Jonathan Chait has written on many topics. He’s an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a solid inside-out critic of political media (his great 2002 story about imaginary biases and real biases is behind The New Republic‘s subscriber-only firewall) (though you can still read Martin Peretz’s blog for free) (but you shouldn’t). He’s also the author of a well-received recent book about bad conservative economics. Add to that, via Slate, this new credit: he is pretty good at marshaling statistics that make Charlie Weis look like a terrible coach. Of course, almost anyone can do this — it’s easy — and much of the rest of his argument is grounded in the unprovable-if-not-unconvincing assertion that Weis has always been overrated because of his association with some Super Bowl winners in New England. Still, these numbers don’t get much less depressing the more often you read them:
Just how bad is Notre Dame? Of the 119 teams in Division I-A, ND is 119th in total offense, 119th in rushing offense, 112th in passing offense, and 118th in scoring. If Notre Dame had doubled its scoring output, it would still rank 108th. If it doubled its rushing output (currently 34 yards a game), it would barely eke out Duke for 118th place.
You get the point. I should stop now.
OK, one more. Notre Dame is averaging 1.09 yards per rush this year. The NCAA statistical archive goes back only to 1999. The worst yards per carry recorded in that period belongs to a 2001 University of Arizona squad that gained 1.46 yards per attempt. So, the worst rushing team recorded by the NCAA in the last nine years was still about one-third better than Notre Dame.
This is not merely bad. This is ineptitude on a staggering, world-historical scale. Such a performance would be prima facie evidence for firing the coach even at a doormat program like Indiana. At a school like Notre Dame, well ¦ it’s simply impossible to describe how awful this performance is. It’s true that Notre Dame has suffered a dip in its talent level, attributable to poor recruiting by Weis’ predecessor Tyrone Willingham. But if you go by recruiting rankings, Charlie Weis still has as much or more talent on hand than most of the opponents who have been beating him soundly.
So, Weis is obviously not a great coach”no great coach has ever underperformed so grossly”and he may well be a terrible one.
Of course, no supposedly great coach had previously conquered stomach staples, either. And anyway, isn’t this just piling on? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about college football’s more successful, and even more hugely obese, coaches?