LAWRENCE — Here is Charlie Weis, leaning back in a leather chair, relaxing in an office fit for a corporate dynamo. Flat-screen TV on the wall. Hulking desk. A picturesque view of the Kansas football program just beyond his right shoulder.
If you look out this wall of glass windows, you can see Memorial Stadium, sitting quietly in the sun. If you look a little farther, you can see the roads that will lead back to his old office, the one 50 miles east down Interstate 70.
It’s been more than a year since Weis left his post as offensive coordinator for the Chiefs, departing for the same role at Florida. But Weis still has plenty of connections down the road in Kansas City — and he’s still proud of the work that was accomplished there.
“You know,” Weis says, “Obviously, there’s trials and tribulations wherever you go, but I enjoyed it.”
Weis’ stay in Kansas City was brief — a one-year touch-down before his return to college. At the time, the Chiefs and Weis cited family reasons as the prime motive for his exit. Weis’ son, Charlie Jr., would be able to work alongside his dad at practice while attending school at Florida. And Weis’ daughter, Hannah, who suffers from a rare seizure disorder, would be able to attend a respected special-needs school in nearby Ocala, Fla.
In the past, Weis downplayed the reported rift between he and former Chiefs coach Todd Haley — a relationship that perhaps caused friction as the year went on. Still, in just one year at Arrowhead, Weis guided an offense that helped quarterback Matt Cassel make the Pro Bowl while throwing 27 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Running back Jamaal Charles became a force while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. And the Chiefs won the AFC West after finishing just 4-12 the year before.
It’s those numbers that allow Weis to lightheartedly assume that Chiefs fans still have fond feelings of his short tenure in Kansas City. It’s those numbers that give him the confidence to slip in a sly reference toward what took place behind closed doors that season.
“When (the fans) read through the lines,” Weis says, “they can figure out the whole year that I was there. They can figure it (from) the beginning, to right through the end. They can kind of read through everything there. But I really enjoyed my experience, my one year with the Chiefs.”
Weis and Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel remain tight from their days together on Bill Parcells’ staff in New York and Bill Belichick’s staff in New England. Weis’ ties to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli go back more than a decade. And Chiefs tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee played for Weis with the Jets before coaching on his staff at Notre Dame. (Parmalee’s son, Tre, is now a freshman receiver at KU.)
And despite being down the road in Lawrence, Weis may still be one of the most qualified people to assess the Chiefs’ quarterback situation. Weis, of course, spent a year with Cassel in 2011 and he coached backup Brady Quinn for two seasons at Notre Dame.
Even now, nearly six years after Quinn entered the NFL, Weis still has confidence in his old quarterback. Last month, they were together in South Carolina for a charity golf tournament benefitting Weis’ “Hannah and Friends” organization, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children with special needs.
Weis was sure to mention that Quinn won the long-drive contest with a well over 300-yard blast.
“Brady could have been a starting quarterback for me in the NFL,” Weis says.
Weis has this conversation with his wife, Maura, all the time, he says. It’s the same conversation he had with Quinn this past weekend. He looks back at the old numbers Quinn put up at Notre Dame — more than 7,300 yards passing and 69 TDs in his last two seasons — and he still believes he could have made Quinn a winner in the NFL.
“Go back and look at those numbers for the two years he played for me,” Weis said. “He was great. He wasn’t good. And I know if I had him as a quarterback, I would have felt very comfortable that I could have won no matter where we were.”
Even so, Weis says he’s not necessarily rooting for Quinn this season. At least, not in the traditional sense He still has too much affinity toward Cassel, he says, and he thinks his other old quarterback is in position to have a solid year. And this is where Weis’ sly sense of humor comes through again.
“If I root for Brady, I’m recruiting against Matt,” Weis says, “and I won’t do that. … Even though he went to USC.”
Back in Lawrence, Weis sits in his office and talks about his own program. There are plenty of other pressing concerns to worry about — recruiting, the Big 12 schedule, his defensive personnel — but he does believe the Chiefs are in good hands.
Crennel is a coach that commands respect, he says. And in the NFL, that’s a pretty good place to start.
“Romeo is very well respected by the players,” Weis says. “Very well respected and very well liked. I think that anytime that you have players that want to win for you… they obviously want to win for him.”