Derry: First to Worst in Two Minutes

Frank Derry returns from a well-deserved break to find Romeo Crennel in charge of the re-building of the Browns. Will he be up to the task? The long-time Browns reporter and publisher ruminates on Romeo's return to the shores of Lake Erie....

Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?


Well, that's where you were on Super Bowl Sunday, right there on the sideline with the No. 1 team in the NFL.

Now you are in Cleveland leading a team that is, well, NOT the No. 1 team in the NFL.

And for that matter, not No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 or 12, either. In fact, talent-wise, the Browns might not even be in the Top 30.

From first to worst in two minutes!

Reportedly that's how long after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years until Crennel, New England's defensive coordinator, accepted the Browns' head coaching job.

I hope he enjoyed the Gatorade drenching the players gave him as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Patriots' 24-21 victory. It might be the last he gets such a shower in a long, long time.

Why would a man willingly leave a dynasty for an organization that has never even won a single Super Bowl? Not only haven't the Browns won a Super Bowl, they haven't even played in one.

At 57 years old, Crennel obviously realized his window of opportunity for getting a head coaching job was starting to close. Despite impressive credentials, including five Super Bowl rings, Crennel hasn't been considered a leading candidate for any head coaching job until now.

The main reason for Crennel being overlooked for so long is because of the man that many Clevelanders still rank right behind Art Modell atop their Public Enemy list.

Bill Belichick, the ultra-successful coach of the Patriots, is still looked upon with distain by Browns fans everywhere for his awful handling of the Bernie Kosar situation more than a decade ago.

Public relations might not be a strength for Belichick, but coming up with successful defensive strategies certainly is. In fact, even though Crennel was the defensive coordinator, it as Belichick who always has gotten credit for devising the game plans that have led the Patriots to two straight Super Bowls titles and three of the past four years.

Meanwhile, Crennel has remained nearly hidden in Belichick's large shadow.

If you have no ego, no ambition and no desire to prove yourself, then you stay in that role and spend your time figuring out what to do with all of your Super Bowl rings.

But Crennel wants more. He wants to show what he can do. He wants to prove wrong all of those people who say Belichick is responsible for the Patriots' success.

The problem, as I see it, is that Crennel might very well be just as smart as Belchick. He might have the ability to put together game plans that are just as good, maybe even better.  

But until he has a team with equal talent, we'll never know for sure.

And that is going to be a problem for a long, long time.

Crennel says he plans to run a 3-4 defense. That in itself is going to be a problem because the Browns are weak at linebacker even in a 4-3. In fact, linebacker might be the weakest link on the defense.

It'll be interesting to see how Crennel views the current linebacker group once he has a chance to study game film. Will he look at Andra Davis as someone capable of handling one of the middle spots. Will Chaun Thompson impress Crennel as much as he did Butch Davis? Are Kevin Bentley and Ben Taylor championship-type players?

Or will the Browns have to find a veteran free agent linebacker or two, along with using a high draft pick or two, to upgrade the linebacker position?

And will this have an adverse affect on the ability to upgrade the offensive line situation, which is considered by most people to be the No. 1 problem area on the team?

Those are just a couple of the problems Crennel has inherited. Unfortunately, it doesn't end there.

Here, in no particular order, are other questions Crennel and his staff will have to answer before next season?

  • Who is going to play quarterback for the Browns in 2005 and beyond? Will a system be devised to take advantage of a Jeff Garcia's strengths? Will Kelly Holcomb be given another opportunity to lead the team? Will a quarterback be high on the team's draft list?
  • Can the Browns re-sign playmaker cornerback Anthony Henry? Or will cornerback have to be another priority?
  • Will Sean Jones live up to his second-round draft status and challenge veteran Robert Griffith for the starting strong safety job?
  • Is free safety Earl Little as good as he thinks he is? Or as bad as former coach Butch Davis thought he was? 

With so many questions that need to be answered and so many holes that need to be filled, it seems almost certain that the Browns will have to trade down in the draft in order to acquire as many picks as possible.

New GM Phil Savage needs to swing a deal that will net a couple of mid to late first-round draft picks in exchange for their own first-round choice.

It also would be beneficial to try and trade Griffith, who is coming off an excellent 2004 season. There is no way Griffith, now 35 years old, will have any higher trade value than he does right now. By the time the Browns have a chance to win, Griffith will be long retired. 

If Green isn't considered the No. 1 back, the Browns might find a team willing to trade a draft pick for him.

And if the team does indeed go to a 3-4 defense, then a lineman or two might be expendable in exchange or a draft pick.

Browns fans might not want to hear it, but this team pretty much has to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up.

It'll take time; it'll take patience; it'll take an owner, a general manager and a head coach all of whom realize success will not come overnight.

Rome wasn't built in a day and no one knows that better than Romeo.

Welcome to the real world!  

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