Derry: Crennel Batting .500 After One Week

Veteran columnist takes a look at Romeo Crennel's first week as head coach

One week into his reign as the Browns' head coach, Romeo Crennel is batting .500. Hopefully, his football team will fair as well on the field this coming season.

As you undoubtedly know, Crennel pursued, without success, Patriots defensive backfield coach Eric Mangini to be his defensive coordinator. Instead, Mangini decided to replace Crennel as the Pats' defensive coordinator.

Give Mangini, who was offered more money by both the Browns and the Dolphins, who also were after his services, a pat on the back for his loyalty to New England coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots. It's not easy to pass up an extra hundred thousand dollars from the Browns, or in the Dolphins' case, an extra couple hundred thousand.

But at age 34, Mangini undoubtedly realizes he has a very, very bright future. A few more winning seasons in New England will look a lot more impressive on his resume than a losing season or two (or three) in Cleveland or Miami, where, if the Dolphins does turn things around defensively in the near future, new head coach Nick Saban will likely get the credit.

In addition to the money, Mangini had other reasons for possibly coming to Cleveland. He is Indians general manager Mark Shapiro's brother-in-law. And he and Crennel had developed a very close personal relationship.

But those reasons were not enough to make him leave the team that has truly developed a dynasty. If the Patriots continue to be successful, teams won't be looking at Mangini as a coordinator. Instead, they'll be eyeing him as a head coach in the next few years, something which isn't likely if he is with a losing team.

Losing out on Mangini was definitely a setback, but do give Crennel some credit. He landed his man in offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. But unlike Mangini, there wasn't a stampede to get Carthon, whose genius as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator didn't exactly result in the team having to tear up the Cowboys' record book.

Of course, you can't really blame Carthon for the Cowboys' offensive woes. Fact is, Carthon didn't even call the plays for Dallas.

But a quick look at the stats sheet shows the Cowboys did make excellent progress in the two years Carthon was the coordinator. In 2002, the year before he arrived, Dallas ranked 30th on offense. In each of the past two years, they were in the middle of the pack.

Carthon also had a year of experience as Detroit's offensive coordinator in 2002, when the Lions ranked 28th overall on offense. But again, much like the situation at Dallas, he did not call the plays while he was with the Lions.


I suppose we'll find out when he becomes available to the media, which hopefully will happen very soon.

Crennel wanted Carthon because, as the first-year head coach says, "I share the same philosophy on how our offense will run."

Obviously, that "philosophy" didn't include quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was given his walking papers a week after Crennel was named head coach and one day after Crennel was officially given his job.

The best thing Garcia did for Cleveland was pave the way for Butch Davis's departure as head coach. Garcia's ineffectiveness on the field was outweighed only by his complete lack of class off the field. His berating of teammates and constant questioning of the offensive game plans were a distraction that contributed to the team's woeful performance.

The Browns will continue to suffer in the coming years for Davis's decision to bring Garcia to town. He still had three years remaining on his contract and that will mean a severe hit for the salary cap, thus reducing the amount that can be spent on free agents.

It'll be very interesting to see if the Browns decide to try and bring in a veteran quarterback, or if they give the job back to Kelly Holcomb for the 2005 season. In that scenario, they would undoubtedly have to go after a quarterback very high in the draft.

One interesting candidate could be Akron University quarterback Charlie Frye, who bolstered his draft stock by playing very well in the Senior Bowl.

It's very doubtful Frye is worthy of being the third overall pick in the draft, but if the Browns could move down and acquire a couple of first-round picks in the low teens, Frye should be there and would be a very interesting possibility.

The one thing the Browns don't want to do again is pass up a "local" product like they did last year when they overlooked Miami of Ohio standout Ben Roethlisberger.

Frye would seem to be the ideal quarterback to fit into Crennel's philosophy.

If he is picked, it would have the makings of a long and heated rivalry with Roethlisberger. Can you imagine these two former MAC standouts going at it twice a year for the next 10 years? The already-heated Browns-Steelers rivalry really doesn't need any more gas dumped on the fire, but these two guys could develop quite a sideshow in this long-time rivalry.  

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. First the Browns have to build a strong offensive line. Until they do that, it won't matter who is playing quarterback. It sure wouldn't be fair to put a young quarterback like Frye into a situation where he'd be in the "Frying Pan" every time he dropped back to pass.

Roethlisberger, who proved to be human in the playoffs, had a great rookie season. But the reality of the matter is that if he had been drafted by Cleveland and been forced to play behind this team's line in 2004, his performance wouldn't have been nearly as good.

He might not have been as bad as Luke McCown, who pretty much proved he is not the team's long-term answer, but Roethlisberger wouldn't have been heralded as the second coming of Terry Bradshaw, either.

The release of Garcia is undoubtedly just the first of many departures as Crennel begins the task of rebuilding an organization that made far too many wrong personnel decisions over the past four years.

It should keep things very interesting in Brownstown over the next few months.

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