December 08, 2011
Two years ago, Kansas fired an offensively oriented coach remembered mainly for his vulgarity and his heft. After two seasons of clean living and hard losing under Turner Gill, the Jayhawks are taking their chances on another surly dreadnought: Charlie Weis, come on down. You're the new head coach of the worst team in the Big 12.
As much as Gill represented a deliberate counterpoint to Mark Mangino after Mangino's sordid exit in 2009, Weis' arrival sends the pendulum back in the opposite direction. Like Mangino, Weis arrives with a considerable rep as an offensive passing guru with a tendency toward the morose and condescending. Like Mangino's tenure at Kansas, Weis' tenure at Notre Dame peaked with an unlikely, acclaimed run to a BCS bowl, and ended in bitter disappointment.
And like Mangino, there is considerable evidence despite the sour ending at his last gig that Weis can be a pretty decent coach, under the right circumstances.
For one thing, there are the Super Bowl rings — which he will be happy to show you, by the way — four of them, earned in 15 years as an assistant with the New York Giants and New England Patriots. He helped develop Tom Brady as a young pro (did he tell you he knows Tom Brady?), helped Brady Quinn set a mountain of Notre Dame passing records en route to becoming a first-round draft pick and molded his star recruit to South Bend, Jimmy Clausen, from an overwhelmed freshman into a bona fide star who went in the second round. Weis never recovered from the mass exodus of 2006, leading to an attrition-ravaged, 3-9 flop with a lineup filled with freshmen in 2007, but if he replicates his record at Notre Dame — 35-27 over five years with two top-20 finishes — at Kansas, he'll go into the neglected breakfast nook that is the Jayhawk Football Hall of Fame.
The actual circumstances he inherits at Kansas? Under Gill's watch, the Jayhawks were 1-16 in Big 12 games, the one win coming in an incredible fourth quarter comeback against Colorado last November. (Colorado coach Dan Hawkins was shown the door two days later.) Following a 2-0 start, they closed 2011 on a 10-game losing streak, six of those losses coming by at least 30 points.
For the second year in a row, Kansas ranked last or next-to-last in the Big 12 in rushing offense, rushing defense, passing offense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense, total offense, scoring offense, scoring defense, third down offense, third down defense, sacks and sacks allowed. The 2011 edition also finished last in the conference in total defense. In fact, the KU defense allowed more yards and more points per game this season than any defense in the nation.
Weis' offensive cred isn't looking so hot these days, either, after overseeing the nation's 102nd-ranked total offense in his only season as offensive coordinator at Florida — the Gators' worst season in 25 years, offensively or otherwise. (Florida fans have already issued a few carefully considered thoughts on Weis' stewardship.) At least he knows he's going to have time: Gill was fired after two years of obvious, sustained regression, but after those two years, there's literally nowhere to regress to. The Jayhawks are terrible. If Weis can make them slightly less terrible, Kansas fans might want to get used to this mug: It's going to be the face of the program for a while.