Charlie Weis should never have come and he had to go.
The hiring of Weis as Kansas’ football coach in 2011 by new athletic director Sheahon Zenger was a head scratcher. And coming on the heels of a historically bad decision by the previous AD, Lew Perkins, it has helped shove the Jayhawks back into college football’s dark ages.
Weis was spinning his wheels trying to get out of the ditch where Perkins’ hire, Turner Gill, had driven the program. And Zenger’s decision Sunday to fire Weis serves as a metaphorical tow truck.
It’s time to get this program into the shop, figure out what’s wrong and do everything possible to make the fix. Because in case KU officials hadn’t noticed, a strong case of apathy has set in around Memorial Stadium. Some people – around 35,000 per game this season – still show up. But they feel no need to stay past halftime and show no remorse walking out while a game is being played.
It wasn’t that long ago that quarterback Todd Reesing was throwing the football all over the place to receivers such as Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Remember that 12-1 season in 2007, when Kansas beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl? Well, in the KU reel of highlights, that’s pretty much the last thing worth showing.
It took Mark Mangino five years to build to that crescendo and what seems like 24 seconds to watch it crumble.
Mangino ran afoul of Perkins in 2009 after several players complained about the coach’s treatment of them during games and practices. Through the muck of those allegations, Kansas dropped its final seven games of that season and Mangino, who had made KU football viable, was booted.
And Perkins plucked Gill, the former Nebraska quarterback, from Buffalo. It was a disaster. After two seasons and a 5-19 record, Zenger cleaned up Perkins’ mess. But he made one of his own by hiring Weis, who had flamed out at Notre Dame and did nothing in two-plus seasons to elevate Kansas from one of its lowest positions in history.
I mean, when you can’t up the ante after Turner Gill, what is there left for Zenger to do?
It’s unusual, of course, for an athletic director to fire a coach this early in a season. There are still eight games left. We haven’t even gotten to October.
But the Jayhawks, who fired Terry Allen with three games remaining in the 2001 season and replaced him with Tom Hayes on an interim level, were blanked by Texas 23-0 on Saturday. A KU offense that Weis was hired to breathe life into is as dead as ever.
During the four-plus seasons that Gill and Weis have misguided this program, the Jayhawks have averaged 15.1 points in Big 12 games. They’re simply not keeping up with teams like Oklahoma State (44.6-point average in conference games since 2010), Oklahoma (39.6), Baylor (42.1) and Kansas State (34.7).
Weis had a tricky resume. He was the offensive coordinator in New England when the Patriots won three Super Bowls. He also coached with the New York Jets and New York Giants. Notre Dame thought enough of him to hire him. He was the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs and, before he was hired by Kansas, the Florida Gators.
Weis made a lot of hay, and a lot of money, for his involvement in developing Tom Brady as a superstar quarterback with the Patriots. In hindsight, perhaps it was Brady who developed Weis.
Even so, Weis’ resume plays. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks rarely have under Weis’ direction. In his third year, the Jayhawks have resorted to going with raw and unproven sophomore Montell Cozart at quarterback, though Cozart did nothing in three starts last season to show he was even close to being ready for such a big responsibility in such a powerful conference.
A purported quarterback guru such as Weis swung and missed on three QBs at Kansas. And that can’t happen.
Zenger bought into the Weis myth. Now he has to start from scratch with a coaching hire that will define his KU legacy and most likely determine how long he keeps his job.
When Zenger hired Weis, he said he had talked to numerous people in the coaching profession who vouched for Weis. Well, he better pick a new set of folks to talk to now.
Weis looked tired after Saturday’s loss to the Longhorns. His voice was raspy and it was a struggle for him to walk.
At 58, he’s still getting paid by Notre Dame and will cash some big checks from Kansas for the next couple of years. He looks like he needs some rest, like the chore of righting the Jayhawks’ ship has taken its toll.
Out there somewhere is the next Kansas football coach. He’ll follow Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, perhaps the worst back-to-back hires in college football history. The Jayhawks have hit rock bottom.