Notre Dame legend Tim Brown was interviewed by ESPN Radio on Wednesday to get his opinion on the open head coaching position in South Bend and the last Golden Domer to win the Heisman Trophy gave a ringing endorsement for his former NFL coach Jon Gruden.
Gruden, a onetime obsession of Notre Dame fans during the coaching search of 2001, hasn’t come up much at all during the latest coaching search, but that didn’t stop Brown from recommending his former coach to take over at his alma mater.
“Absolutely,” Brown’s answered when ESPN radio hosts Waddle and Silvy asked if he felt Gruden was the best candidate to replace Charlie Weis. “I spent a lot of time with him not just with x’s and o’s but in personal time talking to him about how he feels about certain things. I think his willingness to motivate young players – motivate players period – is something that I believe is the key ingredient missing from the Notre Dame coaching for the last 15 years or so.”
The concerns with hiring another NFL coach are the same they were for Charlie Weis – recruiting and adjusting to the college game where development is more important than game planning and scheming. Brown thinks at least one of those, however, would not be an issue for his old coach. “I think if a guy like that would come, recruiting would be a joke because if Little Chucky walks into your living room , it’s going to be very difficult for you to tell him no.”
Brown also thinks that “Little Chucky” would realistically be interested in returning to the place where his father coached under Dan Devine. “He has some ties to Notre Dame. His dad coached there. He had a couple years growing up in South Bend. From what he tells me, his room was the Notre Dame campus. The Golden Dome and the stadium and everything was painted on his walls so it’s in him that’s for sure,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of whether or not he’d be willing to go back and do that grunt work that he would have to do to make that happen.”
Past comments from Gruden about his appreciation for Notre Dame back up Brown’s statement that “it’s definitely in him”.
When asked if Brown had begun trying to recruit Gruden to South Bend, he said that he thinks there is interest there based on his dealings with Gruden over the year. “We’ve had some conversations, but we’ve had conversations over the years and Jon is a guy that is very respectful of other coaches and is never going to say anything while someone has a coaching job there, but I think that there is some interest. I can’t say that 100% sure because he’s being a little coy with me, but he hasn’t told me no so I think there’s a shot.
If you read between the lines there, it sounds as if Brown is saying that he and Gruden have talked about the possibility of Gruden coaching at Notre Dame over the years.
Brown even went so far as to say that should Notre Dame look at Gruden, he would want to be a part of a potential Jon Gruden staff in some capacity. “If he takes the job, you can bet that in some kind of way I’m going to be on that staff.,” he said. “It may not be as the receivers coach, but you can bet there’s no way Jon Gruden is going to go back to Notre Dame without having Tim Brown and Rocket and everyone else be a part of what he’s trying to accomplish.”
Despite his endorsement for his former coach, Brown also said on Wednesday that he stuck behind Charlie Weis until the end and was hoping he would succeed at Notre Dame. “Absolutely not,” Brown answered when asked if he was vocal about wanting Charlie Weis out at Notre Dame. “I was one of those guys that supported Charlie til the bitter end. I appreciate what he was trying to do with getting the former players back involved with the team,” he added.
Brown had plenty of opinions on why Notre Dame hasn’t been a national championship caliber teams though and put most of the onus on coaching. “If you’re going up against Navy, everybody knows you should win that game, but you still have to go out and play. You still have to go out and get it done. It seems as if we’re going into these games like it’s nothing special and we’ve got nothing. That kind of stuff is on a coach.”
The 2009 Irish squad had enough talent on both sides of the ball to win to be better than a .500 football team. “When you look at our team this year, we very talented. We had a lot of talent on the offensive side and we weren’t that bad on the defensive side; but any time a team underachieves, that is going to go to the coach.”
When asked the age old question about academic standards and how they hinder Notre Dame’s chances of winning a national championship and if that excuse is over blown, Brown said he said he isn’t sure if it’s overblown but that it does exist. “It’s real, but when you look at our team this year we had enough talent to win 9 or 10 games. For that to happen, it’s not because the guys are smart. It’s because we just couldn’t make it happen on the field.”
Based on the criteria laid down by athletic director Jack Swarbrick earlier this week, Gruden wouldn’t appear to be a viable candidate. Swarbrick hinted that the next coach would have a defensive background and said several times that he wanted a coach that has experience building and sustaining a division 1 football program. Gruden doesn’t fit either of those two characteristics.
From a PR standpoint and a wow factor, Gruden would seem like an outstanding candidate. On the heels of the Weis Era though, a coach with a NFL pedigree, no matter how successful, will probably have a hard time getting serious consideration.
That being said, it’s hard not to get a little excited about the idea of “Little Chucky” roaming the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium after listening to Tim Brown make a case for him. Before listening to Brown’s interview I thought I was firmly of the belief that Notre Dame needed a proven college coach, but now I’m having a hard time keeping myself from leaping onto the Gruden bandwagon.
Thanks Tim. As if I needed anything else to fixate on this week after the Stoops frenzy that has been going on across all of the Notre Dame sites, blogs, and forums. Thanks a lot.