Rich's Rant: The Kick Upstairs

So, if the Cleveland Browns roster loves playing for head coach Romeo Crennel... when should we expect them to start? This and other questions are pondered in this week's Rant...

It would be so easy – and extremely popular – to call for the head of Browns coach Romeo Crennel. And it would be correct to do so for any number of reasons.

But it also would be futile because Crennel isn't going anywhere just yet. To kick him upstairs, which is the likeliest scenario in the not-too-distant future, would be akin to giving up on the 2008 season after just three games.

However, if the Browns head into the bye week at 0-4 and the fans' anger rises to levels that threaten to reach feelings of apathy, Crennel just might feel the boot of Phil Savage and/or Randy Lerner.

Lerner and Savage should have made such a move nine months ago. Instead, they compounded the mistake by extending Crennel's contract two years through the 2011 season. All they had to do was wait one more season before rewarding the coach for his 10-6 record in 2007.

Why the hurry? Crennel wasn't going anywhere. What was he going to do? Threaten to leave if he didn't get an extension? No one was going to beat down the doors for his services. Why not wait to see if 2007 was an aberration?

We have been told by Savage that this is a talented team, a team that should be winning. This is a team that will take the Browns to the next level. Who would have thought that level was on the way down?

Based on what we've seen thus far, this is not a talented team, Savage's protestations notwithstanding. This is a team comprised mainly of underachievers who can be counted on to make only a handful of plays when required.

Something has to be done to wake up this team. The players, we are told, love playing for Crennel. He's a players' coach. Then when are they going to start acting as though they enjoy playing for him instead of placing him on a banana peel?

All signs pointed toward the first victory of the season for the Browns Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens had an offensive line that might be the worst in the AFC North, a running back coming off an injury, a receiving corps that wouldn't scare the weakest defense and a rookie quarterback making his second start.

Sure, they still had a decent defense. But that defense certainly could not cover a lot of the sins with which the offense burdened them.

That defense played downhill all afternoon against the Browns. It had the correct answer for just about every Cleveland offensive play. Its aggressive style dictated the tempo of the game.

This was a must-win game. Anything less than a victory was unacceptable. The manner in which the Browns they played this one is inexcusable. They were totally unprepared. For that, blame must fall squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff.

The Browns displayed little or no emotion while the Ravens' adrenalin level ran on full all day. Very few Browns, it seemed, wanted to step up and make plays.

"We're not a very good football team," said Crennel after the loss. It's significant he didn't add "right now" to that statement because even he knows how bad this team has become with not much hope in sight.

"I don't know whether we're trying to live on the success we had last year, but it's not working," Captain Obvious added. "So we're going to have to do a lot better or this thing is really going to get away from us."

Wrong tense. It already has gotten out of hand. Way out of hand.

The game changed dramatically when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis separated Kellen Winslow Jr. from the ball with a vicious (and clean) hit that knocked the Browns' tight end halfway into next week on the third play of the second half and Cleveland up, 10-7.

Chris McAlister's interception on the play set up the first of three Baltimore touchdowns in the third quarter and the Browns went peacefully. Too peacefully. Lewis' hit served as a microcosm for the Ravens' defensive success. The Cleveland defense lacks a leader like Lewis.

The Cleveland offense has become disgustingly boring and almost predictable. For whatever reason, the Browns have switched from an attacking, stretch-the-field philosophy to a West Coast style.

The playcalling of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is baffling, given his go-for-broke mentality of last season. A three-year-old child shows more imagination than Chudzinski when it comes to plotting the offense.

Quarterback Derek Anderson looks tentative and indecisive, his receivers have trouble getting open and the offensive line looks nothing like it did last season. Opposing defenses challenge Anderson to beat them. He's not coming close.

Awful doesn't begin to describe how he's looked this season. He looked more like the rookie making his second start than the Ravens' Joe Flacco. Five sacks and three picks tell you all you need to know.

If the West Coast is what this team has become, then maybe a switch to Brady Quinn is in order. There's no question Anderson is not comfortable with it.

Usage of players also confounds. Why, for example, is 5-9 Syndric Steptoe starting ahead of 6-3 Steve Sanders at wide receiver? Why is Steve Heiden nothing more than a blocking tight end? And why, for crying out loud, is Jerome Harrison Velcroed to the bench?

All Harrison has done this season in his precious few opportunities is produce. He makes plays. His reward? A seat on the bench.

Why isn't this guy getting more playing time? The rap on him is he is a poor pass blocker and the coaches are afraid he'll get his quarterback hurt. Here's a novel idea: Give him plays where he doesn't have to block.

(Timeout for a word regarding a certain wide receiver. It's time to cut Donte' Stallworth. This fragile excuse for a football player is taking money under false pretenses. Take that act somewhere else. If I were Lerner, I'd eat his contract and ship him out of town for all the good he's doing.)

Last season, the Browns went from pretenders to representative to competitive to "where the hell did that come from?" to contenders in the relative blink of an eye.

This season, the Browns have gone from contenders to competitive to representative to "what the hell is going on here?" all the way back to pretenders in half a blink.

For all practical purposes, they have brought the 2009 season into focus stunningly earlier than they had ever dreamed.

Right now, nothing Crennel, Savage or any of the players, for that matter, say can mollify a very angry fan base. This season, for all practical purposes, is over with 13 games left.

One can only imagine what they're thinking at ESPN with three Browns games on its prime-time Monday night schedule.

Is it too late for a do-over?

The OBR Top Stories