Matt Weiss believes the Baltimore Ravens could win the Super Bowl next season.
“I just felt like I had a chance to do something special here,” Weiss said last week on the “In the Trenches” podcast with Jon Jansen. “Also, I think any time in life, whether it’s in your (personal) life or in your life professionally, it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself and do something different.”
Weiss was the sixth and final addition to Harbaugh’s coaching staff in Ann Arbor during an offseason filled with upheaval. The former Ravens running backs coach was hired as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach upon former linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary’s departure for Tennessee — a move that occurred after Harbaugh had already re-shuffled his staff and brought on five other new assistants.
According to Weiss, a move to Ann Arbor had been an “on-and-off discussion for a while.” Jean-Mary’s departure simply provided the impetus for his new job. And while John Harbaugh didn’t want Weiss to leave, he certainly understood the reasoning behind the decision.
“He wants Michigan to be great, too,” Weiss said. “He could see the opportunity that could be there for me and felt like helping Jim was a good thing, too. It all worked out for everybody involved.”
Jim Harbaugh and Weiss crossed paths at Stanford, when Weiss was a defensive and special teams graduate assistant between 2005-08 (Harbaugh was the head coach between 2007-10).
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Because of his previous roles, Weiss could bring a unique perspective to Ann Arbor. In 2018, he was Baltimore’s football strategy coordinator, using analytics to help make in-game decisions such as fourth-down play-calling (the Ravens have been regarded as one of the more analytically minded NFL teams). He also has experience on the defensive side of the ball and coached Baltimore’s running backs the previous two seasons.
“He brings a great deal of experience coaching all three phases of the game, in addition to his strength in the area of analytics and game strategy,” Harbaugh said in a statement upon Weiss’ hiring at Michigan.
Weiss shied away from describing himself as a coach who specializes in analytics — but says he will look to bring over some of what he did in Baltimore.
“I love good ideas, I love the culture of teaching and learning,” Weiss said. “John Harbaugh is like that, too. I certainly wouldn’t say he specializes in analytics, either, but that’s something for sure we’re looking to bring here and do more of here.”
Part of that plan, Weiss says, involves Michigan’s general student population.
“There’s a great untapped resource here, which is the players and the coaches aren’t the only talented people here,” Weiss said. “We have a student body that’s really smart and really talented with computer science majors, math majors, a lot of people want to work in sports. There’s ways we can tap into that. Something that not every college certainly has.”
He says he has already spoken with Thomas Finholt, a professor in Michigan’s School of Information and teaches a class in sports analytics, about “assigning some of our projects” to students.
“There are ways that we can do that stuff,” Weiss said. “Whether it’s fourth-down decision making or looking at trends in college football or looking at recruiting analytics in who you should be going after and maybe who you shouldn’t. All those things are possible. It’ll be fun to grow it and see where it goes. It’s exciting.”
In the meantime, Weiss is focused on teaching Michigan’s quarterbacks — the Wolverines had three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for spring practices and are in search for a new starter — and learning the scheme of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.
“I’m here learning this system, which is great for me, because it’s totally foreign to me,” Weiss said. “So I am learning a lot of new stuff. At the same time, Jim is a visionary leader and that’s part of the reason why he wanted me here.
“You want diversity and people think of diversity and you want diversity of background in race and all those things. Which is great, and we have that here, and it’s valuable. You also want diversity of thought. That’s really important in any successful team. So right now, I’m really trying to master this offense and hopefully I’ll contribute ideas where I can. But I’m here to coach in this offense.”