When Charlie Weis was hired by Notre Dame in December 2004, he promised the Fighting Irish faithful, in one of those rah-rah moments not uncommon to the hiring honeymoon, they would enjoy a “decided schematic advantage” against all opponents.
You laugh now, you may have laughed in recent years, but people do easily forget he was viewed as a home run hire. And with reason.
Oh, he’d never coached in college, but the trend at the time was NFL coaches going to college campuses and Weis had a pedigree born under the watch of Bill Parcells and crafted by Bill Belichick.
The New England Patriots were sliced bread and Weis was the guy moving the knife. He was going to bring all of that to Notre Dame and restore the shine of the golden dome. The schematic stuff was simply his way of saying it.
Things gradually went downhill for Weis at Notre Dame and he was ousted after his fifth season, but the line about the schematic advantage followed him out the door to Kansas City and his job with the Chiefs and all the way to the University of Florida.
We hadn’t heard much of it this season because, after all, his Kansas Jayhawks are 1-10 in his first season and he just doesn’t have a lot to work with, especially in the passing game.
Out of the blue Monday, it reappeared on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference and from Dana Holgorsen, of all people, on the first day of the last week of the regular season that ends with Saturday’s home game against Weis and the Jayhawks.
“We’re going to be at a major schematic disadvantage going against their coaches,” he said.
We’re naive to think all these coaches like one another. I don’t think Holgorsen likes everyone and I wouldn’t think for a moment every coach likes him, but there were no warning signs here.
It seems unlikely Holgorsen, or any coach, for that matter, is hunting for cheap shots on coaches, especially ones in the conference and most especially ones that are 1-10. There are exceptions, but it’s rare and it’s rarely random.
Maybe this was nothing. Holgorsen would later add some nice words about the Kansas coaching staff and the challenges his coaching staff will encounter.
“Schematically we’re dealing with a group coaches that understand football better than anyone in the country,” he said — and now I really do wonder how genuine that was.
But, again, I don’t think Dana was out to get Weis. And nor do I think Weis was out to get Holgorsen, but he did precede Holgorsen on the teleconference and he seemed to simplify WVU’s offensive success.
One minute, he was talking about how dangerous and accomplished the Mountaineers are and he used the hot potato play as an example, first describing the design and execution and, for some reason, adding that it “counts as a completed pass, by the way.”
Indeed it does and it … oh, it goes toward Geno Smith’s passing stats and Tavon Austin’s receiving stats. I think I see the point there.
But coaches aren’t judged solely on stats and wins do matter and the Mountaineers had just beaten an Iowa State team that crushed Kansas 51-23 the week before.
How did WVU do it?
Austin’s 75-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter stood as the winning score and afterward Smith credited offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson for calling that hot potato play at the proper moment. ”That was just a great call by Shannon. He called it on the sideline before we went in. We’d set it up all game,” Smith said.
Weis saw the play on film and marveled at what Austin did to turn one of the offense’s staples into a decisive score.
“He just outruns everyone,” Weis said. “That’s not coaching now. I’m sure everyone would like to sit there and stand in line and take credit for that, but that’s just unusual talent, unusual speed. He’s a very, very dynamic player.”
Uh. This is getting a little uncomfortable. Can’t we just see a handshake on the field before the game? I mean, it is senior day for 22 players at WVU, and maybe a 23rd will play his last game. Even Holgorsen seemed to encourage staying above the fray when he invited fans to soak up Smith and Austin one last time at Mountaineer Field.
“Those two are two dynamic football players that I really don’t have to coach very much because they just make plays on their own,” Holgorsen said.
See, that wasn’t so had now was — ah, never mind.