(Ed. note - please welcome Mark as the eighth regular contributor to BGS. We can vouch for his bona fides as a fervent ND afficionado and an all-around wise-ass. Say hi to Mark.)
Outside of "Never rat on your friends" and "Always keep your mouth shut", "It's not what you know -- it's who you know" is probably the greatest advice you can get in life.
Over the last 5 seasons, only 23 guys have coached in the Super Bowl as either a head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator. The vast majority of these coaches have been, and remain, among the elite in today's NFL. Some, such as Lovie Smith, Marvin Lewis and Romeo Crennel, have ascended to head coaching positions. Others, like Jim Johnson and Monte Kiffin, are paid almost as well as most head coaches and likely would be candidates themselves but are well into the swan song of their careers.
Charlie Weis has worked with, or against, most of them.
Here is a list of 19 of those Super Bowl coaches, what they are doing currently and what, if any, connection they have to Weis and his staff at ND.
This isn't meant to be a "Charlie's Rolodex" rundown as much as just a sense of the coaching stock he comes from, a look at the exceptional professional company Charlie keeps. In other words, Super Bowl coaches: the best of the best.
( * Denotes a close connection to Weis and/or his staff. Coaches are listed alphabetically.)
* BILL BELICHICK - head coach, New England Patriots. Belichik has won the Super Bowl three of the last five seasons. He is the best coach in pro football today and is the single greatest influence on Weis and his career. An upcoming article will go over the numerous ways that Weis has already begun to transform the "Patriot Way" of doing business into the "Notre Dame Way".
BRIAN BILLICK - head coach, Baltimore Ravens. Billick won the Super Bowl as the HC of the Ravens in 2000. Aside from his role on offense, he hires good people on defense. His last two DC’s are now head coaches in the NFL. His current DC, Rex Ryan, served in that capacity under Notre Dame DC Rick Minter when the two were at the University of Cincinnati.
CHUCK BRESHNAHAN - defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals. He was the DC of the Raiders when they played the Bucs in the Super Bowl. Breshnahan worked for Kirk Ferentz when Ferentz was the HC at Maine and went with him to Cleveland to work under Belichick. While he hasn't worked directly with Weis, Breshnahan is yet another member of the Belichick coaching tree that includes Nick Saban, Ferentz, Weis, Crennel, and Pat Hill among others.
* BILL CALLAHAN - head coach, University of Nebraska. Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002. Since then he has struggled, getting fired from the Raiders and then going 5-6 last year in his first season with the Cornhuskers. Callahan worked with Rob Ianello for four years at Wisconsin.
* MATT CAVANAUGH - offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Panthers. He is the only coach on this list that is not a head coach in either college or the NFL or is no longer a coordinator in the NFL. The difference between the role that Weis played in the Patriots Super Bowl seasons, when compared with Cavanaugh's role as OC with the Ravens, is like night and day. Cavanaugh was a backup QB on the 1990 New York Giants team that won the Super Bowl. Weis, Belichik and Crennel were all coaches on that squad.
* BRAD CHILDRESS - offensive coordinator, Eagles. Childress, like Callahan, is a member of the growing “tree” of coaches that Barry Alvarez has developed at Wisconsin. Alvarez, of course, was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame during the 1988 National Championship season. Rob Ianello worked with him on the Badgers staff for two seasons.
* ROMEO CRENNEL – head coach, Cleveland Browns. He is the third member of the “Patriot Three”. Along with Belichik, he is the only coach in the NFL that has five Super Bowl rings. Weis coached with Crennel in 14 out of his 15 seasons in the NFL.
JIM FASSEL - offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens. He took the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000 as their Head Coach. Chances are he will once again be a Head Coach in the NFL sometime soon. Thankfully for Notre Dame fans, Weis did not get the Giants job when Fassel was fired.
* JOHN FOX - head coach, Carolina Panthers. The only coach, other than the “Patriots Three”, that has coached in more than one Super Bowl over the last five seasons. Was the Giants defensive coordinator in 2000. Weis is among his closest friends and Fox tried to hire him as his OC when he got the Panthers job. Fox is on the Board of the "Hannah and Friends" charity.
* JON GRUDEN - head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chucky won it all with the Bucs in 2002 and three years later is still the youngest head coach in the NFL. Gruden and Weis share Bob Lamonte as their agent. Gruden also employs one of Weis' closest friends in the coaching community, Rich Bisaccia, who may end up in South Bend one day as a member of the ND staff.
* DAN HENNING – offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers. He held that position when the Panthers lost to the Pats in the Super Bowl. Like Muir, Henning worked under Weis when they were with the Jets. It's interesting that despite being much more experienced, as both a head coach and a coordinator, Henning worked under Weis with the Jets and was the number two choice of John Fox, after Charlie, to fill that position with the Panthers.
JIM JOHNSON - defensive coordinator, Eagles. This former Notre Dame coach is considered by many to be among the two or three best defensive coordinators in the NFL. That being said, many analysts attributed the most recent Patriots Super Bowl victory to Weis' in- game adjustments to the blitz scheme that Johnson used to attack New England.
* MONTE KIFFIN – defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay. Kiffin was in this role in 2002 when the Bucs won it all. If fact, he was retained by Gruden when he took over the team. Kiffin truly is one of the most influential defensive coaches in the game. Among those that have worked under him are Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Pete Carroll. In addition, Rick Minter twice worked under Kiffin - at Arkansas (both worked for Holtz) and at NC State.
MARVIN LEWIS - head coach, Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis won the Super Bowl as the DC of the Ravens in 2000. Lewis has done a very good job thus far getting the Bengals back on track. He and Mike Nolan are now head coaches in the NFL. It says something about the talent of Rex Ryan that he was picked to be the next to lead the Ravens defense.
MIKE MARTZ – head coach, St Louis Rams. His Rams lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots in 2001. Martz is known for his acumen on the offensive side of the football. He was the OC for the Rams when they won it all in 1999. The ability of Weis' offense to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Rams offense in 2001 was one of the keys in the Patriots first Super Bowl victory.
* BILL MUIR – offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay. Muir was the OC when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. From 1997-1999 Muir worked with Weis when they were with the New York Jets. The last two seasons Muir worked under Weis when Charlie was promoted to OC. Muir, like fellow NFL offensive coordinators Dan Henning, Maurice Carthon (Cleveland Browns), and John Hufnagel (NY Giants) have all worked as members of Weis' offensive staffs in recent years.
* ANDY REID – head coach, Philadelphia Eagles. Despite losing this past Super Bowl to the Pats, Reid has been able to turn the Eagles into the most consistent team in the NFC over the past five seasons. He is close friends with Weis and the two are both represented by Bob Lamonte.
LOVIE SMITH – head coach, Chicago Bears. Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Rams when they lost to the Pats and his guidance on defense was a large factor in getting St Louis back to the Super Bowl. Smith is yet another in a very long line of Monte Kiffin disciples. Had he not taken the Notre Dame job Weis would likely be a head coach along with Smith.
* MIKE TRGOVAC – defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers. Trgovac goes back many years with Rick Minter, having worked as a member of Minter’s defensive staffs at both Ball State and Notre Dame. Trgovac's boss, John Fox, was one of the League's best defensive coordinators before taking over the Panthers. Is it possible that Trgovac recommended Minter to Fox who in turn suggested him to Weis (with a recommendation from Lou, too)?
Of course, we could supplement this list with Weis’ connections to the the Dallas Cowboys (Parcells), Indianapolis Colts (Polian) and the New York Giants (ownership on down). In fact, I'm sure we could find Weis connections on every single team in the pro game. But even in this narrow field -- Super Bowl coaches -- Charlie's connections are all over the place.
So what does all this mean for Notre Dame football? Three things, at least:
1. Coaching magnetism. It's no surprise Charlie was able to tap an exceptional assistant staff, from expert journeymen (Minter, Lewis, Latina) to eager up-and-comers (Haywood, Polian, Parmalee). What ambitious coach wouldn’t want to plug into Weis’ world? Charlie's level of experience and professionalism should help him immensely for future hires, too -- we already know that Mike Haywood has his eye on a HC job at some point, and I can't imagine Brian Polian sticking to assistant special teams for the rest of his career. As his coaches move on to better positions, Charlie's got a great network to draw from. We already saw it when Cutcliffe retired -- he didn't miss a beat in picking up a great (and overqualified) replacement in Peter Vaas. When you consider the crowd that our Jersey Guy runs with, don't expect Charlie to have much trouble keeping the pipeline flowing into South Bend.
2. Player development. Sharpening skills. Improving on talent. Teaching the pro game, the cutting-edge stuff. 'Nuff said.
3. Pro connections. Charlie described it himself at a presser back in January, when talking about how he could help his players move on to the next level. "'I'll call up 20 general managers that will take my phone call today," Weis said. "You name a guy, I can call him. I think I can get ahold of (Bill) Polian. I got a connection. But I'm just saying that I can call 20 general managers and say, 'What do you think on this guy?'"
And that works for everyone on the team, not just the guys who are going to hear their names called on draft day. Much of the NFL is made up of non-drafted guys who got tryouts with pro clubs, practice squad free agents, and the like. For the blue chippers, the appeal of Charlie, Lewis, etc, is obvious; but even for the role players who fill out a signing class, those NFL connections and the phone calls Charlie can make are like gold.