By: Bob George/BosSports.net
May 24, 2004

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Never play poker with Bill Belichick or Scott Pioli if you go with a dealer's choice format instead of a set version.

Because they will kill you in lowball.

It so happens that the World Series is going on at this time -- of poker, that is. Out at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas, some of the best poker players on the planet are vying for a top prize worth $5 million (Ty Law might be able to clothe his family with that money, but it might not feed them). In the championship round, the version will be no limit Texas Hold 'Em. You have to figure that if it were lowbie, Belichick and Pioli would be dealt 2-3-4-5-7 (or close to it) every time.

Such is the way with the championship patriarchs. They take second-tier talent and mold it into a Super Bowl winner. They take top-tier talent and tell them to go and get rich elsewhere. The plan works, so nobody can call them cheapskates. For instance, not a single hockey-loving soul in the area would say negative word one about Jeremy Jacobs if his skinflint method resulted in a few Stanley Cups in the last 30 years.

Now, Patriot Nation is finding out that the lowbie method applies to coaches as well. It is now understood that this will be it for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in 2004. Beyond this season, he will be working elsewhere, either as a head coach or an offensive coordinator. A lateral move is possible since his Patriot contract will run out at the end of this year.

You all should not need your memories refreshed when this subject is broached. Damien Woody, Ted Washington and Lawyer Milloy all play elsewhere. Law is reinventing the word "truculent" (an adjective in which the late Howard Cosell once used to describe Muhammad Ali), but many reports say now that Law may stay put, and even get a new deal as well. On the other hand, men like Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Troy Brown are only too happy to redo their deals so that they may stay Patriots.

Now we come to the administrative level. These guys are not bound by salary cap rules. You can pay these guys half of Fort Knox and you don't have to ask Tom Brady to dip into his Bridget Moynahan dating fund. In Weis, you have a proven commodity who has made his mark in numerous areas of offense over the years, and can be credited with, among other things, the development of Ben Coates, Curtis Martin and Terry Glenn.

Weis will make $500,000 in 2004. There are other coordinators around the league whose salaries exceed one mil. When Weis and his agent went to see Belichick about a raise, they were flatly denied. They then came out and said that Weis will move on in 2005. He will be a coach or coordinator somewhere else, plain and simple.

On the surface, this rather stinks. How can Belichick play such hardball with a man who has been more than just a trusted lieutenant over the past several years? Perhaps the most damning element in regards to this treatment is that Weis played a big role in Belichick's exodus from Jet Nation and his arrival in New England four Januaries ago. During those hearings held in New York to determine if Belichick could wriggle free from his Jet contract, Weis testified for Belichick and against Bill Parcells. Belichick lost the hearing, Parcells tossed Weis out on his ear, and Weis wound up with Belichick in Foxborough as his top offensive leader.

So this is the thanks I get, thinks Charlie?

To maintain this thinking is to miss the point. There is no mistreatment of Weis in this whole scenario. While it seems heartless and thankless, all this is is the business of football being played out by Belichick and the Patriots. Nothing personal, just business. Clich at its worst, but this is exactly why Weis is being handled the way he is.

The bottom line is that Weis hungers to be a head coach somewhere, even in the collegiate ranks. Add to that the fact that Weis is a prime candidate for a head coaching job should he ever be available for one, and you get two very good reasons not to give Weis a huge raise nor lock him up long term. In fact, if it were not for the rules which prohibit teams from talking to coaches whose teams are still alive in the playoffs, Weis may have been gone a long time ago.

What Belichick is doing for his old friend is actually a favor. He is greasing the skids for Weis to become what he desperately wants to become. That is why all you hear from the Weis camp is "Charlie will give it his all in 2004, then he's outta here!" or words similar. Weis has to be thrilled at the light at the end of the tunnel, and wants to put on one more good audition for everyone to behold. And Weis has to be very happy with his long-term prospects.

The fact that Weis is amenable to a college job helps him greatly. One need only notice what has been going down on Exposition Boulevard and Vermont Street in Los Angeles (and let's knock off this Aunty Pete stuff, gang, the guy's a champ in everyone's eyes except the BCS) to see why Weis would love to give a major university the old college try. Belichick is good friends with LSU's Nick Saban, and new linebacker coach Dean Pees lists Kent State as his last place of employment. Just because you coach boys instead of men does not mean that you are completely enjoined from any chance to coach in the NFL some day.

Face it, this is what Weis wants. He doesn't want to spend the rest of his coaching life in Belichick's shadow, just like Belichick didn't want to always be known as Little Bill. Patriot Nation needs to reconcile this and prepare for a new offensive coordinator in 2005. Things might be different if Weis had told Belichick that he is okay with spending the rest of his coaching career as a co-star rather than a star. But since Weis' career coaching goals are crystal clear, why bother to extend him any extra funds at this time?

Some time ago, this column talked about the "Belichick Coaching Tree", which some day will look like the Walsh Tree or the Parcells Tree or the Lombardi Tree. You already have Rob Ryan out there as Oakland defensive coordinator. Weis and Romeo Crennel will some day have their own ships. Don't be shocked if Eric Mangini follows that same path some day. Guys like Dante Scarnecchia stay put and are lifers as assistants. Guys like Weis need to move on and advance their careers.

All that said, losing Weis would be a blow to the Patriots. There would be no logical in-house replacement ready to step in (like Mangini could if Crennel leaves). Weis has, for the most part, been a solid coordinator, dazzling and unpredictable at times, with an occasional penchant for some head-scratching game plans and strategies. On a team where defense is king, Weis has governed an offense which has produced perhaps the next great quarterback in league history, the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, and now some stud running backs which will make opposing defensive coordinators mumble in their sleep.

But Weis needs to be a head man. And it finally looks like that day will be near for this most dedicated and beloved Patriot. Just take all his contract issues with a grain of salt, and realize that you cannot stop the inevitable from happening.


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