It's one of those tantalizing what-could-have-been thoughts: the combination of Charlie Weis, David Cutcliffe and Brady Quinn at Notre Dame.
It was a reality, albeit briefly. Charlie Weis's ballyhooed entry into the college ranks at his alma mater coincided with Cutcliffe's surprise firing at Ole Miss after the 2004 season. By Jan. 4, 2005 Cutcliffe had signed on as Weis's assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
"I wanted to hire a guy that I could, eventually, turn the offense over to," Weis said. "There are very few people that you look at in football who you think are in that stratosphere. I definitely think David is certainly one of them."
Cutcliffe would only be at Notre Dame a few months, though-that March, he took a medical leave to have triple heart bypass surgery, and a slow recovery with complications forced him to resign that June.
"One of the toughest things that I had to do, by far, in the business," Cutcliffe said of walking away from the opportunity at Notre Dame. "There was no way I was going to be able to earn my money. I called him and told him and said, I'm very appreciative, but there is no way I'm going to be capable of what you deserve."
The coaching world is small, so Weis, 58, and Cutcliffe, 59, knew each other just from being offensive-minded coaches of the same generation. During his tenure in the NFL with the Jets and Patriots, Weis had come to scout some of Cutcliffe's players at Ole Miss and Tennessee. Weis had a close friend, Rich Bisaccia-now the special teams coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys-who was on Cutcliffe's staff at Ole Miss. And Weis had already hired John Latina, Cutcliffe's offensive line coach at Ole Miss (and current one at Duke), to his staff at Notre Dame.
Those connections, combined with Cutcliffe's reputation as a quarterback savant, experience as a college head coach and recruiting connections in the deep South made him an attractive hire for Weis.
"I always believe that, to be a really good play caller and offensive coordinator, you need to understand the game through the quarterback's perspective. David has done a wonderful job being able to teach and mentor quarterbacks," Weis said. "He had a proven track record at that time. When you're talking about dealing with the Manning brothers, that's a pretty good product to judge from."
And Cutcliffe was excited about his new pupil at Notre Dame-Brady Quinn.
"He had a lot of skill," Cutcliffe said of Quinn. "He had a lot of want-to, a lot of intelligence, a lot of personal discipline. My one-on-one meetings with him were great quarterback meetings. You couldn't ask for more.
"That was probably the thing, and I hate to say it this way, but the thing I was the most excited about after I had taken the job and gone up there, was Brady."
The two stayed in touch after Cutcliffe left, frequently at first and then less often as both men's careers went forward. Weis and Quinn were successful together at Notre Dame, going to back-to-back BCS bowls in 2005 and 2006. After Quinn left, it quickly went sour for Weis at Notre Dame, with his tenure ending in 2009. By that time, Cutcliffe was knee-deep in his rebuild at Duke. Now, Weis is in a similar position at Kansas.
And Saturday, the two offensive coaches will have their paths cross briefly again at Wallace Wade Stadium-surely not the scenario either envisioned back in January 2005.
Who knows what could have been.