- Michael Smith, NFL Senior Writer
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It's an easy call, as well as an obvious one -- as sensible as a Corey Dillon dive from the 1-yard line.
Notre Dame got played by its top choice for its next head football coach, Utah's Urban Meyer, who instead chose the University of Florida. But in football it's all about the next play, so here's a suggestion to the Irish for their next call:
Once you've finished picking up your collective face, save some of it by turning to one of the best play callers in the NFL -- New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
This time, you won't be turned down. You need Weis and he wants you.
Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham thinking Meyer to South Bend was a slam dunk, only the Irish got a little too much rim and lost out in their pursuit of the former Bob Davie assistant. They need to score the next time down. Getting the man in charge of producing points for a two-time Super Bowl champion -- and whose name is sure to come up again as a candidate to fill several pro head coaching vacancies -- would do it.
If Notre Dame wants a guy with ties to the university, in Weis they get one who probably owns a few Irish neckties. He's a Notre Dame alum, class of '78. As a student majoring in communications and education, he cheered with the rest of the Notre Dame crazies during the Joe Montana years.
For the past four seasons, two as quarterback coach, Weis, 48, has tutored the next Montana, Tom Brady. But this will be his last season in New England. His contract is up Feb. 1. On the other hand, several coaches viewed as potential targets for Notre Dame have contractual hurdles. Jon Gruden is finishing the first year of a five-year pact with Tampa Bay and isn't going anywhere; Iowa's Kirk Ferentz recently agreed to a new deal; and Boise State's Dan Hawkins signed an extension. Jeff Tedford and Bobby Petrino also just re-upped with Cal and Louisville, respectively.
Weis, meanwhile, will be looking for a job anyway, and I'm pretty sure he's smart enough to view a bird in the hand as better than two in the bush.
Weis and Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel have twice in the past three years been victims of their team's success. Under the NFL's interviewing policies, coordinators whose teams advance deepest into the playoffs are at a disadvantage when it comes to landing head jobs. If offered soon, I can't imagine Weis rejecting the Notre Dame job and the $2 million annually the Irish may be willing to pay in favor of the mere chance to land the gig in Cleveland, Miami or New Orleans, the latter assuming frugal Saints owner Tom Benson is even willing to pay hot-seated Jim Haslett the nearly $7 million he is owed for the remaining two years of his contract.
A worst-case scenario for Weis is that he's passed over again and lands a coordinator position elsewhere. But he wants badly to be a head coach, and the prestige of Notre Dame figures to be sufficient to prompt him to temporarily forgo any opportunity at a top NFL job. No doubt he and the Irish, who were rejected a few times the last time they went looking for a coach, both want to avoid Groundhog Day. Remember, Weis expressed interest in the University of Washington vacancy a couple years back (ironically, Seattle could be Willingham's destination) and he would have been South Carolina's Plan B had Steve Spurrier spurned them (Weis was a Gamecocks assistant coach from 1985-88).
A problem for the powers that be at Notre Dame could be that Weis won't be able to leave New England until after the season. But he can still recruit from Foxboro, Mass. He'll be in the living room of every high school senior across the nation come January -- on their television sets, coaching the Patriots' offense in the postseason. A criticism of Notre Dame over the past decade is that it hasn't sent many skill players to the pros. One way to reverse the trend is to bring in a guy who knows what it takes not just to make it but also to thrive at the next level.
The biggest knock on Weis is that he has no head coaching experience. But he has 15 years of working under two of the league's best head coaches of the last two decades, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. In Weis, Notre Dame could be getting the next Al Groh or Pete Carroll, two top-flight NFL coordinators who couldn't cut it as head men but have been successful running Virginia and USC, respectively.
In South Bend, they're longing for the glory days. In New England, they're living in the glory days. Weis has been a member of the crew that has built the Patriots dynasty. It makes sense to bring the two together, rather than trying to separate a coach from another school.
Too much sense.
Make the call, Notre Dame, and make an offer.
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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