football Edit

Parker's introductory press conference reveals much about Freeman as well

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman made a point of lauding the support he feels he got from the school's administration during ND's search for a new offensive coorinator.
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman made a point of lauding the support he feels he got from the school's administration during ND's search for a new offensive coorinator. (Michael Wanbaugh, USA TODAY Sports Network)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Monday morning’s press conference at Notre Dame Stadium was concocted to answer the question: Who is Gerad Parker?

The collateral benefit was getting to know more about who Marcus Freeman is evolving into in his second offseason as Notre Dame’s head football coach.

Not the least of which was confirming his two pet catch phrases — “Question Everything” and Choose Hard” — are words he himself continues to live by.

The former career defensive coach also revealed how much more invested he is about the offensive side of the ball, how much clearer his vision is when it comes to even the nuances of it and how willing he was to claim the heretofore largely unpopular decision to fill the vacant offensive coordinator with Parker as his own.



“We put him through a long, tough interview,” Freeman said of the 42-year-old Irish tight ends coach who was promoted from within. “And what he was able to display to me is where we're at currently as an offense, his understanding of the terminology and our offensive philosophy in the past year, but also the vision for how he can enhance it with what he's done and what he believes as it takes to be successful as an offensive coordinator.

“It was halfway through an interview, my mind was made up: ‘I think this is our next offensive coordinator.’ But I wanted to take some time and really sleep on it and think about it, and not make an emotional decision. I woke up in the morning (Wednesday). And I remember I called (athletic director) Jack (Swarbrick), and I said, ‘I think we found our next offensive coordinator.’”

Parker made the scenario sound all the more convincing when he got his chance to speak and answer questions, including some tough ones from his past, personally and professionally. For those who put stock in “winning the press conference” as a measure of future success, Parker scored big points Monday with his humility and candor.

As far as how Freeman handled it, “choosing easy” would have meant setting arbitrary ground rules like only taking questions about the offense moving forward or dancing around uncomfortable facets of the search process.

Instead, he didn’t wait for the questions, but went after the most controversial and divisive aspects of them head on. At the center of which was whether he felt he had Swarbrick’s and the university’s full support during his eighth assistant coaching search and the one most likely to help define his regime when all is said and done.

Over and over he said he did.

Incidentally, search No. 9 (QBs coach Gino Guidugli) is only an official announcement away and No. 10 (for retired Harry Hiestand’s successor as O-line coach) is in process.

It took 12 days from the departure of former offensive coordinator/QBs coach Tommy Rees, on Feb. 3, to last Wednesday for Freeman to find his replacement.

“And so, during this process, I was made aware of some misconceptions of what was being said out there, and obviously, most of this is just not true,” Freeman offered.

That Swarbrick and senior associate athletic director/football Ron Powlus sat in on the press conference probably won’t shift many opinions formed before it, one way or the other, when it comes to how Notre Dame handled the buyout in Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s contract during the interview process.

Ludwig, Kansas State offensive coordinator Collin Klein and Parker were the only three candidates to do in-person interviews, per Freeman. Klein turned the job down. Parker accepted it, and Ludwig’s candidacy consisted of four or five days of confusing gray area.


Swarbrick maintained in an email he sent out en masse on Thursday, that earlier reports the he/ND balked at the size of Ludwig’s Utah buyout ($2.8 million) were inaccurate or, at best, a misinterpretation, though he doesn’t mention the size of the buyout of Ludwig’s name in the email.

The other version of the story, steeped in anonymous-source land, is that the blowback from reports about the buyout prompted ND to do damage control and go back to Ludwig with an amended offer, which he reportedly turned down.

“Jack Swarbrick has never shied away from paying a buyout,” Freeman asserted. “And, listen, in our line of business, part of college football and college business, we negotiate buyouts.

“Any coordinator, position coach that has a buyout, we talk about those things. We discuss them. But that's not the reason why somebody didn't choose Notre Dame. Let's make sure we get that out there.

“Two individuals decided that it was best for them to stay where they're at. And much credit to them. Congratulations. We found the guy I feel is the right guy for us.”

Parker has coordinator experience — the 2020 and 2021 seasons at West Virginia before first coming to ND — though neither season was particularly statistically impressive. Then again, Freeman’s résumé looked similar before his run at Cincinnati and even then in his first year there (2017).

But it was during their four seasons as assistants together under Darrell Hazell at Purdue (2013-16), with the Boilermakers producing a 9-39 bottom line and 3-30 mark in Big Ten play, that Freeman and Parker saw the promise in each other.

And never let that go.

“Probably more than anything is how you handle adversity,” Freeman said. “There was a lot of adversity that we went through in West Lafayette, and even his time as the (interim) head coach, our last six games of our last season there together.

“The ability for him to continue to stand in the face of adversity and to not waver from the things he believes in, it tells me a lot about a person's character. And that's what we want.

“This road to where we want to go, even for our offense, isn't just going to be a smooth one. As I've always said, it's a bumpy road. And you have to make sure those leaders, those guys that are in front of the room and leading a certain side of the ball or leading a position group don't waver from the philosophy, don't waver from who they are at the core of their hearts.”

Parker’s charge will be to evolve the offense just as Rees would have been asked to do had he stayed for a fourth year in the OC role and seventh overall as an Irish coach. Im doing so, though, Freeman wanted Rees’ successor, whoever it was, to be mindful of complementary football, in which the style of how the defense and offense play help each other.

“I had a criterion of vision for when this process started of what I was looking for,” Freeman said, “and I wanted to see on film, a pro-style type offense. What does that mean? It's multiple — multiple formations, multiple personnels, pro-style type concepts and the pass game, multiple running schemes.”

Freeman and Parker also have a vision for how an offensive coordinator who’s not a QBs coach can be just as effective in the bigger picture as one who is. And they’ll continue to incorporate NFL concepts, because it helps in recruiting and, Freeman believes, is also the best way to win games in college.

"I'm not hiring Gerad Parker to run Tommy Rees' or anybody else's offense,” he said. “I'm hiring Gerad Parker to implement his (own) offense. The ability for him to clearly explain to me where we're at as an offense, because it's all about teaching progression.

“You bring somebody in here that wants to start from ground zero and label things differently, now it takes time for our kids to learn what they want. So, the ability for him to say, 'Here's what our kids know. Here's exactly what they know. Here's what they understand. Here's how we can enhance and progress.' That's why I hired him.”

New Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker laid out his vision for the Notre Dame offense at a Monday press conference.
New Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker laid out his vision for the Notre Dame offense at a Monday press conference. (Jeff Douglas, Inside ND Sports)


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