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The Owl: On Romeo and Eagles

The Owl knows something about birds of prey, and offers his thoughts on the Eagles' chances against Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel, and the Patriots. Who will roost atop the NFL when Monday comes? Remember that subscribers can join the Owl, Les Levine, and Rich Passan in the <a href="">Subscriber's Lounge</a> to talk Browns year-round!

Finally, the waiting is just about over. By Tuesday the Browns should have their next head coach.

Only time will tell whether Romeo Crennel will be the right choice. Everyone The Owl has spoken to says the Browns are getting a winner, and from what Crennel has been saying down in Jacksonville while getting ready for the Super Bowl it is obvious he has been planning this step for a long time.

The only reservation here is Crennel is the first coach owner Randy Lerner, team president John Collins and general manager Phil Savage interviewed as a group, just as Savage was the first GM candidate interviewed by Lerner and Collins.

How many homebuyers end up buying the first house the real estate agent shows them? Probably not very many. Same thing with shopping for a new car. I'd hate to think Lerner and Collins would be pickier about a car than a coach.

Still, I like the fact Crennel wants to change the Browns to a 3-4 defense. It is a good defense against the run, and with Rudi Johnson and Jamal Lewis in the same division – Jerome Bettis is about to retire, thank goodness – stopping the run is essential in this division.

"That's something I would like to continue to use," Crennel said in Jacksonville. "It's a defense we feel very comfortable with and have been successful with. It's been good to me.''

Crennel, sounding much like Bill Belichick at the Super Bowl in January of 1991 when Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator and the Browns were pursuing him, reminded reporters he is defensive coordinator of the Patriots and his total attention is on the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Yet he did answer other ‘hypothetical' questions about his head coaching philosophy.

Crennel understands how a important good run offense is in the AFC North. He will make better use of fullback Terrelle Smith than Butch Davis did.

"(I like) primarily a two-back offense with the flexibility of being able to use multiple personnel groups to spread the field to get isolations," Crennel said. "You'd like to be able to run the ball, use the play-action pass and be able to throw when we want to.''

Some visitors to the Subscribers Lounge elsewhere on this website have expressed concerns about Crennel's age. He is 57. Three decades ago, 57 seemed old to The Owl, too. Not anymore.

It is fair to have concerns, such as, 'will management give Crennel enough time to clean up the mess?'  Length of contract is not the same as time allotted, by the way. Chris Palmer was fired before his contract was up and Butch Davis resigned with more than three years left on his contract.

Age should not be a concern. When you work for Belichick, no one punches in and out of work. In other words, Crennel won't be working any more hours as the Browns head coach than as Belichick's defensive coordinator.

"You've put in your time, you've done the work, you've kind of climbed the ladder, and then, you have an opportunity to prove yourself on another level,'' he said. "That would be the special part of it.''

The Super Bowl Sunday should not alter the image the Browns hierarchy has of Crennel. The Owl has a feeling the Eagles are going to upset New England.

A review of the Patriots 2004 schedule shows they did not face a quarterback that moves the way Donovan McNabb can. Sure, they beat Peyton Manning twice, and Manning is arguably the best passer in the NFL, but no one ever confused Manning for Michael Vick.

I see the Eagles doing to the Patriots what the Patriots did to the Rams to win their first Super Bowl after the 2001 season. Everybody outside of Massachusetts thought the Rams would win, but the Patriots stunned St. Louis when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal for a 20-17 victory as the clock ran out.

The Patriots thrive on adversity. They had to beat Manning, and then they had to win in Pittsburgh. Now the "us against the world" motivation won't work for Belichick.

But it will work for Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid. Final score: Eagles 24, Patriots 20.

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