt has anyone left on his side other than his family (maybe) and people on his payroll (but not all of them) Weis still has those singing his tune. If you had listened to Tom Hammond and Pat Haden (both of whom I like) on NBC at the end of USC's 34-27 victory over the Irish, you might have concluded that Notre Dame had won the game. "Notre Dame certainly proved today that it can compete with the nation's elite again," Hammond said.

Really? Weis's team was 20 points down at home to a USC team that has a freshman starting at quarterback and appears to be Pete Carroll's most vulnerable team in at least the last eight years. Yes, the Trojans are still very good and they might--might--run the rest of the table in the Pac-10 but something tells me they won't. If they do, it's a reflection of the Pac-10 being overrated (Cal has already proven to be a bust that's for sure) or of the fact that Pete Carroll and his staff can really coach-up talented players between September and January.

Certainly Notre Dame deserves credit for rallying to the point where it had three cracks at a tie from the four-yard line in the final seconds. But for Weis to go on about there being no quit in his team is ridiculous. Why would any team quit with 80,000 people screaming for them to rally? Why would any group of competitive athletes throw in the towel when history shows in college football that rallies from 20 points down are always possible? Notre Dame certainly has talent, at least on offense, so why would it not keep grinding until the end, especially when USC went to sleep at the wheel on defense once it established the big lead?

Maybe I'd be more sympathetic if Weis wasn't such an arrogant, self-inflating preener. He arrived at Notre Dame acting as if he was the head coach who won three Super Bowls, not a coordinator. He won 10 games--and lost bowl games--his first two years, mostly with players recruited by Tyrone Willingham. He is now 4-2 in his fifth season against a remarkably weak schedule. His four wins are over teams with a combined record of 11-15. One--Michigan State at 4-3--has a winning record. (Yes, Washington did beat Southern Cal--at home--but that was the Trojans' annual letdown game so let's not get carried away. Upsets happen in college football as we all know. What's more it took a questionable call to get Notre Dame its win--in South Bend--over Washington). The losses are to a rebuilding Michigan team playing a freshman at quarterback and a good USC team, also playing a freshman quarterback. Of course Lou Holtz probably STILL thinks Notre Dame will be in the national championship game.

Weis isn't a terrible coach, he's just not nearly as good as he thinks he is. And his penchant for throwing his players under the bus really gets old. After Jimmy Clausen's last play fell incomplete, NBC's Alex Flanagan asked him what happened on the last play. After explaining that USC had done, "what we expected," defensively he said the route was open but the receiver slipped. In other words, "I coached good, they played bad." I don't CARE if the receiver slipped, you take it on yourself or your credit the other team. A really classy coach--like say Pete Carroll--would have said something like, "We had to look off our primary receiver because they were smart enough to double him (that would be Golden Tate in this case) and their defenders closed well on the other side and forced Jimmy to throw the ball to a spot where no one was open. Give them credit for great defense."

That's not Weis. He's always got the right play called and he's coached his kids to really, "fight." You or I could coach Notre Dame kids to fight. Most of them are class kids, good students and good people--no matter who is coaching them. That's what Notre Dame is about and that's never going to change. But when you are Notre Dame you are supposed to WIN--not come close. The school has just about every possible advantage one could want--it's own TV network; pots of money; the incredible tradition; the fabulous fight song and all those ghosts that float around Notre Dame stadium. Let's not use the academic standards excuse either. There are plenty of very good football players out there who have the grades and SATs needed to get into Notre Dame. Or let's put it this way: is there any reason in the world for TCU and Boise State to be better than Notre Dame? (schools Notre Dame would NEVER play home-and-home by the way).

Bob Davie, a good man, got fired for being mediocre at Notre Dame. Tyrone Willingham, a good man, got fired for being mediocre at Notre Dame. Weis is now 14-17 the last three seasons playing almost exclusively with players he recruited and he's still throwing players under the bus and declaring moral victories for staying close at home. Why in the world any Notre Dame fan would want Weis as the school's coach for five more minutes is beyond me.

Jim Zorn, who is going to be fired at any minute, is another story. Every week Zorn stands up and says, "this is my fault," after the Redskins lose to another awful team. The combined record of the teams Washington has played in the last five weeks in games not played against the Redskins is now 1-25. Seriously. And the one win was Sunday when the Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game between two of those god-awful opponents.

The complete debacle taking place in Washington isn't any more Zorn's fault than it is the fault of Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier or Joe Gibbs--the other coaches Dan Snyder has run through in his 10 years as the worst owner in sports history. Sure, Zorn's overmatched but it was Snyder and his snarky little henchman Vinny Cerrato who brought him in as offensive coordinator and then made him the coach when no one else wanted the job.

Now, Danny and Vinny are trying to make Zorn another fall guy. Two weeks ago they cut his legs out from under him by bringing in Sherman Lewis, who was spending time in retirement working as a bingo caller, to "consult," on the offense. Now, they're making him the signal-caller as if calling, "I-12, that's I-12," is going to magically produce an offensive line that can block for any quarterback.

It really is a shame for this town, because it is a town that LOVES the Redskins, that Snyder can't be forced to sell the team because what he's done to it is disgusting. Snyder doesn't speak to the media during the season--why the hell not you might wonder--but if he did, I guarantee you none of this would be his fault. So here's an idea: Snyder should hire Charlie Weis to coach. Then the two of them could take turns blaming everyone but themselves for their team's failures. No two men I can think of deserve one another more.

The two of them remind me of an old 'Peanuts,' strip when Peppermint Patty is asked why she hasn't done her homework. Well, she says, there was a TV show she needed to watch, a new album to listen to and her favorite radio show. Finally, she stands up, puts her hand in the air and says, "I blame it on the media!"

Sure, why not. If it works for Peppermint Patty is should work for Danny and Charlie.


Bill Elliott said...

John -
Thank you again for starting this blog. It's thought-provoking, entertaining, and educational. Don't change a thing.

Anonymous said...

Weis is definitely in PR Mode to paint the best light on his program, as he has to in order to keep his enormous salary. I am not a ND fan, and therefore don't have a dog in that fight, but I would be more pissed with what Weis said before the USC game than after.....that he tried to paint the picture that this is the 1st time going into the USC game that his players thought they could win was mind-boggling. Is that true? He went to a couple BCS games, had that great matchup again Bush and Leinart and none of those games did his guys go in thinking they could win?

He definitely is hoping fans and employers just live in 'the now', or else they would feel defrauded.

Roons said...

I love this post but totally disagree.. I am second generation ND and fully recognize the pyschosis that is the ND Nation, but basically Charlie Weis is going to be fired for having a bad personality and not rebuilding our program fast enough. Davie and Willingham are great people but they were fired for being totally overmatched in this job, not just mediocre. Weis took over a program for two guys that aren't even coaching anymore and probably won't ever be head coaches again.

The Cleveland Browns fired Bill Belichick for I'm guessing the same reasons: mediocre record and bad personality. That decision's impact is hard to fathom. My point is that coaches grow just like players do and Charlie Weis is getting better. He is also sturdy (or arrogant) enough to handle the demands of this position where Davie and Willingham looked like dead men walking when they were fired.

The bottom line to me is if not Charlie Weis, who? Who really wants this job and is a considerably better coach than Charlie, meaning would be better than 4-2 with no Michael Floyd and an injured QB.

I know I am on an island defending Big Chuck and I also recognize that the ND defense is poor at best and I'm not sure Charlie has an answer for that. ND "fired" Dan Devine for having a bad personality so they could hire Gerry Faust and that didn't go very well for either party. I grew up watching ND Football during the Faust era and those Saturdays were where my father taught me most of the profanities that I still use today. Here's one vote for Keep Charlie!

Dan said...

Great blog, Mr. Feinstein, but I must agree with your assertion that Dan Snyder is the worst owner in sports history. Don't get me wrong, he's awful, but he's not quite as bad as James Dolan. And Dolan owns both the Rangers and Knicks, so he disgraces and damages two beloved franchises, not one. And wrecked the once-great MSG Network, too.

Tommy said...

That would be quite a battle - Dolan vs. Snyder. And it would be quite a poll to see who was the worst current owner in professional sports. If only we could mix in college ADs too!

cd1515 said...

Weis gets his salary if they never win another game, so I doubt that's his motivation.

Dan Gregart said...

As a Michigan fan, I'm reminded of the final years of Lloyd Carr. As he continued to produce Big Ten competitive, but nationally overmatched teams, the battle in my soul raged between my hope for a return to old glory and my deep understanding of his growing irrelevance. Charlie Weiss is in the same position. However, just as in the case of Dan Snyder, this many consecutive coaching hires gone bad seems to point to a larger problem. Is it possible that Notre Dame itself has an inbred disfunctionality? If that is the case, how can any Irish fan hope for better days? At least Redskins fans can hope for financial loss to drive Snyder out of town.

Anonymous said...

In his later years after a stellar
career, Al Davis has been a joke in Oakland with the Raiders. I am not sure he is playing with a full deck anymore and that is sad.

Kevin said...

I really enjoy reading this blog, but I can't disagree more with your assessment of Charlie Weis' postgame talk with Alex Flanagan. He said exactly what happened. He wasn't blaming his players, he wasn't throwing them under the bus, he was answering a question asked to him. The receiver did slip, and when you watch the replay you see that. We should applaud coaches for calling it as it is.

I'm waiting for the day Jim Zorn gets in front of a microphone and calls out his players for playing lousy. Let's be honest - Zorn is the WORST coach in the league, but his players are also not very good.

Anonymous said...

Please write a book about the Snyder era. We need the dirt to come out plus it could also play as a management book in the what not to do to run a successful organization.

TwoNuse said...

My only critique is your statement that Snyder is the worst owner in sports history. That title belongs to George Shinn, who found a way to get his NBA franchise run out of the basketball mad Carolinas.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Snyder, the same man who charged Fathers and each of their children $10 apiece to watch the Redskins practice [+ a $10 parking fee], is the Isiah Thomas of DC. He's taken a storied NFL franchise and turned it into a bush league operation.

This last move of undermining Coach Zorn's authority by taking away his play calling smacks of someone who's a little kid and thinks that's gonna solve the team's problems. Are you kidding?

There is a long list of problems stemming from team ownership but you can sum it up with following bullet points: There is

*no leadershipn
*no direction
*no consistency and finally, you have an owner who thinks he's an NFL GM and changes strategies every other year. He's consumed with greed and doesn't understand people.

Edward said...

Notre Dame doesn't need to be "turned around". They just need someone who can lead them to victory. They already have every thing else. Brady Hoke, at SDSU, can do it and he'll do it his first year there. Hoke will also do it for a starting salary that is half of what Weiss is getting. How can Notre Dame get rid of Weiss after signing him to a ten year contract for millions?