Wondering About Charlie

As promised the other day, I’ll share my criticisms of Charlie, but my basic criticism is more theoretical. My biggest criticism by far was our mismatch between our DC and our OC. That one’s been been solved and was the result of a having to hire by phone. Corwin could be the difference in a NC run.

My existing criticism, the theoretical one, is on offense. The effectiveness of any offense is a function of possibility (what the scheme allows for – the match-ups) and probability (execution.)

What Weis was known for in the NFL was creating those slight mismatches that allowed a highly proficient offense such as the Patriots to exploit on a consistent basis.

What I’ve been hinting at (and as I wrote I really don’t know for sure) is that there seems to be a mismatch between the possibility of yards and momentum in our play calling — and the probability of success. Bryan Driskell at Irish Eyes did a phenomenal breakdown of the Irish offense where he talks about how Charlie should be involving more players (note that he has real coaching knowledge – I try to pick up on trends.)

Last year Weis would continually call plays that should’ve worked, but for whatever reason (blown block/poor pass/drop,) didn’t. I had this feeling all during the year that he was calling too many plays that were prone to execution errors even though in Charlie’s mind he thought the probability was acceptable. As I wrote after Ohio State and Georgia Tech last year, I felt we could have gone to run plays that had a higher probability of success and then set up the pass.

When Charlie looks at his play sheet, he always sees something that should work. And when in doubt, Weis seems to default to the short passing game and a finesse running game off the passing game. But after it fails on an execution error again and again, you wonder if there’s another play with a higher probability of execution success that could be called? The play might look good on paper and even as it unfolds, but if your players, for whatever reason are off — then it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to be able to be as precise in college and the more moving parts, the more chances to miss the mark.

Extrapolating those thoughts to this year I’ve also wondered that while he says he fits the scheme to his talent, does he fit the scheme to the best ability of his offensive line? Should he really dumb down the offense until the OL can execute a series of plays we can count on? Again, if we can’t block anybody this suggestion is pretty useless.

I readily acknowledge that I don’t know for sure and that I’m venturing into territory that’s out of my area of expertise, but it seems, from my point of view, that execution is often the killer this year and was last year as well. If that’s the case (again caveats noted) it might be a case of the play calling being out of alignment with the execution probability of the offense. We simply need a bigger payoff to justify the risk or a higher probability play – meaning one where a dropped ball doesn’t kill a drive (see Rhema last year.) Charlie’s play calling looked superb to open the Sugar Bowl, but execution killed us. And that’s a repeated theme. So either we can’t teach the kids or there’s just not enough time to get the execution down to perfection and we might need some plays that have some room for imperfection. When we had Stovall and Shark, Quinn had a lot room for execution error… he simply had to keep the ball high.

Furthermore, a running game really does some things that are off the scoreboard, so to speak, and college isn’t as much about match-ups as the NFL. When we ran effectively last year, the entire offense opened up, especially for play-action. If we commit to the run… would it make it easier on our offensive line rather than having to start most plays on their heels which makes them tentative and and defense more aggressive?

I feel like I’m seeking guidance from a higher form. But I’ve been wondering and I know that you can second guess any decision by any coach at any time and find a reason to justify it.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this offensive line finally gels — and it will with little notice at some point. I think Clausen looked phenomenal for a debut in Happy Valley with no real line and some vertically challenged wide receivers (I don’t believe Charlie for a second would choose a smaller wide receiver all other things equal.) He looked better than Brady did most of Quinn’s sophomore year, but there’s obviously a lot of work to do. Most encouraging, the defense continues to play surprisingly well.

Overall, Weis has done a truly great job bringing the program back off life support. Chauncey didn’t think we’d win more than six games in 2005, yet Weis has been to back-to-back BCS games and put together three straight top ten recruiting classes. Consistency of good classes is an absolutely essential ingredient in building a program and one we haven’t had in over ten years! And, as we’ve mentioned, he’s one of us. Also, Clausen is such an accurate passer, I think he’ll be better than Quinn in this system, but he also needs some receivers to throw to.

All that said, this is what I’ve been wondering about Charlie.

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13 Responses to “Wondering About Charlie”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve wondered the same things. why don’t we see more dives behind sully with Asaph leading the way. Especially since we have been struggling at the point of attack. Jones and Aldrige are great North/South runners. The dive is simple: fire block, run straight. It’s not the end all but it’s a good jumping off point. Most of our runs and play action are counters. Just Go Straight and Play Aggresive.

  2. matthew Says:

    You are wondering too much !
    Driskell was great ! Joe Friday would be proud.JUST THE FACTS.
    However,motion,holding,delay of game and missed blocks by the gross, have more to do with it.(see Driskell)
    Tates catch(penalty),Kumara’s dropped TD pass,Travis doing Whatever that was ?
    All that must be cleaned up first.

    Maybe Hughes and Allen together ?
    Vanilla blocking schemes might help
    Stop running Travis outside
    Asaph seems like a slug
    It has a long way to go and it will earn a solution

    go IRISH !!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Perfect, Thank You. Charlie must realize that the college game and the NFL are very different. In the NFL, parity, matchups and schemes rule. In college, you can stack the deck and win with overwhelming force, then worry about taking advantage of a mismatch.

    Lou Holtz didn’t care so much about matchups of people but areas of strength. Was the right side of the defense weak, could he run up the middle. Then he cared about who came ready to play that day. If Watters fumbled, Culver, Brooks or Bettis was available.

    8 or 9 times out of 12 games, ND will have overwhelming strength because of the talent we have. We will tie on two and will be short on another one or two. With that advantage, we should play the percentages and use the running game as a core strength (not run from pass blocking, but straight ahead running).

  4. Anonymous Says:

    nxLou’s offensive philosophy was the run sets up the passing game, meaning by developing the running game the defense will slowly pull the corners closer to the line of scrimmage to stuff the run. In response this opens up the passing game by freeing up passing lanes. Charlie on the other hand believes that by passing, the running game is opened up with linebackers backing off the line to help defend passing lanes. With a young OL, having to both pass protect and also run block can be very difficult. To keep future defenses honest it is imperative to develop some semblance of the running game. The offense has not yet developed a game plan it seems for either to be successful. With Charlies background, one would have to think that Passing the ball will have to be the strength, so all other facets my work.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Irishone,
    I would have to totally agree with you on your play calling points. When things are going badly for ND on offense I often think back to the Mich. State game in Southbend 2 years ago. Although ND won their 2 games prior I wasn’t overly impressed with the offense until this game. They got down big and early and Weis had to really open it up to make a game of it. To make a long story short, I think that was a turning point in that offenses’ season. He turned Quinn loose and boy did he impress. This would be a perfect opportunity to turn Clausen loose and let him show everone what he can do. The only drawback would be is if the offensive line could take control.

  6. Granier4 Says:

    when an offense is this young/bad, whatever you want to call it, the running game becomes very important. slow the game down, use a host of solid running backs, and show a young offensive line what a couple of first downs feel like. In all my years as an Irish fan, I cant remember seeing a notre dame team that cannot run the ball. i love charlie weiss, but notre dame should be able to run the ball. even in the lean years with davie and willingham, the irish could run the ball. i am yet to see notre dame line up and play “nasty” smash mouth football. A young team needs time to get on the same page, and the offense that notre dame is running needs more time to be effective.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    You can’t run when the OL on the roster are pass blocking and not run blocking lineman. The ability to run is an attitude and toughness. ND is more of a finese team then they are a tough and physical. This offense is typical of a young, inexperienced unit. No different from Brady’s first couple of seasons. Two seasons from now everybody will be talking up Charlie again. What did people expect though? You really didn’t expect them to win either of the first two games with this roster?

  8. Anonymous Says:

    brxunSomeone with out a bias brought this up as a point. When Charlie Weis was Coaching in the NFL he was really like a chess player putting the plays and players in place becuase they were already coached in fundementals. Here he needs to Coach the O Lineman in basic fundementals and actually coach them. His recievers and QB play are great. But What the heck is going on with the O Line. Sam Young does not appear to be much better than last season. Is there a lack of growth? I know our Defense is much better all the way around and that next season they will have an incredible class coming in. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIOINSHIPS. But the lack of an Offense never gets you in there to begin with.

    Michigan is going to be more fired up that in any other game they have played in because of self respect. I hope Notre Dame makes them real sad on Saturday Night.

    GOOOOOOO IRISH!

  9. Timeout Says:

    Thinking can be dangerous. Leahy was the ideal coach..long grueling practices. Game time came easy!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    The play calling looks too predictable. Everything is either a short pass or a run. Its been as ineffective as an offense can be, generating only 6 points, only 3 of which were earned by the offense on the only sustained drive of 2 games. We need to mix it up with slants and long passes to open up the run and at least keep them honest from stuffing the line so much.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Certainly wisdom in this breakdown…I guess my thoughts were along the lines of…give me 25 plays in a row from the OL without a “lookout block”, or a @#$#@# penalty…get beyond that, and i am ready to look at a serious schematic (R + P or P + R) breakdown.

    Off the cuff, so I could get some data to evaluate, I’d go with a shotgun QB, two tight ends H back set…just so I could execute a play or two.

    Quite frankly, I’d be tickled with a loss where I can say, “they were better than us”…right now, all I can say objectively is, I don’t know how good or bad this offensive unit is, because they’ve failed to give me enough to analyze beyond the center/quarterback exchange.

    I can’t hang one on the QBs because its tough to throw on a 3 count in a 5 or 7 step drop..result, 15 #^$^$ sacks…I can’t hang one on the RBs because its tough to make a read/cut when your smacked as you take the ball from the QB.

    Yea the O-line kinda evokes imagery of straining bacteria with a chainlink fence…

    although scores don’t reflect it…Defense looks good enough to compete…

    Special teams are bad…will get better

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I can’t help but believe much of the offensive struggles stem from poor play-calling by Charlie Weis, but for different reasons than you suggest. While I agree with your ideas I think they are not far reaching enough. The offensive play calling is so predictable – to the point where Michigan players openly commented on it last year, that there is little chance of success. Secondly, Charlie’s play calling does not indicate that he is willing to call plays to limit the weakness of his offense. For example, for this season and the past season our offensive line has struggled in pass protection, especially when blitzed. Yet, Charlie seldom calls screen passes, play action passes, tight end releases, or middle screens – all of which slow down linebackers. And, if they do not slow down a line backer on a given play, the play should be successful slowing down the linebackers on successive plays. This is ninth grade football.

  13. edward Says:

    Simple answer to both last year’s lack of success and this year’s lack of performance. The OL technique is inadequate for a good high school player:

    Pass blocking: They do not demonstrate the techniques it takes to be good pass blockers. Their footwork is awful….false steps ( wrong foot first, forward instead of back or outward, no step at all). Poor body posturing ( legs staright – can’t move, shoulders forward – off balance, bend at the waist – off balance again). No punch with their hands (hands should be inside their body, tight, ready to strike out at defender). Their outside foot should be deeper than their inside foot, their back should be straight and the shoulders should be back (pole up their ass posture), their knees should be bent (easier to move feet in any direction this way), hands should be like a “T-Rex” (up and tight to chest, ready to spring forward like cobra snakes).

    Run blocking: They are not physical blockers. I think they are not sure who to block (causes hesitation and softer play). They step with the wrong foot and they don’t hit through the player. They don’t really finish their blocks.

    All of these techniques are taught on the HS level nowadays……all over the country.
    When is it time to take on Latina?

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