Monday, February 07, 2005

It's not bragging if you can back it up | by Mike

At the press conference announcing Notre Dame's latest recruiting class, the abundance of five-star recruits that characterized the Vinny Cerrato days may have been missing. One thing that wasn't missing, however, was confidence from the head coach. Weis told reporters:

"Now let them try to stop a pro-style offense. Let's see how they're going to do. They've had their advantage, because I came into recruiting late. But now it's X's and O's time. Let's see who has the advantage now."
In front of the year's largest television audience, Weis gave further evidence of who will have that advantage this fall. Weis solved the complex, blitzing defense of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. And Brock Spack is no Jim Johnson. (Don't feel bad if you had to click on the link to know who the hell Brock Spack is.)

This morning's newspapers have been filled with stories extolling Weis's brilliance. Hank Gola of the New York Daily News begins:
Think Patriots X's and O's and you usually think defense. But it was departing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis who was the Grand Master of last night's chess game.

With Weis headed to take over Notre Dame, the Patriots will find it hard to replace him.
Gola then proceeds to break down the Patriots' offensive game plan, relying heavily on Weis's own explanations of what he sought to accomplish. For example:
"They had to go back and forth between nickel and dime and get them into personnel groupings that they'd rather not be in on first and second down," Weis said.
ESPN's cerebral John Clayton was similarly effusive in his praise. (Alright, I don't actually know if John Clayton is cerebral, but he sure looks cerebral.)
Though Eagles players made plays, Patriots coaches had better answers for what the Eagles were doing. What Charlie Weis did to a brilliant blitzing scheme by Johnson was masterful.

Starting from the fifth possession, the Eagles didn't know what to do because Weis got into Johnson's head. He hit back-to-back screen passes to Corey Dillon that worked for 28 yards. For the rest of the second half, Johnson occasionally substituted Reese for Trotter at middle linebacker, giving him better pass coverage. When he did that, Weis called runs by either Dillon or Kevin Faulk.
And then Clayton goes on to describe what Irish fans have been waiting eight long years to see:
Brady conferred with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis on the sideline.The final nail in the Eagles' coffin came at halftime. While Paul McCartney gave a long concert, Weis went to work on revising his game plans. Super Bowl halftimes are 25 minutes. Regular season halftimes go 12.

"The 25-minute halftime gave me the opportunity to script my plays for the start of the second half," Weis said. "With the 12-minute halftime, you don't have time to do that. Usually you come out in the regular season and start to think as you walk on the field, 'What plays am I going to start out with?' Here, I was able to script what we wanted to do."

The result was a 69-yard touchdown drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was playing tight end near the goal line.

The end result is that the Patriots outcoached the Eagles. That's the only thing you can say.
One game does not a great coach make. Even if the Patriots had lost this game, Weis would already have established himself as one of the game's best offensive minds. Weis's gameplans against Indy and Pittsburgh were no less notable, and he his track record of player development is quite impressive. (Perhaps his most impressive work was with the Jets - compare Testeverde's numbers under Weis to his career averages.) However, it's nice to see Charlie get the recognition he deserves from the national media.