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Masters of their Domain?

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

Written by Murray O'Connell

There is an old episode of Seinfeld where Jerry's date stood in one place under a certain light and she looked stunningly beautiful. Then in the very next shot, she would step outside the light, and would look more hideous than, well… Notre Dame’s second half performance against Navy. Jerry of course would struggle with the relationship not knowing which woman would show up for their dates, while Kramer would suggest something ridiculous, and hilarity would ensue.

Although Seinfeld has long since left the airwaves, Notre Dame fans can relate to Jerry’s predicament. What team Irish fans see this season depends on what light they are standing in. Are they the beauty queens from the North Carolina, BYU and Clemson games? Or are they the grotesque, hideous, eyesores of the Marshall, Stanford, and the second half of the Navy game where an offense that put up 348 total yards against the number 4 team in the country just a week prior, was only able to gain a rather pathetic 12 yards of total offense in the second half?

The fact that this team doesn’t know 10 games into the season how to consistently be who they want to be is troubling. In fact, the only thing more troubling to Notre Dame fans is the thought of NBC bringing back Jack Collingsworth and Jason Garrett to call home games again next season.

With the playoffs now unrecognizable in the rear view mirror, the least Irish fans could hope for this season was a little consistency. How can the Irish, so far, beat all but one of the ranked teams they faced this season, while struggling against a Navy team that lost to the Delaware Blue Hens, with all due respect to whatever a Blue Hen is?

Irish fans do need to concede, as frustrating as it might be, that even though all the hype back in August was suggesting there would be another playoff run this season, this is in fact a team led by a first year head coach, Marcus Freeman. He is going to have a learning curve, he is going to make mistakes, he is going to need time to figure things out, much to the chagrin of Irish fans' blood pressure levels.

When comparing all the coaches that have won national championships for Notre Dame, and Brian Kelly, only two, Dan Devine (8-2 Arizona State) and Frank Leahy (9-2 Boston College) finished their first seasons as head coaches with winning records. Assuming Notre Dame beats Boston College, which is probably not a smart thing to assume considering their history, Freeman should finish with at least an 8-4, possibly 9-3 record, depending on how their final game against USC goes. That should be a mark in the plus column for Freeman.

A closer look at all the national championship winning coaches at Notre Dame, and Brian Kelly, four ended their first years at Notre Dame with winning records, Leahy (8-0) Ara Parseghian (9-1) Devine (8-3) and Kelly (8-5.) Despite some frustrating losses, this is again another positive mark for Freeman.

The good news for Irish fans is all the national championship winning coaches, and Brian Kelly, finished their second seasons at Notre Dame, improving upon their first year records, except for Devine and Leahy. Don’t feel too badly for those coaches though, they would go on to eventually win 3 national championships between them.

What do all these statistics mean? Well, I don’t know, I’m horrible at math. However, these numbers do suggest that perhaps things aren’t as bad as Irish fans think, and Freeman is actually doing fairly well as a first year head coach. Yes, the losses to inferior teams sting, but bigger picture, Freeman is doing a lot better in the win/loss column than many other first year coaches have done at Notre Dame.

But does any of that excuse the schizophrenic nature in which Notre Dame has played week after week this season? Hardly, these are things Irish fans don't see from the teams that are consistently battling for playoff spots year after year. To get to where Notre Dame wants to get to, issues like playing down to their opponents level will need to be fixed to ensure this does not happen again next season. Most Notre Dame fans won’t have the fingernails to withstand another season like this one, where the Irish beat up on the tough kids that get caught vaping in the school bathroom, but the kids that won't shut up about cryptocurrency get away with punching the Irish right in their nose.

At the end of this particular Seinfeld episode, Jerry doesn’t learn a lesson, which was kind of the point of the entire series. It was a show about nothing after all. However, for Notre Dame and Marcus Freeman, there is a lesson that needs to be learned from this incredible yet frustrating season. Despite some hard earned highs, Freeman still has a great deal of work he needs to do with his program, including challenging his offensive coordinator to get better and find ways to adapt when the original plan isn't working. Challenging his defensive coordinator to more consistently shut teams down ending the possibility of any more second half collapses. This defense looks as strong as the ‘85 Chicago Bears one week, then appears weaker than the freshman admittance standards at USC the next.

Freeman must also find a way to keep his special teams coordinator around for another year, despite the offers he will most certainly get to move on once the season concludes. And most importantly to Marcus Freeman, he will need to challenge Marcus Freeman by asking if he has what it takes to make these difficult moves in order to ultimately lead his program to where so many more experienced coaches have failed to reach. Irish fans will all find out in the next 2-4 years if Freeman had it in him, so many Notre Dame fans hope he does. Otherwise the only must see TV Irish fans will be enjoying next season will be old episodes of Seinfeld.


Photo by NBC Sports

2 comentários


Kathleen McMahon
Kathleen McMahon
19 de nov. de 2022

Well said, Mr. Sohel! I appreciate your commentary!

Curtir

Someone had to say it! Playing down to their opponents level. Great call out.

Curtir
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