Tag: Jeff Samardzija


Samardzija ready for fresh start with Cubs


Before we kick off an actual game week, our friends at Comcast Sportsnet in Chicago had a good update on former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, looking for a fresh start with the Cubs after general manager Jim Hendry was relieved of his duties after nine years at the helm of a team looking for its first World Series in 103 years.

If Samardzija’s track record of performances after major firings is any indicator, the Cubs might be ready for a breakout season from a pitcher that walked away from a football career when the Cubs offered him a guaranteed five-year, ten million dollar contract.

More from Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:

Jeff Samardzija thought back to the fallout at Notre Dame after Charlie Weis replaced Tyrone Willingham. Now someone else will be deciding on those club options for 2012 and 2013, and judging whether he might be built for the rotation.

“We’re all playing for a tryout right now,” Samardzija said. “We don’t know who the new GM is going to be. We don’t know what’s going to happen next year. But we’re all playing for whoever the new guy’s going to be.

“We want to play hard and we want to play every game like it’s the most important game of the season from here on out. Because I’m sure whoever it is – whoever’s getting close to be (the guy) – is watching right now and really keeping a close eye on this team.”

After only two full seasons in the minors, Samardzija made his first appearance in the big leagues in 2008 as a 23-year old, and after spending time between the farm and the show the past few years, he’s spent all of 2011 in the majors, putting together a good season out of the bullpen.

Still, Irish fans can’t help but wonder what might have been if Samardzija chose football after an All-American career that saw the Shark score an incredible 27 touchdowns in his final two seasons after Charlie Weis took over for Tyrone Willingham.

Looking back at the 2006 draft class, Santonio Holmes was the first wide receiver taken, going 25th to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Interestingly enough, the next receiver taken was by Charlie Weis‘ old team, when the New England Patriots took Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson in the second round. (He’s yet to score a professional touchdown.) Other first day picks (at least, back before they messed up teh draft) were Sinorice Moss from Miami, Greg Jennings from Western Michigan, and Travis Wilson out of Oklahoma, Derek Hagan out of Arizona State, Brandon Williams from Wisconsin, Maurice Stovall out of Notre Dame and Willie Reid from Florida State.

It’s tough to know when Samardzija would’ve gone without seeing what he’d have run in the forty, but looking at the production from this group, only Holmes and Jennings have truly distinguished themselves in the NFL, and you’ve got to think that Shark’s hands and the way he could go up and get a ball would have him making a pretty good living on Sundays as well.



2011 vs. 2006: Avoiding the pitfalls of great expectations


It’s human nature to want to paint with a wide brush. You cover more ground, get your point across quicker, and it’s far more enjoyable to slap a roller across a wall than deal with the tiny corner of trim that you need to cover with blue tape and wrench your back to get just right.

But when it comes to Notre Dame football, it seems most outside the influence of the Golden Dome are happy to roll away, convinced that a wide swath of color will be enough to get people nodding in agreement.

The always excellent Spencer Hall wrote about the true horror of “Notre Dame and Possible Competence.” It’s an excellent read, and as usual will make you chuckle mightily in between the flashbacks that make you grab a pillow and burrow your head.

Here’s a quick snippet to help you get Spencer/Orson’s flavor, while also getting a pretty firm grasp on the angle Hall is taking:

We realize an entire generation of football fans have grown up to maturity (or at least as close as you’ll ever get to maturity) without Notre Dame being “good.” They have seen spikes, sure. Tyrone Willingham, a degenerative nerve disease and coach, took Notre Dame to ten wins in 2002.  Charlie Weis, who later went on to work as offensive coordinator for an obscure team in Central America, led the Irish to a 10-2 record in 2006. That season ended with an exhibition against Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl. Remember the time Charlie Weis tried to out-Les Miles Les Miles? Oh, Charlie.

To squirt the lemon directly in Irish fans’ eyes, he links to ten minutes of LSU running the Irish off the field, a game that made Jamarcus Russell about $40 million more than he deserved.

But that’s not the point of this column. Rather, it’s two-fold: To acknowledge the very weird fascination with people’s willingness to call the Post-Holtz era not just the Dark Ages of Irish football, but to categorize it as abject failure from the day of Bob Davie’s hiring. If you didn’t know any better, the lights have been off since Boston College beat the Irish in late November of 1993.

Of course, it hasn’t been all bad. And it was just five short years ago that Notre Dame was in a position to make a title run, finding a place on the cover of Sports Illustrated and having one of its lead columnists attempt to dispel some myths as he defended the Irish’s No. 1 preseason ranking.

With the Irish sitting at 10-1 after rebounding from a difficult loss to Michigan, those prognositcators didn’t look all that bad. But ugly losses to USC and LSU gave Irish fans a long offseason to think about two brow-beatings, and revisionist history probably makes that Irish team look even worse than in actually was.

As we look at the lofty expectations that are being heaped on the Irish, it makes sense to look back at that 2006 team, and the pitfalls that tripped them up, and see if there could be similar obstacles in the way of this Notre Dame squad.

First off: Take a gander at the SI cover and you’ll have your first clue. No — not the fact that Justin Bieber completely ripped off Brady Quinn’s look, but the fact that Travis Thomas is on the cover. When you’re depending on a converted running back to start at outside linebacker, especially one that’s about 210 pounds, you know that your defense is awfully thin.

While it’s easy to see now, the Irish couldn’t compete in the front seven. Sure, the Irish had BCS level guys like Victor Abiamiri (who might have thrived with a redshirt freshman season) and Trevor Laws (who did), but they also relied on a 270-pound defensive tackle like Derek Landri and defensive ends like Chris Frome and Ronald Talley. At linebacker, Maurice Crum led the team in tackles with Joe Brockington, mostly only a special teams presence, starting nine games for the Irish. Two of the Irish’s top three tacklers were safeties, with Tommy Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe filling up the stat sheet, not necessarily good things.

The Irish got the production it wanted out of its running game, with Darius Walker gaining 1267 yards on five-yards a carry. But Brady Quinn missed the presence of Maurice Stovall and Anthony Fasano, and his yards per attempt went down a steep 1.5 yards per throw as his average yardage went from 326 to 263 per Saturday, with defenses taking away the deep strike that put Jeff Samardzija on the map. It’s an under-discussed topic, but the Irish offense that was so shockingly dangerous through the air in 2005 was largely kept in check when defenses adapted to Weis and his tendencies.

As we turn the focus to 2011, the Irish might actually be most worried about their offense keeping up with the defense, a shocking proposition and something most pundits didn’t think possible at Notre Dame. It’s also interesting to consider that the Irish just went through the growing pains of losing their co-leading receiver like the 2006 team did, when the Irish struggled to adapt to life without Golden Tate last year with Michael Floyd constantly seeing coverages rolled his way.

If you’re looking for a place that the Irish need to pick up the slack offensively, it’s in running the football. There’s no proven depth behind Cierre Wood, but there’s every reason to believe Jonas Gray can be an effective BCS caliber running back, and the offensive line should continue to gel this season.

We’re still over 70 days away from the opening of the 2011 season, far too many to get whipped into a froth just yet. But if Brian Kelly’s offense can make strides in Year Two, and the defense continues to play dominant football, and —

I’ll pump the brakes before this thing gets out of control. We all know how that one goes…