-- Charlie Weis handed Brady Quinn a New England Patriots playbook, and just like that the Notre Dame quarterback was feeling good about his prospects for the upcoming season.

"When you look at those Xs and Os, you're pretty confident in what they are able to do," Quinn said.

There was a time when giving a football player a Fighting Irish uniform would instill the same type of confidence.

Those days, like much of this storied program's greatest accomplishments, are becoming increasingly distant memories. The Fighting Irish boast of having won 11 national titles, but have none since 1988. They haven't even won a bowl game since 1994.

Enter Weis from New Jersey, Notre Dame Class of 1978, eyewitness to the days when South Bend was to many the Mecca of college football -- and most recently the offensive mastermind behind an NFL dynasty.

The one-time aspiring sportscaster turned football coach is the boss for the first time since his days leading a high school team in his home state. He's landed a dream job with great potential to turn into a nightmare.

If Weis can meld Patriots mojo with Notre Dame mystique and make the Fighting Irish fearsome again, he'll take a place with Rockne, Parseghian and Devine, coaches with icon status in South Bend.

"And the flip side of it is, if you don't, you're just a dunce," Weis said, typically blunt.

As offensive coordinator for Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, Weis earned three Super Bowl rings in the last four seasons and helped groom sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady into the closest thing the NFL has seen to the second-coming of Joe Montana -- who, by the way, shared a suite with Weis and a couple of other guys at Notre Dame.

Weis's resume alone could have convinced Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White to hire him, but he had something else going for him -- he was a Notre Dame guy and it had been decades since the Fighting Irish were coached by one of their own.

Weis walked into a program fractured by the firing of Tyrone Willingham, who was let go three years into a six-year contract, an unprecedented move at Notre Dame.

Four non-winning seasons in the last six years had done little for morale under the Golden Dome, either.

Weis went to work, mending fences and putting his stamp on the program. He visited the dorms and met with students. Anywhere Notre Dame folks gathered, there was a good chance Weis was there speaking to them.

The day before preseason practice, Weis tapped into that Notre Dame lore to motivate his team.

He showed his players the movie "Rudy," the ultimate underdog story about an undersized walk-on and his oversized love for Notre Dame. As if that wasn't enough, Weis had Rudy Ruettiger himself planted in the back of the room and after the movie ended, Ruettiger spoke to the team.

"He was saying it was the first time he's talked to a team since he graduated," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "We really have got to get that feeling and emotion back into Notre Dame that I think was lost the last couple of years. We've got to bring it back and just show what it means to people."

Of course, holding too tightly to the past is partly to blame for Notre Dame's struggles.

The current Fighting Irish, coming off a 6-6 season, return just three starters on defense and play one of the toughest schedules in the country.

"Mind you, the object is to win as fast as we can," Weis said. "So what you have to do, the first message that we are trying to teach the players is, you have no chance of winning if you don't believe you're going to win."

And that's where Weis's Patriots training comes in.

New England doesn't have the most dominant players, but the Patriots' ego-less brand of football and unfailing confidence in their coaches and each other have turned them into the game's dominant team.

It's not enough for the Fighting Irish to use the Patriots' playbook; Weis needs to teach them to play the Patriot way.

"That's what we're working on," he said. "Somewhere along the line, hopefully before September 3, but somewhere along the line, this university is going to get to that point, and when we do, look out."