Monday, August 6, 2007

Who's the Boss?

Romeo Crennel is a teddy bear – a cuddly, nice, smiling, happy teddy bear. He is not a NFL head coach.

“This isn't a soft sport,” Braylon Edwards said in his address to media on Monday. “We don't play chess. This isn't swimming. This is football. It takes a man to play this game and to play this game, you have to have passion. This isn't for the weak-minded, the weak-hearted or soft. This isn't for them. This is for men.”

Well it takes passionate men to coach this game as well. There is a difference between passionate and compassionate, and Crennel is the latter.

Once again Cleveland’s head coaching seat is getting hot, and it’s not because someone has been sitting there too long. It hasn’t even been two full football seasons, and Crennel’s job security is in question after Sunday’s 30 point drubbing by the in-state rival Bengals. Crennel, who is often praised for his defensive mindset, was hiding like Waldo on the crowded sidelines, while defensive coordinator Todd Grantham searched for answers.

It wasn’t just the defense that was struggling. The Browns’ scoreless effort came against a team that had the lowest-ranked defense in the NFL coming into the game. The 30-0 defeat was the first time Browns had been shutout since 1989. It appears that firing – sorry, “accepting the resignation of” offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon was not the solution to the habitually stagnant offense. The slack that decision put in Crennel’s line has been reeled taut, and the hook is still in deep.

Crennel became the Browns head coach on Feb. 8, 2005. His resume was impressive - five Super Bowl victories, 25 years of NFL experience, the tutoring of coaching legends Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells – but there is no formula for head coaching. Top assistant coaches don’t always make great head coaches. There is a reason why other franchises interviewed Crennel but never offered him a job.

His outstanding career as an assistant in New England is irrelevant. The Patriots constantly lose star players and revered coaches but repeatedly prove to be winners. Crennel had nothing to do with that dynasty.

Crennel is a nice guy, but everyone knows where they finish. Assistant coaches in the NFL can be nice; head coaches cannot. Their job is not about befriending players and being optimistic. It is about motivating. It is about managing. It is about making players and fans believe that the team will win – by actually winning.

Crennel’s record in Cleveland is 9-18 (6-10 in 2005, and 3-8 in 2006). That is one win in every three games. The 2005 season was actually a promising one. Six wins is as much as any member of Dawg Pound could ask of the recently struggling franchise. The team seemed to be improving. This season has proved that wishful theory inaccurate, as the Browns appear to be regressing. Do the math, and the six-pack of victory champagne is as much as he will ever drink. And the Browns have too lucrative history and tradition for that to be acceptable.

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