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Diner morning news: Weis won't go jobless

Deposed Irish coach knows QBs but failed at recruiting. Michael Lombardi

Print This December 02, 2009, 10:30 AM EST

QUOTE: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” – Pericles, Greek politician, general and statesman, 495 B.C.-429 B.C.

Since his firing from Notre Dame, Charlie Weis has been a hot topic around NFL circles about where he might coach next season. During his time in the league, Weis had success as a play caller and an offensive coordinator, running the offenses in New York for the Jets and then in New England. Even as the head coach at Notre Dame, in spite of his inability to be successful, his offense was always productive and his quarterbacks played well. Coaching quarterbacks and running an offense are unique jobs, and few are able to do both well. This skill set is why Weis will be in demand at the end of the season.

Before we examine where Weis might coach in the NFL next year, let’s first examine why he failed at Notre Dame. I’m often asked why so many Bill Belichick disciples fail to find success when they become head coaches. Often, the reasons are twofold. The first failure lies in the fact that some coaches try to imitate Belichick in every sense. Herman Melville once said, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” Trying to copy Belichick down to his Patriots sweatshirt won’t work, and this has been proven. But the most fundamental mistake that Belichick disciples make is not in imitation but in evaluation. And this is where Weis lost his job at Notre Dame. He failed to understand that someone saying a player is a five-star recruit is meaningless, and unless he can judge the player accurately himself, those ratings are meaningless. Having the best recruiting class according to Tom Lemming or some other service is all perception, something Belichick never buys into, but clearly Weis did. He kept relying on the recruiting ratings instead of his own ratings, which proved to be a fatal mistake.

This was very clear to me when I went to the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game and watched the pregame warm-ups. (I love pregame warm-ups, not for the fanfare but to determine if the opposing team has a grading system for player procurement. When a team had a random selection of body types at the same position, this told me it did not have a grading system and just randomly picked players.) At the Pitt game, there was a very clear distinction between the two teams: Pitt looked big, physical and very athletic, while Notre Dame looked smallish, slower and not very impressive, despite of all the five-star players they supposedly had on the team. The reliance on a scouting service is what hurts most college and professional teams, and no matter what grade Tom Lemming may give a school after the recruiting process is over, unless the players can play to that level, the grade is insignificant.

Weis’ inability to identify the right players for his team and be a “team architect” was his downfall. His personality was abrasive and he become bigger than life in his own mind, but those are traits that can be tolerated if a coach is winning. They become intolerable when you can’t beat the Naval Academy or can barely beat San Diego State.

Now, with Weis gone, Notre Dame can move along. And the next coach it hires would be best advised not to care about Lemming ratings but be more concerned with his own evaluation.

As for Weis, he’ll be in demand, but not until the landscape of NFL coaching turnovers has been cleared. With his agent, Bob LaMonte, Weis will be in play at many places, and the fact Notre Dame is on the hook for the whole contract makes him very attractive. His deal at Notre Dame, in fact, might go down as the all-time worst contract in the history of coaching contracts. Kudos to LaMonte for negotiating a contract without offset language, thus allowing Weiss to double dip — which is never the case with NFL assistant coaches’ contracts. Weis is free to make a decision not based solely on money, allowing other factors to be considered.

For a team that has interest in Weis, the fact he was not successful at Notre Dame will not make him a head coaching candidate any time soon in any league, and he might just like being a coordinator in the NFL. Ambition often makes some head coaches reluctant to hire the best man for the job since they worry the coach might want to parlay the job into a better position. But Weis’ ambition, along with his quest for financial freedom, has been tone down based on his time at Notre Dame.

He’ll have ample opportunities based on some of the bad offenses in the NFL, but to accurately predict today where he will end up is difficult — but he’ll end up somewhere.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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