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Clausen and Weis both back to school

Jan 25, 2011, 1:14 PM EDT

Clausen Weis

In many ways, Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weis had similar journeys through Notre Dame. Both came to South Bend talking a big game. Clausen — flashing some high school bling at the College Football Hall of Fame, while Weis buried himself with talk of “decided schematic advantages” and “6-6 isn’t good enough.” For Weis, his tenure at Notre Dame also started with two BCS seasons, fueling the belief that the way he was building his program was the right way, a sentiment that probably cost him his job just three seasons later. For Clausen, the start of his career was a rough one, but he survived a freshman year and built steadily to a statistically dominant junior season, his final season in South Bend before fulfilling his destiny of becoming an NFL quarterback.

That Weis and Clausen both spent 2010 in the NFL isn’t a surprise. That they both open 2011 back in college is the real head-scratcher. For Jimmy, the move is temporary — the impending NFL work stoppage gives him a chance to get the 15 credits needed to graduate with a sociology degree. But for Weis, it was a shocking about-face leaving a Kansas City Chiefs offense that he turned into a playoff team to join Will Muschamp’s Florida coaching staff, a school that counted as one of Weis’ chief rivals, even though they never faced each other on the gridiron. Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune caught up with Clausen and a handful of Irish alums now playing in the NFL to discuss both moves back to school.

“Whatever I learn in this class probably won’t come close to what I learned from coach Weis,” Clausen said. “As soon as I got to South Bend, he just really helped me in many different ways, not just in football but off the field, mentally and psychologically, and everything like that.”

Clausen isn’t the only former player that has kind things to say about the former head coach.

“He had so much knowledge of football,” said Denver Broncos fourth-year offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who played his final two collegiate seasons at ND under Weis. “I just gleaned everything I could, and I think all the other players did too. I think that’s why so many of us are in the NFL. He did a good job of putting position coaches together, too. There’s so much thought that goes into everything he does. It’s a contagious thing.”

Another huge supporter? Former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, who hits on a key evolutionary change that Weis will likely experience on his second tour of duty in major college football.

“I thought he was a great coach when I played for him, and I think he’s even better now,” said Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brady Quinn, who made a Heisman Trophy run under Weis at ND in 2006.

“I feel like he learned a lot in college, evolved as a coach. He realized that a 23-year-old NFL rookie is not the same animal as an 18-, 19-year-old freshman. That might be the biggest thing. I think he’ll be better at developing younger players now.”

The entire article really deserves reading, and also includes great quotes from Seahawks tight end John Carlson and Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlic, not to mentioned a wonderful tidbit about Weis visiting Tyrone Willingham’s 2004 Irish squad when he was still the Patriots’ offensive coordinator and the verbal undressing he gave to the Irish team during winter workouts.

I’ve probably been one of the more outspoken supporters of Charlie Weis, but it’s clear that the way he handled the Irish wasn’t the way to consistently field a winning team. Whether it was the early success Weis had with a veteran roster, he was never able to duplicate that with his own recruits, largely due to the lack of development time that trial-by-fire group in 2007 had.

And while neither Clausen nor Weis delivered what they hoped to in South Bend, the book is far from closed on either of their careers. Clausen is too accurate of a passer to be the quarterback he was during his rookie season and Weis far to innovative offensively to be anything but great for Muschamp’s Gator staff. I guess only time will tell, but Hansen did a great job taking us down recent memory lane…


  1. scardino - Jan 25, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    It seems to me that Clausen could develop into a good quarterback if he received the right training. I’m not saying he will necessarily be the next Joe Montana and I could be wrong but he does show sparks of potential. I doubt he will receive much attention after the draft, though.

    Charlie Weiss is an excellent offensive mind. However, managing the 4-year-ish cycle of players at the college level was far outside of his experience and expertise.

  2. irishfanforlife - Jan 25, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    Great stories (South Bend Tribute and here). Lots of negative comments on the other page about how bad of a coach Charlie Weiss was. Charlie Weiss was an EXCELLENT coach the problem he had was finding a defensive coordinator who could stop teams from scoring. I might be mistaken but Charlie’s last year as a coach the Irish averaged over 35 points per game and only won SIX games! That does fall on the head coach but to say he didn’t develop talent is wrong. He’s defensive coordinators didn’t develop talent and they didn’t recruit hard enough of the defensive side of the ball.

    Charlie is a great offensive minded coach, but as a head coach he needs a defensive coordinator who can recruit athletes on defense, and keep their opponents scores below 25, because his offense will score points.

    On a different note, Weiss is a fantastic man, dedicated to his family, faith, and football.

    I’m happy to see Florida isn’t on our schedule in the next few years.


    • borromini - Jan 25, 2011 at 7:28 PM

      I disagree with the extent of what Charlie was good at and what were his responsibilities. I would find it much clearer to state that, in college, Charlie was an excellent offensive coordinator when the skill-position players were mature. In the NFL, he’s an excellent OC period since development and maturity is less of an issue.

      But this is very different than stating Charlie was an EXCELLENT coach. That’s too broad of a compliment and the fact was that Charlie was not a good head coach. To blame the DC or say there were things lacking on the D side of the ball is not a partial blame on the HC. It is entirely the fault of the HC when the staff he assembles doesn’t gel. Charlie had 5 years to get that staff together and the fact that we had 3 different DCs in that short of a time period clearly indicates that as a HC, Charlie couldn’t get the job done. The same holds true for player development.

      How Kelly’s staff came together by the end of the 1st season is indicative of what a 20-year HC experience brings to the table.

      • kidmarc - Jan 30, 2011 at 6:37 PM

        I would say this is a bit skewed. Charlie stated early on the difficulty developing in college versus the Pro’s: time constraints.

        Yes it is difficult to put a staff together from scratch; similar to putting a [music] band together from scratch. It doesn’t always work well in the early years. Contrast that with BK bringing his “band”, already in place and years of experience together forged, with him and getting credit for what 19 years of HC does for you. [20th year is ND.]


  3. psisigma - Jan 26, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    First, whenever I hear “love” or “hate”; ” great” or “terrible” I am very suspicious that the truth lies somewhere in between. So I do not think Charlie was a great coach nor a terrible one. Second, it is the coach’s responsibility to make sure he surrounds himself with the proper staff. Four defensive coordinators speaks for itself. The ultimate responsibility lies with Charlie for not getting a good DC. Charlie spent too much time with the offense and in particular with the QB. It was reflected in his record the last three season’s. Championships are won by defenses- period! Finally, I was always a supporter of coach Weis. However I spoke with too many people who had negative stories about Charlie. These people were good people who did not have any axes to grind. I think that perhaps Charlie could present different faces depending on the circumstances. When you are in a high profile job like the HC at ND you need to present a great face at all times.

  4. kidmarc - Jan 30, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    I would call it the *Luck of the Irish* more so than “the real head-scratcher”. Two to three years in the Pro’s before an opportunity at a college opened would have been the general comments made regarding Weis, but this… ?

    People will continue to have their crosses with Weis [and some of his players], but I have to point to Carlson’s comment at the end of the article… “Here’s how I look at it,” Carlson said. “My coach with Seattle is (former USC coach) Pete Carroll. And one of our coaches here, Dan Quinn, just left to go to Florida to coach with Charlie as the defensive coordinator there.

    “So I think in the world of coaching, nothing is a complete shock, because coaches are constantly on the move. But I’ll tell you this, if Charlie Weis is back in college for good, you better watch out for Florida.”

    At this point, I have to give it to Florida as to who would fare better in the coming several years.


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