Gerad Parker’s First Challenge as Notre Dame OC will Be One of Perception

Gerad Parker was not Notre Dame’s first choice to replace Tommy Rees as offensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish. He might not have been their second choice, either. He is, however, reportedly who will replace Rees after Notre Dame botched its search for Rees’ replacement so badly Jack Swarbrick had to release a “save face” email blast that did nothing to quell the backlash. All that said, the one person who didn’t mess up at all in any of this is Gerad Parker, and despite the disappointment from Notre Dame fans, he deserves a chance to prove himself.

Parker is not stepping into the offensive coordinator position at Notre Dame the way he may have envisioned one day when he joined the Irish staff last year. Whether or not Notre Dame ever offered Kansas State’s Colin Klien, Notre Dame flew to Kansas to see him, and his candidacy was public. Whether or not you believe the Swarbrick-spin of Notre Dame’s failed attempt to lure Andy Ludwig from Utah, their pursuit of Ludwig was real and very public. So perception is Parker was, at best, Notre Dame’s third choice. Fair or not, perception is sometimes hard to break.

While Notre Dame probably couldn’t have handled this search any worse than they did, the one person in all of this who deserves non of the blame is Gerad Parker. Heck, Parker was at the ill-fated hockey game with Freeman last week when they tried to woo Ludwig. Parker takes over the reins of the Irish offense, however, with the feeling as though he fell into the position and was a last-resort option.

It’s hard now to know what a Gerad Parker offense will look like for Notre Dame. While he held the OC title at West Virginia in 2020 and 2021, he didn’t call plays for most of that time. He was essentially demoted at West Virginia when the Mountaineers hired Graham Harrell to their staff after the 2021 season before deciding to join Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame as the tight ends coach. That’s what Notre Dame fans know of Gerad Parker today. Again, tough perception to break here.

It’s fair for Notre Dame fans to be upset about how this process played out. Whatever actually happened, only a few people likely know for sure. However, we know for certain that the entire fiasco made the program look very bad and small-timey in the eyes of the rest of the college football landscape. So it’s reasonable for fans to be upset with the administration for botching this as badly as they did.

It’s not fair, however, for fans to be down on Parker or judge him before he calls a play for the Fighting Irish. It is not unreasonable to think that the pairing of Parker and new quarterback coach Gino Guidugli could unlock something in this offense that we haven’t seen in recent years. That obviously takes a bit of a leap of faith at the moment, given all of the unknowns surrounding Parker and his vision for the offense, but it’s not unrealistic to think. Tommy Rees, for instance, had only called plays one game in his life before being elevated to offensive coordinator by Brian Kelly in 2020.

In 2018, following Mike Elko’s departure, Brian Kelly elevated Clark Lea to defensive coordinator despite having no experience calling defenses prior. That worked out pretty well for the Irish, and we know it wasn’t due to anything Kelly did specifically since we know he always tended to let the defense do its thing during his time at Notre Dame.

Parker could be a home-run hire. Often, the no-brainer or big-name hire doesn’t work out as planned. He also steps into a situation where he will have everything needed to succeed – a stout offensive line, a stud quarterback, a stacked running back room, and a group of young and talented receivers. In that regard, he couldn’t ask for a better situation to be stepping into from a talent and personnel standpoint. Fair or not, he will also be stepping into a situation where many will jump all over him if the offense sputters even a little bit out of the gate.

The one thing Parker can do to break the perception challenge he faces is score points—a lot of them. If Notre Dame comes out firing against Navy and Sam Hartman throws for four or five touchdowns, people will start to forget about the public spectacle of this OC search. The biggest hurdle there, however, is time. There are five and a half months until Notre Dame travels to Dublin to take on Navy to start the season.

Until then, it’s fair to be upset with the administration, but Notre Dame fans would be wise to have an open mind regarding Parker as the next offensive coordinator of the Fighting Irish. He deserves at least that much.

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  1. Meanwhile…..
    Florida was able to poach an Alabama assistant before anyone even knew that the Gator DC job was available.
    Makes ND look even worse.

  2. Well, it seems to me that if you were going to hire a tight ends coach to be offensive coordinator, you would at least talk to Chudzinski, right? (Likely name missspelling!)

    BGC 77 82

    1. And I’d still like to know if Mike Sullivan would be interested in O Line coaching at ND. A long time ago he was interested in ND, but he went to Miami – smart, given that Faust was still coaching us.

      BGC 77 82

    2. He’s a TE coach who just coached a solid, NFL-calibre TE.
      A TE showcased even more by being a heavily preferred target of a limited QB who couldn’t throw it to any other receiver with confidence.
      Might have ‘bumped up’ his coaching bona fides a tad.

      And he takes over an offense that is finally set to break away from being a TE-fixated passing game to having REAL deep-yardage potential.

      If this hire pans out, it will be an unlikely, complete fluke.

      1. With expected improvement at QB, and with finally having more stability unless another coach leaves from one season to the next, using the basic O’ scheme they employ (both TR and Golden weren’t in the NFL last season, though sometimes their schemes too much tried to look like that), GP can provide refinement of the existing scheme, but simplify. Have a plan when a QB reads a formation that is totally in place to stop your run inside, you won’t need Hartman to wait for your OC to scan the field; you let him make the audible. He’s been playing college QB for five years! Use that to keep momentum going rather than wait for TR to figure it out for each play. I’m over Ludwig and which buyout actually was the factor in him staying in Utah. Move on to the guy the team and staff know and appreciate. Re: GP at ND, he took a great TE and made him even better. And took a Big HS QB and made him the in-line TE who made the game-winning catch at NDs last game (flashback to Robin Weber vs. Bama), but I digress. Credit to Freeman totally if this works out. Rumor has it TR wasn’t that excited about this pick when HCMF brought GP in as the TE coach. Not only had Freeman worked with and observed him as a coach, but knew him as a great recruiter, and Freeman values the charisma, the energy, and the way his coaches will interact with and mentor ND student-athletes. Those traits are also important to Freeman, and are pre-requisites to winning, not just scheme and execution of it.
        Freeman remains a very positive upgrade for ND as a mentor, a recruiter, and his future success with his assistants will reflect that.

  3. Despite the administration’s apathy, there are a few positives to this hire. The Gino guy I’ll admit to not knowing much about, but he seems like a solid hire as a QB coach. If he can get the most out of Hartman, we might not need anything special from the OC. Gerad might even turn out to be great. There had to be a reason he was ever an OC in the first place, right? I mean, someone has seen something in his coaching and thinks that he can run an offense. And maybe better QB play really will elevate the offense.

    And the defensive side of the ball should still be playoff caliber. There are positions of concern, but Freeman is a defensive guy and I’ll assume he’s putting a playoff caliber defense on the field because that is consistently what he’s done in his career

    It’s ok to be frustrated with the state of the program and still try to drink enough of the kool-aid to buy in to the next season. I still think this team has the talent to make a playoff run. It will be a long shot with all the off-season changes and distractions—but sometimes that brings teams together.

    So I’m keeping my fingers crossed. This can still be a special season. It isn’t impossible. There’s talent, there are a few really good coaches, and there’s always the luck of the Irish

  4. As a lifelong Notredame fan starting watching and listening to games in Ara’s first year 1964 and seeing 4 national championships and a few other misses the last 30 years have been very painful. I will always follow Notredame but I don’t blame any fan for wanting to follow another school or conference. Believe there have been times I have wanted to do the same thing. I do believe with Freeman Notredame can possibly be elite again despite all the obstacles in front of him. With Kelly you had Zero chance.

    1. With this administration no coach has any chance.

      We’ll see how good Kelly really is after he’s had a few seasons at LSU. He did better at ND than anyone since Holtz, and I believe it was Notre Dame holding Kelly back and not the other way round. He’s not a likable guy, but he’s won everywhere he’s been.

      As for Freeman, he has absolutely no shot. Even if he turns out to be a great coach, he’ll never reach his potential at Notre Dame. No coach will ever reach their potential at Notre Dame because Notre Dame doesn’t make it a priority to support their coaches or their football program in a way that maxes out their potential.

      ND is content to settle, and no coach is going to be able to completely overcome that. I doubt anyone will be able to overcome it as well as Kelly did—he was actually able to win some battles and get some upgrades to facilities and assistant compensation. I don’t think Freeman has enough experience yet to win as many of those battles, but we’ll see.

      The bottom line is that Notre Dame doesn’t have a coaching problem, it had an administration problem. It really doesn’t matter who the head coach is if all they’re all handcuffed the same way

      1. Kelly left for money. He’s a disloyal, self-interested, money-grubbing fraud. And you’re a pathetic shithead for continuing to shine his shriveled old balls.

      2. A few Notredame reporters did an article called the blue chip ratio in recruiting. It showed the last several years the playoff national championship winners Alabama, Georgia Clemson, Ohio State all in the mid 80’s. The highest Kelly ever was 57. Freeman this past season 76. That is also with 2 5 star commits decommitting, Keeley and Bowen. This year so far Notedame has 8 commitments number 2 ranking in the country. As the saying goes talent wins. Larry Coker terrible coach won a National championship. John Cooper terrible coach had a lot of 12-1 seasons. I don’t think Ogeron was a great coach but he hired Joe Brady changed the offense and got Joe Burrow to transfer. I like the coaching staff Freeman is assembling. Also unlike Kelly if his assistants are not great , grinding recruiters he will get rid of them.

      3. Pete: Never heard of the article, but I presume it’s legit.
        I don’t need stats or evidence or expert opinion.
        I’ve watched great coaches. And I had to watch Kelly even longer.
        I’ve watched genius. And I’ve seen bullshit.
        Kelly is bullshit.

      4. Freeman,Parker and Golden are not top shelf.Notre Dame finally has a top shelf QB.Let’s see how Freeman does with a top shelf QB

      5. So the guy who got demoted at West Virginia after being OC for only 1 season is our OC.

        Freeman will be let go within 3 seasons or he’ll take another job. Just a terrible hire

  5. Thankfully college baseball starts today. That is enough for me to temporarily take my mind off the recent shitting of the bed by SwarDick.

  6. My perception? ND sees — more clearly every day — that no way it will ever be a football power again. So it’s just monetizing the brand, keeping costs in check, hoarding the money for the university coffers. and letting its fans twist in the wind for as long as they’ll put up with it.

    And even when they screw up and tip their hand (like now), they deny, spin, backpedal and deflect.
    And dimwitted fools clam down and forget about it.

    Hey, I’m the first to admit it’s probably the smartest thing for the university to do. For itself.
    But I don’t care about that.
    On Fall Saturday afternoons, I want to see great sports entertainment.

    Do you want to watch this years likely NC winner ? Start tuning in to SEC games.
    Stone cold fact.

    1. Can’t disagree with any of that, david, except the part about tuning out.
      To quote Tom in Godfather “Can’t do it, Solly”
      I watch for those directly involved in the game, the players and, more recently, the coaches. I couldn’t care less what the moneychangers do, little chance the moneychangers will be run out of the temple if they maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum, an obvious mentality. And with this latest fiasco
      Incompetence and arrogance again prevail.
      I Gotta watch
      Don’t even have a plan B for ’23 this Fall.
      Freeman needs to take as much control as possible- going with assistants he knows.
      It feels like us against them , a good theme for the ’23 team, regardless how much Swarbucks has fumbled at the goal line. How about a buyout of his contract?
      But I digress.
      I’d offer the most expensive OL Coach he could find, and make Swarbucks so “no” again!

      1. Point taken.
        Hey, I’m not saying or predicting that it’s completely hopelss fr ND. Surproses happen in sports all the time.
        Cheap, inexperienced coaches CAN turn out to be fantastic. Teams of destiny can come together and shock the world. Those are the very best moments in all of sports.

        But that’s NOT a viable, long-term strategy.
        Hey, if I worked anywhere in the ND athletics department, and took home a nice paycheck, maybe I could put up with being otherwise disappointed or ashamed. But I don’t.

        I want to be engaged, to be entertained, and to be hopeful. Just three weeks ago (…wow..) I made the mistake of getting downright optimistic about the upcoming ND season.
        First time since the Purple Prick got caught interviewing with the Eagles.
        And before even one snap of spring ball, back to the same old, musical chairs shitshow.

        The hypocrisy of participating in the sport but NOT being committed to excellence is just money-grubbing bullshit. I deserve better, so I’ll look elsewhere.

        In truth, college football is no doubt ruined now….
        Tax-free pro football with nominal university affiliation. They’ve really made a hash of it, and ND admin might well be the smart ones in the long run.

    2. In my opinion Notredame would have been a lot better off if they would have dumped Kelly and Swarbrick after that disastrous 4 and 8 season highlighted by throwing 33 passes during a hurricane. Kelly was never, ever going to win a National championship at Notredame and I’ll predict he will never win one at Lsu despite all the resource advantages he has. NIL, transfers, recruiting hot bed etc

    3. So the guy who got demoted at West Virginia after being OC for only 1 season is our OC.

      Freeman will be let go within 3 seasons or he’ll take another job. Just a terrible hire

  7. I agree. Parker deserves a chance to prove himself. It’s not his fault all this happened. And yes, fans should keep that in mind. Criticize Swarbick, he deserves it. But give Parker a chance.

    This reminds me a lot of the 2005 coach search when they pulled out all the stops for Urban Meyer only to end up wiht egg on their face. And we ended up with Weis, who initially showed some promise before turning into a joke as a coach. Hopefully Parker fares out better than Weis did.

    This all goes back to how badly ND does at recruiting and keeping assistants though. This is a huge problem. If you look at elite programs, yes they have top level coaches and elite QB’s and players. But another key factor is they have very good assistants too. ND can NOT continue to lose assistants to lateral positions like it does. Yes, an argument can be made that Rees going to Alabama is a promotion of sorts considering their status. But ND has to do a better job at trying to keep their coaching talent. I’m not saying Rees didn’t have some work to do, but the very fact that Saban wanted him as OC tells me that Rees has a lot of potential to be a great OC. Saban is no fool.

    In short, this search should not have needed to happen in the first place.

    1. 9-3 to 7-5 will be the new norm for Notre Dame football moving forward. Absolutely no chance of a playoff run next season. I expect we will see some crucial decommittments coming soon based on the current coaching staff circus. Swarbrick has shit all over himself and the program.

      1. Yes pretty much hit the mark.Upgrade at QB negated by a OC hire that is beyond category.Al Golden was another fail.

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