Charlie Weis hasn't even been gone a year, and now he's back as the new head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. That's supposed to be great news for the down-in-the-dumps KU football program, right? Then someone please help me understand why the social media conversations since Weis' announcement was revealed Thursday speak as much about regret as anything resembling revelry.
In a two-year period, Weis has gone from being dismissed as the coach at Notre Dame, once deemed one of the elite coaching jobs in college football, to being the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs to stepping down from that post to take over the same role back in the college ranks with the Florida Gators.
You'd think at 55 years of age and with three Super Bowl rings he won as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots of the NFL he would have found himself by now, but apparently not.
Weis is being formally announced today as the new Jayhawks' head coach, but word hit the news wires and blogosphere like a flash flood Thursday afternoon. Details of his contract were not disclosed, but you can bet he won't come cheap. Kansas is already out $6 million owed to former head coach Turner Gill, who had three years remaining on his five-year contract.
Here are two examples of some of fan comments that have appeared on social media sites over the last 24 hours:
"Weis is an offensive coach. Kansas' biggest failing right now is on defense. How does this surprising hire make things better on Mt. Oread?"
"Not a good hire. He (Weis) failed at ND despite having great recruiting classes...so what do ya think he's gonna do at KU playing a Big 12 round-robin schedule?"
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger is playing up Weis' hiring as the big-name coach with great credentials that KU needs to get the staggering football program back on the rails and put fans back in the stands and regain the faith and support of boosters and alums. "What Charlie Weis brings to Kansas is someone who is regarded as one of the brightest X's and O's minds in the country and a national profile that we've not had at this institution in football before," Zenger told J. Brady McCullough, who covers Kansas sports for The Kansas City Star.
Speaking of big names, especially high-profile hires with highly mobile backgrounds, the Kansas football program may not have been down this road before, but the basketball program certainly has. Does the name Larry Brown remind you of anything strikingly similar here. Brown, of course, coached the Kansas basketball team for five years, winning the national championship his final season in Lawrence in 1988. Brown stayed at Kansas longer than he did in most of his coaching stops, but he has probably the sport's longest list of teams he has coached (in college and in the pros) than any other man or woman, dead or alive.
But this missive is not about Brown. It's about the hiring of Weis and why you have to question the wisdom of the KU officials for thinking this will be the answer to all of Kansas' football woes. Just look at Weiss' coaching record in the college ranks. He left his cushy NFL job in New England under the wing of Bill Belichick in 2005 to return to his alma mater, Notre Dame, under very different yet frighteningly similar circumstances.
In Weis' five years in South Bend, he recruited reasonably well and his teams did well his first two years (9-3 in 2005 and 10-3 in 2006). But in his third year, things started to head south. In 2007, the Fighting Irish went 3-9, almost unheard of in the long, proud history of Notre Dame football. Weis was fired after a 6-6 season in 2009. His teams went 35-27 in his five years at Notre Dame.
Weis didn't stay unemployed long, heading to Kansas City to be the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs. Weis' presence was realized immediately as the Chiefs went from 4-12 to 10-6 in the one year he was there working with the offense and, in particular, with quarterback Matt Cassel, who Weis had helped groom as Tom Brady's backup in New England.
Amid reported personality conflicts with Chiefs' head coach Todd Haley, himself a former offensive coach, Weis announced the year after joining the Chiefs that he was going to the University of Florida, not as the head coach but as offensive coordinator. At the time, the new Kansas head coach said he was making the move primarily to be closer to his family (his son, Charlie Jr., was going to be a freshman at Florida). The Gators' offense under Weis was one of the worst in the country, ranked 102nd in the FBS. Six times in Florida's final eight games this season the Gators were held to 20 or fewer points.
To sum up, Weis has had four different jobs in the last four years. Not a very impressive record for someone Zenger and his colleagues at Kansas are counting on as more than a short-term solution. Weis is a large man (something KU has a recent history of in its head coaches, going several years back with Mark Mangino), which has caused him some health problems. Because of knee problems, he spent a good part of his one season with the Chiefs getting around in a motorized cart.
Weis has something else in common with former Jayhawk coach Mangino, who was run out of town for being too hard on players. Both are old-school, no-nonsense coaching types who believe strongly in hard work and discipline and won't settle for anything less than the best effort from their players.
Sounds to me like Weis isn't the only one who doesn't seem to know what he wants.
Could it be that coming together like this will prove to be exactly what both Kansas and its new football coach need...something on the order of the resulting whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
How does that adage go: If at first you don't succeed...try, try again? Hard to determine if that better applies to KU or Weis. Both parties are obviously looking for redemption. The question is: what form will that take, and will it be enough?