Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The GURU exposed

Charlie Weis was not Notre Dame's first choice when they opted to cut Ty Willingham loose. People who didn't want to characterize Notre Dame's rash personnel decision as a racially biased move pointed to the availability of Urban Meyer as a head coach and claimed Notre Dame had to make a play for him. Meyer opted to take the job at Florida leaving a lot of people wondering what that meant for the once storied football power.

Then came news that Notre Dame had contacted New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and that the rotund assistant coach was interested in the job. A whirlwind courtship ensued and Weiss was hired.

Shortly thereafter stories began circulating that Charlie Weis was in fact a genius and that it was his brilliance that was the cornerstone of three Super Bowl titles. I found these revelations a little suspicious since I hadn't heard a whole lot about Charlie Weis before he was selected as Notre Dame's second, or even third choice for the head coaching job.

After a little poking around I was surprised to discover that Charlie Weiss was actually considered by many to be a liability for the Patriots and that they were successful in spite of him not because of him. It adds up when you think about it. When you examine New England you consider a brilliant defense that manages to make adjustments week after week. The offense was known for its ability to maintain possession and score an adequate number of points, but Weis' play calling wasn't exactly what you would call groundbreaking. New England's offense was simply persistent. Bill Walsh and Paul Brown never had to worry about Weis supplanting them as the game's greatest innovators.

Weis was never a front runner for any NFL head coaching position and he wasn't on the radar of most college programs. Notre Dame hired him because he was linked to NFL success and he was a Notre Dame alumnus.

Weis got a tremendous amount of credit for turning Tom Brady into a NFL star, but people who watched Tom Brady lead the way for Michigan couldn't fathom why the former Big 10 standout wasn't drafted in the second round. Brady doesn't look that much different in the NFL than he did in college and you'd have to believe that he would be loath to give Charlie Weis all the credit for his success.

But that didn't stop the hype. Notre Dame, NBC and even the NCAA needed to get that Notre Dame fan base riled up and promoting Weis as the savior of the program was the way to do it. Weis did open up the offense and brought a renewed sense of pride to the existing squad, but Notre Dame didn't dominate. Their biggest success was a loss to USC and that speaks volumes as to the quality of their competition. Some claim that the Notre Dame schedule was tough, but that was on paper at the beginning of the season. As the season progressed the tough teams listed on Notre Dame's schedule were revealed to be cupcakes. Tennessee and Purdue are prime examples of teams that were supposed to be a lot better than they actually were.

The bubble was burst last night in the Fiesta Bowl where Notre Dame was lucky to only lose by 14. Ohio State committed several unforced errors an sacrificed three easy scoring opportunities. Factor in a handful of defensive miscues that allowed Notre Dame a couple of scores and the Irish faithful were dangerously close to watching Weis and his overrated team suffer a humiliating blow out. Ohio State gained over 600 yards of total offense while holding Notre Dame to under 400 yards. The ballyhooed Brady Quinn spent a lot of time on his back and the deep passing attack that was supposed to keep Ohio State on its heels all night failed to get on track.

Weis was supposed to be a genius who would easily dissect OSU's defense and quite possibly make a mockery of the Buckeyes who showed a tendency to struggle against the claiming the success of the Patriots for his own.

But don't take my word for it, Notre Dame extended Weis's contract to 10 years. By the time it's all said and done, 2005 might prove to be his finest season and Notre Dame's glory days will be ancient history.

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