Chat transcript: Where does Notre Dame football go from here?
SOUTH BEND — ND Insider Mike Berardino held his weekly live football chat on Tuesday afternoon. The following is the entire transcript.
Frank Lakeside Park, Ky. : Hi Mike and thanks for the chats. My family and i have made the trip from here in Greater Cincy to ND for over a hundred games but i am not sure how much more i can take.We have seen some great wins and plenty of disappointing losses but none were more deflating than Saturday night’s debacle against a really bad Stanford team. Imho, the problem is not Pyne, or going to Mayer too much, or any of the other theories and excuses being bantered about, it is about a lack of effective leadership. Rees and the other coaches have been derelict at addressing glaring issues which are too many to cover in this space. ND beat Stanford by 31 points a year ago. I hope Freeman “turns it around” but he is on the brink of losing his team. Swarbrick and Jenkins are culpable as well. Don’t the fans that travel from all over the country and spend their hard earned money on overpriced hotels and tickets deserve better? I hope ND fans hold their tickets for Clemson but i am expecting a sea of orange in ND Stadium when Clemson comes to town.
Mike Berardino: Colonel Frank, it's a duty and a privilege to interact with you here. You seem to speak for many of the participants on today's chat, and your frustration is understandable. I agree, it will be interesting to see what the stands look like at Notre Dame Stadium the next two Saturdays. The Orange-out scenario you present would obviously be a nightmare for this program, but I'd imagine it will be similar to the 2017 Georgia game. Fans tend to vote with their wallets, but those taking the long view should understand the parity Freeman has mentioned the past two weeks is real. As for "losing his team," it was notable to hear Freeman say on Monday that he wasn't going to resort to finger-pointing for that very reason.
Freeman on Monday: "The minute you start pointing fingers at the players, you'll lose them. The minute you just blame the coaches for everything, you lose them. It's the ability for everybody in our program to point the finger at themselves" that will turns things around.
Jim Tressel's message to Marcus Freeman:'Hey, you'll be fine'
Jim Cook in Las Vegas: Has a search for a new HEAD COACH begun yet?
Mike Berardino: Morning Vegas Jim. Only on the message boards.
Jim from Berlin, Conn.: This season is beginning to feel so much like the three seasons under Ty Willingham. Losing to Marshall and Stanford at home was totally inexcusable. We came out so flat Saturday night after playing so well against BYU. I don't see the Irish winning more than six games this year with Syracuse, Clemson and USC still on the schedule. What is wrong with our team where inferior teams dominate us all the time? Is Freeman the wrong guy for the job or do we just not have enough talent to get the job done? I've been a fan of the Irish for over 70 years and I am really disappointed in their play. The big question will be whether all the guys we signed for next season will stay on board our sinking ship or opt to go elsewhere after seeing how badly we played this season.
Mike Berardino: Hi Jim, I can't argue with your description of the home losses to Marshall and Stanford. Their only other wins this season have been against Norfolk State (MEAC), Gardner-Webb (Big South) and Colgate (Patriot). Even after typing that sentence, I keep staring at it in disbelief. Nor does a 6-6 forecast seem off base after the inconsistencies we've chronicled. The Willingham Era, however, started off 8-0 and 10-1 before things went south. He arrived as a proven commodity after seven years at Stanford, where he was basically a .500 coach (44-36-1 with three losing seasons). Water finds its level, and Willingham finished 21-15 (.583) at Notre Dame before being shown the door. After taking over a program that had suffered two losing seasons in Bob Davie's final three years, Willingham created his own unrealistic expectations. Freeman's challenge was different. His was more akin to Jon Gruden taking over Tony Dungy's Bucs 20 years ago after a period of sustained excellence and immediately winning the Super Bowl that had eluded them. That sort of "kick down the door" scenario is rare for a reason. Usually you have to take a step back before the vehicle lurches forward again. Maybe that's where the Irish are now under Freeman.
diz615, Cumming, Ga.: Would it not be wise to take a look at our back-up QB (Angeli) during a game?
Lisa-Lafayette: Do you think it’s time to let Steve Angeli step into the offense some? Granted he’s a freshman with much still to learn, but it seems when the offense stagnates, a change could benefit it. Thanks for your great stories and insight.
Mike Berardino: Lafayette Lisa and Diz, thanks for your questions. As I've noted here before, I think it makes sense to get Angeli up to four games of experience, if for no other reason than to gather more data points and set up a three-way spring QB battle of sorts with Pyne and a healthy Tyler Buchner. The question is when and how to get Angeli those snaps? This week against a 24-point underdog might be the time, but we were saying the same sort of thing about young players getting experience against Marshall. Regardless, once Tommy Rees deems Angeli ready for action, I think it would be wise to use him for a series here and there and see how it goes.
Ryan, Mars, Pa.: What do you think about the play of Pyne do we see angeli on Saturday will be first game since 2013 in Notre Dame stadium for me.
Mike Berardino: Mars Man! Pyne's lack of accuracy was mystifying, especially coming off his critically acclaimed Vegas act, but it was his first game action at night and with sub-50 temps, so perhaps glare and grip were issues for him? Glad to hear you'll be at Saturday's game. I'll be curious to see your breakdown of the experience when we reconvene here next Tuesday.
Terry: Where do we go from here? Does Tommy Rees finish the season?
Mike Berardino: Terry From Nowhere, I'd say UNLV on Saturday is the only place to start. "One Play, One Life." Now more than ever. And yes, of course.
Smokey: You deserve to lose you AP vote
Mike Berardino: Thanks for checking in, Smokey. Did you have a question?
Steve: What’s with the AP vote?
Mike Berardino: Steve from Nowhere, good day. Yes, what is with the AP vote? In the CFP era, where the 63 AP Top 25 voters mostly serve as content fodder and brand ambassadors for the sport as a whole, I'd say it's another reminder that no good deed goes unpunished.
Derrick: I think the question is…Tennessee =6, Alabama =3???
Cooper Graham: How can you possibly explain having Alabama at 3 and Tennessee at 6 in your AP vote this week. Did you even bother to check the scores of the games? I will await your explanation
Mike Berardino: Cooper and Derrick, I appreciate the insult-free questions and will do my best to answer them here. First off, we all have biases in this world, but I do my level best to check mine at the door each day I practice journalism. I gave up sports fandom pretty much the day I walked into The Daily Tar Heel offices in August 1985 and heard my sports editor, Lee Roberts, explain the importance of avoiding "homer-ism" at all costs. The message took. I'm a journalist, not an advocate or an apologist, so by definition I must remain dispassionate. "There is no cheering in the press box" is still an announcement made before most games at the college level, and I take it seriously.
As for the Top 25 order I submitted on Sunday morning at 11:30, I can't speak for the others, but as a first-time AP voter this is my process: I work off MY top 25 from the prior week, make note of any teams I left out that were in the national rankings as well as those also receiving votes, highlight all holdover ranked teams that lost and try to factor in the context of those losses (opponent, site, statistical breakdown, etc.). I also have a working order of weekly ranking within each Power Five conference as well as the Independents/Group of Five and typically spend hours analyzing the body of work for all those teams. You get credit in my world for a tight loss on the road against a quality opponent. You also get dinged for a narrow escape against a poor opponent. Piling up wins against lousy teams doesn't impress me.
To get even more granular, anyone that cared to check could see I had Alabama ranked No. 1 every week going back to the preseason poll. Tennessee had climbed to No. 9 in my ranking by the time it played host to Alabama last Saturday. Congrats to the Volunteers and their fans on that wild 52-49 win on their home field. I moved them up three spots in my ranking and dropped Alabama two spots. Why? Home field in the betting world is generally considered to be worth 2.5 points, so that highly entertaining afternoon hardly suggests the Vols are the superior team. Take a look at the team stats (569-567 for Alabama in total yardage, 32-29 for Alabama in first downs, 37:29 for Alabama in time of possession). So, the gap has been narrowed, but has the point been proved? Not for me, it hasn't. Surely, Vols fans remember their sense of relief at escaping Pittsburgh with an overtime win back on Sept. 10. The Panthers were ranked 17th at the time, but what did that really mean?
How do we factor in those same Pitt Panthers losing AT HOME to lowly Georgia Tech three weeks later? And on and on and on. I also might suggest you take a look at MIT-educated Jeff Sagarin's weekly computer model that STILL has Alabama ranked No. 3 and Tennessee No. 5. Who would be favored if Alabama and Tennessee were to run it back on a neutral field? It would have to be the Tide, based on the objective data we have, including the fact that DraftKings' futures line for college football's national champion this year still shows a clear separation between the top three teams (Georgia +180, Ohio State +180, Alabama +450) and the next tier (Clemson +1000, Michigan +1600, Tennessee +1600). If long-suffering Vols fans think those odds are out of whack, by all means they are invited to act accordingly and bet the shack.
Just know this: modern AP voting is for entertainment purposes only. If a person's viewpoint doesn't align with yours, that doesn't automatically make them wrong, much less unscrupulous idiots who should be stripped of their voting privilege and imprisoned. Come on. Whatever happened to the idea of agreeing to disagree? Or calmly hearing out the other side and examining your own viewpoint to make sure you're not overlooking something?Last thing on this: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is often attributed to Voltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher, but it actually was a paraphrasing of his words via biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall. At least that's what I found when I searched the Internet and found a 2017 story from our sister paper, the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Mike from PA: Mike - is there a reason you engage with mass idiocy when they get all bent out of shape about your AP vote? I mean this is a ND Football chat, right?
Mike Berardino: PA Mike, good point. Consider it a public service in the interest of heading off all future complaints about my AP vote. And I'm sure there will be many. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Mike from Pa.: Don't people need to back off the ledge a bit? I understand the frustration. I'm frustrated. But to expect a first time head coach to rip off 10,11,12 wins immediately would be contrary to everything we know about the importance of coaching experience. Isn't the bigger issue here the fact that the QB/WR room is a bare as it's been since 2007? Does Evan Sharpley still have eligibility? I'd take him in a heartbeat at the moment. No disrespect to Pyne, but he just isn't all that talented. The WR room has no depth. Is this not the result of Del Alexander being left on the staff too long? Rees should be criticized for shoddy playcalling, but isn't the underrecruiting of QB/WR for years the real culprit here? How can you fairly evaluate Freeman until he is dealing with a full deck of cards?
Mike Berardino: Back to you, PA Mike. You raise sound points here. It makes me think back to a chat question I took during the offseason: If Freeman went 9-3 during the regular season but still held together a top-five recruiting class, would that make his debut season a success? I answered in the affirmative at the time, but now we may have to reshape the question: Five losses? Six? It's all graded on a sliding scale, of course, but yes, style points do count.
Pittsburgh Mike: Is anyone considering extrinsic factors affecting the football team's performance this past weekend against Stanford: (1) Midterm exams the week of Stanford game prep right before Fall Break, (grades due Mon Oct 17 per ND registrar online); (2) Poor sleep Fri night as the student body surely celebrated the beginning of Break past 2 am (tough for players to sleep even if disciplined); (3) Return from Las Vegas - just the time change had this "old" (52 yo) alum tired Monday and Tuesday; (4) Very physical practices during the week per the coaches. Maybe the players were just exhausted and we witnessed a 1st year miscalculation by Marcus Freeman and staff? Maybe put the bye week here annually. Does the program still sequester the players Fri night?
Mike Berardino: Pittsburgh Mike, thanks for checking in. You raise several fair points, but those can't be used as excuses for a poor performance. No one wants to hear it, and Stanford had to travel across three time zones as well. As you suggest those observations should be factored into how distant road games will inform future practice weeks that follow. In the case of Vegas, the Irish didn't arrive back home until 6 a.m. on Sunday, and even Freeman admitted at noon on Monday he hadn't had time to watch much Stanford tape. As for home Fridays, all major programs have been taking their teams off campus for decades just for that reason, and Notre Dame is no different.
RustyIrish: I keep reading Tommy Rees feels the need to prove he is the smartest person in the room and he often out thinks himself during his game planning. I don't necessarily see it that way, to me he can't seem to see the obvious flaws in his plan. The predictability in his call selection, a quarterback who stares down his receiver, the QB not going through his progressions to find open receivers, very little "in game" adjustments, the inability to recognize or unwillingness to take what the defense is giving him, unwillingness to diversify the receiver pool, virtually no quarterback development year over year, etc. etc. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, Ree's has enough experience and history at this point to recognize he is predictable and is doing a bad job with QB development but it doesn't appear to be happening and its definitely driving me (and I suspect much of the fan base) insane. I'm curious what you thoughts are?
Mike Berardino: Yo Rusty, thanks for stopping by. I haven't heard that and I don't sense it from Rees' weekly media availability. It's hard to rip Rees too much when one first quarter series includes three play calls that were TD-worthy: hitch to Michael Mayer that was wiped out by penalty, "go" route to Lorenzo Styles that went off his hand in the end zone; and a corner-post to Braden Lenzy that Drew Pyne airmailed into the fifth row. All OCs look smarter when the running game is clicking. As for QB development, Rees gets credit for taking Book and Coan well beyond what they'd shown in the past. Let's see how Pyne does once Tobias Merriweather is at his disposal for more than 5-10 plays a game.
Rich O'Donnell, Cleveland Heights: The preseason poll by the Coaches and the AP Sports Writers had ND ranked #5. Now they don't even get listed among the "also got votes." ND still has Tommy Rees calling the plays and had the good fortune of rehiring Harry Heistand. I realize this is the first year as head coach for Marcus Freeman but he's had a lot of coaching experience, he comes across as an excellent motivator and he's a class act. Despite all that the wheels are coming off the wagon, they continue to look out of sync. What do you think the coaches and sports writer saw that isn't happening, how could they both be so wrong??? Sorry if this comes across as a rant.
Mike Berardino: Cleveland Rich, welcome. Rants are fine as long as they're not ugly and there's a question in there somewhere. I laid out a little earlier how I go about compiling my in-season Top 25. If that seems like an inexact science, try doing it in early August. I will say, the Irish gave a powerhouse Ohio State team enough fits in the opener that the No. 5 ranking wasn't completely out of whack at the time. We've obviously learned much more since, including how a team in transition (from the top down) processes disappointment and exhilaration. Answer so far: Unpredictably. As Freeman joked Monday: "I don’t know which one’s good or bad, Jekyll or Hyde, but I want to be the one that’s good."
John from Scottsdale: While a 3-3 record at this point of the season is certainly disappointing, I don’t find it shocking. With a first time coach, zero starting experience at QB, and an offensive coordinator running the show by himself for the first time there were bound to be growing pains. Even Kirby Smart, who has turned into a pretty good coach, took a 10 win team the year before into a 7-6 team his first year. While Marcus so far is bringing in more talented players than Kelly did that won’t help with the coaching issue as we have way more talent than Marshall and Stanford and it was not reflected in either game. Finally, I don’t think having Golden helps here since he was fired at Miami for never correcting having these types of games as a head coach. Every year as coach his teams had baffling losses. With that preface, based on your interactions with Marcus Freeman, since he arrived on campus, do you see him evolving and improving as a coach? Or will this be a Bob Davie situation where he never gets better?
Mike Berardino: Scottsdale John, thanks for the questions. You're right about 3-3. Had those losses come against Ohio State, UNC and BYU instead of the Buckeyes, Marshall and Stanford, the vibe might be very different. Good point about Kirby Smart, but Golden's six-year run in the NFL can't be ignored as a growth factor. His first Irish defense is averaging 22.0 points per game (tied for 36th nationally); Freeman's group last year was tied for 14th at 19.7 ppg allowed. The biggest difference has been the lack of takeaways and ball disruption in general. That obviously has to improve, and fast. As for Freeman's evolution, painful as it is, that's taking place in full view of a passionate fan base. So far reviews are mixed, like the team's results. Consistency of messaging has been a challenge. Sideline demeanor could use some work. But he's not running from the problems or denying that they exist. To me, that bodes well for him in the long run.
Harry from Auburndale Florida: I didn't know how the Stanford game would play out but I was sure of one thing. Marcus Freeman would be outcoached by David Shaw. Freeman looks lost on the sidelines. Someday he may be a great head coach but he is far from that at this point in his career and the odds are against him. Nick Saban is the only DC I can think of who became an elite head coach. The comments from the ND players are the same ones I heard when Bob Davie was here. I'd appreciate your comments.
Mike Berardino: Hello Harry, thanks for your questions. Sideline demeanor was covered earlier in the chat. As for the path to HC success, just since 2000 I can think of these national championship coaches with defensive backgrounds: Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Gene Chizik, Ed Orgeron, Kirby Smart and Saban.
Mike from North Carolina: Thanks for these chats and this opportunity. Notre Dame is a broken football program on both sides of the ball but particularly on offense. Our coach seems totally lost on the sidelines when under pressure. I’m a lifetime ND fanatic. I would be grateful if you could convince me I’m wrong and there is truly hope for this team.
Mike Berardino: Carolina Mike, "broken" seems far too strong. Best I can offer you at the moment is the most recent Shamrock Series result. Then again, that BYU team was overrated as well.
Alan from Whiteland, Ind.: Mike, I truly do not blame Marcus Freeman for the current situation. If you, I or one of your millions of readers were offered the Notre Dame Head Football coaching job, we would take it. The issue is with AD Jack Swarbrick hiring someone with no head coaching experience at all when he vowed, after Charlie Weis, to never to do this again. In your opinion, why did Swarbrick listen to the players and recruits so heavily he decided to interview exactly nobody else for the Head Coach position? Thank you for answering my question.
Mike Berardino: Hi Alan. Just clarifying that Swarbrick didn't hire Weis, but I hear you. This was always a calculated risk, hiring a first-time head coach at a program like Notre Dame. Timing was key as Freeman wasn't going to wait around for a prolonged interview process; his stock was sky-high and LSU (and others) wanted him badly. It's far too soon to call Freeman a bust or his hiring a mistake. Even if Notre Dame face plants over the second half of the season, it's hard to imagine the plug being pulled. If the man was expected to learn on the job, let's see that process play out first.
Joe Gagliardi: Please cancel my two messages I am an 83 year old nd fan my high school QB Bobby Williams led ND to upset Oklahoma in 1957 7 to 0 Dick lynch scored td pitchout to short side of field from 10 yard line I have no right to critics Reese football is a tough game n Need 11 players in each side of ball playing as a unit just hope that coach freeman can get it corrected go ND.
Mike Berardino: Hi Joe, no worries. Thanks for joining us. Football is a tough game, but you and every other Irish fan has every right to share your frustrations and your ideas in this space. That's what we're here for.
Irish Mike Altoona, Pa: As always thank you for the chats! My original question was going to address Tommy Rees and Drew Pyne, but, I’m guessing you’ll get plenty of those! My question is why so many 7:30 home starts? The original lure of the NBC contract, I thought, was the 2:30 start! Is this in anticipation of NBC’s new deal with the Big Ten?
Mike Berardino: Irish Mike, one of those was a Shamrock Series game in Vegas. The Clemson game was supposed to be a ratings bonanza. Now? Not so much. Thanks for all the questions. Apologies to Greg, Sean, Ken, Mike W, Domer Ed, Joe, Shane and others who jumped in at the end. Remind me next week and I'll do my best to answer your questions then.
Follow Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino and on TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.
UNLV (4-3) vs. Notre Dame (3-3)
When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST
Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,660)
TV/Radio: Peacock streaming, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM)
Line: Notre Dame opens as a 24-point favorite
Series: First meeting