Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, long rebuffed in his attempts to land a head coaching position in the NFL, has emerged as a serious candidate to replace the fired Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame.
Fighting Irish officials have contacted the Patriots about interviewing Weis, a Notre Dame alumnus, as early as today or tomorrow, said a source involved in the hiring process at the school and confirmed by another source in the NFL with ties to Weis.
The Patriots, who declined to comment on the situation, were described by the NFL source as amenable to Notre Dame's request to talk with Weis. Notre Dame does not need the Patriots' permission to talk to Weis but called as a courtesy. If another NFL team wanted to speak with Weis, it would need New England's permission.
Notre Dame is also going to interview Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements, who played quarterback at the school from 1972-74. Notre Dame has already been forced to turn away from several potential candidates, including its reported top choice, former Utah coach Urban Meyer, an ex-Notre Dame assistant who opted to replace Ron Zook at Florida.
Weis, 48, who is in the final year of a three-year deal he signed after the 2001 Super Bowl season, had a three-day window prior to the NFL's divisional playoffs in January to interview for openings with the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants -- jobs that went to Mike Mularkey and Tom Coughlin, respectively.
Although highly regarded, both Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel have been hindered by New England's success in recent years as they are competing for openings with coaches who are either unemployed or not in the playoffs, and teams can't afford to wait.
During Super Bowl week, Weis complained that the guidelines for interviewing and hiring head coaches "pigeonhole" assistants on teams that advance in the postseason.
Given the defending Super Bowl champions' 11-1 record and their high postseason expectations, Weis may find himself in the same position next month. The NFL's competition committee decided not to allow interviews during the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl or put a freeze on hiring until after the season.
Weis is in his fifth season as the team's offensive coordinator and makes $500,000 a year -- less than half of what top coordinators earn. His agent, Bob Lamonte, said in May he has been unable to come to terms on a contract extension with the Patriots.
"People are saying that Bill is upset at me, I'm angry at Bill," Weis said in a June interview about his relationship with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "But I'm here to say three things: I'm under contract, I understand the parameters, and I'm not an unhappy camper, contrary to popular opinion. All I want is to help us win again."
Weis began his 26-year career as a high school coach in 1979. In 1985, he made his only college stop -- at the University of South Carolina, where he was an assistant for four seasons before returning to the high school ranks. In 1990, he began his NFL journey, which has included stints with the Giants and Jets.