When I was growing up, the must-have toy for any boy my age was Stretch Armstrong. You could twist it, bend it, pull it, shape it into forms that were not possible nor plausible for normal playthings - let alone the human form.
At today's press conference officially signaling the end of the Maurice Carthon Era in Cleveland, head coach Romeo Crennel took his version of the public truth and made it do things that would've made even the venerable Mr. Armstrong pull a hamstring.
While the move to part ways with Carthon was officially announced as a resignation--chuckle--a common thread from sources around the league has emerged and made one thing perfectly clear.
If Carthon would have refused to step aside, he would have been fired.
"No if's, and's or but's" said one source.
"(Crennel) may have pushed (Carthon) under the bus, but the brass stuck their legs out" said another.
It is also safe to say that, if Crennel decided to stay loyal and not go along with the strong "recommendation" of change at coordinator, he, along with Carthon, would be looking for employment today.
A "fire or be fired" scenario was in play in Berea yesterday. Regardless of the spin being spun at the presser announcing the "resignation".
Based on conversations with several sources both in and out of the Browns organization, here's what The OBR has been able to glean about the machinations of the decision.
Early on during the bye week, it was made clear to Crennel that owner Randy Lerner and general manager Phil Savage were of the opinion that something needed to be done about the offense, up to and including replacing the embattled coordinator. Lerner in particular was growing concerned over the state of the team in general and the offense in particular.
(Note: it's been reported that Jim Brown was part of the cabal discussing Carthon's ouster during the bye week. The OBR has yet to confirm the Hall of Fame RB's involvement.)
Crennel was well aware of upper management's feelings on Carthon but, partly out of loyalty and partly out of respect to his good friend, never gave a thought--much less serious consideration--to firing the coordinator at that time.
During that same week, Crennel spoke with several players to get their input on the direction of the offense. Almost to a man, they spoke of their frustration at the offense's current state and expressed doubt that they could succeed in the future with Carthon in place. Not only was Carthon's scheme questioned, sources said, but the manner in which the coordinator dealt with "his" players was laid bare in front of the head coach.
In particular, players were frustrated that any type of suggestion or input from them was dismissed out of hand. Toss in Carthon's abrasive personality and propensity for vitriolic tirades, and an unflattering portrait of the former coordinator began to emerge.
"Hate is a strong word, but it's something pretty close to that," said an ex-Browns player--who still maintains close contact with members of the current Browns--on the overall feelings of some on the club toward the now ex-coordinator.
"It's one thing to be an a****** when you're winning and when (the offense) is executing. It's another thing completely when either one is not happening, and it takes a serious a****** to act that way when both ain't happening. He's not (current Cowboys and Carthon mentor Bill) Parcells regardless of how he holds himself. He likes to think he is, but he ain't... And it's not like (players) suddenly got tired of his act. They've been tired for a long time."
(Note: attempts to reach current players seeking comments either on or off the record have either been rebuffed or have yet to be returned.)
With pressure mounting both internally and externally, Crennel and his staff — in no small part based on advice from wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie — decided to go against the grain and, instead, make just a few minor tweaks to the offensive system.
The bare-minimum move disappointed key members of the offense and did not sit well with upper management--Lerner in particular. At the time, though, the owner decided to allow his hand-picked head coach to keep his hand-picked coordinator and hope against hope that things could be turned around.
Following yet another abysmal offensive performance this past Sunday, however, that changed.
In talks with Crennel in the immediate aftermath of the Denver loss and the following day, Lerner and Savage made it clear to their head coach that changes to the offense would be made, and that minor tweaks would not be acceptable this time. At that point, Crennel was told that, "one way or another", Carthon must be replaced.
At some point yesterday afternoon, Crennel realized that what was best for the team and for the 2006 season and beyond was to offer Carthon the opportunity to "resign and save what little face he had left" a source said. If Carthon would've bucked the offer, Crennel was fully prepared to axe his long-time friend.
Not only would Crennel have risked losing his job by not firing Carthon, the source continued, he risked losing the players on the offensive side of the ball on the off-chance that he were spared.
That, according to the source, is what ultimately led Crennel to decide to go along with management's "suggestions".
"It wasn't to appease the media or the fans or even, to some degree, (Lerner and Savage)," the source said. "He looked at his locker room and realized he was losing his players by remaining loyal (to Carthon). Add that to (management's) edict, and it was a no-brainer.... Although in retrospect, it should've been done during the bye week."
For his part, Carthon likely did not leave empty-handed. In this league, coaches usually don't leave early without some sort of financial agreement. Two NFL sources told the OBR that Carthon's exit was likely similar to Butch Davis' in 2004, where the team's head coach received financial compensation and was allowed to portray his leaving the team as a resignation.
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