Ever since former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss was fired from Notre Dame, fans have been quietly wondering if a reunion with Bill Belichick could become a reality. The Patriots operated this season with no offensive coordinator, at least by title. However, Bill O’Brien had been calling a majority of the plays, with Bill Belichick having the final say, which has always been the case no matter who was or was not the offensive coordinator. The offense this season was wildly inconsistent and all too predictable. Let’s face it, if Joe Sixpack knew that Sammy Morris, lined up as a fullback, was getting the ball on the left side of the line on 4th-and-1, so did an NFL team’s coaches. Inconsistency seemed to be the biggest problem. It was not only hot and cold week to week, but half to half. The Patriots were a very good first half team, and seemed to disappear in the second half. In the past, just the opposite was the case, with the team making in-game adjustments to pull the game out in the end and finish. With Josh McDaniels manning the helm in Denver for the foreseeable future, Weiss’ return, along with his continued relationship since leaving with Belichick and Tom Brady, seemed like a strong possibility. However, that is not going to happen. In news that seemed to get lost in the shuffle with the upcoming playoff game at the time, Charlie Weiss joined the staff in Kansas City, joining former Patriots’ VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, who Weiss has worked with before at the Jets. It is a big loss for the Patriots but a big gain for the Chiefs. Weiss’ strength is his ability to make in-game adjustments and tailor the offense to his personnel, and there are building blocks in place. I expect Matt Cassel to have a much better Year 2 in KC.
But wait! There’s more!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The defensive play has been an issue ever since Eric Mangini (boy it pains me to write that) left to become a head coach. It is a combination of players and play-calling, and Dean Pees hasn’t wowed anybody with his creativity or defensive calls. The best thing he’s done so far is bring in the 56 defense at the end of the season. Former Patriots’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was out of football this past season after being fired from the Cleveland Browns. Any Pats fan with knowledge of Romeo’s availability has clamored to have Romeo rejoin the staff here in New England and resurrect the stale defense. That is no longer a realistic dream. Reports have Romeo Crennel joining Weiss in Kansas City. It’s another big loss for the Patriots as I’m 95% certain that one of these coaches, if not both, would have returned under the right situation.
What the Chiefs are now getting (reportedly) is a defensive coach who the players want to play for because he is tough, fair, and puts together a very good game plan. Crennel follows the Belichick model of taking away what the opposing team does best, forcing it to try and win with its weaknesses. In 2001, the Patriots held the “Greatest Show on Turf” in check for 3 quarters, and I think fatigue is what allowed the Rams to get back in the game late. In 2004, the defense harassed Donovan McNabb into committing 3 turnovers, and who can forget Peyton Manning’s 4-INT day in the AFC Championship Game in 2003? It’s going to take some time for both sides of the ball to be firing in KC, but that process should be sped up with Scott Pioli picking players to fit the offensive and defensive schemes both coaches use. I feel that aspect doomed Crennel in Cleveland, as he didn’t seem to get the right players for his scheme.
There’s no doubt that some coaching shake-ups are on the way in New England, but Belichick’s not going to get any help from his old friends. I do wonder if the Patriots were not focusing on the playoffs (ie they didn’t make the playoffs) if they would have tried making moves for Weiss and Romeo. We’ll never know now. Defensively, if a new coordinator will be hired, I would keep my eye on the Patriots’ current defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. He is currently getting plenty of interest from the New York Giants to fill their vacant defensive coordinator position, and he is an up-and-coming coach. He has spent the last 10 years on Belichick’s staff here and has instant respect with the players for the job he has done coaching and his time in the league as a player. If Belichick doesn’t want another coaching shake-up within his staff, losing another good young coach, he would be wise to promote Peppers. I feel he would bring some more fire to a defense that needs a pass rush and an attitude. It’s time for some much-needed positive change