Owl: One Simple Thing

There has been change once more in Berea, but it doesn't effect the wise old Owl. He simply flaps his wings a couple of times to stay above the fray and then roosts again when things are calmer. He is studying Romeo Crennel intently and has concluded that there's one simple thing that matters, and one other thing that doesn't...

So Romeo Crennel is the first black coach in the history of the Cleveland Browns. To even point it out is to imply that until now anyone who owned the Browns in the past resisted to hire a qualified coach because the coaching candidate was African-American.

Which, of course, is so totally ridiculous it isn't worth another word in this sentence.

Likewise, Randy Lerner did not hire Crennel to break some color barrier in Cleveland. He hired Crennel because he believes the former Patriots defensive coordinator was the best coach available when the Browns went hunting a month ago.

Naturally, the black coach question was one of the first Crennel had to answer during his press conference Tuesday. The Owl was happy to hear Crennel's response.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't even realize that until I was about to enter this room," Crennel said. "I would like to keep that way if possible because I would like to think of me as just a head coach and not as a black coach. That is the way I want people to look at me and not that I am a black coach.

"My skin color is black, but I am a head coach. I hope that I possess the qualities that are in a head coach with the leadership, organization, and the prioritizing."

That does not mean Crennel isn't proud of his heritage. Yet he has deeper pride in the way he was raised. His late parents, Mary and Joseph Crennel, were stern and loving. His father was a career military man and made him toe the line. His mother "had the patience of Job" and it was from her Crennel learned to be what he described as ‘even keel.' He is going to need patience to rebuild this football team, which went 9-23 over the last two years.

"In many cases I have been the only African-American on a staff or in the neighborhood," Crennel said. "The way that I carry and conduct myself I know that it carries an impact on the rest of America and on African-Americans in particular. The best thing I can do for minorities trying to work themselves up the ladder is to be successful."

Crennel will not be judged by his skin color. He will be judged only by wins and losses. Pity anyone that uses any other measure.

Interestingly, the New England Patriots were 5-11 in Bill Belichick's first season as head coach in New England. They won the Super Bowl the next year.

"Know that it might not happen overnight because it takes time to build a winner, but still, in doing that, our goal and aim is to win a championship," Crennel said. "Whether that happens next year or three years from now, who knows?"

Belichick made some daring moves in New England, not unlike what he did in Cleveland. He had enough confidence in Tom Brady to trade Drew Bledsoe to the desperate Buffalo Bills for a first-round draft choice. He cut popular defensive back Lawyer Milloy. Both moves were highly successful.

No one on the Browns roster is so popular that the fans would revolt if he were traded or released, with the possible exception of Kellen Winslow Jr. That alone reflects the mess the Browns are.

"I think that there might be some areas that have to be rebuilt," Crennel conceded. "I can only talk about one side of the ball because we only played against the offense. But, there have been guys that were injured or didn't play and we didn't see. One of the things that I am going to have to do is to become more familiar with the team and to decide what needs to be rebuilt if something needs to get rebuilt."

Crennel can start by blowing up and rebuilding quarterback. The Browns have little choice but to re-sign Kelly Holcomb. Crennel wants someone that can manage a game the way Brady does. He wants smart, tough, unselfish players.

Thank goodness, he never once mentioned speed. Butch Davis made speedy players a priority.

The Owl still believes Davis is a good coach. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough smart unselfish players, and that's one reason Crennel is getting this well-deserved chance to prove he is, first and foremost, a football coach no matter what his skin color.

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