Carroll,Weis match wits

first_imgThey’ve each hoisted trophies and polished rings. They once alternated Sundays at the Meadowlands and even walked the same hallways in Foxboro, Mass. and Hempstead, N.Y. So, when Pete Carroll says of Charlie Weis, “I’ve only said hi to him a couple of times. I don’t know him very much,” it’s only in the familiar sense. Said Lions guard Damien Woody, who played for Weis and Carroll in New England: “I don’t think Charlie or Pete are looking at it as a coaches’ duel, but sometimes when the new kid is getting all the attention and is all sexy like Charlie is right now, the big dog can get kind of jealous.” For the record, Weis and Carroll have been on opposite sidelines 11 times, with Carroll’s team winning six. When Carroll was coaching the Patriots and Weis the offensive coordinator with the Jets, Weis won three of four meetings. While Carroll hasn’t lined up opposite Weis since 1999, they’ve studied libraries of film on each other. In fact, the USC defensive coaches have studied more NFL film than they have Notre Dame. “We’ve gone against each other a lot more than I’ve ever played Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA – any of those teams,” Carroll said. “It feels more like when you’re in the NFL, you have all these years of playing people in the division twice. Everybody knows what everybody knows.” What everybody knows about the Patriots is that they’ve rarely played from behind. In Weis’ last two seasons, they had a streak of 20 consecutive games in which they scored first. In five games this season, Notre Dame has exhibited those same traits. It has scored on its first possession three times and on its second the other two times. This is no accident. Defensive coordinators rarely know what to expect from Weis at the start – even those who know him well. One game they may see a conventional two-back, two-receiver formation, another time mostly two tight ends, or maybe three- and four-receiver sets. And one week, they might emphasize the pass out of a particular formation and the next week the run out of the same look. “What he did was change up from week to week. You never know what type he’s going to attack you with,” said Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who saw Weis twice a year in the AFC East. “If you look at film of four or five games, there’s a rhythm of a team where you see this is what they like to do. Charlie’s saying if you watch the film in my breakdown, you may not see what I’m going to do to you. If you don’t see it on film, it looks all new to you. That’s the difference between being caught off guard and not caught off guard.” While preparation is part of the equation, Weis also has top-of-the-charts intuition. In the last Super Bowl, the Eagles’ speed on the edges and blitzing up the middle of Tom Brady stymied New England, which didn’t pick up a first down on its first four possessions. So Weis called back-to-back screen passes to Corey Dillon, who had caught 15 passes during the regular season. They went for 13 and 16 yards and, with the Eagles defense sufficiently loosened up, the Patriots scored on four of their next six possessions and won 24-21. “He says, oh, I’m just an old football coach, but the guy is really, really bright,” said Andre Tippett, the former Patriots linebacker and now the club’s director of Football Development and Promotions. “He understands first down, third-down tendencies, but he’s not afraid to go against what the statistics say. He’ll say, ‘I don’t care. I’ve got the horses, I’ve got a good quarterback and I’m going to take a chance.’ ” Explained Weis: “Preparation comes into it for about the first quarter. After the first quarter, that’s when you have to start adapting to who you are playing against and their philosophy. There are some guys that they’ll throw a blitz at you until you have it figured out, then they’ll go to something else. There (are) other guys that have their blitzes of the day.” What Carroll notices less than the schemes or the play calling is the teaching. It’s easy to be a jack of all trades, but not so easy to master them all. “They don’t screw things up,” Carroll said. “That tells you obviously they teach really well.” Carroll can teach, too. Gray says he noticed on film how Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, the rookie from USC, was beating veterans to the ball and how ready for the NFL recent USC defensive linemen Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Kenechi Udeze have been. “They’re getting that program like Miami,” Gray said. “They have good players and they’re ready to play in the NFL.” Meanwhile, one of Carroll’s trademarks at USC is how well he’s been able to make defensive adjustments on the fly. During the 27-game winning streak, the Trojans have trailed at halftime on five occasions. They’ve outscored those teams 132-14 in the second half. Last season, only UCLA scored more than seven points in the second half against the USC defense. “The guy has tremendous observation skills,” Donatell said. “He’s always been a great game coach. What Pete can diagnose, you can’t write it down, you can’t put it in a book.” No, but the story on Saturday will make for good copy. Two coaches – the New Jersey wise guy and the Marin County sophisticate – the offensive guru and the defensive scientist, who look so different, who act so different. “They couldn’t be any more different,” Woody said. Finally, they’ll meet, to settle one more difference. Billy Witz, (818) 713-3621 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Two coaches who have existed in parallel universes, eyeing each other from afar for nearly two decades, will shake hands Saturday, then share a national stage when Carroll brings No. 1-ranked USC into South Bend, Ind., to face Weis and No. 9 Notre Dame. As much as this is about Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush versus Brady Quinn, and the Horse versus the Leprechaun, it’s also about the two men on the sidelines – Carroll, the best defensive coach in college football, versus Weis, through five games already making a case as the keenest on offense. center_img “These are two of the best minds in football, let alone college football,” said Falcons defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who has worked for Carroll and matched wits with Weis. “They’re both at the top of the game on their side of the ball as innovative thinkers and for their body of work. They both have a very deep understanding of the game, offensively and defensively. It’s a great matchup.” While both coaches have been supremely respectful this week, there does seem to be an underlying edge to their first meeting as head coaches. Weis said he has no hard feelings about not being retained in New England in 1997, when Carroll replaced Bill Parcells. The two spoke briefly before Weis joined Parcells with the Jets. However, ESPN commentator Jim Donnan said this week that Weis said he “owned Pete Carroll” in the NFL. Meanwhile, the USC coach appeared slightly irritated Tuesday – and this is all relative for the haven’t-a-care-Carroll – with all the questions about Weis, perhaps a reminder of how their days in New England turned out: Carroll getting fired after three seasons and Weis calling plays for three Super Bowl winners. “I know the guy is extremely competitive,” said Donatell, when asked if this game carried extra meaning for Carroll. “He’ll be polite and all that, but I’m sure he loves the challenge.” last_img read more

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