Okay, I don’t want this to turn into the “GoMids.com,” blog but it is impossible not to comment on some of the bleatings coming out of Notre Dame in the wake of Navy’s win out there last Saturday.
It certainly doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that Charlie Weis would react to the loss the way he did—claiming he would take responsibility, then throwing everyone but Touchdown Jesus under any bus he could find.
Two years ago, when Navy finally broke its monumental 43 game losing streak against Notre Dame, Weis barely uttered one word of credit to the Navy kids, talking—as usual—about the mistakes his team had made because, as we all know, when Notre Dame wins it is because he coached good but when it loses it is because the players played bad.
That’s the Weis mantra.
After Navy won the game Saturday, Navy Coach Ken Niamatalolo made the point that he thought his team had done better offensively in 2009 than in 2008 because it had seen Notre Dame’s defensive schemes in the game in Baltimore a year earlier. Niamatalolo made a point of saying, “I hope this isn’t misconstrued,”—in other words, he was NOT criticizing Notre Dame’s coaches, he was just saying his team had been better prepared because it had seen the defense the year before.
In fact, when I spoke to Niamatalolo before the game he had made a similar point. “Last year I think we were a little too amped up,” he said. “We made some mistakes, didn’t carry out some assignments. I hope today, because the kids have seen what we did wrong on film, we’ll be a little better.”
They were a lot better. Let me add this: I’ve known a lot of people through a lot of years in sports. I haven’t met anyone who is a better person than Niamatalolo. He’s the anti-Weis: When Pete Medhurst, who does the sideline reporting on the Navy radio network asked him postgame what it meant to him to come into Notre Dame Stadium as the head coach and win his answer was direct: “This isn’t about me Pete, it’s about the kids. Talk about them.”
When Navy does lose, here’s Kenny’s first comment: “We got out-coached today.”
Like I said, the anti-Weis.
Niamatalolo and his coaches very clearly out-coached Weis and his coaches on Saturday. Buddy Green’s bend-but-don’t-break defense made key plays against an offense littered with first round draft picks, all day. The offense kept picking up yards when it had to—including two fourth-and-one pickups when quarterback Ricky Dobbs simply plunged straight ahead because Notre Dame left the center un-covered. Brilliant coaching there.
Let’s go back to one basic principle here for a minute: there is NO WAY Navy should ever beat Notre Dame. The Irish are going to be bigger, stronger, faster at just about every position on the field. The only way Navy competes—or wins—is by being smarter, tougher and better-coached. End of discussion.
One Notre Dame player, Ian Williams, admitted as such, saying he though that Navy’s offense had perhaps, “out-schemed,” Notre Dame’s defense and that, “they were tougher than us.”
That’s a pretty stand-up position to take—note he did NOT blame the coaches alone, he said Navy’s players were tougher than Notre Dame’s. Kyle McCarthy, the defensive captain, stood up for the coaches by saying the players were in the right spots, they just didn’t execute. Okay, that’s the right thing to say and I don’t blame the kid for saying it, but anyone with a cursory understanding of football could see that Notre Dame’s defense was NOT in position on a number of critical plays. How else do you account for Navy’s fullbacks averaging ELEVEN yards a carry on 19 carries? Was Navy’s offensive line SO dominant that Vince Murray and Alex Teich, neither of whom are likely to ever get a carry in the NFL, ran roughshod over the Notre Dame defense?
Of course Weis couldn’t wait to rip Williams and praise McCarthy. “That’s why one kid’s a captain and the other one’s not,” he said.
You know what Charlie, that kind of comment is why you deserve to be an ex-coach pretty soon. How about saying, “Look, we’re ALL responsible for the loss—and so is Navy. They were better than us—playing, coaching—everything.”
No, that’s not Weis’s style. He rips his own player for not being in lockstep and agreeing the players played bad but the coaches coached good. What a first class jerk.
Of course he wasn’t finished. Next, he sent co-defensive coordinator Corwin Brown to rip Niamatalolo for gently saying his team might have known what Notre Dame was going to do. Why wouldn’t Notre Dame do what it had done a year ago? The other defensive coordinator John Tenuta not only said during the week that’s what they were going to do but bragged about having seen “every option offense known to man.” Really? So what happened out there on Saturday?
Brown also railed against Navy’s “illegal cut blocks.” Let’s get this straight: cut blocks aren’t illegal, CHOP blocks are. A cut block is a block below the waist, a chop block is a block below the waist when the defender is already engaged with another blocker. It is a 15 yard penalty. Brown called the play on which Navy wide receiver Nick Henderson took down Notre Dame defender A.J. Blanton after the play one of the dirtiest plays he’d ever seen.
Please. It was an absolutely stupid, dumb play by Henderson that cost his team—rightly so—15 yards. I’ve watched the tape. If Henderson makes the block during the course of the play, there’s nothing illegal about it. It was away from the play and after the whistle—a clear, dumb personal foul, the kind players make trying to impress their coaches by “playing to the whistle.” But dirty? No. Stupid, yes. No one was hurt. The Notre Dame defender jumped right to his feet and began pointing—correctly—at the official to throw the flag, which he did.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Weis sent Corwin Brown out there to be his hit man, to try to divert attention from the fact that he’s just become the first Notre Dame coach in almost 50 years to lose to Navy twice. Trying to make the Navy coaches and players into bad guys is one of the all-time stretches in bad-guy history. Someone might point out to Weis that next year, wherever he’s coaching and throwing his players under the bus and whining that nothing is his fault, the 32 seniors on Navy’s team will be Naval and Marine officers and will be helping to ensure that he can have the freedom to be the complete and utter crybaby that he is.
Am I overreacting? Probably. But unlike Weis and Brown, I have some sense of who these kids are and of how remarkable that victory on Saturday truly was. For these two losers to try to take away from that accomplishment is infuriating. If they had any pride, any soul, any sense of what’s right and wrong, they would be ashamed of themselves.
As they should be.