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Patriots' games: It's a coordinated effort

FOXBOROUGH -- Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis are the quiet voices behind a strong head coach, the righthand men of Bill Belichick.

Belichick has delegated more responsibility to his coordinators over the years, which has made Crennel (defense) and Weis (offense) accountable for their respective units.

Crennel and Weis have head-coaching aspirations, but Weis's road to the top came to a halt shortly after the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. In the 2002 offseason, Weis suffered severe complications from gastric bypass surgery.

"I think the biggest problem with the surgery last year, other than the fact that I should have died and that it put a lot of pressure on my family, is I got a lot more gas in my tank," said Weis, who along with Crennel were made available for media interviews for the first time this year. "I still have a bum right foot. I still wear a brace. I still hobble around. But that has nothing to do with the gas in my tank, and I've got plenty of it. I'm ready to go."

Crennel, who has been Belichick's defensive coordinator since 2001, interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers' head job in January during Super Bowl week. The job went to Dennis Erickson, but Crennel believes it was a learning experience.

"That experience was a great experience for me, so the fact that I didn't get the job was not necessarily disappointing because I looked at it as an asset," he said. "If I have a chance to get another interview, hopefully I'll do a better job. That's the way I looked at it. Now, I didn't get that job so I better do a good job at the one I have. That's my philosophy."

San Francisco general manager Terry Donahue identified Crennel as a candidate, but "after the interview, Mr. Donahue took some time to evaluate his candidates, and he decided some other guys were more suited for the second interview. He's got to do what he feels is best for his team. So he did, and I'm trying to get better here."

Belichick is considered an expert on defense, so Crennel is often overlooked for his abilities to create schemes. He's learned to live with that, and he believes in Belichick's system, even if it means standing in the shadows.

"Well that's a two-way street, because sometimes when things go bad I might not want the credit," said Crennel. "I think that we've been together a long time. I work with Bill and we've always had a team structure, and it didn't make any difference who got the credit as long as the team won. Fortunately, over the years we've been able to win as a result of that. We all have egos, but if we can win, it doesn't make any difference who gets the credit. Because if we win, everybody looks good." Is Crennel to Belichick what Belichick was to Bill Parcells?

"I don't know that that's a fair analogy. I don't know that I've been in this position long enough to be able to say that yet. I think that if we can continue to win some games, then maybe it will come to that," Crennel said.

Crennel and Weis made their marks as positional coaches under Parcells.

"[Parcells's] track record has proven that when he goes in somewhere, usually it doesn't take long for them to figure it out," Weis said.

"Bill is Bill," added Crennel. "I think Bill will put pressure on the players, put pressure on the coaches, and his track record says that he's going to get it done. I anticipate that he'll have a good run down there [in Dallas]."

Weis took the blame for the Patriots' offensive inconsistencies last season.

"I think last year, I could have done a lot of things for us to be better," he said. "It's easy to sit there and point fingers at personnel, but I have always lived under the adage, you coach the players you are given, and you coach them as hard as you can coach them. I think that rather than look for excuses for why you are not doing better offensively at any phase of the game, you better start pointing the finger at yourself and figure out what you can do better to give your players a better chance at winning."

Weis believes adding quarterbacks coach John Hufnagel will allow him to be a better offensive coordinator and make Belichick a better head coach.

Although the Patriots didn't devote a lot of their offseason moves to offense, Weis thinks there will be a difference in the play. Without getting into specifics, Weis said, "Well, there are several things that you'll see when we start playing."

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