replacing Romeo Crennel

A story some columnists love to write, but not me

By Terry Pluto

I  recently had to write the kind of story some columnists love, but I ABSOLUTELY detest.It had to do with replacing Romeo Crennel.

Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel walks to the locker room after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Browns 22-7 in an  NFL football game,  Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006, in Cleveland. Crennel discussed his plans, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006,  for a team with one game left in a disappointing season and with his top two quarterbacks injured.

After the Browns 14-6 loss at Houston, I wrote what I had been thinking about for a few months: The Browns seriously should consider finding another head coach for next year.

Not because some fans want change, or because the team was 4-12 and someone needs to take the blame.

Even the most vocal Crennel critic knows the coach was in a very tough spot with several injured starters. A repeat of 6-10 would have been a decent year, especially when you factor in a schedule that saw them play only four games against teams that ended the season with losing records.

Heading into Sunday, General Manager Phil Savage told me the Browns had the third hardest schedule in the NFL this season.

And the Browns also had some of the worst luck.

But I just don’t have much confidence in Crennel for a variety of reason. I strongly suggest you read my Monday column on the coaching situation.

It has been many years since I agonized over a story like this. Crennel is truly a decent man who works hard, cares about others and was thrown into a very difficult situation. He’s also a good defensive coordinator.

But there were some major gaps in his overall leadership, as I explained in that story. That’s why the Browns should consider all options, rather than just commit to Crennel for next season.

It pains me to see man wait 25 years for a chance to become a head coach, paying all the right dues and doing all the right things, and then I write that I question his leadership skills.

It’s not a matter of money. Crennel has three more years and about $9 million on his contract. He easily could return to a lucrative position as a defensive coordinator. It’s a matter of writing the right thing, and not writing to please anyone — coaches, fans, players of the teams.

I’ve been listening to Crennel for two years, and I still don’t know how he wants to play — especially on offense. He seems to have little control on that side of the ball, and he trusted Mo Carthon to lead — and Carthon had major leadership issues.

By the time Jeff Davidson took over at midseason, the Browns were mess. I have no idea if Davidson can be a good offensive coordinator.


Before the final game of the season, I sensed the Browns wanted to keep Crennel. They probably will retain Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator. He works well with Crennel. Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker also has received raves from players and coaches around the league.

On offense, at the very least, they probably will hire a veteran coordinator. Davidson may return to coaching the offensive line or another position. Lots of other changes could be made.

If the Browns have doubts about Crennel, why go into another season with him? That’s not fair to the coach, the team, the fans. If there is some uneasiness with the coach and the team starts 1-3, then what?

Fire him and bring in an interim?

That rarely works. Some fans have mentioned that Marty Schottenheimer took over at mid-season with the Browns in 1984. He only agreed to do it if he could have a multi-year contract, so the players knew he would be more than a glorified substitute teacher keeping the chair warm for the next REAL coach.

Either Romeo is their guy, or he’s not. They have to make that tough decision soon.

Important question

As the Browns evaluate Crennel, it should not be about pleasing the fans, or finding someone to blame for a fourth consecutive season of at least 10 losses.

Before the draft, before signing free agents, before dealing with the numerous weaknesses facing the team — the Browns must ask if Crennel has shown the necessary leadership skills in his first two years.

At the very least, the Browns must replace several assistants. They probably need a big-time offensive coordinator, because Crennel’s expertise is on the defensive side of the ball. The offense this season was plagued by more than a shaky line — it had a complete identity crisis.

Too often, you asked, “Just what are they supposed to be doing out there?”

Crennel has never clearly explained his vision for the offense. Maybe he doesn’t have one, or maybe he doesn’t want to impose his will on his coordinator.

Neither is an adequate explanation or a compelling endorsement for having confidence in Crennel.


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