Levine: Are the Planets Aligned?

Les Levine talks to Browns fans everyday on the radio and television, and feels that Browns fans will react well to the Crennel hiring. Thoughts on that, impending roster changes, and more in his weekly column...

Now that Romeo Crennell is officially the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, numerous Browns fans have already told me that they are back in the fold.  According to them, the Butch Davis occupation of the Cleveland Browns is over, and it is time to get back to the business of rooting for this team.

As hard as it might be for some people to believe, in the Doom & Gloom Days of Bill Belichick, just like in the past two years or so, life-long Browns fans lost interest in the team, with the hopes that a continuation of losing ways would bring about a head coaching change.

The difference between the announcement of the previous head coach back in 2001 and yesterday's announcement of Crennell is obvious.  Based on his success as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys and his head coaching experience at the University of Miami, fans here expected a quick turn-around.  Either people or smarter now, or their expectations have been lowered.  The smart ones realize that the new front office, with more defined roles, is taking shape, and nobody is expecting miracles very soon.

What needs to be understood is that the key people involved are all new at their positions, and the odds are against all of them working out.

Randy Lerner has just named his first head coach, without ever leading the interview process at that level before. His only previous experience was a failure, extending the contract and the duties of Butch Davis. President & CEO John Collins has never hired anyone at the football side of things, so this was new to him also.

While Phil Savage seems to be right guy for the General Manager position, he is also new at this game. And the same thing goes for the co-ordinators, whether Maurice Carthon and Eric Mangini, both successful position coaches, or other first-timers are chosen.

At this point, all of the choices on the football side appear to be good ones.  But history tells us that, three years from now, we won't be looking at the same people in those same positions.  The success of this franchise in the immediate future depends upon how well these ‘rookies' perform.

Over the years, some callers to my talk show have made the outlandish claim that the choice of Tim Couch as the first pick of the expansion team in 1999 was made because the franchise might have been concerned about picking an African-American. 

I wouldn't expect to hear from those same people lauding Randy Lerner for picking Crennel, now the sixth African-American head coach in the NFL for the upcoming season. 

Cleveland people should know better than that. Look at the history of Cleveland professional teams. 

The Indians signed Larry Doby as the first African-American to play in the American Leagues, just six weeks after Jackie Robinson opened the season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Frank Robinson was named as the first black manager in 1975. The Cavaliers have been coached by Lenny Wilkins, John Lucas and now, Paul Silas. And, of course Paul Brown led the way with Horace Gillom, Marion Motley and several others, long before the other rosters carried African-American players. 

Sports has long been the leader in the fight for equality in this country. And it is refreshing to talk about the merits or non-merits  of the hiring of Romeo Crennell, without race being part of it. 

There was a long used misguided theory that baseball owners feared hiring of a black manager because they would have a tough time firing him if things didn't work out.  In a couple of years, nobody will have a problem firing Romeo Crennel, or extending his contract.  His record and progress of the team will speak for itself.

While Crennell is fond of the 3-4 defense, he said at his press conference that he'd have to check out his personnel to see which way to go in his first year.  That has led to speculation that Courtney Brown might be given a look at linebacker.  If that shift is made and is successful, it would be like adding a free agent to the roster, just like the addition of last year's top two picks, Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Sean Jones

Obviously a decision must be made on the quarterback position, but when everyone gets healthy, Savage and Crennel may find out that the cupboard isn't as bare as some people think.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm and 11pm-midnight on Adelphia Channel 15.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com


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