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…