Charlie Weis’s Offense: The Sequel

Charlie Weis, he of the “decided schematic advantage,” is back coaching an offense in college football, this time with Florida. Spencer Hall does a good job explaining Weis’s offense and what Gator fans might expect — or at least as good of an explanation as is possible considering the contradictions: Weis considers himself pro-style, yet once tried to unveil a spread option look to start a season before promptly abandoning it; at Notre Dame his offense’s achilles heel was his teams’ inability to run the ball, and yet when he went back to the NFL his team lead the league in rushing. As Spencer says:

The pattern is that there is no pattern, run/pass-wise, and that he seems genuinely happy to adjust to the tools he has on hand.

I think that’s right. I expect Charlie’s offense at Florida to actually be less of the go-for-broke-let’s-hit-the-home-run fest it became under Clausen. At that stage it had become so erratic that either Clausen, Tate, and Floyd shredded you for big plays or they failed to connect, often in critical situations — it had a Madden-esque feel to it by the end. The year with the Chiefs was likely good for Charlie in that with an average NFL quarterback, only a few outside playmakers and good runningbacks, he had to turn to the run game.

And in the NFL, you don’t make the run game better by adding option plays or doing anything too exotic like the college guys. Instead, you find as many ways as you can to run the inside and outside zones. And Charlie’s big wrinkle with the Chiefs was the same one that a lot of NFL teams adopted: the unbalanced line, or simply an extra offensive lineman. The Chiefs did this, the Ravens did it, and even Stanford, under Jim Harbaugh, often did it too. The reason why you do it, particularly on zone runs when the quarterback is not a threat, is obvious: create more gaps to run through and for the defense to worry about. Compare this lineup with Michigan (note that I’d just throw it to the slot receiver here):

With this (I’ve highlighted the extra lineman and one of the gaps created by having two tackles to that side):

The whole point of zone running is to block the defenders in those zones and to create vertical running lanes; creating the extra gaps should help create additional running lanes. In this instance, it worked brilliantly for Charlie (and it helps having Jamaal Charles). Indeed, I think this is the wildcat offense‘s lasting legacy for NFL coaches — more about unbalanced lines and playing with gaps than having a quarterback who can run.

When it comes to throwing the ball, I expect Charlie’s offense to look much like it did at Notre Dame, though, at least in the early days, there will likely be more of an emphasis on screen passes than downfield shots. But when he does throw downfield, you can expect to see the old favorites: quick slants, stick concepts, deep “go” routes, and the deep cross. Indeed, the deep cross was a feature play of his both at Notre Dame (see the second clip in the video below)…

And a favorite with the Chiefs, as shown in this video.


Ultimately, I don’t expect Charlie to be in Florida for long, but that doesn’t mean he won’t leave his mark — a positive one. He’ll likely be there no more than two years, maybe three, before he leaves to become a college head coach again (yes) or another NFL spot. Charlie will only be able to handle working under someone else for so long. But I think the Muschamp-Weis situation will be fine: Will will defer to Charlie on the offensive side and he’ll provide an impressive sounding board (more on that in a moment), and Charlie will genuinely enjoy just getting to focus on creating gameplans, coaching quarterbacks, and calling plays. In the long run (and assuming he has a lot of success at Florida), Muschamp will probably end up with a coordinator whose roots are in the college game with college players, much like the guys Bob Stoops has worked with over the years. But Will undoubtedly wanted real-deal-NFL-guy to both be there as a recruiting pitch and for his own psyche — long-term NFL experience is one thing his mentor Nick Saban has that he does not (Muschamp spent one year with the Dolphins under Saban).

And Weis will be a great resource. He is generally known as an NFL “pro-style” guy all the way, but it’s often forgotten that, back in the 1980s, Weis spent the decade shuffling between high school and college programs, where he ran a variety of offenses, some of them quite surprising. From a post-game interview with Weis from 2005:

Q: Coach, after watching Saturday, this question begs to be asked: Did your career path ever intersect with Mouse Davis?

WEIS: I did visit with Mouse Davis back in South Carolina when we had the run and shoot. We talked to Mouse Davis, we talked to John Jenkins not Father John Jenkins, by the way Mouse Davis, John Jenkins, those run and shoot guys. Yes, we went from the veer to the run and shoot at South Carolina. We spent some time with all of those run and shoot guys.

Q: Was influences of that evident on Saturday?

WEIS: No. What you saw Saturday [ND did a lot of 5 wide stuff and quick three step passes], first of all, run and shoot always has a back in the backfield. It’s either a two by two or three by one, which trips are spread; okay, that’s number one. And you always have a run element, so empty (backfield) really doesn’t come into play.

This brief excerpt of his own words is the best summary of Weis that can be given: irascible, somewhat condescending, and incredibly knowledgeable.

  • Guest

    Charlie will be the overly aggressive jerk he always was. The Gators go 7-5 this year. People will think Weis is a genius after about four games and then the SEC will figure him out and Brantley will go back into his shell.

  • This Guy

    Because Overly aggressive jerks never go well with the Florida offense.

  • Anonymous

    i’m convinced that great spread offenses work best only with transcendant athletes (see texas 05, richrod’s wva teams, florida 07/08) or at least transcendant in relation to the level of their competition. this is something that the gators no longer have the luxury of, so i’m pretty sure that on talent level alone the switch to a pro-style offense will help the current roster.

    that being said, where i think that the gators will shine this year is on defense, with the really strong recent recruiting classes on that side of the ball. muschamp works wonders with elite defensive talent and i wouldn’t be surprised if they still challenge for the SEC this year.

  • Goob


  • Kevin

    Did you actually watch this excerpt and hear his tone? You can’t describe someone as irascible and condescending because of this small sample.

    People are always going to have that opinion of him no matter what, but he really wasn’t that bad at ND.

  • westcoastirishfan

    CW’s problems at ND were many.
    1) he wasn’t a HC, he was a coordinator with a HC title. He should be more successful at Florida as noted above.
    2) he never really respected or understood that one guy in college could make or break a game and even a season. His high water mark actually was the loss to USC in, I believe, 2005. The problem with that loss was that he never really respected the amazing college talent of Reggie Bush. Likewise, he had an amazingly gifted athlete in Golden Tate, and he rarely used him for more than a go pattern or a hitch. He used him in the backfield against Purdue when Clausen went down, and fans everywhere got to see the talent that was wasted. Tate at Florida would have been on par with Harvin and probably better because Tate still probably has the strongest hands I’ve ever seen.
    3) He’s not a teacher. He’s an x’s and o’s guy. I imagine CW can break down film with the greats, but similar to a CEO that can’t figure out how to execute his strategy, CW just didn’t know how to teach and define what he wanted and needed done.
    4) He never developed talent. Clausen wasn’t much better as a Junior than he was as a Sophomore. Quinn regressed his Senior year. He’ll put Brantley in a position to do well with the tools he has, but Gator fans will be bitching about the redundancy of the offense by the mid-point of the SEC.

  • Guest 2

    Put money on it.

  • J. Ericson

    The unbalanced line does not create an extra gap; it merely shifts a gap. For example, take a look at the photo that was used to demonstrate it. There are still eight gaps created by five interior linemen and two tight ends. It’s just that only one of the interior guys aligned to the center’s left while three of them aligned to the center’s right, which differs from the two-by-two status quot.

  • Anonymous


  • Nice post, I love your blog, keep up the good work!

  • Guest

    That is what what I was thinking ericson. I don’t really understand how this creates an and vantage numbers or gap wise. I though the point of an unbalance line was to create mismatch issues with two tackles on the end instead of a tackle/TightEnd.

  • CoachH

    Some of the reasons CW was not successful at ND is that he is not personable and he is a poor recruiter. I believe one of the main reasons he had such a successful year in KC is that Todd Haley had already installed the same offense and the Chiefs essentially had 2 OC’s working together on the staff. I read somewhere that Haley and Weis went back to some of the things that worked when they were both on the Jets staff many moons ago. I believe they both knew how to work with each other and devised a plan before the season started of how they wanted to approach the 2010 NFL season. I think having the offensive staff on the same page and knowing the offense quite well led to the improved success the Chiefs had in 2010.

  • I never quite understood what Coach Weis does to his students, that my shortly become very good at the game, even though they weren’t in the last months…It’s a total mastery.

  • BlueChipFans

    If they go with an unbalanced line do you think Jeff Demps can have a similar impact on offense that Jamal Charles had, or do you think they will need to find a more traditional running back??

  • Major

    I don’t agree with either of your “reasons”. If you’ve seen Weis’s pressers from Florida, he’s been extremely personable, if not outright funny. His recruiting on offense was never lacking. (defense is another story) Now that he’s only responsible for O, he’s in the best position to succeed and there’s really no reason to think he won’t. Certainly, the offense can’t be any worse than what Florida had last year. Weis’s big problem is who will play on the line for him. Not much there for the Gators.

  • Mr.Murder

    You correctly plotted and graphed the demise of Weis football at Notre Dame when noting the lack of depth and experience at tight end for that team. He used multiple tight ends for leverage and the extra end is cruical to extending an edge off the back side of an unbalanced.

  • BL327

    In response to:

    “He’s not a teacher.” Then how do you explain the emergence of Brady Quinn in the first place? Quinn was never particularly heralded, and suddenly he’s a Heisman candidate. How’d that happen if Weis isn’t a good teacher? And that’s not even his biggest success story. Tom Brady is another example of a seemingly ‘out of nowhere’ QB prospect that had a career turnaround under Weis. Cassel is essentially yet another. 

    Not to mention, if he “can’t execute his strategy” then why was ND top in major statistical offense categories when Quinn and Clausen were Upperclassmen? 

    Weis failed because he never developed a good D, and he PO’d alot of people in the media.

  • Paulwilliamiii

    I’ve talked to players who have said that the difference that the biggest difference between Weis and Kelly (these are ND players) is that Weis was like a boss, Kelly more like a teacher or parent. These players also said to a man that if you weren’t good/good at a particular thing Weis would leave you out and pretty much tell you to check back in with the offense/team when you had gotten good. It’s little wonder he failed to develop players. And yes, he did fail to develop players. There are many more players on a team than just the starting QB.

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