The Owl Goes to the Dogs

Our feathered friend offers some insight into Romeo Crennel's approach to coaching...

Last week I discovered why I like Romeo Crennel so much. He's a dog guy.

Now, there is nothing wrong with cat people, but people who bond with dogs know loyalty when they see it, and dogs know when their master is loyal to them. Likewise, players know when their coach, in affect their master, is loyal and true, and those two words fit Crennel perfectly.

This trait of Crennel's came to light during a press conference last week when he was asked a generic question about reacting to a loss. When he addresses reporters after a game, win or lose, he remains on an even keel. It is a good way for players to see him react.

It is a sharp contrast to watching Ravens' coach Brian Billick on the sideline react to another bad throw by Kyle Boller. Watching Billick is like watching someone eating a bad burrito. His face grimaces and his body contorts in ways that make returning to normalcy seem impossible.

"But what are you like away from your players and reporters, Romeo?" he was asked. "Do you go home and kick the family dog?"

"I don't have a dog," Crennel confessed.

But at one time he did have a dog, a golden retriever named Randy. Golden retrievers are among the friendliest breeds in the world. If Crennel did feel angry after a loss, be it with the Giants, Browns, Jets or Patriots, Randy wagged that anger away in the moment in took him to lick Crennel's face.

"The thing about dogs, they don't care whether you win or lose," Crennel said. "They're just glad to see you when you get home. When I had a dog and we lost, when I got home that dog really picked me up. He didn't walk past me with his head down. Sometimes when you lose, that's what people do. They don't want to pass you in the hall and look you in the eye.

"But that dog, his tail was wagging. He's jumping up on me. He was happy to see me. Maybe I should get a dog."

This would be the season to have a dog. The Browns carry a 5-9 record into Cleveland Browns Stadium Saturday, and though they are feeling good about beating the Raiders last week, reality could settle in quickly against the Steelers, as it did after the Browns beat the Bears 20-10 and after they shut out Miami 22-0.

Maybe Crennel wouldn't be as patient if he were coaching the Colts and was 5-9, but when he signed up to coach the Browns he knew what he was getting into. If the team he inherited was any good, he and General Manager Phil Savage would not have felt compelled to replace 28 players, as they did before the start of the season. That does not mean, however, that he shrugs off losing as something to be expected.

"You wonder what you could have done better to not lose then you try to figure out what you could do next week to win," he said. "That's all you really can do. Like I said many times, you can't just wave a magic wand. It takes hard work. You have to get the guys to think the way you think. You have to get them to play the way you want to play and get them to play hard. Then you have a chance."

Crennel has rarely complained about his team not playing hard this season. Three of the nine losses have been by three points and two have been by six points.

Win or lose Saturday, Crennel will measure the performance against the 34-21 loss in Pittsburgh Nov. 13, a game in which the Browns stopped playing after taking a 7-0 lead - one of the rare times they did not play hard.

But no matter what happens, Crennel will stay loyal to what he believes. Dog guys are like that.

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