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Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Strange days for Charlie Weis

By Gene Wojciechowski

Believe it or not, there is a code among coaches. And two of the commandments carved in stone are: Thou Shalt Not Publicly Covet Another Coach's Job, and Thou Shalt Not Go Public With Personal Coaching Gossip.

Charlie Weis and at least one Weis confidant recently took a jackhammer to the code. They did so clumsily and perhaps even unintentionally. That's one version.

Charlie Weis
Is it classic foot-in-mouth disease, or is there method to Charlie Weis' madness of late?

Or -- and this is my guess -- Weis' actions were premeditated. Given Weis' attention to detail and his history of trying to dictate and control, it's difficult to imagine that the two coaching commandments were broken by accident.

Whatever happened, it is bizarre, revealing behavior from a guy who wants to return to coaching. And with each verbal misstep from Weis, Notre Dame must be feeling better and better about its decision to fire him after his five-year reign there.

It was petty enough that Weis chose to duck out a side entrance and stiff the media after what would become the final game of his Irish career -- the Nov. 28 loss at Stanford. You don't want to talk? Fine. We'll live. Just remember that you didn't skip any postgame news conferences after wins, OK?

And when Weis chose not to address the reporters after his dismissal became official, you figured he simply wanted to collect his multimillion-dollar settlement check from Notre Dame and fade gracefully away. Understandable.

Except that Weis couldn't help himself. He later invited five hand-picked media members to join him at the Eck Rec Center of Hannah and Friends Neighborhood, which was founded by Weis and his wife Maura to help and house those with developmental disabilities.

During the on-the-record session, Weis took shots at the media (fair enough) and at those whose personal criticisms affected his family. When asked about the public perception of USC coach Pete Carroll relative to the public perception of Weis, Weis said:

"Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it [OK] for one guy to do things like that, but for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear [a '60 Minutes' piece once featured him swearing]. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins."

Hello, mushroom cloud.

Jay Cutler/Ron Turner
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner might have a reason to look over his shoulder, especially if Jay Cutler and the Bears struggle the rest of the way.

Weis would later tell the Los Angeles Times in a voice message that he was having a "totally subjective" conversation (whatever that means) and wasn't taking a shot at Carroll, but was instead commenting on the destructive powers of Internet rumors. He also said the comments were taken out of context.

Really? Eight full sentences spoken specifically about a rival coach, including a specific reference to a relationship with a grad student, were misunderstood?

A flabbergasted Carroll called Weis' comments "untrue" and "irresponsible."

Weis apologized. Carroll said the matter was closed, but not before making the observation that counts. Said Carroll to the Times: "It was most ironic that the topic he was addressing was things on the Internet and how they cause problems for people. And that's exactly what he did."

Even if the session were off the record -- which it wasn't -- why would Weis go there? What purpose would it serve other than to disparage and embarrass another coach?

Then came a Chicago Sun-Times story, quoting a source "who speaks with Weis daily," that said Weis had interest in the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator job, should Ron Turner be fired at season's end.

Vulture alert.

I don't blame Weis for being interested. There are compelling personal and professional reasons why the Bears position would be appealing to him. And say what you want about Weis, but he is an accomplished offensive coordinator and developer of quarterbacks.

But Turner still has the job. That might change Jan. 4, the day after the Bears' final regular season game; but until then, it would have been nice if Weis' supporter had kept his or her mouth shut.

My favorite paragraph of the story: "Weis would never break protocol and contact the Bears while Turner is still employed by the team, according to the source, but would be open to discussing the possibility if the Bears contacted him."

Charlie Weis
Weis showed up when Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate went pro on Monday, but he had nothing to say about his interest in his own NFL job.

That's nice. Except that someone who speaks with him daily did exactly that -- broke protocol and floated his name for a job opening that doesn't yet exist. Now we all have to decide whether Weis tacitly approved of the name-floating, or whether he was outraged over the report.

Weis has no intention of returning to college football, so he doesn't have to worry about a payback beatdown by USC and Carroll. It's just as well; Weis and Notre Dame were never a comfortable fit. Then again, I don't think Weis and the college game (and all that it entails) were meant for each other.

No, Weis is better suited for the mercenary world of the NFL. It is a zero-sum league, and Weis is a zero-sum coach. He won't have any difficulty finding a job because he's a gifted offensive coordinator and because it is a league without a conscience. Wins and losses are all that matter.

Weis' likely final public appearance at Notre Dame was Monday, when he sat between quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate as the two Irish players announced their decisions to skip their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. Weis didn't take any questions.

Given the events of the last week, it's just as well.

Gene Wojciechowski is a columnist for