Depending on the outcome of Sunday's AFC Championship Game, the Cleveland Browns could name their newest coach sometime next week. Assuming that coach is Romeo Crennel, it would take a New England Patriots loss on Sunday for that to happen. You may remember that, in a similar situation in 1999, the Browns mishandled the quest for Brian Billick by trying to get him to agree to come to Cleveland almost immediately following the Minnesota Vikings loss in the NFC Championship Game. David Modell, not known for his shrewdness, correctly allowed Billick to wait a few days before bringing him to Baltimore, where he continues to serve as head coach.
The question that will always follow Crennel, until he gets to prove otherwise, is how much of the New England defense is carried out by him, or by head coach Bill Belichick.
While writing a book on the success of the Patriots, former Akron Beacon Journal writer Michael Holley was allowed almost total access to the Patriots inner workings. He claims that, while in Cleveland, Belichick's stamp would have been on everything, with the offensive and defensive coordinators implementing his wishes. According to Holley, Belichick has learned from that mistake, and Crennel and Charlie Weis are almost totally responsible for what takes place on the field.
Another concern is that the 57-year old Crennel might just be the best candidate out of a weak field. After all, it is believed that he seriously interviewed for five different head coaching jobs over the past two years, and didn't ‘blow anyone away' as he reportedly did to Randy Lerner and John Collins. That is a legitimate concern because Lerner and Collins have no experience in the field of picking head coaches, and may not know what to look for.
The fact that Crennel doesn't seem to want to do anything but coach is not a major problem. Ideally you'd like to have a visible coach with an engaging personality, but we just went through that. Crennel appears to be a no-nonsense guy, who doesn't care about his public image. That's OK. With non-public franchise leaders like Lerner and Collins already in place, it's time to make the players the focal point of the team. The relative success of the 1980's was not just because of the success on the field. Those teams were made up of personalities that the public recognized and liked. Many were quite visible all over town. Even the most faithful Browns fans today would have trouble recognizing more than 18-20 players by sight, and fewer would know anything about their personalities on or off the field. Unfortunately, these fans probably only know the dark sides of players like Jeff Garcia, Ross Verba and William Green.
One of the first things that the new coach and GM Phil Savage will have to deal with is the quarterback decision. It is impossible to envision Jeff Garcia back in 2005. I have no idea what kind of offense that the Browns will utilize, but Garcia probably won't fit in no matter what the offense is. In addition, it was tough enough for the fans to accept Tim Couch after his emotional outburst following his concussion in a home game against Baltimore, but the front office can't possibly want to be put in a position to defend the use of Garcia following his recent public trial. How that trial was able to clog up the justice system is beyond me, but that's a story for another day.
I can't see handing over the reins to Luke McCown either. Certainly he faced some tough opponents, and bad weather, but he didn't seem to learn from his numerous mistakes. In addition, Kelly Holcomb has shown to be an effective back-up, but a questionable starter. My guess is that the Browns will try to pick up a veteran QB to help get them over the hump. That was the theory with Garcia, but it obviously didn't work. That's not to say the idea was wrong---but the execution was. Looking at the rest of the starting QBs in the North Division last year---Boller, Palmer, and Maddox---you would think the Browns were in the best shape going into the season. Clearly, now they far behind the other teams in the division in the quarterback slot, let alone almost every other group of positions, offensively and defensively.
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