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Passan: Don't Panic!

Here and there around Browns town through the eyes of the guy who has talked to as many Browns fans as anyone. Rich Passan has been a hanging on the Bernie's Insiders forums for several weeks, and the veteran sportswriter/radio host has some sage wisdom for Browns fans. Join Rich in the <A HREF="http://mb8.scout.com/fbrownsinsiderfrm28">Subscriber Lounge!</A>

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock . . .

Just a few more days, ladies and gents, before Romeo Crennel becomes head coach of YOUR Cleveland Browns. Given what we already know, the announcement will seem almost anticlimactic.

It can't come soon enough as the threads and posts on the Web site have taken on a life of their own and given a whole new meaning to the word "ridiculous." People are so uptight about something that hasn't happened yet.

One poster, for example, wonders what will happen if Crennel says "no" to the Browns. Said he's having nightmares about it. Honest.

What if this, what if that.

What if he suddenly loses all that weight? What if he decides to drink from the Fountain of Youth and 57 becomes 37?

Will the world, as we know it, come to an end if Crennel swallows a bottle full of stupid pills, changes his mind and says no? Will Browns fans be doomed to wallow in football hell if he reconsiders and wouldn't be caught dead coaching in "Loserville?"

Relax, everyone. That's not going to happen.

Or is it?

If the media is wrong and the Browns trot Brad Childress or Russ Grimm out next Monday or Tuesday, it will be the greatest upset since Buster Douglas punched a one-way ticket to Palookaville for Mike Tyson.

It would stun the entire media world, especially those guys at ESPN who have been trumpeting Crennel for the last three weeks. Everywhere you turn, another ESPN talking head is telling us it's Romeo.

So don't hold you breath, kiddies. It's gonna be Romeo. So wherefore art thou, big fella? Cleveland, you sayeth? Bringeth it on.


Now as far as the assistant coaches are concerned, I don't think there's anything to worry about there, either.

If Savage and the Browns are as smart as I think they are, my guess is that during the interviewing process with Crennel, they probed his thoughts as to whom he'd like to see as his coordinators.

Maybe I'm giving Savage too much credit. But until he establishes a track record, I've got to believe he is prescient enough to cover all his bases.

Crennel was interviewed a little less than a month ago. At that time, the coordinator field was still somewhat plentiful. I've got to think this has already been addressed.


Thinking about Sunday's Super Bowl . . .

This will not be a close game. Oddsmakers make the New England Patriots seven-point favorites. Give the points, sit back and enjoy.

(Nothing like going out on the limb. Kind of lonely out here)

The best way to beat the Patriots is to attack their offense.  Force Tom Brady into mistakes. The Pittsburgh Steelers did it in their regular-season meeting and won big. They didn't in the playoffs.

If Brady isn't held in check and makes plays, there is no way the Philadelphia Eagles can win. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, one of the top men in his craft in the NFL, must come up with a very sophisticated game plan

He's got to do to the Patriots' offense what the New England defense does to opposing offenses. Confuse them. Let them see one thing and then run something completely different.

If Brady can be controlled, the Eagles have a chance. But the unpredictable New England offense will not make it easy. Just when you figure out what Brady & Co. are going to do next, they yank a surprise out of the bag and stun you.

Whether it's a downfield bomb or an end around or a pass to a linebacker who is in to block in a short-yardage situation, the Patriots are capable of just about anything anywhere on the field.

On defense, disguising defenses is what Bill Belichick and Crennel do best. That's the reason quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger looked ordinary in the postseason against New England.

This should prove quite a challenge to Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Figure that Belichick and Crennel will try to shut down running back Brian Westbrook and force McNabb to win it with his arm and legs. If he tries to scramble, he'll find the very active New England linebackers close by.

The Terrell Owens factor? He might play some, but I don't think he'll be a much of a problem for the Pats' secondary.


Mea culpa: In last week's column, while stumping for the Browns to improve their pass rush, I noted the Browns intercepted 33 passes in 2002, their lone playoff season under Butch Davis.

In my never-ending struggle to achieve perfection, I stumble every now and then. Oops.

Those 33 pass interceptions, as noted by some very alert subscribers, were recorded in 2001, not 2002.

I relied on my memory. Bad mistake. Thanks to those who brought that to the attention of the estimable Mr. McBride.

But I'll stand by my contention that the Browns would have made the playoffs that season had the offense, led by you know who, taken better advantage of the excellent field position the defense gave it most of the season.


One more thing: To those of you who believe franchises need a "franchise quarterback" to be highly successful, stop and think of where the Patriots would be had they not drafted Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.

Then think of where the Browns would be if they, and not the Patriots, had drafted Brady instead of Spergon Wynn in that round.

Could Drew Bledsoe have accomplished with the Pats what Brady has? Most likely not. Then again, we'll never know what Brady would have done here.

The most important role of the quarterback, especially one surrounded by a great team, is to keep mistakes at a minimum. That's what Brady does and that's one of the main reasons the Pats are going for their third Super Bowl title in four years.

And will win it.


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