Here's more conversation with "Bigs" about what happened inside the Browns defensive unit during the 2007 season. For the first part of our series from OBR football analyst Lane Adkins, click here.
LA: During the season we (theOBR) heard grumblings that there were issues on the defensive side of the ball which were both coaching and player performance related. Grantham was known as fiery and loud by my account. Is this a correct assessment of the former defensive coordinator?
Bigs: Coach Grantham was animated to say the least... that is his personality. He may be a coach, but he would get fired up as much as anyone on the sideline, whether we were playing well or not.
LA: Was his demeanor the reason the defense appeared to lose its vision, it's course or did he simply lose his voice within the structure of the defense?
Bigs: Coach Grantham was always loud... some players did not believe he was treating them with respect due to his vocal outbursts. Some coaches are screamers, others communicate on a normal level and instill confidence and knowledge. In the case of coach Grantham, his style is what it is. He was successful before he came to the organization and will be successful again after leaving. There is not enough room here (Cleveland) for more than a voice or two.
LA: You note more than a voice or two, care to elaborate?
Bigs: This is coach Crennel's team and that is not going to change. When the power-play went down with coach Grantham and coach Crennel you could see the writing on the wall. The head coach has his vision, he has his belief on how the defense should be run and play and this is not going to change. It's not that coach Grantham is a bad coach, much rather that he lost the confidence of the head coach and the perception was evident that coach Grantham wanted his job.
LA: As we discussed the issues between the head coach and former defensive coordinator, you were somewhat skeptical that Grantham indeed attempted to make a move on the head coach. Am I taking this correctly that Grantham indeed had a plan for his future with the team as the head coach to replace coach Crennel?
Bigs: I can't say with 100% certainty what went on between the two men, but I do know that everything changed for the worse in the early going. Talking to some of the guys late in the season and now that the season is over, you can put two and two together. Looking back, I would say without hesitation, coach Grantham acted and believed he was more or going to be more than the defensive coordinator of this team. I am of the belief he thought he had more influence within the organization than he had and he played his hand as such. One thing you do not do in this game is attempt to over-ride or challenge the authority of the head coach, regardless if you believe you are right in doing so.
LA: Did Grantham create an uneasy situation within the team during the season due to his demeanor or belief he was going to take over for Crennel?
Bigs: His actions in handling players during practice and on game-day may have been the only real distraction to the team, the defense that I could see or maybe wanted to see. What coach Grantham wanted to do and the philosophy of coach Crennel were different. Coach Grantham was willing to attack, even if it left the defense in a position of weakness in another area. I don't know if he felt pressured to make something happen, but his belief that creating pressure would create opportunities for the defensive unit. The problem was we did not have the horses to pressure the opposition on a consistent basis. The unit was not on the same page throughout, from the defensive line to the defensive backs and this is a reflection of not only the players but the coaching scheme, or that of the man responsible for the scheme.
Coach Crennel likes to be aggressive and pressure the play, but is also a very strong realist. He's been around a very long time and has been the man calling the shots on many good defensive units and Super Bowl caliber teams. He plays to the strength of the scheme, knowing we had trouble along the defensive line creating pressure and maintaining integrity as well as a group of linebackers that were not making plays, he played the safer route.
So much has been said regarding the soft defense we played and rightfully so to a degree. But, I believe the defense we played is reflective of the trust and talent in place. I wouldn't say either coaching philosophy is wrong, but the head coach was set on making the opposition earn their way down the field, rather than isolating the defensive backs and giving up the big play.
One example is the play of the defensive line. Whether playing one gap, two gap or whatever, it breaks down to technique and responsibility. At one point our plan was to stand up or body the offensive linemen depending on linebackers to fill. Then at other times we are attacking to penetrate, this is an example of philosophy differences.
LA: Who was responsible for the early season issues with communication in giving up big plays, which cost this team dearly?
Bigs: The defensive coordinator calls out the scheme and the players are responsible to respond and recognize.
LA: Did players question the scheme or freelance away from the defensive structure?
Bigs: Yes, players question things when they appear somewhat screwy. Also, it does not help when the package of players on the field does not match what has been practiced. This game is all about match-ups and recognition and we could have done a much better job in this aspect. It did occur, but I wouldn't say players just simply did what they wanted all the time, but I do see where players reacted to the situation in front of them and acted accordingly.
LA: During the bye-week, there is a belief that coach Crennel became more involved with the defense. Did the head coach get more involved with the defense?
Bigs: Coach Crennel was more involved, but not to the extent it was made out to be, not on the field at least. I would say his influence was more involved in the structure of the defense and scheme, rather than the actual running of the unit and calling out the signals. I know coach Crennel would strongly relay his thoughts to coach Grantham on game-day, when he felt it necessary. Coach Crennel did not run the defense, but his finger-prints were all over it as the season progressed, directly or indirectly.
LA: Was there a time during the season when the team or the organization was on the verge of replacing coach Grantham?
Bigs: Looking back at some of the things I heard, how the defense was not playing as a unit and the lack of vision, maybe the writing was on the wall. Honestly, I believe Coach Crennel tried to keep the focus on the game and worked to improve the entire team.
If I were in his position and thought the defensive coordinator has ill-will towards me, something would have to occur to relieve the issue. Coach Crennel is very professional and I believe this is the sole reason why he did not let the issues with coach Grantham become a significant distraction.
So, I do believe coach Crennel wanted him gone.