It’s December 2018, the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens need to rattle off three wins in the final three weeks of the season to make the playoffs. Each moment of each game is crucial, as one misstep could cost the team a post-season berth. Enter the impact of Matt Weiss and his analytical prowess.
From Penn Live:
“John Harbaugh’s mind wasn’t racing after the Baltimore Ravens failed to convert a third down at the Buccaneers’ 7-yard line Sunday. The 11th-year coach didn’t ask assistants or stats gurus whether he should keep the offense on the field midway through the second quarter and never looked toward kicker Justin Tucker.
The decision, Harbaugh said, had been made during the week of preparation.
Baltimore went for it on fourth-and-1, converted on Lamar Jackson’s carry up the middle and scored a touchdown a few plays later that launched the team toward a 20-12 win over Tampa Bay.
“It wasn’t tough,” Harbaugh said of the fourth-down call. “We decided we were going to do that. Our analytics guys, [football strategy coordinator] Matt Weiss leads that. That was something we decided to do before the game even started.”
Weiss, now Michigan’s quarterbacks coach, is a student of the game and his knowledge extends far beyond the QB position to all three phases of football. As a member of the Ravens staff, Weiss was a cornerbacks coach, assistant linebackers coach, defensive quality control, assistant quarterbacks coach, assistant receivers coach, and running backs coach.
Weiss wears many hats, he’s a Swiss-army knife of a coach. Weiss’ diverse repertoire propelled him to success as head of Baltimore’s analytics department. The scenario outlined above from 2018, where Weiss’ game prep from an analytics perspective led to Baltimore going for it on 4th down, is something that will be an asset to Michigan. Michigan hired someone who has shown they evaluate film at a high level. Weiss’ fingerprints were even on Baltimore’s Super Bowl victory over Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers, where the Ravens opted for an intentional safety in the waning seconds of the game. This was due to Weiss’ preparation.
A great example of Weiss’ preparation involves PowerPoint slides, a wager, and Ray Lewis:
Weiss also shared a story with his father about Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis. Weiss puts together a PowerPoint presentation on the different audible positions for opposing teams. After the last team meeting the players take them to study. For the final presentation, on slide No. 69, Weiss typed “I will give $100 to the first person who sees this and texts me.”
Ray Lewis was the first to text him.
“Did he take the $100?” Weiss’ father asked.
Yes, he did.
“Every little bit helps,” Lewis told Weiss.
Weiss, now 37, was a graduate assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2005-08. “I am really excited about reconnecting with Coach Matt Weiss,” Harbaugh said this week. “We have a great relationship from our time together at Stanford and 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. He is a great teacher and will be an excellent role model for our student-athletes.”
Weiss’ has a lot of potential when one looks at his resume. The potential resides with data, such as the output from Baltimore’s rushing attack under his tutelage. The Ravens led the league in rushing in 2019 and 2020 with Weiss as running backs coach. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs were the NFL’s top sack tandem (29) with Weiss as assistant linebacker coach. When it comes to QBs, Joe Flacco ranked in the top ten of numerous categories with Weiss as an assistant quarterbacks coach.
Michigan hired a legitimate coach, not a coach with just one specialty. Weiss understands the machine that is football and its collective mechanisms that make a team succeed or fail. There’s room for optimism that Weiss can help Michigan take their analytics to another level, along with all the film study that comes with it. Weiss’ job title is important, he’s responsible for making sure that quarterback room reaches its true potential, but his job will not end there. He’ll be contributing to the operation in a variety of ways.