Derry: Browns Win the Bye Week

Long-time Browns News-Illustrated and Bernie's Insiders writer and editor Frank Derry sees more positive signs from the Browns, even during the team's bye week. Steady progress is being shown even when the team doesn't have a game...


The annual bye week for the Browns went bye-bye this year. And by the way the players reacted, it seems obvious that first-year head coach Romeo Crennel has had most, if not all, of his players buy into what he and his coaching staff are trying to accomplish.

That's a very good sign.

There were no headline-grabbing complaints by players saying that it wasn't fair to have to work throughout the bye week. Likewise, there were no embarrassing public displays by any of the players. No drunk driving charges. No drug charges. No gun charges. No abuse charges. No dangerous motorcycle rides. No wild parties.

Don't laugh. Those are all part of police reports on Browns players from the recent past.

That means Crennel's players are either a bit sneakier than players over the past few years, or else they heeded their head coach's advice to act like professionals both on and off the field. I want to believe it's the latter.

Behind the scenes there was undoubtedly some grumbling by players, probably veterans, who had hoped to spend part of the bye week with family and friends back home, wherever that might be. Most have come to expect and enjoy those off days which are, quite frankly, part of the new-era NFL that makes former players like Doug Dieken snicker.

In Dieken's day, players played 16 straight regular-season games, which came on the heels of four or five straight exhibition games. Then, if you were lucky and talented enough to make the post-season, that meant you played games on anywhere from 22 to 25 straight weekends. Now that was a physical challenge!

But with the Browns having their bye week after just three weeks of the regular season, Crennel wasn't nearly as concerned about having his players needing down time for the entire team to recoup from minor bumps and bruises, or mental and physical fatigue. A few needed some down time and for the most part they got it, which then allowed some younger players to get additional reps.

Otherwise, Crennel treated this bye week just as he would any other week in the season, meaning that the players were on the field practicing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

From all indications, it was time well spent, but Crennel has been coy about whether any lineup changes will come as a result of the bye week. Don't be surprised if rookies like cornerback Antonio Perkins and Brodney Pool, while not necessarily bursting into the starting lineup, finding themselves seeing more action in some of the defensive packages.

The fact the players didn't seem too upset with having to work during their break tells you just how much importance they place upon improving as quickly as possible. Despite their 1-2 record, I think the first three weeks pretty much proved to the players that once they eliminate a few ill-advised penalties, they should have the ability to play with, possibly even beat, virtually any team in the NFL.

Besides working on eliminating mistakes, the Browns worked to improve even more on things that had gone well for them the first three weeks.

"You find things that you do well that give you the best opportunity to win and you start to hang your hat on those things," said nose tackle Jason Fisk. "You build off of those things. You find your identity. You build off the things you do well and either you work hard to correct the things you haven't done well, or you eliminate those things from your game-plan."

While Crennel at times seems a bit disappointed the defense hasn't come around as quickly as he thought it might, the reality of the matter is entire mix of players who will eventually be needed for the defense to be rock-solid is either not yet on the roster, or, as in the cases of Perkins and Pool, is still in the developmental stages.

But the fact is the defense has made big strides, especially when you consider it not only is working under new coaches, but also is transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4. With the combination of new coaches and a new philosophy, I think the defense deserves to take a bow for it efforts thus far.

Holding the high-octane Indianapolis Colts to just one touchdown definitely was impressive.

Veteran inside linebacker Orlando Ruff says there is one big reason why the defense has improved on a weekly basis, and that reason is Crennel.

"I'm not surprised at all," Ruff said of the team' quick defensive development. "Whenever you take a coach like coach Crennel who has five Super Bowl rings, you know he knows how to win. He is going to surround himself with people who have the same mentality and same personality as him.

"He likes to get at the people. He likes to show the other team's offensive coordinator that he's not scared to have his defense bring pressure if he wants to be physical. He has a good outlook on the game compared to some of the other people I have been around in the past.

"As a defensive player, what you want most is to be aggressive and to be put in position to make plays. Coach Crennel and (defensive coordinator) coach (Todd) Grantham do that every week."

One of the things that Crennel has enjoyed most about his team is that they are very receptive to coaching.

"They listen and try to do what I tell them to do," he said. "That's what coaching is. You coach them and try to tell them what is important and if they attempt to do that, then they are coachable.

"If they weren't trying to do what you talked to them about, then they are not coachable. This team wants to win and they want to know how to play the game. They are working very hard at it."

Only time will tell if the hard work put in during the bye week will pay off in the long run. But the prediction from this corner is that it will, starting this coming Sunday against a very beatable Chicago Bears team.

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