In 2013, Charlie Weis Has It Right

Charlie Weis, in 2005:

Every game, you will have a decided schematic advantage.


Decidedly trying

Charlie Weis, in 2013:

As I sat there and watched the last four or five games of that Austin guy at West Virginia just tearing it up as both a wide receiver and a running back, I think that football sometimes doesn’t have to be as cerebral as some people try to make it, and I think that it’s a copycat business.

Pulling out the infamous “decided schematic advantage” quote is always a bit of a cheap shot at Charlie, but I still think it’s fascinating to see how his thinking has evolved as he went from the mountaintop of Super Bowl wins and ten win seasons at Notre Dame to the “pile of crap” (his words) he’s dealing with Kansas. The 2005 quote is a paean to winning by abstract thought, where chalkboard doodles decide games. It’s stated in the most bold way possible, but it’s not that far from what most coaches at least try to do.

His 2013 quote, by contrast, is a paean to common sense. In it he’s making three points, all of which are undoubtedly true:

  1. Football is a simple game, and it doesn’t matter what the coach knows, it’s what the players know and can do.
  2. He’s right that it’s a “copycat business”. Media and fans but even coaches love to wax philosophically about what “true” football is or isn’t, or what’s the “right way” to do something, but the reality is that as soon as someone — anyone — has success with something, others will quickly copy it and adapt it for their own purposes. The velocity of ideas in football is incredible.
  3. His final point is only made implicitly, but it’s definitely there, which is that necessity is the mother of invention. When Charlie had smart, talented players he could run the Patriots system. As defenses caught up and his talent diminished, he’s been forced to rethink things and the number one thing is how to use what he has, so he’s been very explicit about trying new things with players like Tony Pierson because that’s a guy that can make plays for him. To his credit, Charlie Weis last season was using all kinds of different tactics, including plenty of option, something a many were surprised to see from Weis.

Football, especially at a place like Kansas, is still about “adapt or perish”. Whether he succeeds or not, Weis is certainly going to try.

  • Mr.Murder

    Not shocked by any means, the Big 12 had better offense to try and match on a scoreboard than any pro teams (outside of Indy) that Weis faced. Don’t know if you can say some of those things about your talent and still expect those guys to play their best. Maybe he is finding 101 recipes for chicken salad and it doesn’t suit his tastes.

    The thing about coaching in school, wider hashes and rules that give you better release outside, is that it evens the play field even more. It is not necessarily that your system is the best, is that any system should have some things it can do better given the named constraints on dimensions and rules. Whatever it is that you do get really good at it, and don’t stray away from those core calls too often.

    Also, try not to put Navy on your schedule….

  • IrishBarrister

    I’m trying not to come across as “Duh! You’re just getting this now?”, but as a lifelong Notre Dame fan, it is difficult to have a different opinion about Charlie Weis’ tenure with the Irish. The man took the Patriots playbook and virtually installed it verbatim at Notre Dame (a bold move), but the players were surprisingly adept at keeping up. And after two seasons, he added to it. Handing college players with the academic demands of a Stanford or Notre Dame (e.g., Golson) a playbook larger than the one Tom Brady runs was foolhardy at best, and I think the subsequent seasons showed exactly that.

    But … I have to give him credit for learning and being willing to adapt – three Superbowl rings adds a lot of coats of bronze. Football can be complicated, but for college players, it shouldn’t be. It seems most of the successful programs out there teach the players their assignments in three days to a week (I’ve heard coaches say that Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 is simple enough to install in a single day of two-a-day practices), and then spend the rest of the season teaching them to be good at them. I’m glad to see Weis is willing to adopt the same philosophy. Kudos.