I was sitting in the Liberty Bowl when I received the text message from my cousin, Keith Richards (not his real name), informing me that Charlie Weis had been hired as the new offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators. I sent back a one-word reply: "Seriously?" I thought it was a joke; I thought the news was too good to be true.
Coach Weis’s return to the college ranks has met with rather mixed reactions from fans of the teams that are affected directly by the decision. Quite frankly, as a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, I could scarcely be more pleased by the hire.
Todd Grantham has just completed his first season as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and his 21st season of coaching. Coach Grantham has spent eleven of the last twelve years as a defensive line coach or defensive coordinator in the NFL. Charlie Weis has also just completed his 21st season of coaching, and all but five of those years were spent as an offensive assistant in the NFL, including nine years as the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Coach Grantham and Coach Weis have been on opposite sidelines in seven regular-season meetings between NFL teams. Those clashes produced these results:
|Date||CTG Team||Pts.||CCW Team||Pts.||W|
Obviously, the 2001 Indianapolis Colts (for whom Coach Grantham served as defensive line coach) struggled against the Patriots, although New England finished that regular season with an 11-5 record, won the AFC East, and defeated the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, so there’s not a lot of shame in those losses. Even allowing for those lopsided outcomes, though, there are a couple of facts worth noting:
- Coach Grantham’s teams are 3-4 in regular-season head-to-head meetings with Coach Weis’s teams. Yes, that’s still a losing record, but, after going three of 21 against the Gators since Coach Grantham and Coach Weis began their coaching careers, the Red and Black will take going three of seven in Jacksonville as a sign of significant progress.
- In five of seven regular-season meetings, Coach Grantham’s defenses held Coach Weis’s offenses to 24 or fewer points. Since the last four series meetings in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party have seen Florida score 30 or more points on Georgia each time, limiting Charlie Weis’s offense to no more than 24 points will be a step in the right direction.
There is no doubt that Charlie Weis is a good offensive coach. There is considerable doubt whether he is a good college coach, given his failure as the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. There is considerable doubt whether his offensive system, which is suited to cold climates like those found in New York, Massachusetts, and Missouri, is well suited to the Sunshine State Saurians. There is considerable doubt whether the student-athletes of the University of Florida are ready to run "zero flood slot hat 78 shout tosser" on the first play of a BCS National Championship Game.
What is most important, though, is the fact that there is considerable doubt whether the Gators made a wise choice by bringing in an NFL expatriate (and ex-Patriot) to set against a Georgia defensive coordinator whose biggest struggles have come against college offenses, such as those run by Paul Johnson, Gus Malzahn, and Urban Meyer, which are not seen at the next level. Charlie Weis’s offense is exactly the sort of attack Todd Grantham has spent eleven of the last dozen years preparing to stop. In the chess match between these two coordinators, Coach Weis will not have "a decided schematic advantage" over Coach Grantham.
Who’s afraid of the big bad Weis? I know I’m not.