Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Romeo Crennel seems almost fatalistic when it comes to his future job status.

"If I'm not here next year, it will be because I didn't win enough games," he said during his final weekly press conference of the season on Monday.

Sure, he says he has no real reason to believe he won't be here, but with the fan base and media slipping into daydream believer mode all around him, who can blame him for taking a "whatever happens, happens" attitude?

The names have been fluttering, fast and furious: Jim Tressel. Bill Cowher. Jeff Fisher. Even Urban Meyer from this particular corner.

Those of us with notepads, microphones and fond memories of Kosar-to-Slaughter are free to dream up whatever scenario we want. The danger is when team ownership joins the fray.

For too long, Randy Lerner and Company have been right alongside the fans in holding the belief that the Cleveland Browns job is every coach's dream. We look at our fallen football franchise with a mother's love, scolding and chastising, sure, but never for one minute thinking that there is anything bad about our sweet little Brownies.

The history. The tradition. The bitter cold Sundays on the lakefront. The mouths of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. The knowledge that Jim Brown and every Browns alumnus with a cane and a damn will be looking over your shoulder like you are Norman Dale and they are the town fathers in "Hoosiers."

And the losing. Did I mention the losing? Seriously, what's not to love?

Yet, somehow, we think we can do better than Crennel, who willingly stuck his head into this hornets' nest. Somehow, we think we are owed better than Crennel.

Somehow, we think that if we maneuver this thing just right, Tressel or Cowher will leap into our arms, if not this year, then next year.

And that will change what, exactly? The coach isn't the biggest problem on this team. The several dozen draft picks this team has blown since re-entering the league is. Building the offensive line through aging free agents instead of high draft picks is. Bad luck is.

Think Tressel and Cowher and anybody else you might be dreaming about don't know that?

When it comes to football, Clevelanders tend to think that blood is thicker than water, or losing for that matter. Tressel, who spent his youth shagging kicks for Lou Groza, and Cowher, a former Brown, are blood relatives to us. In our minds, they are destined for Cleveland. Fortunately for the Browns, Tressel and Cowher probably don't share your sentiments. And hopefully neither does Lerner.

The worst thing the Browns can do is make Crennel a benchwarmer until our dream coach comes riding into town to come, see and conquer like Caesar.

You want to see a team roll over and die? Put a lame duck coach in charge of it, and watch the losses pile up. You want to create a scenario that no coach worth his weight in minerals would want any part of? Try to hand him the out-of-control day care center the Browns would almost certainly become with a lame-duck coach at the helm.

The Romeo Crennel era has certainly had its share of bumps in the road, and Crennel deserves his share of criticism, but he also deserves better than to be a lame duck.

Either commit to him now, or let him go now. But if you let him go, just don't expect his successor to have it much better than he did, at least until the team starts to string some good drafts together.

No matter how much you might want to believe in the magical stardust of eras past, no coach with a historical connection to the Browns is going to be able to ride into this town as a conquering hero until he has the tools to work with.

Crennel took over a decimated team and willingly put a bullseye on his back, knowing the rebuilding process was going to be slow and, at times, ugly. For that, maybe he deserves to be considered one of us. Like the fans, he sees potential in a team that has a face only a mother could love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Erik, great article. By great, I mean it hit home. Most Browns fans think the sun rises and falls on Lake Erie. We believe that because our beloved team left after the 95 season that we are somehow owed a winning team. We thought that Carmen Policy was the answer and he would put a winning organization in place because he was part of one in SF. We now know that he didn't draft any of the Montana's, Rice's, or Lott's. Neither did Dwight Clark, who was asked to handle the drafting here with extra picks in those glory years of 1999 and 2000.

We also know that just because a coach is a successful college recruiter doesn't mean that he can evaluate talent in the NFL. Not to disagree with one of your points in the article, but Lerner took the approach of not making Butch a lame duck and it didn't work out too well.

When Savage was hired, I thought that maybe this organization was getting back to the basics and fixing the main problem, which was the draft (or the lack of quality drafts). Phil is known as a great talent evaluator. I think after two years that he gets a passing grade from me, but the jury is still out. Where I think he has let us down is in the free agent signings. He has made a splash and signed many, but few have worked out. Some not his fault (Bentley, Baxter), but that doesn't give the fans a winning product on Sunday's.

I think this organization is at a critical point. The next moves will dictate if this team will be the Lions and Cardinals, or if there will be hope on the lakefront.

Here are my thoughts on that:

1. Lerner has got to put a football guy in charge of the organization as its President. I believe this person has to be accepting of Savage staying on as GM. Let Phil do what he does best. With a full year to prepare for last year's draft he came away with Wimbley, Jackson, and the other MLB in the 4th round that escapes my mind right now. Those are quality players who should be contributors for awhile. If he can continue to get 3 or 4 quality guys every year, this team will be able to field a quality NFL team.

2. As for Crennel, I too believe that he needs a chance with more quality players, but there are several things that just doesn't add up. Savage and Crennel don't always seem to be on the same page. The best example I can give is that time after time Romeo throws around quotes that basically say he doesn't believe rookies should play much. In the last two years there were many rookies that got little to no opportunity to play when at no point it time were the Browns going to make the playoffs. Guys like Speagle or Travis Wilson should have been given more of an opportunity to see what they could do. Are you going to tell me that the LB's on the 2005 team were so good that Speagle couldn't get on the field? Or that Norhtcutt was so great that it kept Wilson on the inactive roster? I'm not saying that either one of my examples are stars, I just saying that the coach isn't allowing the talent evaluator's (Savage) work to fully show. I'm convinced that if McGinnest wasn't hurt early that Wimbley wouldn't have been able to show how good he was. If the Browns were in the playoff hunt and Crennel wanted to go with the proven veterns, that is fine. But they were not it that situation at all and Crennel isn't allowing the youth the become better by giving them experience.

The bottom line for me is this, I believe that Savage has done a better job in the past two years than Crennel, and if I have to choose one of them to continue, I choose Phil.

Thanks for giving me the forum to express my opinions...keep up the great work.

Dave in NJ