Here is part-three and final installment of our series digging into the fiasco between the Cleveland Browns and their former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Throughout the first two parts of the series, "Mr. Bigs" has been gracious enough to expound on issues within the team structure, touching on the complicated deterioration of trust between the head coach of the team, Romeo Crennel, and former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and the team's defensive unit.
We talked to a high-level official in the game, who we will call "Reason", since there was an understandable lack of interest in being quoted directly.
All following discussion of note comes with an "allegedly" speaking tag:
LA: In discussions with numerous sources regarding the state of affairs within the Cleveland Browns organization, I have been led to believe that there was significant turmoil and a lack of professionalism involved, which directly took a toll on the Cleveland defense. Where did the issues between the head coach and former defensive coordinator begin?
Reason: It had been widely presumed that head coach Romeo Crennel was in jeopardy in Cleveland and the organization was in the position to plan for a successor. Crennel is highly regarded and respected around the league.... it would have been done an injustice to remove him without being granted the opportunity to see his plan through.
Crennel is the type of coach that lets his coaches coach... that is their job... being on that end of the spectrum for the majority of his coaching career. While he and Todd Grantham did not the share the same overall philosophy overall, there was an ability to work both styles.
What transpired to flame the fires is what is troubling to say the least. Grantham did not simply assume he was going to be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. While a perception was evident that he could be the successor at some point, something happened...
Crennel comes from the old school mentality and is a deft believer in loyalty, trust and responsibility. He (Crennel) is the type of coach that expects nothing less from the players and his coaches. In the situation involving Grantham, it was others involved that led to the bad and very ugly situation within the Cleveland Browns organization, Grantham and to an extent Crennel only ran with or sought a remedy to the situation.
LA: Where did this "path of destruction" originate?
Reason: (General Manager) Phil Savage spoke highly of Grantham and he was rewarded a contract extension. The organization paid close attention to Grantham's abilities and did the head coach an injustice by putting the defensive coordinator on such a pedestal.
Late in the 2006 season, as the team was floundering, team owner Randy Lerner was highly upset with the development and embarrassment (of the Cleveland Browns). My belief from all the insight is that Lerner wanted to let Crennel go, which did not happen in thanks to a great sales job by Savage. Savage went to bat for Crennel, but did not lay his entire being on the table this time. It was Savage that basically got Crennel through the 2006 season, but it was also Savage that put it on the line that something would transpire with the head coach if the early returns in 2007 did not warrant a reason for optimism and development.
Somewhere along the line... the future of the Cleveland Browns and the role for Grantham was discussed with the former defensive coordinator. These discussions were with the immediate top of the organization or were relayed from such a high ranking position within the organization.
LA: Are you saying upper management of the Cleveland Browns discussed the head coach position with Todd Grantham, while Romeo Crennel was the head coach of the team?
Reason: Yes, in some capacity. Whether the discussion was a promise, an intent or generally noting a head coaching opportunity could be presented at some point, I am not certain. But, there was an element due to the extension and discussions which assumingly led Grantham to believe he was the head coach in waiting.
LA: Was a faction in place with the organization which believed a change was inevitable during the 2007 season?
Reason: I would say that there wasn't a certainty, but expectations were as such that the team was going to struggle and the timing would be acceptable to make such a move, if necessary.
LA: Was the general manager of the team on the fence in regards to the future of the organization and his head coach?
Reason: Savage has been a strong proponent of Romeo Crennel. If not for Savage, Crennel would have likely been removed and the 2007 team would not have displayed the overall growth they ultimately did. While much of the credit and attention deservedly so has gone to the Cleveland offense and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, it was Crennel that kept the wheels on the wagon turning, in spite of the distraction of this fiasco.
Without Savage's influence and ballsy move in trading the starting quarterback following the opening day embarrassment, in which Derek Anderson stepped in and played well, I do believe things would have played out much differently.
LA: Differently as in Crennel being fired and Grantham being promoted?
Reason: Yes, the season would have been in turmoil and the head coach in waiting would have been elevated.
LA: Did Grantham make a ploy for Crennel's ouster or was this a case of the entire situation looking like the former defensive coordinator being thrown under the bus, not just by some of those surrounding him, but his head coach and front office?
Reason: Some close to the situation believe Grantham did not give his best effort. The defensive coordinator is responsible to carry out the wishes of the head coach and not ignore or challenge in this area. Crennel is very receptive when it comes to the X's and O's and ideas, but in the end the final decision falls to him and in this specific case, the former defensive coordinator was on his own page, for whatever reason, and this was not the case in the past, not to the extreme it was early in the 2007 season.
From talking with some involved, I tend to believe the way he handled players, situation and the differences in his philosophy and that of the expectations of the head coach were a legitimate issue. One could look at this as insubordinate or bordering on sabotaging the head coach in some capacity. Whether this was directly the former DC at work or the influence of others... we may never know the entire truth...
While I have not talked to Grantham since he departed, I am fairly confident in knowing enough about to him to say he simply did not wake up one day and decide he was going to be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns and challenge the authority and respect of the head coach of the team without general purpose or reason.
In the end, this team went 10-6 and could have been a playoff team. Crennel limited the distraction...which many believe should have led to Grantham being fired in mid-stream and the team excelled and shows promise for the future.
Savage likes Grantham and worked to find a resolution to this issue which became extremely personal and ultimately knew there was no middle ground. Releasing Grantham was the only viable option, as the head coach is Savage's guy and changing the guard following a successful season and knowing the progress in this specific system would change with a new head coach would be a public relations nightmare.
LA: Do you perceive the situation as Grantham attempting to sabotage the 2007 season and/or the head coach?
Reason: One could certainly perceive the actions as such.
LA: Society tends to look toward finding fault in incidents rather than the means to rectify conflict. Feeding this frenzy, where would you say the underlying issue truly resides and was justice served with the outcome?
Reason: The Cleveland Browns organization should have never opened the door for such a possibility to occur... the former defensive coordinator did not do himself any justice either. In the end, the story played out well for the organization and Grantham. The team was successful, the defense is now going to be in the hands of a solid, respected Crennel-type mind and communicator which the players like.
As for Grantham, he lands with the Dallas Cowboys and will be an asset as a defensive line coach. He remains a good, highly respected coach. The Browns front office and Savage in general did a solid job of keeping Grantham's reputation intact.