When you lose three of four to open the season – and you allow an average of 41.3 points in those three losses – someone, probably on the defensive coaching staff, is getting a pink slip.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder got his Sunday, mercifully ending a woeful tenure. The Irish are 1-5 over their last six games dating back to last season; they allowed 206 points in those five losses.
“Well, I’m not surprised that (he was fired),” CBS Sports Network lead college football analyst Aaron Taylor said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “The defense was bad and didn’t seem to be getting better. A lot of that is circumstantial. They’ve got a lot of young players on that side of the ball, but I think ultimately it was the lack of in-game adjustments and just production on that side that inevitably led to Brian getting let go.”
Taylor, who won a Super Bowl with Brett Favre and the Packers, played at Notre Dame in the early 1990s.
“I know Brian, and I like him,” Taylor said. “That’s just the nature of the coaching business. Coach Kelly, to his credit, defended him publicly, but needed to make a change when that needed to occur.”
Notre Dame hired Greg Hudson, who was Taylor’s offensive line graduate assistant in 1993, to replace VanGorder. Taylor likes the hire.
“The kids weren’t playing energized,” he said. “They were playing hard, but there wasn’t that energy – and I think for certain Greg Hudson will bring that to that side. I’m really interested to see how they respond from this, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that Notre Dame’s football program is in flux at the moment.”
Sadly, and perhaps embarrassingly, Notre Dame fans chanted for VanGorder’s firing during Saturday’s 38-35 home loss to Duke. Doug Gottlieb thought that was uncalled for, especially at Notre Dame, but Taylor wasn’t surprised.
“Doug, I hate to say it, but I think we’re old guys, man,” he said. “That’s kind of the society that we live in now. Everybody wants everything instantly in 140 characters or less. The appreciation of what it takes to be a good coach and to build a good program – everybody wants to have a national championship, but the reality is, there’s only about four or five programs that are built perennially to do that. With that said, I’m not surprised to hear that. I hear it everywhere else. I think the expectations are high. I think it’s been a long time since Notre Dame has stood atop the mountaintop holding the college football national championship trophy above their heads.”
Indeed, Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship since 1988.
“They got back to the national championship game in 2012 but were seriously outmanned and outclassed by an Alabama team – and you knew that before they kicked off,” Taylor said. “When I saw that TV shot with the Alabama players walking past ours in the tunnel, (it was over). . . . The long and the short of it is we don’t have the personnel we need at this moment to compete on the national level, and that needs to change.”
That said, Taylor believes that Notre Dame is still a top-five job in America.
“There’s only so many blue-blood programs in college football, and Notre Dame is amongst those,” he said. “I think the litmus test is ask yourself the question, ‘Is college football better when Notre Dame is relevant?’ Until that answer is no, yeah, it’s a top-five job.”
Notre Dame (1-3) plays Syracuse (2-2) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, this Saturday. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET.