Last year in the hours following the Syracuse game I wrote an email and sent it out to everyone I knew that was a huge Notre Dame fan. It was a heartfelt letter to Charlie where I attempted to sort out the combination of confusion, disappointment, and digust as I digested the epic collapse against the Orange on Senior Day 2008. Eventually my buddy posted it on the Notre Dame Rivals site and it made the rounds to far more people than I ever imagined it would.
(Truth be told, it was what sparked my interest in writing/blogging.)
Here we are exactly 365 days from when I wrote that article. Again, we are mired in a tailspin only this time there doesn't seem to even be a glimmer of hope for Charlie as he heads to the West Coast for one last game. I felt it would be worth revisiting that piece. I knew that night that eventually we'd arrive where we are today...I had just hoped against hope I was somehow wrong.
Without further ado, this is the article "Dear Charlie" written 11/22/08...
You know what? I need to sit down and ask some questions, Charlie. I'm just so baffled that I feel the only way to sort out the quagmire between my ears is to ask questions and get answers from the man himself. The feeling I am experiencing right now is so confusing and depressing--but it's different than four years ago when everyone knew ND was a sinking ship under Willingham.
Why? Because under Willingham we had one good year where our victories seemingly were sent from God (it took us three games to score an offensive touchdown....we had defensive touchdowns and punt returns and Nick Setta's golden right foot to get us through) and when God had to pay attention to something else we stopped winning (or perhaps Ty's contract with the devil ironically expired as Boston College rolled into town with us ranked #3 in the country).
With you we were BRILLIANT offensively for a year. It wasn't just the personnel, your schemes were amazing. I vividly remember when Michigan State ran back that pick in your third game to make it a three touchdown game....what went through my mind was "there is plenty of time, we're going to come back."
Sure enough we did.
I remember going for it on 4th and 16 in that game with the utmost confidence that you drew up a play that would get us 17 yards.
Sure enough you did.
You brought cockiness and bravado to a campus lacking both. Our school had been beaten up, stepped on, disrespected, and unfairly crucified by the media--your brashness may have rubbed some people the wrong way but that's what we needed. We were sick of getting crap piled on us and we couldn't wait to embrace the "nasty" football team you promised to deliver. You were bringing with you a schematic advantage in every game. You were going to maximize the potential of every last player on the roster; after all, you didn't have many (if any) studs in New England and you made them champions right? I was so excited for this new era that I woke up at 6am to go welcome you to your first day on the job after the Super Bowl in the JACC. The spring game just three months later revealed a transformed offensive juggernaut. Through the snow and wind of a late-April South Bend blizzard Brady was calmly throwing 30-yard lasers to Rhema. I left Notre Dame Stadium that day knowing we were going to put points up on anybody lined up against us.
It culminated that fall on the Ides of October with your masterpiece against USC. Your offense controlled the ball keeping it out of Leinart's hands, drove the team down the field for a score to take the lead as the clock wound down, and came a play away from delivering one of the greatest victories in Notre Dame's illustrious history and cementing your place in Irish lore. In spite of being robbed of that "Notre Dame Moment" you directed us to the Fiesta Bowl, brought in a highly touted recruiting class, and the future seemed bright.
Now fast forward three years and here we are debating whether we should buy out your 10-year contract and move in another direction. I need to hear what happened from the man himself. Not this deflection garbage that you keep feeding the press. Your biography was called "No Excuses." You're very outspoken about how you're from Jersey and that Jersey people speak their mind and hand out their opinions and rub people the wrong way sometimes. Your ship is half underwater, it's time to offer up some answers.
Coach Weis, what's the difference between the first year and your last three? Have coaches adjusted that well to you or have you tried to be so crafty that you just outsmart yourself? You show flashes of it (like opening up the UNC game by throwing every down because there was something that you could take advantage of...shades of the BYU game in 2005) but every time we think you've turned a corner you get outcoached--something you said would NEVER happen. The list of coaches that have outcoached you this season alone (we won't even touch last year) are: Chuck Long, Dave Wannstadt, Jeff Jagodzinski, and Greg Robinson.
How is this possible? In 2005 you made Wannstadt look like a clown, toyed with Joe Tiller, and outclassed Pete Carroll. Now going back a little over a year you've: lost to two service academies (including one we hadn't lost to since you were seven years old), lost to Boston College twice (handily), had arguably the worst home loss in Notre Dame history against Syracuse, and were a fluke fumble away from losing to one of the worst Notre Dame opponents in history in the home opener. When someone at a press conference this year asked you about the cocky comments you made when you were hired you responded, "that was light years ago." You backpedaled pretty fast for a guy with shredded knee wearing a leg brace. What happened to that bravado, that swagger our team was supposed to feed off of?
Explain to me what you're telling recruits now. This was supposed to be the year you turned the corner--we weren't expecting a championship or even the BCS. We were expecting to see a young and talented team learning how to win with a couple bumps along the road. We had excused last season's abomination, we just wanted marked progress in preparation for (another) return to glory in 2009. Through six games you were right on schedule; the last five have left some Irish fans scratching their heads and many more to reach for the eject button.
Why can we not establish a run game against one of the worst run defenses in the country? Is it Coach Latina's fault? Is he a bad coach? Why are we totally unable to set up and run an effective screen after seeing it work so many times in 2005? Tell my why time and time again this team has come out of the gate looking like it's just overwhelmed and unprepared. If I were to describe in a word how your teams usually look coming out of the gate I'd say flat. If I were to sum up the running game in a word it'd be anemic. We have the horses in the trenches now--all four and five star recruits--why can't we develop them? Why is it that they underachieve so much? The defense has made exactly the strides we were looking for this year. It certainly isn't great but it's headed in the right direction and with help coming on the d-line we're poised to very good next year and beyond. Tell me why your offense--your baby, your M.O., your specialty, what got you this job and your reputation--has been reduced to a predictable, sloppy, poorly coached, and ineffective unit.
Off the football field you have alienated so many alumni that it makes people say "well he just doesn't understand what Notre Dame is about." But you're an alum, you HAVE to understand what this is all about. You went to school here--your arrogance can't blind you that much can it? I know personally a booster that you alienated after he hosted a golf tournament for your charity--not even for Notre Dame, for YOU. He said you were a jackass, totally ungracious, and acted like it was a complete hassle to be at an event you ASKED him to host. How do you explain treating your own like this? I realize you aren't the most personable guy but after hearing stories it almost sounds like you're schizophrenic. Are you schizophrenic?
I was one of your staunchest supporters Charlie—in fact I was the one who coined the phrase “Charlie’s Army” and donated money from those shirts to your charity. I have defended you against all critics and believed with all my heart that you were going to be the one that was finally going to deliver what a nation of diehard fans yearns for. No longer though. While I still hope that you will succeed I have reached a point where my confidence and faith is so shaken that I don't know how it can be repaired. Now when people offer criticisms all I will offer is a shoulder shrug. A borderline distraught Lou Holtz, probably your highest profile supporter on the national stage, said on ESPN after this latest loss that "the University of Notre Dame should demand excellence and the administration needs to decide if Charlie Weis is the person who will achieve that excellence. There is no reason Notre Dame should not be a top program." Tell me why I or any Notre Dame fan should believe you will be that person. Convince me you are not the second coming of Gerry Faust--or worse.
Beano Cook wrote an article after you beat Michigan in the second game of your career. He said, "Charlie Weis returning for the pep rally Friday night will be like Caesar's return to Rome." You're a smart guy Charlie, how did things work out for Caesar?
Unfortunately Coach Weis, no matter how hard I pull for you or how many people light candles for you at the Grotto it seems that we are headed for an inevitable day where the mob once and for all will turn. There will be a distinct difference between you and Julius Caesar though--instead of looking up at the betrayer, we the Notre Dame faithful will be looking down at him.