Current Kansas University head coach Charlie Weis' reputation as an offensive mastermind is built primarily on one very large base -- the development and advancement of Tom Brady as a professional quarterback. As the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2000 through 2004, and a longstanding member of the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick coaching tree, Weis was the one who inherited Brady after Drew Bledsoe's injury in the 2001 season changed the entire NFL landscape in a major way.
Weis has improved many NFL offenses through his time in the league -- from the New York Giants of the early 1990s, to the Patriots of the mid-1990s (under Parcells), the Pats again under Belichick, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after he was named their head coach in 2005, and the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs.
That's all well and good, but as we have seen from the likes of Gregg Williams, gaining a huge rep as a genius on one side of the ball can lead to a bit of unnecessary hubris. This seemed to be the case recently, when Weis told the Kansas City Star that quarterback Brady Quinn, who played for Weis at Notre Dame in 2005 and 2006, might have been the second guy with a Brady in his name to benefit from his tutelage had the two ever hooked up in the pros.
"Brady could have been a starting quarterback for me in the NFL," Weis told Rustin Dodd. "Go back and look at those numbers for the two years he played for me," Weis said. "He was great. He wasn't good. And I know if I had him as a quarterback, I would have felt very comfortable that I could have won no matter where we were."
Quinn, who now plays for the Chiefs in a backup role, has been one of the least impressive first-round quarterbacks in NFL history. Selected 22nd overall in the 2007 draft by the Cleveland Browns, Quinn has put together an entire career that your average NFL starting quarterback would consider to be a pretty disappointing half-season -- 184 completions, 1,902 yards, 10 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 353 attempts. Quinn hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since December 20, 2009, and these days, he's more well-known for sniping with Tim Tebow than anything else.
But Weis believes that under him, things would have been different. I have two words for Charlie Weis: Jimmy Clausen. Like Quinn, Clausen played for Weis at Notre Dame in a pass-heavy offense that allowed the quarterback to look better on the stat sheets than the actual game tape would imply. Like Quinn, Clausen put up gaudy numbers for Weis in a two-year span (2008 and 2009). And like Quinn, Clausen has proven to be perfectly ill-suited to overcome the speed, complexity, and violence of NFL defenses.
The Carolina Panthers selected Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft, and Clausen was horrible in a historical sense. He completed 157 of 299 passes (a 52.5 completion rate) for 1,558 yards (an absolutely preposterous 5.2 yards per attempt), nine interceptions, and just three touchdowns. He was sacked 33 times, and his yards lost per sack (4.0) was almost as low as his yards per attempt was high. The Panthers couldn't wait to paint over Clausen in 2011, taking Cam Newton with the first overall pick and engineering one of the greatest single-season offensive improvements we will ever see. Like Quinn, Clausen wasn't just league-average -- he was below league-average after the concept of league-average went on a weekend bender and fell down an elevator shaft.
Charlie Weis might be right in thinking that he could have made Brady Quinn a success. But it's just as possible (in fact, likely more possible) that he's become more of a Bobby Petrino type (we mean in the on-field sense only), or one of many spread-offense coaches who are able to engineer hyper-productive offenses that benefit quarterbacks to an overinflated degree. And to the concept of "overinflated," we might encourage Mr. Weis to exude a bit less hot air. Tom Brady was a miracle for a lot of people, and a lot of people built their reputations on his development. Far more often, you are stuck with a Brady Quinn or Jimmy Clausen, and you have to realize that in an NFL sense, it's time to go back to the drawing board.