David Cutcliffe No Small Loss for Irish Staff

With the resignation of David Cutcliffe Wednesday, the Notre Dame coaching staff didn’t just lose its quarterback coach. When his recovery from triple bypass surgery ended Cutcliffe’s short tenure on the staff, the Irish lost a top shelf recruiter with many ties in the South, an excellent offensive strategist, and a coach with seven years head coaching experience.

The hiring of Cutcliffe by Weis back in December was one of the best moves he made when forming his staff. Cutcliffe gave Weis an offensive mind that developed both Peyton and Eli Manning in his years at Tennessee and Ole Miss. Cutcliffe also gave Weis a coach on his staff that had seven years head coaching experience which was a nice addition since Weis came to Notre Dame without any head coaching experience.

Cutcliffe’s experience and success with quarterbacks such as the Manning brothers and Tee Martin had many Irish fans excited about what he could do for Brady Quinn. Quinn has been inconsistent in the past and the Irish faithful had hoped Cutcliffe would help Quinn reach that next level we have all been waiting for him to reach.

Cutcliffe has also spent the last 24 years at Tennessee (quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator) and Ole Miss (head coach) and the previous 6 years working as a high school coach in Alabama giving the Irish staff a coach with many ties in the talent rich SEC region.

All of this adds up to a big loss for the Irish coaching staff. Not many staffs have a quarterback coach with a resume quite like David Cutcliffe’s. When the staff was announced, Cutcliffe was the assistant coach that had me the most excited because of his track record and because he would concentrating on the quarterbacks exclusively.

In his absence this spring Charlie Weis filled in, but that does not mean he will simply assume these roles for the upcoming season. “ I think that having the head coach during the regular season be the quarterback coach is a really tough task if you’re going to try to run the team. You know, somebody has got to watch the everyday ins and outs, the footwork on every play. So when the ball is snapped, and I’m the head coach, I’m watching the whole progression of a play offensively, and now because I’m more than an offensive coordinator like I’ve been for the last bunch of years, now I’m look also is at the response on the other side of the ball and what those players are doing, as well” Weis said earlier today at a press conference.

Despite the loss, Weis and Notre Dame will move on and the Irish are already close to having an official replacement for Cutcliffe. Weis has talked about having a coaching depth chart since he was hired and because of this he had a contingency plan if Cutcliffe were not to return. “I have a contingency plan if I lose anybody, so it’s not just him. No matter who we would lose, there’s a contingency plan” told reporters when asked if he had planned for Cutcliffe not coming back after he missed the Spring.

When Cutcliffe was named quarterback coach many thought his stay at Notre Dame would be brief since it was only a matter of time before he got another head coaching gig. Cutcliffe will be back in coaching as soon as next year, but its likely he won’t be back coaching for Notre Dame.

While he did not completely rule out a return to the Irish, he did say “I can tell you this, I don’t think many people are going to be leaving. So I doubt that there will be very many openings in the near future. Because I think it’s going to be an exciting time for Notre Dame. I feel very strongly about that and Coach Weis will do a great job for them.”

Possible Replacements
The name popping up most so far has been Peter Vaas, the head coach for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. Vaas was also the quarterback coach at Notre Dame in 1991 and the running backs coach in 1990. Vaas has spent the last 8 seasons coaching in NFL Europe with stops at Barcelona (98-99, offensive assistant), Berlin (2000-03, head coach), and most recently Cologne (03-present).

Before working in NFL Europe, he spent two years working in the CFL in Montreal and four years as the head coach at Holy Cross from 92-95. As coach of the Berlin Thunder, Vaas guided the Thunder two World Bowl Championships.

Ron Powlus filled in for Cutcliffe during the Spring so his name has come up as well, but seems a bit unlikely since he has no coaching experience. Powlus filled in fine over the Spring, but the replacement will most likely have more experience.

The name of Joe Montana has popped up on the boards as well, but that is more wishful thinking than anything it seems. While Montana was an honorary coach for the Blue-Gold game, Montana hasn’t given any indications that coaching is something he is interested in. Montana as a quarterback coach would be a great recruiting tool, but the chances of that happening are very unlikely.

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