I appreciate the Coach’s situation. It’s complicated, with loads of responsibilities and intricacies. He manages 150 people, maybe more. He’s constantly expected to do personal appearances, speak to alumni groups, and be in the homes of 30-50 recruits a year (sometimes multiple times). That’s a lot of traveling, and that doesn’t even cover his main duties. He’s got morale and discipline to handle for 120 or so college kids some who haven’t lost a game in their high school careers and others who have been indulged by teachers and coaches their whole lives. All the while he’s expected to raise the team GPA. It’s not an easy job and he’s done most of it better that any of us expected. Maybe 5% of us have the skill set to manage and handle these numerous responsibilities. And maybe 5% of those have the insight, foresight, and savvy to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. That’s why he’s Charlie, and we’re sitting here talking about Charlie. He is one of us, but then again he’s much more.
However, I have heard enough about “learning on the job.” Imagine a CEO or company president in his third year on the job relying on that explanation. “I’m sorry I cost the shareholders X number of dollars, but in my defense I’m still learning” or a doctor, “I’m sorry I cost you your husband’s life, but in my defense I’ve only been a doctor for 3 years.” He’s gone through 3 recruiting cycles. He’s gone through 3 seasons (well 2.5). He’s coached for just short of 30 years. He’s been a head coach (albeit on the high school level) for 10 years. He’s been a position coach in the NFL for 7 years. He’s been an offensive coordinator in the NFL for another 7 years. Lastly, and more importantly, this is his 3rd year on the job as the head coach for the Fighting Irish. If he hasn’t learned his lessons yet, I wonder when he will. For instance, while at New England the common complaint about Charlie’s play calling was that it tended to be “too cute.” Has Charlie “learned” his way out of that one? Or is he still calling reverse naked bootlegs on 3rd and short? Enough is enough, we know he’s smart, probably smarter than most of us and most defensive coordinators he faces, he doesn’t need to beat us over the head with it. If the offensive line can’t get a 3rd and short with Robert Hughes or James Aldridge then maybe more time should be spent working on technique and less working on scheme.
This team has shown signs of life the past few weeks. I’ve been impressed with the offensive line (at times). I’ve been impressed by the skill players as well. The offense is starting to look like what I had expected a month ago. Good at times, bad most of the time, but overall just very inconsistent. It’s not uncommon for a team with a lot of youth. The defense has come and gone and is difficult to evaluate as long as the offense isn’t quite gelling. I’ve liked the play of certain guys at time. John Ryan gets beat on mercilessly at times in message boards, but he plays like a man. He’s got a nose for the ball and should be a starter in this system. Crum and Laws look great as well. However there are hitches. The Stephenson/Brown combo at defensive end is atrocious. Talent is the issue here. Brockington consistently shows a lack of foot speed coupled with a lack of knowing which angle to take on a running back. This is an issue that needs to be corrected in the tape room. The next tackle Zibby makes will likely be his first in my eyes. Last year he had an injury excuse, this season get him the hell out of here and let the kids play. Let’s remember, they are installing a new defense, and it will get better.
Learning on the job isn’t an excuse. Let’s be clear, Charlie hasn’t made that excuse. Charlie doesn’t make excuses. Again, that’s why he’s Charlie. I don’t buy that excuse myself. However, about half of Irish fans have made that excuse, and many others for him. Meanwhile, the other half are calling for his head. I say let cooler heads prevail, but don’t tell me he’s still learning on the job. The biggest problem most sports teams have right now is a quick trigger finger. People call for coaches’ and managers’ heads every time something goes wrong. Give Charlie his 5 years (he unlike his two predecessors has proven he deserves it), but don’t give him the “learning on the job” excuse.