Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Charlie Weis: Meanest Coach in the Universe | by Pete

If you haven’t heard yet, Charlie Weis is completely absurd. I mean, there are pundits out there trying to feed their kids, and Weis keeps lording the Holy Grail of secrets -- the name of Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback -- over their hard-working heads. Let’s hear what a few college football experts have to say about Weis being just a complete jerk about this whole starting quarterback thing.

There’s Matt Hayes stewing in The Sporting News:

[T]his secrecy over naming his starting quarterback is ridiculous. Weis says he knows who his starter is. Doesn't know if the player knows, or if the rest of the team knows. He says they should know, because, well, if they don't, they aren't that bright. Got it?
And then there's the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey, who points out that not only is Weis being overprotective, but he's got the gall to take pride in his (many) Super Bowl rings:
If I find out who Notre Dame's starting quarterback is going to be, I promise to tell you. It's going to be difficult, though, because the answer, along with the missile-silo codes, is locked in a briefcase chained to Charlie Weis' wrist.

I don't mind saying I'm scared to death of getting my hands on such sensitive information. Why, with this kind of knowledge, someone could ... someone might be able to ... someone very well might ... actually I'm not sure what someone could do with it.

Diabolical things, and let's leave it at that. Weis says that the identity of his starting quarterback is on a need-to-know basis and that we don't need to know. This probably is a good thing. We couldn't bear the terrible weight of all that inside information...

...The Notre Dame coach could be dangerous in this situation. He looks like the kind of guy who knows how to kill you three different ways with one finger, which, if he hasn't already mentioned it, features a Super Bowl ring.
Let's head back to The Sporting News to hear from Steve Greenberg, who wrote the following after crying all night into his pillow:
You've got to hand it to Charlie Weis. He has managed to take annoying to a whole new level. The man who stifles more talk in his house than Archie Bunker finally announced that he has settled on a starting quarterback -- only he didn't tell the media who that quarterback is. Nor did he tell his Notre Dame team. Nor did he tell -- get this -- the new starting quarterback.

Weis is so paranoid about controlling information that he has ratcheted the muzzle tighter than ever around the faces of his players and coaches. Gee, it must be heaps of fun to be a part of that program. I know I would want to play for a guy who respected me so much he didn't trust me to speak in public without hurting the team and/or making a jackass of myself. Thanks, Coach!
Even Sports Illustrated's own Stewart Mandel thinks this is all a bit much:
By now, you’ve probably heard a few hundred times how Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is "arrogant." Not just from judgmental sports columnists like me, mind you, but from actual Irish players ("He seemed a little arrogant," former defensive end Justin Tuck said following Weis’ first team meeting [Ed. Note: Weis never coached Tuck as he left for the NFL before Weis's first year]) and opposing coaches (“Weis is arrogant as hell," one such coach told The Sporting News last year [Ed. Note: This has widely been reported to be Purdue's Joe Tiller. Take that for what it's worth]).

But arrogance can take on many different forms, and over the course of this offseason, in managing to turn a seemingly mundane quarterback decision into a matter of national security, Weis has shown his true colors.

From the first day of training camp, Weis made it abundantly clear that none of us peons would be privy to the identity of his new starting quarterback - either junior Evan Sharpley, redshirt freshman Demetrius Jones or true freshman Jimmy Clausen -- prior to the first snap of Saturday’s opener against Georgia Tech. Weis’ reasoning? "I'm not really in the business of passing out free information [to the Irish’s opponent]." That’s interesting, considering numerous other coaches who seem to know what they’re doing -- Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Nebraska’s Bill Callahan -- apparently did not see the same harm in publicly announcing similar decisions over the past week.
The college football experts would have you believe that Charlie Weis is being completely paranoid and aloof by refusing to tell them who his starting quarterback is. I mean, Stoops is doing it, Bowden is doing it, Callahan is doing it, everybody but Weis is doing it! (Of course, a few of those teams aren't as concerned with advantages against mighty North Texas and Nevada, and Florida State is breaking in a new offensive coordinator against Clemson so there's no real tape to study. Meanwhile, there are other teams out there, like Cincinnati, who haven't made up their minds on a signal-caller yet, either. But I digress.)

The key thing to note here is that the experts are talking out of both sides of their mouth. In one breath, they talk about how ridiculous it is that Weis would protect a dumb, insignificant thing like who the starter is. Such a mundane piece of information. And in their second breath, they lambast Weis for depriving them of that piece of "pointless" information that they are rightfully due as journalists! Is it insignificant and unimportant, or is it absolutely crucial? It can't be both.

Of course the columnists are ultimately just concerned about the poor kids toiling away in the shadows of Weis's totalitarian coachtatorship.

Hayes says it's keeping the team uptight:
I'm not exactly sure what kind of mind game he's playing, but whom does this benefit? Name the guy and move on. The team will rally around him, and the public nature of the event will galvanize the team -- instead of keeping everyone uptight about not "saying anything" to the media, their friends, their parents, the janitor at the dorm.
And Greenberg says that if it's uncomfortable for the reporters, it's got to be bad for the team as well:
Weis made this quarterback battle what it was: weird and uncomfortable for everyone not on the inside of the Irish program. And if it was weird and uncomfortable for us, there's a pretty good chance it was the same for Jones and Clausen.
Won't Weis think of the children?

But if you think about it, isn't it obvious that Weis is doing this precisely for that reason? I just showed you snippets of several stories written just in the last week calling Weis arrogant, annoying, and paranoid. If a starter had been announced weeks ago, you want to know how many stories would have been written about the pressure cooker Notre Dame's new starting quarterback would be facing under the national spotlight? How many stories that would simultaneously laud this bright newcomer, while reminding readers of the high probability that he could not live up to any Beano-esque proclamations? The ink spilled about "the ridiculous expecations at Notre Dame" and "how big Brady Quinn's shoes are" would have filled an oil tanker. With this strategy, Charlie deftly pulled that pressure off of his young signal callers and redirected it towards himself.

When Weis took this job, he said he would always protect his players. If the team played poorly or lost, he would take responsibility and not throw his team under the bus. In his losses, Weis has kept to his word, and his handling of the quarterbacks is simply another manifestation of that protection.

Sure, there is a slight tactical advantage to be gained from keeping the starting QB mum until the first huddle, but it's hard to believe that Weis thinks he stands that much to gain by keeping Tenuta in the dark for the first series or so. He knows he's facing a great defensive coordinator, and while Georgia Tech may have had to spend a bit more time prepping for varied QBs, Weis knows he's not going to bumfuzzle Tenuta too much with this subterfuge.

No, the most important aspect of Weis's quarterback policy has been allowing the team and especially the quarterbacks to focus on football, and ignore the media circus surrounding them. Weis is more than happy to play crash test dummy for a while. Whoever the starter is can rest for now knowing that the eyes trained on him are also splitting time on two other guys as well.

Charlie Weis has faced more scorn from the outside world in his brief tenure at Notre Dame than most coaches ever will. But here's the important thing to remember about his attitude regarding that scorn: he could not care less. He came into this program flashing his Super Bowl rings and talking up his X's and O's, and that confidence has permeated through the team. At the same time, Weis is more than willing to take a few shots from the media if it means making it easier for the new quarterback to get ready for Saturday's game. He's not here to make friends with the reporters, he's here to win football games.

Every time a pundit calls Weis "arrogant," that's one less pundit unnecessarily hyping Jimmy, questioning Demetrius, or criticizing Sharpley. What an absolute jerk, insulating his players from the relentless heat of the national spotlight.

And if you believe him, Weis is looking forward to this Saturday just so he can be done with all this stuff. From his most recent press conference:
I'm just like you, I'm going to be glad to get to the game and get this stuff over with, you know, because I don't like this either, just so you know. I'd rather have this over with. Let's get to the game, get playing.

Now we can just move on with the season and I'm not causing a distraction outside. Now, the team's not distracted by it because everyone knows what the deal is. The only one that's distracted is everyone else. I can't wait to get through Saturday, hopefully with a very positive outcome, and we can go from there.
He may not like being a distraction, but he's willing to serve as a necessary one. And he knows that no matter how much wailing and gnashing of teeth is had in the media world over the quarterback situation, all is calm behind the Weis Wall of Media Protection. It's what he's there for.

(Oh, but don't think for a second that Coach Weis is getting soft on his players. From yesterday's presser, there was this question:

Q. Are you confident, though, that these players might surprise naysayers?

COACH WEIS: Well, they better.)

But hey, Bad, Bad Charlie Weis isn't going to break these columnists' stride, no sir. They don't need him to spoon feed them the information, they still remember how to turn over a few stones from their cub reporter days.

Now, all that said, I've got a feeling the starter will be Jones.
You didn't hear this from me, but Jones is said to be taking most of the snaps in practice.
Anyway, the Irish's new starting quarterback is -- sophomore Demetrius Jones. At least, that's my guess after reading what those who cover Weis on a daily basis are saying.
And Mandel:
That said, it’s fairly obvious at this point that Sharpley, the most experienced of the bunch, will start on Saturday.
See? Suck on that, Coach Weis! We found out anyway!

(Kudos go out to commenter Fitzwater for introducing this point of view to begin with. He nailed it, in my opinion.)