Charlie the Play Caller

Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – On Sunday afternoon Charlie Weis said that he would be more involved with the offense this week, but stopped short of saying he would resume play calling duties.  At his weekly Tuesday press conference, however, Weis announced he would indeed be calling the plays this weekend because offensive coordinator Mike Haywood will be spending most of this week in Houston attending a funeral.

“I’ll run the offense this weekend, call the plays for the Navy game,” said Weis on Tuesday.   Haywood will still have some input on the game plan according to Weis, but Charlie will be running the show this week as Haywood takes care of his personal matters.  “In his absence, this week I’m going to take over the offense. So I’ve been involved in the game plans with Mike there,” said Wes.

The announcement from Weis didn’t shock k anyone after the Irish offense failed to score a single point against a middle of the road Boston College team this past weekend although most expected the move to be because of the offensive struggles the Irish have been experiencing and not because of a family loss for Michael Haywood.  Regardless of the reason for the move, the decision by Weis to resume play calling could provide a spark for the Irish this weekend.
Charlie Weis made his mark in the coaching world as a play caller.  When he arrived in South Bend four years ago he was hailed as a master game planner and play caller who played an integral role in the Patriots run of Super Bowls and the development of All Pro quarterback Tom Brady.  Even through his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Weis was widely complimented on his play calling abilities.

It wasn’t until last season when the Irish offense couldn’t do anything right that Weis’s play calling abilities came into question.  While Weis had a large role in creating last year’s stagnant offense, play calling wasn’t necessarily at the top of the list of reasons why the offense failed.  A lack of an offensive identity and Weis’s decision to implement new offenses week to week had more to do with the offensive struggles in 2007 than the actual play calling.

People seem to forget how good the play calling was in 2005 and 2006 when Weis basically ran the offense.  Think back to the Pitt game in 2005 and remember some of the plays such as the fake end around pass to Rhema McKnight or think back to 2006 when Weis called for play action passes that resulted in huge gains to John Carlson on 4th and short situations against UCLA and Michigan State.   Sure there were some questions about play calling in certain situations during those two seasons, but for the most part, Weis’s play calling received very positive reviews.

After last season though, most felt that Weis made a wide decision to take a step back from the offense and hand over play calling duties to Haywood so he could take more of the CEO style approach to head coaching.  At times this season the move looked like it would be a great success.  The second half against Purdue and the first half against North Carolina featured some of the best offensive play calling shown by the Irish since that 2005 season.  In recent weeks though, the Notre Dame offense began to regress and the play calling became stale and predictable.

When asked whether or not he would have taken over play calling duties this week even if Haywood did not have personal matters to attend to, Weis wouldn’t give a hypothetical answer.  “Let’s not go hypothetically,” said Weis.  “I don’t know the answer to the question, because I already knew on Friday,” Weis would add.

Haywood’s loss happened Friday of last week before the Boston College game so Weis said the decision for him to call plays was set in motion even before the Irish got shut out in Boston on Saturday night  Based on the way the offense has been performing the past few weeks, however, it wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to assume that this move would have likely happened regardless of Haywood’s personal matters.

Because the reasoning for Weis’s decision related to Haywood’s situation, he wouldn’t answer questions about how long his play calling duties may last. “Michael had anticipated  that being a question,” he said.  “We said let’s just get through Navy. I want to give him his time. And he really needs a little time here.”

When pressed further on the matter, Weis still wouldn’t say much other than to say this is, for now, just a one week move.  “We said we wouldn’t even talk about it until after we got through this game, we got through this week. We said let’s just deal with Navy,” Weis said.

Will a return his comfort zone for Weis be enough to give the Irish offense the shot in the arm in needs right now?  Possibly.  Navy’s defense has had major problems stopping the pass this year and passing the ball is the one thing the Irish offense does well.  With a decided edge in speed and athleticism at the skill positions, this game is tailor made for Weis to spread the field out and throw the ball all over the field.  Unlike Pitt and Boston College, Navy doesn’t have the size and talent up front to just rush three or four defenders and drop the rest of the defense into coverage.

One thing you shouldn’t look for this weekend is Weis to move upstairs into the booth to call plays.  “The only way I would go upstairs is if my legs hurt me that bad where I had to do that,” Weis said. The subject had at least crossed his mind though,  “Did I at least broach the subject? Yeah. I’ve at least broached the subject.”

Haywood meanwhile should rejoin the team in time for the game, but what his role would be this week seemed unclear from Weis’s answers on Tuesday.  “He’ll be back for the game. I don’t know if he’ll meet us in South Bend or if he’s going to meet us in Baltimore. I’m not sure which one,” said Weis.

In Haywood’s absence this week, Weis will also be coaching the running backs – a position he’s held at various times throughout his career with the Giants, Jets, and Patriots.

For now it will be a wait and see approach as to whether or not Weis’s return to play calling is temporary or more permanent.  If I was a betting man though, I would bet that Weis calls the plays for the rest of the season if things go well this weekend.

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