EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 11, 2012

Charlie Weis: O'Brien can make both jobs work

Bill Burt

Charlie Weis has two words for New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Penn State head football coach Billy O'Brien as he prepares for what lies ahead, hopefully, for the next 31/2 weeks.

"Sleep deprivation," said Weis, who was named the new head coach at the University of Kansas last month.

If anybody knows what O'Brien has in store for himself as he double dips as overseer of the Patriots offense during the 2012 Super Bowl bid and rebuilding a tarnished Penn State football program, well, it is Weis, the offensive coordinator for all three Super Bowl victories.

Weis was in basically in identical shoes O'Brien is in this morning. Near the end of the 2004 regular season, Weis accepted the job as the head coach at high-profile program — University of Notre Dame, his alma mater — while the Patriots were gunning for a dynasty.

He was beholdened to two masters: Bill Belichick and several million Notre Dame football fans.

"My guess is that Bill (Belichick) will sit down with Billy, go over what worked last time when I had to do the same thing," said Weis, via phone from his office in Lawrence, Kan. "The template is already in place. Bill has already gone through it once. And we did win a Super Bowl."

While the college football season doesn't begin until September, like O'Brien, Weis had to recruit assistant coaches and high school superstars.

"Here's what I did," said Weis. "I worked on Patriots stuff all day, until 8 (p.m.) at night. Normally, I would work until 11. But from 8 to 11 I made recruiting phone calls and finalized my staff. Then I would take a shower at 11 and go do more Patriots work until 2 a.m. I did that every day so I wouldn't miss anything I needed to do with the Patriots."

Weis would go to bed at 2 a.m. and wake up at ...

"Five a.m.," said Weis. "Three hours sleep a night. People think five hours is not enough. Well, that would be a great night's sleep for me back then.

"I had a blow-up bed in my office and went to sleep right there," said Weis. "To be honest, it's a lot like training camp. The hours are very similar. The staff might be done around 11 or 11:30 p.m. but Romeo (Crennel) and I would do scripts for the next day's workouts."

If Weis had to pick which will get short-changed, the Patriots or Penn State, he'd pick the Nittany Lions.

"Recruiting is so important in college football, particularly recruiting players you really want," said Weis. "To do it properly you really have to be on the road. When you're not on the road you're fighting a litte bit from behind."

Unlike most of the people that still work on Route 1 in Foxboro, Weis says he knows O'Brien, who joined the Patriots before the 2007 season, only casually.

"I do know that he knows what he's doing," said Weis. "I've watched their games the last two years. And they're moving the ball up and down the field, scoring a zillion points. Sure, he has Tommy (Brady), but I like the way this offense moves the ball."

Weis has taken a rockier road out of New England than he originally expected. He spent five seasons at Notre Dame — 35-27, including a 1-2 record in bowls — before going back to the NFL as an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010, which went from 4-12 to 10-6 last season with Weis there. But his relationship with then-head coach Todd Haley reportedly soured and this past season he was offensive coordinator at the University of Florida.

Weis said he planned on staying there an extended period primarily because his daughter, Hannah, who is autistic, flourished in the Ocala, Fla. school system.

"It was the first time in her life she was really happy and wanted to go to school every day," said Weis.

He was contacted by Kansas, which had finished 2-10 last fall. He went on the interview with no expectations.

"I loved it. It was real comfortable for me. It was a long, difficult interview process, but it was worth it," said Weis. "Then I talked to my wife (Maura) and Charlie Jr., who wants to get into coaching. We all agreed it was a great fit for us."

Weis' wife and daughter will remain in Ocala, Fla., while Charlie Jr. will attend Kansas and be an assistant for his father.

"We can't mess up what we have going for Hannah right now," said Weis. "Maura is coming here for four days and then in two weeks I'll be going back for four days. That's the way we'll do it. Unless we have three road games in a row, we will be together every two weeks. Trust me, we are so happy."

One interesting element of O'Brien's plight was the hiring of another former Patriots offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, who had the same title with the St. Louis Rams this season. McDaniels was hired as a special offensive assistant on Sunday, just two days after the Rams gave the Patriots permission to talk to him.

"Josh is one my favorites," said Weis. "He's one of those guys that worked under me and was a sponge. He couldn't get enough. He's the son of a coach. He's not afraid to give you ideas. He's not afraid of getting shot down. The system in place has the same origin of the one we started with in 2000. Josh ran it a little bit in his own direction after I left. But I could go work for the Patriots right now and know about 80 to 90 percent of what they're running."

As for O'Brien, Weis is guessing that doing both jobs, while difficult, will reap rewards down the road.

"If Billy has the same ending I had, the residual effects of winning a Super Bowl will yield great dividends in recruiting (next year)," said Weis. "For Billy, Bill and Mr. Kraft, I really hope they have the same ending I had in New England. It was an incredible ride there. I always cherish it."

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Email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.