Weis plans to let next season stand as answer to critics
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Charlie Weis is relieved that Notre Dame's nightmare 3-9 season has come to an end. With a long offseason looming, the coach wants critics to know that the Irish still have fight.
So just how quickly can Notre Dame turn things around?
"Not fast enough. That's probably as fair an answer as I can say," Weis said Monday at a news conference. "I think that the arrow is definitely pointing up. You already know what my goal is every time we play, and every time we play my expectation is to win that game. But we can't get good enough fast enough as far as I'm concerned."
A year ago, Weis was being compared to some of Notre Dame coaching greats after becoming the first Irish coach to win 19 games in his first two seasons. This year he nearly matched Bob Davie's school record of 16 losses in his first three seasons. Weis' three-year record is 22-15. That's a half-game better than his predecessor, Tyrone Willingham (21-15), who was fired after three seasons.
The critics have been all over Weis all season. Rather than fight back, Weis plans to answer them with better play on the field next fall.
"If you sit there and try to be a vengeful person and be worried about every negative thing that people said, that really doesn't get you anywhere," Weis said. "You don't do something about it by going to a public forum and going tit for tat with somebody. What you have to do is go win more football games. Really, it's the only way of answering it."
Weis said the disappointment of the past season has made him more driven. He says he knows he needs to make changes, but wasn't willing to go into specifics Monday. He said he's written down thoughts about possible changes, but doesn't plan to fully begin dissecting the season until he comes off the road recruiting in two weeks and meets with his staff.
"But you don't answer all the questions in a couple hours. You don't answer them in a couple days. It's going to take weeks to make sure you do a proper analysis," he said.
Replacing players such as Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Darius Walker and Rhema McKnight was a challenge, but not a primary factor in this year's struggles, Weis said.
"There's a whole litany of things that you can place blame on, but I really have a tough time placing blame just on graduation of players. Did we lose a whole bunch of key players? You bet we did. But that still shouldn't lead to going 3-9 for a season," Weis said.
Weis also said too much was made of the fact he said two weeks ago he plans to meet with his former colleagues on the New England Patriots coaching staff to analyze Notre Dame's offense and defense.
"Who better to sit there and look at things and say, 'I wouldn't have done that', or 'What were you doing here, than guys that are friends of yours," he said.
Some critics have said Weis has taken too much of an NFL approach to practices, focusing more on technique rather than hitting and other basics, and seeking advice from the pros may not be the answer. But Weis said he and his staff also will be talking with other college coaches to try to improve.
Four Irish players have been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, tight end John Carlson, center John Sullivan, defensive end Trevor Laws and safety Tom Zbikowski. All four are fifth-year seniors. ... Notre Dame has had three early enrollees each of the past two seasons. Weis said the Irish will have at least one high school senior enroll in January and could have two.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press