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Kansas may have hired Charlie Weis as its football coach Thursday, but the truth is the Jayhawks are hoping they hired the college version of one of Weis's closest friends. Bill Belichick washed out in his first run as an NFL head coach with Cleveland. He has won three Super Bowls at New England.
No one in Lawrence is thinking about BCS titles. But they are thinking that the Round Mound of Touchdown, let go by Notre Dame two years ago, will remake the Jayhawks into a relevant member of the Big 12 again. If Weis goes 35-27 over five seasons at Kansas, which is what he did at his alma mater from 2005-09, he won't get fired. He will get a new contract and a bronze statue.
|Charlie Weis' fast start at Notre Dame ended after three disappointing years.|
The bar is lower at Kansas than at Notre Dame. Basketball is to the Jayhawks what football is to the Fighting Irish. That may come as a shock to Weis, who has a healthy ego. Let's just say that the coaches of the two biggest sports at Kansas now are Bill Self and Charlie Self-Regard.
That is, of course, the charm of Weis, who made everyone in South Bend believe he had all the answers. Weis blustered his way beneath the Golden Dome, discussing the "decided schematic advantage" he would bring to the Irish. When Notre Dame won 19 games in his first two seasons, he appeared correct. When they won 16 games over the next three seasons, he appeared on the unemployment line.
Notre Dame, for all of its resources, is a familial place. After his fast start, Weis's ego veered toward imperialism. He burned bridges that he needed when his 2007 team fell to 3-9. He left South Bend a wiser man.
Weis returned to the NFL as offensive boss at the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010. He stayed there one season and went to Florida to run the offense for new head coach Will Muschamp, who is a defensive guy. Weis liked the autonomy that Muschamp afforded him. He loved the athletic talent that he found in Gainesville. But he is leaving the Gators before his work can be graded.
Just as Muschamp needed Weis on the other side of the ball, Weis will need a strong defensive coordinator at Kansas. That's where this gets interesting. Defense proved to be Weis's downfall on the field at Notre Dame. Three defensive coordinators over five seasons prevented the Irish from rising above mediocrity.
So why exactly did Kansas hire Weis? The Jayhawks (2-10, 0-9) finished last -- rock-bottom, 120th, end of the line -- in scoring defense this season, allowing an average of 43.8 points per game. It's as if a kosher restaurant in New York hired the winner of the annual Lawrence Sertoma 48 BBQ Contest. I mean, he's good and all, just not who the restaurant needs.
In the bigger picture, Weis is who Kansas needs. To the north, Nebraska has left for the Big Ten. To the east, Missouri has left for the SEC. Within the state, Kansas State is outraged that the BCS didn't ask it to the prom at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 3. Not to mention a league full of schools in Oklahoma and Texas that camp out in the top 25.
Weis will bring Kansas a profile it didn't have under Turner Gill or his predecessor, Mark Mangino. Weis is good in the living room. His favorite verbal weapon is the needle, which is the Official State Figure of Speech of his native New Jersey. But his players play hard for him.
The Jayhawks may despair over having their third coaching staff in four seasons, but they don't have the turmoil that Weis leaves behind on the Gator offense, which is about to play for its fourth coordinator in five seasons. The only repeater, Steve Addazio in 2009-10, spans the time in which former head coach Urban Meyer resigned, returned and recuperated before resigning again.
Bear Bryant left Kentucky in 1953 after eight seasons because he got tired of playing second fiddle to the legendary basketball coach Adolph Rupp. But Bryant had just turned 40 when he got mad and hauled his family off to Texas A&M. Weis, 55, is older and he should be smarter. Kansas is giving him a second chance as a head coach. The Jayhawks are happy to have him. They'll be happier if he pulls a Belichick.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.