I have been a proponent of firing Romeo Crennel as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for some time now.
My fears first started in training camp with an incident that, in my opinion, sent the Browns season horrendously off course when it happened.
Newly acquired free agent wide receiver Donte Stallworth and budding superstar Braylon Edwards were engaging in conditioning running after practice one afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Browns, Stallworth’s spikes also engaged Edwards’ heel, gashing him deep and ending his preseason.
The only way it could have been worse was if Stallworth had ruptured Edwards’ Achilles tendon—or if Edwards has gotten a staph infection.
It was that small misstep that led to the Browns’ giant misstep of a season in 2008. We all know where it went from there. Now, whereas the act is not the sole reason for the Browns; demise in 2008, the coach's reaction was.
Blowing off the incident as just kids being kids, as Romeo Crennel did, I began to wonder if Crennel really had a grasp of how fleeting success in the NFL can be. As 2008 unfolded my, and many other die hard Browns fans, fears were realized in a series of moves that even make the most naïve football fans shake their heads.
(The questionable decisions really started a year previous when Crennel decided to flip a coin to decide who would start the first preseason game, Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson. But with the success that came in 2007 this incident is often forgotten.)
The season began to snowball in September when the Browns opened against the Dallas Cowboys and Crennel called for a field goal down 21 points in the fourth quarter.
He followed that up with another field goal call on fourth down in the red zone against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He failed to pull the trigger on benching Derek Anderson more than a few times, but sent Brady Quinn to the pine after two and a half games.
Crennel's personnel moves have left a lot to be desired as he fails to interject himself in to the game plan by instructing his coordinators to play certain players (Jerome Harrison, Alex Hall) or get them more involved (Harrison, Josh Cribbs).
He has stuck with gritty veterans (Willie McGinest, Darnell Dinkins) at a time when seeing what some of the younger players (Hall, Beau Bell, Martin Rucker) can do might have benefited the team.
His 0-7, soon to be 0-8, record against the hated Steelers along with his 3-5 record versus the Baltimore Ravens will continue to hold the team back. His 2-5 record battling the lowly Cincinnati Bengals is flat out embarrassing, and the icing on the cake.
The Browns still make the same procedural and formation penalties in Crennel's fourth year at the helm that they did in his first. Other than the 2007season, which now looks like an abomination, his teams have never shown consistent improvement. In fact, even in 2007, his teams have gotten worse as the season has progressed.
However, the Browns lack of success does not fall entirely on Crennel's shoulders.
Owner Randy Lerner and General Manger Phil Savage shoulder some of the blame, as do many of the players, who after the success of 2007 either got too full of themselves or thought they could just coast for the rest of their careers.
But the fact that Romeo Crennel has never been able to get the most out of the hand that he has been dealt speaks for itself.
I will not lie. I was ecstatic when Crennel was hired after Butch Davis fired/quit/bought out in the middle of the 2004 season. I thought that he was the perfect answer to an organization spiraling out of control. Unfortunately, more of the same ensued and on December 29, 2008 his time will have passed as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
But I will say this for Crennel—despite being a bad head football coach, he has been more of a man that some of the others associated with the Browns organization.
He has never shied away from the media, win or lose. He may be loyal to a fault on some occasions, but he has never throw a player or anyone else under the bus (looking at you, Phil Savage).
He has been put into positions that a head coach should not have to be in, with the Kellen Winslow staph infection scandal and the Phil Savage e-mail embarrassment.
Both times it was Crennel stepping up to the podium to address the situations that he should not have had to. And he did so in live in front of cameras, not in a secluded room like Lerner.
Throughout the speculation of Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer and a host of others coming to take his job away in mere weeks, he has remained calm and respectful when other would not have been.
The fact that he has not resigned (a la Butch Davis) despite knowing his impending fate shows you that he is a man of character as he has not quit on the team.
Romeo Crennel may have his shortcomings, but he is a good man, great person, and an even better role model in a time where there are very few in the world today. He is a man of character, dignity, and integrity, which are qualities that many in the Browns organization, and on the team, are severely missing.
But despite those characteristics, he still remains a bad head football coach.
And in the end that’s all that matters.
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