Just what are the Cleveland Browns thinking?
Sometime this week, they are expected to give coach Romeo Crennel a contract extension, adding as many as four years to the two remaining on the deal he signed in 2005.
It's a reward for Crennel leading the Browns to a surprising 10-6 record and the brink of the playoffs. And it's quite a turnaround from what was widely expected after Crennel had gone 10-22 in his first two seasons in Cleveland. He managed to get off the hot seat thanks to an offense that ranked eighth in the league in yards and points.
But does he really deserve a new contract? Shouldn't he have to prove this wasn't a one-year wonder, that he can keep it going for another year and actually get into the playoffs?
It's not like Crennel would have entered next season as a lame duck. He had two years left on his original deal. And the Browns should have pretended they were playing a game of HORSE and made him prove it.
After all, the Browns went just 1-3 against teams that made the playoffs, and many of their victories were close, high-scoring contests won by their offense. Crennel is supposed to be a defensive guru, and yet that side of the ball ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed.
In fact, Crennel's defenses in Cleveland have declined every year, from 16th in 2005 to 27th in 2006 to 30th this season.
The Browns obviously think they are two or three defensive players away from contending, but why not make Crennel prove he can actually fix that part of the team and get the Browns to the playoffs?
Because so far he has looked a lot like Brian Billick and Marvin Lewis, former star coordinators who have failed to put together good units on the side of the ball where they specialized.
Billick could never come close to replicating his Minnesota offenses as coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and Lewis has not been able to put together a Cincinnati defense that is even a shadow of the units he coached in Baltimore.
Crennel was hired by the Browns despite some questions about how much impact he actually had on New England's defense. Those doubts seem well founded at this point.
Crennel somehow emerged from Bill Belichick's shadow to get a head-coaching job, but he has yet to put together a defense even vaguely like those the Patriots have boasted since Belichick—a noted defensive wizard—arrived there.
Crennel's offense bailed him out this season, but even 10 wins wasn't enough to reach the playoffs in the tough American Football Conference. Crennel will have to fix his defense to get the Browns over the hump. But until he does, he isn't worth a contract extension.
What are the Browns thinking?