Passan: Self-Fullfilling Microcosm

RAC called the finale a "microcosm" of the last two years. Rich thinks he knows why that is...

Romeo Crennel had the temerity to call Sunday's season-ending loss in Houston "a microcosm of this season." The Browns' head coach wasn't even close.

It was more like a microcosm of the way the Browns, by and large, have played football ever since returning to the National Football League in 1999. Especially the last two seasons.

The inglorious manner in which they have played the game, with exception of the 2002 season, has been magnified with every game Crennel coaches.

What Crennel should have said was the loss was a microcosm of the way his teams have played, for the most part, in the last 32 games. Or the two years he has been responsible for what they do on Sunday afternoons from September to December.

He referred, in no particular order, to missed opportunities, failure to make plays, inability to stop the opposition when needed and failure to make kicks (Phil Dawson missed one field goal, by the way, coach, not two as you stated to the media after the game).

There's an old saying in football: Good teams find a way to win and bad teams find a way to lose.

Crennel conveniently neglected to mention the one main reason the Browns lost for the 22nd time in Crennel's unfortunate and sad tenure with club: His coaching.

Again, we saw a team that was essentially ill-prepared to come out and take over a game. Listless and disinterested doesn't even begin to describe the Browns' demeanor against the Texans.

And all that is a reflection of the head coach. It is a trickle-down responsibility that starts with the man in charge and permeates the locker room.

Believers in the trickle-down theory suggest a team is a reflection of its coach. Smart, savvy, shrewd and well-prepared are not among Crennel best attributes.

Good teams play with a swagger. There is a certain manner in which they carry themselves on and off the field. The hunched-back manner in which the Browns carry themselves is mute evidence to the contrary.

Only once in two seasons have we heard Crennel actually take the blame for a loss. Last week after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers embarrassed his club at home, he said he apologized to the team. When asked what he told the team, he replied, "I'm sorry I couldn't do a better job of coaching."

Now that right there is a microcosm . . . of the way Crennel has coached this team since being named the head man early in 2005

A microcosm of that microcosm in what hopefully will be Crennel's last coaching effort for the Browns: Seven minutes left in a game where the Browns actually moved the ball somewhat, but still trailed, 14-3. Down 11 points, ball on the Houston 19, fourth and 5 in a meaningless game between two of the dregs of the NFL.

What to do, what to do.

Crennel opted for a Dawson field goal when common sense screamed, "Go for it! What have you got to lose? Another game?"

Crennel, as he has done way too often this season, went conservative and had the Browns put just their 35th, 36th and 37th points on the board in the final four games. All losses. Shocking.

Once again, he managed this game as if the Browns were 11-4 instead of 4-11. Call it coaching dyslexia. Another reason in a season full of them to wish Crennel good luck in his new venture.

But one gets the sense that if body language is a tip-off, he will be back for another round of mediocrity next season. His demeanor in his dealings with the media lately strongly suggests he'll be back. It's as though he has been given the word already.

Crennel should be a dead man walking after taking over a four-victory team in 2005 and turning it into a four-victory team this season. Two seasons, zero progress.

And again, don't use the injury excuse. The Browns have 14 men on injured reserve. The Texans have 17, yet tripled their victory output from last season.

There can be no excuse why the Browns, week after week after maddening week, can't come out and not be ready to play a competitive game of football.

One would think the players, sensing their head coach's job was on the line, would have come out and played with passion and urgency against the Texans. They didn't even come close.

If the Browns don't want to become the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL – and they are careening perilously in that direction – then they won't make the same mistake the Cardinals did when they allowed Dennis Green to return as their head coach after going 11-21 in his first two seasons.

The Cardinals won five more games for Green this season before the club finally did what they should have done after the first two miserable seasons.

There is no evidence convincing enough to suggest the Browns will play any better if Crennel returns next season.

It's no accident they finished the 2006 season with a 4-12 record. It's no accident they struggled once again to put points on the board. It's no accident they looked as inspired as Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Statistics quite often can be misleading. For example, the Browns put up 306 yards against the Houston defense. The Texans' offense notched about half that.

Here's another stat that screams mediocrity and is a lot more telling: The Browns scored only three touchdowns in the last four games of the season. After scoring 31 points in their last victory against Kansas City, they put up a paltry 37 in the next 16 quarters. And six of those points were scored by the defense, which played well against the Texans.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe how badly this team has played this season.

All of the blame – repeating here for emphasis – all of the blame for what has happened the last two seasons lies on the shoulders of the man Randy Lerner and Phil Savage reportedly plan on bringing back for next season.

Murphy's Law spins so out of control in Berea, it's a wonder that anyone cares any more.

If Lerner and Savage follow through and bring Crennel back, call it the Dennis Greening of the Browns.

To paraphrase Savage, it's time for Browns fans to "fast forward" to 2008 because you don't even want to think about 2007 if Crennel is invited back.

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