The Patriots appear to have taken step one toward returning to prominence in 2002 by re-signing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to a two-year contract extension, according to the Boston Herald.
Weis' contract with the team expired last Friday (Feb. 1) and he was free to sign elsewhere in any capacity. There were reports during Super Bowl week that Weis was interested in becoming the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator. John Fox, the Panthers new head coach, is close friends with Weis, thus making the match a possibility and he actually offered him the job before Weis re-signed.
Other possibilities for Weis involved the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are still without a head coach after firing Tony Dungy at the end of the season and Weis might be a candidate for the vacancy. He also reportedly drew interest for the offensive coordinator job there.
With the two-year extension worth a reported $1 million, Weis now cannot leave for a lateral move, meaning unless he gets the head job in Tampa he'll be running the Patriots offense in 2002. His agent, Craig Kelley, was unavailable for comment.
The news should put a smile on Tom Brady's face as the second-year quarterback enjoyed tremendous success in Weis' system. Despite having limited weapons at his disposal, Weis consistently came up with imaginative game plans that found ways to put points on the board.
He also showed flexibility in turning toward running back Antowain Smith and the ground game, something he admitted wasn't his ideal way of approaching the offense. But he realized Smith provided the Patriots with their best chance to win, and like virtually every member of the Super Bowl champs, cast his own ego aside and did what was best for the team.
The remaining members of the Patriots coaching staff are under contract so Bill Belichick will have the luxury of continuity on his staff. The lone exception will be the quarterbacks coach after Dick Rehbein died during training camp. The Patriots will likely search for a replacement now after choosing not to bring someone in at such short notice without the benefit of knowing the system.
After the Patriots 20-17 win over the Rams on Sunday, several offensive players put in an encouraging word for their leader. Wideout Troy Brown said having a guy like Weis putting together the game plan was very settling.
"He always seems to do the right thing," Brown said amongst his jubilant teammates. "Charlie has a way of putting us in positions to make plays. He always seems to be a step ahead of the defense and we need him back here to do that next year."
Barring unforeseen circumstances, that's exactly where he'll be.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri's appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman last night wasn't the only show biz opportunity for the Patriots. Wide receiver David Patten will be in the spotlight tonight as a guest on the Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn.