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Aiming to call his own shots

Opportunity knocking for Weis

FOXBOROUGH -- It won't be long before speculation of Charlie Weis's future employment will begin trickling out. He is a fascinating figure -- an offensive coordinator who has worked for Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, the guy who took Tom Brady to two Super Bowls in three years.

Weis had stomach surgery and nearly lost his life in the summer of 2002 combatting his battle with obesity. On the practice field he is colorful, charismatic, like Parcells, yet strategically gifted, like Belichick.

One player in New York, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wanted Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi to hire Weis, who interviewed with the team, and not Tom Coughlin, and there could be second-guessers in Buffalo, who wonder if Weis would have been a better choice than Mike Mularkey, especially when it comes to helping the struggling Drew Bledsoe.

As the NFL season progresses, Weis's name will be mentioned as a head coaching candidate. If the Dolphins have a rough season, Dave Wannstedt could be on the firing line.

And according to a source with knowledge of the University of South Carolina football team, Weis may emerge as a top candidate to replace Lou Holtz.

Weis's offseason contract impasse with the Patriots is well-known; the team is opposed to placing Weis or defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in the growing $1 million club for coordinators. Weis's agent, Bob LaMonte, who represents most of the big-name coaches in the NFL, said in the offseason he expected 2004 to be Weis's last in New England, barring a last-minute change in Weis's salary.

Yesterday, Weis spoke about his favorite subject, Brady, referring to his meteoric rise from fourth-string quarterback to someone he considers "the closest thing to a coach." There's no doubting Brady's loyalty to Weis and vice versa, which is why Brady has said he would have a hard time coping if Weis departs.

Weis said Brady's decision-making and game management is night and day from when he first took over as Bledsoe's replacement in 2001.

"We talked about ability with first-round draft choices before. There is also a mental ability that comes into play, too," Weis said. "That is one thing that [Brady] had walking in the door. He had moxie and he had character and he had that competitive fire. He had all of the qualities that allow you to develop into that person, but there are a lot of people that have thrown abilities away [and] that have never reached their potential. Who knows what his potential is as a football player but using his brain, I mean, he is already right at the top of the league as far as being able to handle that element."

Weis's stock has risen with the advent of Brady. "I think that he makes my job a lot easier," Weis said. Weis said by the end of the week, Brady knows the game plans as well as a coach.

"Not that he is error-free, but I certainly make plenty of mistakes myself," Weis said. "He has the ball in his hands, and that is a good thing, to know you have a guy that really understands what we are trying to do, and I think that the ability to put more responsibility on the quarterback is directly related to his ability to handle those responsibilities."

Weis is talking about check-offs at the line. Brady has been given the option to change plays because in Year 3 as a starter, Weis believes Brady has reached that level.

"He likes the mental challenge of going to the line of scrimmage where `you can run this, but if they do that, you do this.' That is the simplest vernacular I could use to explain how we do it. It is easier to do that when you are at home than when you are on the road because there is a noise level that comes into play. I think that the bottom line is, it isn't like he goes to the line of scrimmage and there are 15 different plays he can call. He just knows that on most of our plays, if we have something bad happen, we can get out of it."

Weis now has an elite running back, Corey Dillon, for the first time since Curtis Martin played with the Patriots. It is a new toy Weis has tried to incorporate into the offense.

"As you get to understand [Dillon], and he gets to understand you, the blockers get to understand that you better keep blocking because he is going to be running right through you if you don't. What it does is establishes a much more aggressive, physical mentality up front and also puts a lot more pressure on defensive coordinators to say, `OK, what are you going to try to do against the Patriots?' "

This Patriots' offense is the most complete Weis has had. Weis has played second fiddle to Belichick and Crennel because of the Patriots' outstanding defense, but this might be the year Weis's offense is front and center, and perhaps stronger than the defense.

Weis said, "This is the best group of football players we have had since I have been here. That doesn't mean they are going to be the best team, but they are the best group of football players."

Which should bode well for Weis's future. His dream is to be a head coach. It appears prospective employers would be hard pressed to pass over him again. 

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