"Notre Dame" Football Is Not the Place For On-The-Job-Training For An Inexperienced Head Football Coach, Or A Zero-Experience Head Football Coach

There they go again. Administrators at the would-be "University of Notre Dame" hiring an inexperienced head football coach with no collegiate head coaching experience, or, as in the case of Marcus Freeman, no head coaching experience at all.

As Winston Churchill put it, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The parallels to Bob Davie are almost eerie. Yet the big-money administrators are throwing out the conventional wisdom, and practical lessons learned, of the past three decades, if not the past four decades.

Even when they had an old warhorse of a head coach with decades of experience, Brian Kelly, "Notre Dame" still was not championship caliber, and never even won a major bowl game. Self-inflated propaganda and courtesy invitations to blowout losses in playoffs aside, "Notre Dame" seemed on a perpetual Road to Plausibility.

Yet this is even worse, far worse. Like Bob Davie, Freeman is a promotion from within of a defensive coordinator with no head coaching experience and just a few years of background at "Notre Dame."

The comparison is a bit unfair to Bob Davie, of course, because Davie had a lot more overall coaching experience than Freeman. At the same time, the comparison is a bit unfair to Freeman because, unlike Bob Davie, Freeman has never been indicted.

One added parallel between Davie and Freeman is the imbalance within the program between defensive and offensive coaching.

Bob Davie was actually a fairly solid defensive coach, and he hired a defensive coordinator who might actually have been better than he was. Yet on the offensive side of the ball, at that time, "Notre Dame" lost three of the best offensive coaches in college football and replaced all three with Jim Coletto, who had struggled to get any wins at Purdue.

Previously Lou Holtz had run the offense. Nominal offensive coordinator Dave Roberts left to become head coach at Baylor. Bob Davie fired legendary offensive line coach Joe Moore (yes, the one the award is named after). Moore than filed a successful age discrimination suit against "Notre Dame," during which it was argued that statistics showed Joe Moore to have been the most successful assistant coach, or positions coach, in college football.

To balance out his lack of offensive coaching background, Bob Davie should have hired two elite offensive coordinators, one more veteran to serve as an assistant head coach in charge of the offense, and perhaps an up-and-coming young hotshot to serve as nominal offensive coordinator. Instead, Davie simply hired the colorless Jim Coletto, who had struggled at Purdue, as offensive coordinator. Later, Coletto mused in an obscure newspaper interview that, since offensive coordinators also take on some position-related responsibilities, and he had some background coaching the line, he would take over the offensive line.

So "Notre Dame" lost three of the best offensive coaches in college football and replaced all three with Jim Coletto, Purdue's answer to valium on the gridiron.

The result at the time, of all that, the overload of defensive coaching, lack of offensive coaching and lack of head coaching experience, aided by a collapse in recruiting, led to Bob Davie football resembling Princeton basketball on grass, only with a lot less success. Slow, ponderous, stodgy games that ate a lot of clock, but perhaps kept losses from being bigger blowouts.

Something similar appears to be happening with Marcus Freeman.

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Freeman overloaded the defensive coaching by hiring a former Miami of Florida head coach, Al Golden, as defensive coordinator. Golden actually has a decade of head coaching experience in total, added to his other experience, including being an NFL assistant coach on defense.

On offense, Freeman and "Notre Dame" probably should have made the effort, and ponied up the dough, to hired two elite offensive coordinators. Perhaps one of them should have been an veteran head coach with offensive strengths, to serve as assistant head coach, in charge of the offense. "Notre Dame" instead is left with one young, inexperienced Brian Kelly "mini-me," who probably would not have been hired as an offensive coordinator at any top-25 program. Certainly Tommy Reese would not have been hired as offensive coordinator at Alabama, Clemson, or some other top-10 program.

Brian Kelly, even though he started out as a defensive coach, also became an offensive coach across his decades as a head coach, including doing offensive play-calling for years. When Kelly started out as "Notre Dame" head coach, his own personal offensive scheme was so highly developed that there was a computer simulator for it, that Dayne Crist used to ramp up his preparations for running the offense.

So when the faithless, if not traitorous, Brian Kelly jumped ship before the bowl game to follow the money to LSU, and start doing strange things like dancing with a male quarterback, "Notre Dame" lost one of the most veteran offensive coaches in college football.

The fact that Tommy Rees was hired as offensive coordinator by his former head coach, with so little experience, invites speculation that Rees's real role was to be a Brian Kelly protege, a Brian Kelly right arm, or, to put it another way, a "Brian Kelly Mini-Me."

Last year, with Rees as coordinator, "Notre Dame" had half an offense, near the bottom of Div. I-A/FBS for much of the year for rushing production and rushing efficiency. For that matter, even when passing offense from a transfer quarterback sometimes helped carry the day, they also were near the bottom, much of the season, for pass protection, giving up some of the largest numbers of sacks.

This year, the offense continues its anemic production, essentially evaporating in the second half against Ohio State, after essentially one big play and one good drive in the first half. Against Sun Belt conference team Marshall, "Notre Dame" got outgained.

Tommy Rees does have some football coaching skills and knowledge, and has had some success with quarterbacks in the past. Yet it would be silly to suggest that, at this time, Tommy Rees would be hired by any top-25 program as an offensive coordinator, especially one needing to counterbalance an inexperienced, rookie head coach, with only defensive background.

Meanwhile, Freeman has showed a lack of head coaching mettle.

Freeman failed to get his team ready coming off a loss to Ohio State, and perhaps coming off of sleep deprivation, if administrators continued their incompetence at using late-night red-eye flights back from road games.

On game day, Freeman looked like he was simply hanging on for the ride emotionally, screwing himself into flat serious-mindedness instead of gung-ho urgency or any kind of positive, game-changing personality.

The team contines to be among the worst in the nation offensively, and among the worst for turnover margin, another sign of head coaching deficiency.

And now "Notre Dame" does not really have a quarterback. They did not really have a quarterback to begin with, yet failed to develop the slightly experienced talent they did have. The nominal starter, with moderate running ability, made some passes here and there and got sprinkled in as a runner, like he was on a high school team trying to get "anything" going. And now he's gone. The replacement is even less experienced and, showing up with the need for a comeback against Marshall, proved to be turnover-prone. He appears to have even been less ready with his player development.

Yet Bob Davie and Marcus Freeman, of course, are not the only "lessons learned" or "lessons that should have been learned," demonstrating that "Notre Dame" most definitely is not the place to get on-the-job-training as a head football coach.

Charlie Weis had some limited head coaching experience at the high school level. Yet his later four Super Bowl rings were never accompanied by head coaching experience at the collegiate level, or in the NFL for that matter.

Right before Weis was fired, he actually had "Notre Dame" playing at an extremely competitive level, with close games even against elite or other strong opponents. Yet he was coming up short in half those games, generally getting edged out by a few points or otherwise less than a touchdown. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly had some common opponents with Weis at Cincinnati, with similar scores. Yet it was Brian Kelly, at the Cincinnati, to be the one with the head coaching experience to edge out some of the same opponents and tally close victories instead of close losses.

The implication was that, as an old warhorse of a head coach, Brian Kelly had the extra something, when it came to finding ways to cobble together a win. Later, of course, he also would ply those skills in games where "Notre Dame" played down to the level of a weaker opponent, yet still found ways to pull their feet out of the fire, whether they deserved a win or not.

Even Gerry Faust demonstrated the folly of experimenting around with a new head coach who lacked collegiate head coaching experience.

Like Weis, Faust had some head coaching experience at the high school level. For Fausti, it was in Ohio rather than New Jersey, and for a lot more years at the high school level. Yet, of course, that turned out not to be enough.

Faust was only bowl-eligible twice in five years, and struggled to stay above .500 overall.

Weis was bowl-eligible four out of five years, including two major bowls, yet was, himself, struggling to get back to .500 and stay there his final two years, after the third-year downtown.

To be fair, of course, Faust inheritied a championship-caliber program loaded with talent, while Weis inherited a program that was almost like a program coming off heavy sanctions, in terms of having to rebuild the roster itself, along with the need to otherwise rebuild the program from top to bottom.

One similarity between Faust and Freeman is that both showed themselves to be decent recruitiers.

However, with Faust, even as the privately temperamental and sometimes ill-mannered Faust struggled to stay at .500, the talent level enabled him to tease fans, and tease future recruits, with flashes of production, getting in and out of the rankings from time to time, and staging unexpected upsets.

Freeman, however, seems destined to have recruiting eventually collapse, right along with the win-loss record, as "Notre Dame" continues to be winless.

Heading into the year, the author anticipated them likely to finish no better than 2-10, perhaps with some wildcards in the form of Al Golden at defensive coordinator, the return of Harry Hiestand as veteran offensive line coach, and the moderately strong talent level.

However, that 2-10 prediction was based upon the idea that "Notre Dame" had a chance to beat Marshall and UNLV. They already lost to Marshall, outgained, outplayed, and turnover-prone in a game that really should have been lost by multiple scores.

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["Notre Dame" is placed in quotes out of respect for the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus, her Divine Son. The words "Notre Dame," of course, are French for "Our Lady," referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. It would be disrespectful to imply that she would be associated with various scandals emerging in the current era at the post-secondary institution near the Indiana-Michigan border whose nonprofit corporation persists in calling the institution "Notre Dame du Lac," including those scandals demonstrating lack of fidelity to Christ, such as the honoring, hiring or retention of pro-abortion politicians and faculty.]

Key Words: Notre Dame Football, Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame Head Football Coaches, Charlie Weis, Bob Davie, Gerry Faust, Brian Kelly, College Football, Notre Dame Administrators

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