Romeo Crennel and the Cleveland Browns have enjoyed a honeymoon period from the time that the new front office took shape through the first four games of the season. After last Sunday's performance in a 16-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the honeymoon appears to be nearing its end. And if that is the case, the beginning of the end was self-inflicted.
During Romeo's press conference on Monday, he said that every position on the field is reviewed at all times, and it was possible that changes could be made. When asked about the quarterback spot, Romeo reiterated that every position would be looked at. Obviously there was speculation that Trent Dilfer might be replaced by Charlie Frye.
Later, Crennel came back to the interview room to clarify what he said, but he didn't totally close the door on speculation, which easily could have been done.
I don't claim to be an X's and O's expert, and I don't have access to the coaching tape breakdowns, but it seems hard to believe that the problems on this team are caused by Trent Dilfer. I realize there will be a time for Frye to break into the lineup, but I don't believe know is the time. If Dilfer is struggling with pressure from all over the place, sometimes due to problems on the line, or lack of big play receivers, then how will Frye physically and mentally get through it. In addition, with the loss of Kellen Winslow, Jr., and Braylon Edwards, there are no big play performers available to make things happen, as Edwards did against the Green Bay Packers, and in the exhibition game against the Detroit Lions, the Browns next opponent.
Unknowledgeable fans are always quick to blame the Quarterback, assuming that the second stringer will do better. I have no idea why an NFL coaching staff would believe that, especially when a plan has been in place. The last time a Quarterback succession play was in place in Cleveland was in 1999, when Tim Couch was going to learn from Ty Detmer. Panic set in, and Detmer's term of being the starting QB for the Cleveland Browns lasted one game. And you know what that season did to Tim Couch.
On the other hand, Romeo didn't receive nearly enough criticism for the way he handled the last five minutes of the Ravens game. Down by 13 points, and the clock moving inside five minutes, the Browns decided to punt and give the ball (and the game) to the Ravens. The Browns had only one time out left when Kyle Richardson punted the ball with 4:08 remaining. I asked Romeo what he was thinking, and was told that he thought the defense could get the ball back (probably inside the two-minute mark) and then try for an onside kick and get a desperation attempt at a last second miracle.
Over the years, that strategy is one reason why defensive coordinators don't make good head coaches (not necessarily in this case, yet), because they don't see the whole picture. I'm sure that defensive coaches believe strongly in their ability to make the stops, but, in this case, that wouldn't be enough to come up with a win. There wasn't enough time to do what Crennel wanted to do---give up the ball, then get it back and score twice, with only the benefit of one timeout and the 2-minute warning. That doesn't even take into consideration that the Browns hadn't scored one touchdown in almost 56 minutes, let alone being able to score two of them in four minutes.
The only downside of trying for the first down, on fourth and less than five yards to go, would be that the Browns would lose by 20 instead of 13. I remember former coach Chris Palmer saying that if he took chances it would hard to explain to his owner why the margin was out of hand. It shouldn't be. I think it would be harder to explain why you gave up any chance to win a game, as opposed to giving the ball away in good field position for the opposition.
CBS let Browns fans know how it feels about their team by assigning 26-year old Spero Dedes to do the play-by-play. He must be an up-and-coming star because the Los Angeles Lakers have hired him to be their play-by-play man, but he wasn't very impressive in Sunday's game. I am sure the Browns radio network was happy with that, as more people than usual turned their TV sound down to listen to Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken. That's not to say that the network did anything wrong in assigning their bottom team of Deded and Rich Gannon to that broadcast, which was only seen in the Cleveland and Baltimore market---and the game didn't lend itself to any excitement---but that should that you know where you stand in the national picture. If the Browns continue to play as they did Sunday, who knows how long it will be before they will be featured on Monday Night Football.