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April 11, 2012

Random Thoughts: Pease is an improvement


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The second best thing that happened to Florida football in the last five months was its hiring of Brent Pease as offensive coordinator in January.

The best thing? That was the December day former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left to become coach at Kansas.

This is not meant as a character assassination of a man who has taken a ton of hits since his arrogant start at Notre Dame seven years ago. By all accounts of people I trust, Weis is a better person than his reputation would indicate.

This is an exercise in coaching assassination. The issue is pretty simple: Weis is not, never has been and probably never will be deserving of the "genius" label that was bestowed on him during his tenure as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. It was all a myth, so his failure in difficult circumstances at Florida was utterly predictable.

Yes, he was part of three Super Bowl victories in five years at New England, an unprecedented accomplishment in the era of free agency. But his role was much smaller than anyone realizes.

The Patriots finished in the top half of the NFL in total offense exactly one time under his watch. That's right. Once.

New England won Super Bowls because of Bill Belichick, a brilliant defense and Tom Brady. The rest of the offense was just along for the ride. The Patriots were 22nd in yards in 2000 (pre-Brady), 19th en route to their first Super Bowl win, 21st in 2002, 17th in 2003 (Super Bowl No. 2) and seventh in 2004 (Super Bowl No. 3).

Sorry, but those aren't genius numbers. They're pedestrian. Yet, Weis arrived at Notre Dame for his first head-coaching job talking about having a "schematic advantage" on every opponent.

When? Where? As it turned, out, certainly not in South Bend, Ind. After a big first year behind talented quarterback Brady Quinn, the Fighting Irish offense slipped a bit in 2006 and bottomed out beyond belief in 2007. With heralded true freshman Jimmy Clausen operating behind a pitiful offensive line, Notre Dame finished dead last among 119 Division I teams, averaging 242.25 yards per game.

That's inconceivable. This was not Buffalo or Louisiana-Monroe. This was friggin' Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish allowed 58 sacks, the most in Division I.

In 2008, year No. 4 of the Weis era, Notre Dame ranked 65th in total offense. Yeah, some genius.

Weis' lofty reputation is one of the biggest mysteries in sports. Before he went to New England, he was Bill Parcells' offensive coordinator with the New York Jets from 1997-99. The Jets finished 25th, fourth and 22nd in total offense.

After getting fired by Notre Dame, Weis landed in Kansas City, where he co-existed uneasily with coach Todd Haley. The Chiefs actually finished in the top half of the league in offense (12th), but they managed just 67 yards against San Diego in a late-season shutout loss and 161 against Baltimore in a 31-7 first-round playoff defeat.

By that point, Weis already had accepted Will Muschamp's offer to become offensive coordinator for Florida. It may have been Muschamp's biggest mistake.

As Weis' stint at Notre Dame had proven, asking a pro guy to run a college offense without a proven quarterback is an invitation to trouble. When the Gators lost pro-style QB John Brantley to an ankle sprain for two-and-a-half weeks, Weis was out of idea or answers as true freshman Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett floundered in a system predicated on making the right reads and making tight throws to receivers. Brantley did not exactly light it up, either, as Florida finished 105th in total offense.

Somehow, Weis convinced Kansas he deserved a second chance as a head coach. It will be the Jayhawks' loss and Florida's gain.

Muschamp learned from his mistake. This time, he hired a college guy.

Pease, who directed Boise State's top-10 attack last year, is not a slam dunk. He spent only one year as offensive coordinator in Boise and worked with better talent than he faced almost every week, including record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore.

But he is much more equipped to succeed at Florida than Weis. He understands how to run a multiple offense that does not put all the pressure on a drop-back quarterback and the passing game, a key difference with inexperienced sophomores Brissett and Driskel fighting for the job.

When Pease faced Georgia last year, Boise State gained 390 yards, had 24 first downs and won 35-21 in the Georgia Dome.

When Weis faced Georgia, Florida gained 226 yards, had 11 first downs and lost 24-20 in Jacksonville.

The Gators can win big with Pease. They never had a chance with Weis.


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