The Browns won a total of nine games in 2003 and 2004. They won a total of 10 games in 2005 and 2006.
Butch Davis did not survive the dismal seasons of '03 and '04. In fact, he resigned before the 2004 season ended. Terry Robiskie was put on clean-up detail and finished 1-4.
Unless a stunning development occurs in closed-door meetings over the next 10 days, Romeo Crennel will retain his job and coach the Browns for a third season starting in 2007. The pressure will be on from the beginning, though. A slow start like 2006 when the Browns were 1-5 at the bye and out of the race by Halloween could result in a change in midseason.
Crennel said progress was made in 2006 even though the Browns' record went backward. He said he watched a trailer for the movie 'We are Marshall' about the tragic plane crash in November of 1970, in which 75 players, coaches, fans and crew members died, and thought about his own football team.
"As I watched the flyer for that movie, basically the program was eliminated because all the players were gone," Crennel said. "That's what's happened with this team.
"In 1999, they tried to put the players back and get started. In two years, let's start again (Davis in 2001). In four years (Crennel in 2005) let's start again. I hope people understand it takes time to build a team and get it the right way.
"We're starting from scratch. If we keep adding quality to the team like Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson or Lawrence Vickers then we'll build a good nucleus that will be competitive. That will begin to show on the win-loss column. Realistically, you can't expect that to happen over night."
During a press conference Oct. 27, when the Browns were 1-5, Savage compared the rebuilding to hitting the reset button on a video game. He said the process could take three to five years, which means the Browns would be competitive in 2007 at the soonest and possibly as late as 2009.
The only way Crennel would be fired would be if he balked at making coaching changes on his offensive staff. Unfortunately for his status as the leader of the football team, the perception is owner Randy Lerner and general manager Phil Savage are ordering changes that he might well have made on his own.
Crennel said he is primarily in charge of forming his coaching staff, but he emphasized it will be "our decision," referring to himself, Lerner and Savage.
"We're going to talk about that and we'll see what changes I might be asked to make," Crennel said. "In the next couple of weeks we'll see."
The Browns ranked 31st in the league offensively after ranking 26th last year with 4,550 yards. They totaled 4,235 yards this season. They scored 238 points in 2006, only six more than last year, despite having Kellen Winslow Jr. and Braylon Edwards all season, plus Joe Jurevicius for 13 games.
FEELING A DRAFT: In the all-important race for draft picks The Browns and Buccaneers both finished 4-12. One team will draft third and the other fourth in the first round, then they will alternate throughout the draft. The Buccaneers beat the Browns 22-7 in the 15th game, but strength of schedule, not head-to-head, determines draft order. Browns and Buccaneers opponents were both 137-119, so a coin flip will determine which team gets the third pick. Usually the coin flip is conducted at the scouting combine in February in Indianapolis.
The Browns would love it if Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas is available when they pick. Shoring up both lines has to be a priority. If they do enough in free agency to fix the line they could use their first pick on Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson or Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch.
FREE AGENT UPDATE: One thing is certain for the 4-12 Browns; no franchise player exists among the free agents to be.
The contracts for wide receiver/punt returner Dennis Northcutt, center Hank Fraley, defensive end Alvin McKinley, safety Brian Russell and offensive lineman Cosey Coleman expire this year.
Getting Fraley under contract is important because of the uncertainty of LeCharles Bentley, who is recovering from a torn patellar tendon. Bentley is vague about his chances of playing next season.
Coach Romeo Crennel wants Russell back. Russell is not as fast as the other three safeties, but he makes up with wisdom what he lacks in speed.
Guard: The Browns need two starting guards. Joe Andruzzi gave it his all in 2006 but it was not enough and Cosey Coleman won't be re-signed. Eric Steinbach would be a perfect fit.
Defensive end: Both ends need to be replaced. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks with no help in front of him.
Cornerback: Gary Baxter is determined to be the first player to come back in one year from twin patellar tendon tears. The Browns need a starter in case he fails.
--Guard's Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman will have 'clean out' surgery on their knees.
--Linebacker Matt Stewart needs surgery on a finger injured late in the season.
--Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. will have surgery to remove scar tissue from his right knee. He said he will do his rehab in Miami.
--Quarterback Derek Anderson is recovering from a separated shoulder. At this point surgery is not required.