Passan: The Wrong Message

The shy and introverted Rich Passan has been a personal project of ours here at the OBR. He has decades of sportswriting experience, and thinks hard about the Browns, but it's harder than heck to get him to utter his take on things. Obviously, today is opposite day.

Browns ownership has sent the fans a clear message in the wake of the latest coaching changes. The wrong message.

By not doing the right thing and firing Romeo Crennel and his entire coaching staff, the front office has basically told you that being less than mediocre is all right.

By retaining Crennel, they are telling you they are headed in the right direction. They are telling you the 6-10 and 4-12 seasons Crennel put up are the right direction. They are telling you that the lousy football you've endured the past two seasons are aberrations.

They are taking a picture painting full of thorns and selling it as though the thorns were roses.

It has become abundantly clear that Randy Lerner, Phil Savage & Co. have lowered the bar.

Someone within the organization has sold Lerner a bill of goods. What other explanation can there be for the tack the club has taken in the wake of yet another poor season?

The problem is not with the assistant coaches. The blame lies with the head coach. He's the man who picks his staff. He's the man who tells them what to do and how to do it. Don't blame the assistants. Blame the man who hired them.

Crennel is the man who sets into motion everything related do what happens on Sundays during the season. He's the face of the franchise.

Not Lerner. He pays the bills and has the largest say-so in which way the franchise is headed, but stays out of the limelight. Not Savage. It's his job to procure the players for the head coach and then get out of the way.

The head coach is the face of the franchise. He's the most visible person, the one who connects the most with the fans and media. He's the one whose job depends solely on whether the team wins or loses.

And now that Crennel has booked two lousy seasons, the Browns are telling you everything is all right. They're basically sanctioning the job he has done.

Their conclusions are warped.

Changing assistant coaches is not going to make this a better team. All it does is start up the revolving door that is usually a preliminary sign the head coach is on a peel slipperier than a Cleveland sidewalk in February

Dennis Green employed a coaching carousel in Arizona before it became clear to the Cardinals' brass that the Green way just wasn't working. It took them three seasons and a 16-32 record for the Bidwill family to figure out that the problem was with the head coach.

Looks as if the Browns have not studied the Cardinals, have not learned their lesson and are doomed to make the same mistake.

The only difference is that the Cardinals did not force Green to make those coaching changes. The Browns, from all indications, told Crennel changes would have to be made or else he should start looking for employment elsewhere.

The main question: Did Crennel endorse the firings of Terry Robiskie, Carl Crennel II, Ben Coates and John Lott, allowing them to become sacrificial lambs for the betterment of the Romeo Crennel resume?

If, in fact, Crennel supported their departures, who would want to work under a head coach who throws his men under the proverbial bus based on decisions not made by him?

It looks as though Crennel sold a part of his soul to keep his job. If that is, indeed, the case, why would Lerner and Savage want to keep a man with the backbone of a jellyfish?

The official news release, quoting Crennel, read: "I would like to thank these four coaches for their service to the Browns since my arrival here two years ago, especially Terry Robiskie, who served as wide receivers coach, offensive coordinator and interim head coach during his six years with the Browns. These decisions were made with the best interest of the franchise in mind."

Were those really Crennel's words or the words written by someone in the public relations department to which he put his stamp of approval? Three guesses. The first two don't count.

One more question: How did the defensive staff escape the guillotine? The defense collapsed in the second half of the season and was just as culpable as the offense in fashioning the 4-12. Perhaps they'll feel the blade if and when there's a next round of firings.

It has been suggested in some quarters that the reason Savage didn't object to Crennel's return for a third season is that he owes the coach a favor. After all, Crennel backed his general manager during the power struggle a year ago with John Collins.

While it's admirable and noble for Savage to feel that way, there comes a time where common sense and desire for the greater good should weigh more heavily in making decisions.

The greater good, in this case, is the future of the Cleveland Browns. Savage has been around long enough to know the product he and Crennel have put out in the last two seasons came nowhere close to what he envisioned when he took over two years ago.

He cannot honestly believe the coaching job Crennel has given him in the last two seasons is top notch. There have been too many Sundays when the Browns are not even representative of a National Football League team. There's no excuse for that.

Let's put this in terms Lerner will understand.

Let's say a department at MBNA has underperformed and is in desperate need of help. So you go out and hire a man to straighten out the problems. There is a slight improvement in the first year, but the department backslides in the second year to where it was when you first hired this man to fix the problems.

What do you do? Give him a third year? Or get someone else to do the job? At what point does a pattern develop? Isn't two years enough time to gauge a person's effectiveness?

Firing assistant coaches is not the panacea. There is only one way to kill the monster (figuratively speaking). Cut off the head. The rest of the body will die.

The Browns have not cut off the head. They whacked the arms and legs. The head still lives and as long as it does, they will continue to trundle down the path of mediocrity.

Too bad.

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