Romeo Crennel saw the kind of team he'd like to coach Sunday night. Unfortunately, they wore black and gold.
That grim look on Crennel's countenance as he watched the Pittsburgh Steelers manhandle his Browns on national television very well could have passed as envy for what Bill Cowher has put together.
Crennel, who certainly knows what it takes to come up big in big games, witnessed another Steelers butt-whipping with his team co-starring as the whippees.
The Steelers not only came to play against the Browns, they came to dominate. They came to kick some serious hind flanks. They came to send a message. They came to make certain there was no mistake as to who was the better team.
They succeeded spectacularly on all fronts.
What Crennel needs to do now to get his message across to his men is to take the film from this game and show it to his troops on a weekly – if not daily – basis to show them just how to play in big games.
Of course, talent has an awful lot to do with a team's success and the Browns fall woefully short in that area. But the Steelers are not abundantly talented. They just know how to win.
If you believe in the trickle-down theory, a team is a direct reflection of its coach.
Take the Steelers, for example. Cowher is one tough, mean son of a buck. Losing is such an anathema to him, he would much rather chew nails. Without the trimmings. Losing is totally unacceptable.
He has a swagger, an attitude about him. So does his team. It plays with heart, desire, passion. The players sell out on every play. "My team is better than your team and we're going to kick you from here to next week," Cowher seems to be saying with his ultra-aggressive body language.
Cowher has his glower down to an art form. Do something wrong and you're on the receiving end of that glare, that jut-jawed chewing out. You don't want to take up residence there.
His aggressive nature trickles down to his players. If you aren't tough, you can't play for him. There are no wusses on the Steelers. You play down-and-nasty football for him or you're playing for someone else.
You might not like him and make fun of him, but Steelers wideout Hines Ward is a player and a playmaker. The Browns should have a lot of players who bring what Ward brings to the game. They'd be much better off.
Losing to the Browns is patently unacceptable to Cowher. To Crennel, however, playing the Steelers is just "another game." Wrong attitude.
If you learn nothing else here, coach, know that Steelers games, Bengals games and Ravens games are not just other games. Those games mean a whole lot more emotionally to the fans than all those other games. Especially the Steelers and Ravens games. Your predecessor didn't get it. It's best that you do.
That just "another game" approach was reflected in the way the Browns played after the first quarter Sunday night. The Steelers ratcheted up the swagger and attitude after the Browns marched smartly down the field on the game's opening drive. The Browns couldn't keep up and were maltreated as a result.
That's the kind of football to which Browns fans, too, should be treated. Cleveland opponents should look forward to nose-in-the-dirt football. The kind of football a blue-collar city like Cleveland deserves.
This doesn't mean Crennel has to rant and rave along the sideline. That's not his nature. But he's got to do a better job of coaching in order to get his men to arrive in a foul mood at game time.
Nothing fancy. Pin the ears back, blow some snot from the nose and go after the opposition.
Only Reuben Droughns and Terrelle Smith showed up on offense against the Steelers and the defense, again playing patsy to the Pittsburgh running game, was extremely defensive. They made Charlie Batch – Charlie Batch!! – look good.
Don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of watching the Browns play passive football. On both sides of the ball. The very nature of the game calls for aggression. It seems to be lacking here.
Sure, Crennel is trying out a new system on defense. But the Browns are 3-6, it's not working very well and it's high time to try something else. Like taking chances.
You're not going to win a division championship or challenge for the playoffs this season, coach, so what have you got to lose? This way ain't working.
Crennel needs to show the film of the Steelers game and point out to his guys that hitting like Troy Polamalu and Chris Hope and Kimo van Oelhoffen and Casey Hampton and Larry Foote and Joey Porter is all right. Don't be shy, guys. Stick your nose in there and maybe something good will happen.
The Steelers' defensive line consistently beat the Browns' offensive line off the ball. Good thing Trent Dilfer had a good night finding his receivers early enough to avoid a sack parade. Good thing Droughns ran like Bronko Nagurski. Bad thing Dennis Northcutt, most likely hearing pounding footsteps in the Steelers secondary, couldn't hold on to the ball. (Time for Braylon Edwards to start and relegate Northcutt to the slot.)
And why aren't the Browns as aggressive on defense as their coordinator is on the sidelines? Why not more blitzes? Sure blitzes cover up weaknesses and expose you more to a big play. So what. Take chances. Again, what's there to lose?
Back in the gold old days, the glory days, the Browns pounded the Steelers. Under Paul Brown and Blanton Collier, the Browns owned Pittsburgh. Why? Beat them physically, emotionally and mentally.
It's time for Phil Savage to look for those guys who play the game with a mean streak, who play the game to win, who play the game with a swagger.
It's time to reinvent the Cleveland Browns in the image of the Pittsburgh Steelers.