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These Guys Are Pro Stock

NFL background of Carroll and Weis makes for an interesting battle of wits

October 13, 2005|Chris Dufresne

We've pored over the game logs and determined the best National Football League matchup on the board this week is USC at Notre Dame -- at least in terms of the coaches.

Pete Carroll vs. Charlie Weis may be the most intriguing meeting of pigskin personas since Buddy Ryan stared across the field at Bill Walsh.

What's not to like about Pete vs. Chuck, defense vs. offense, knight vs. rook, blitz vs. buzz, the best defensive coach in college versus, dare we already say, the best offensive mind?

It's not a coincidence the most anticipated game in college football in years involves two former top-drawer NFL coordinators. It's sort of a trend.

NFL coaches have infiltrated the college ranks and somewhat turned the game on its ear hole.

"It's almost like in horse racing," longtime NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt was saying this week, "when you drop a horse down in class they win."

None of this is meant to demean any of the established collegiate icons.

Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno have been true to their schools long enough to become the two winningest coaches at major programs. And both have their teams in the top 10.

Bear Bryant, who never sipped a drop of NFL swill, is regarded by many as the best college coach who ever lived.

It seems clear that having an NFL pedigree helps, though, and that it doesn't work as well the other way around (see: Lou Holtz with the New York Jets and Steve Spurrier with the Washington Redskins).

Once a state-of-the-art front-office man with the Dallas Cowboys and now an analyst for NFL.com, Brandt says pro coaches who drop to college have an advantage.

"No disrespect to the college coaches, but we can do so many more things than they can do," Brandt said.

He noted NFL coaches aren't hindered by NCAA time restraints with players or recruiting, and get to spend almost every waking hour absorbed in their craft.

By the time a Carroll or Weis arrives on campus, he has been so steeped in cutting-edge knowledge and cutthroat competitiveness that it can't help but make you better than Wake Forest.

Carroll and Weis, on opposite sides of the orb, have brought an advanced level of organization and sophistication to their programs.

Brandt ticked off a list of former NFL coaches who have made an impact in college:

* Ralph Friedgen, the former San Diego offensive coordinator under Bobby Ross, turned Maryland around in, what, an hour and a half?

* Kirk Ferentz, a former assistant under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, has led Iowa to three consecutive top-10 finishes.

* Butch Davis, a former Dallas defensive coordinator, took a Miami program on probation and assembled the nucleus of a national champion.

* Greg Robinson went from getting booed out of the defensive coordinator's job at Kansas City to, last year, transforming the Texas defense into a Rose Bowl champion. That earned Robinson the top job at Syracuse.

* In his third year at UCLA, former Denver assistant Karl Dorrell has UCLA at 5-0.

* A few years ago, former NFL coach June Jones led one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in history at Hawaii.

There are no absolutes, of course, so spare the "ah-ha!" exceptions.

Paul Hackett, considered a pretty good NFL offensive coordinator in his day, was a flop as USC's coach. Former NFL coach Jerry Glanville isn't having much luck this year as Hawaii's defensive coordinator -- the Warriors rank 87th in defense among 119 Division I-A teams -- and the jury is so far out on first-year Pittsburgh Coach Dave Wannstedt it may have been sent home for the weekend.

Yet, it is hard to deny that formative NFL years have made a difference for Carroll and Weis.

Idaho Coach Nick Holt, linebackers' coach for USC's 2003 Associated Press national-title team, said this week that Carroll's NFL experience made him a difference maker.

"Obviously, it rubbed off on him," Holt said of Carroll. "He is naturally a super coach, but it's just being around that type of [NFL] competition. Not only the players, but the other coaches. You see the best things and, if you're not prepared, you're going to get beat."

Asked about Weis, Holt said, "Look at the guys he's been around?" referring to his internships with Bill Parcells and Belichick.

"The planning, the meticulousness, the self-scouting, it's unbelievable," Holt said. "I've never been in the NFL, but I've been around some of these guys and it's amazing."

Fighting (Irish) Words

Former Georgia Coach Jim Donnan, now an ESPN analyst, made public Tuesday on the ADT Coaches' Spotlight show what he told three national writers in confidence last month: That Weis has said he "owned Pete Carroll" when both were coaching in the NFL.

Here are the facts, as best as we can assess them in the proper context.

Carroll spent 16 years as an NFL assistant and coach, and Weis toiled for 15 years, never rising beyond the position of offensive coordinator.

There were two years when Carroll and Weis faced each other when both were at least a unit leader or higher.

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