Foxborough, Mass. - While the courtship between the University of Notre Dame and Charlie Weis has apparently begun, New England head coach Bill Belichick fully expects his offensive coordinator to remain with the Patriots through the end of the season.
Weis, who is under contract with the Patriots through the end of the 2004 season, interviewed for the head coaching position at his alma mater earlier this week, according to one published report. Other sources, including ESPN, are reporting Notre Dame contacted the Patriots for permission to interview the 48-year-old Weis and the two parties met on Friday. Weis and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements are widely considered to be the top choices as replacements for fired head coach Tyrone Willingham.
Belichick, however, offered an insistent "yes" when asked if he expects Weis to remain with the Patriots through the remainder of the 2004 season.
"Charlie is here, Charlie is working hard," Belichick said. "Charlie, I expect, will continue to be here and carry his responsibilities through the season."
Belichick stopped short of speculating about the future of Weis or any potential coaching vacancies when asked if he had been contacted by Notre Dame officials.
"Look, I don't have anything to say about the Notre Dame situation, or any other college situation, or any other pro situation," Belichick said. "Anything with regard to any other team - college or pro - other than the New England Patriots, you would have to talk to whoever that group is."
Ironically enough, Belichick has been through this situation before. As the head coach with the Cleveland Browns, Belichick witnessed defensive coordinator Nick Saban accept the head coaching position with Michigan State University before the end of the NFL season. He and Saban were able to agree on a working relationship where Saban handled his duties with the Browns while simultaneously acting as head coach for the Spartans.
"He worked as the defensive coordinator for the Browns through the end of the 1994 season," Belichick explained. "There was a time period in there where he also was head coach at Michigan State, and did some things with them and split a little time between the two, and then when the season was over went to Michigan State.
"I think Nick [Saban] did a good job. I think he handled the situation well. Nick and I talked about it, we had a good relationship. We talked about it before he interviewed for the job, we talked about it after he was offered the job, we talked about it after he accepted the job and then we worked our way through it. I don't think it was a problem."
Whether or not it would be a problem, or even a possibility, for Weis to carry out a similar dual role between the Patriots and Notre Dame remains to be seen. Of course, Notre Dame may not be willing to wait for a potential head coach to finish out the NFL season, as December is in the heart of the recruiting period. With four regular season games remaining, the 11-1 Patriots appear poised for another playoff run that could reach into late January or early February.
Weis earned a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame but did not play football for the Fighting Irish. Currently in his 15th season of coaching in the NFL, he began his professional coaching career with the New York Giants in 1990 before four seasons as a position coach with the Patriots (1993-96) and three seasons with the New York Jets (1997-99). Weis is now in his ninth season overall with the Patriots, taking over as the offensive coordinator prior to the 2000 season.
Weis has not spoken publicly regarding the Notre Dame position. Wide receiver Troy Brown, the longest tenured of the Patriots, indicated that while Weis is a crucial part of what the team does, it hasn't been a distraction as the team prepares to play Cincinnati on Sunday.
"He's our offensive coordinator," Brown said. "He's been there for awhile, and he's a huge part of what's going on around here. I'd like to think all of our coaches are important to what's going on. All that stuff, that's outside of what we have to do. Its just part of our business. I don't know what the deal is; I have no idea what's going on. It's none of my business really."
To no surprise, Belichick wasn't interested in talking about what possibilities could play out if the courtship and reported talks between Notre Dame and Weis progress further.
"I'm not getting into theoreticals," Belichick said. "I don't know. I'm just trying to prepare the team for Cincinnati. We're just trying to win a game. I don't have any comment on anything else other than the Bengals."