If Sunday's 20-12 victory over the pitiful and winless Cincinnati Bengals somehow saves Romeo Crennel's job as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he should send a huge bouquet of flowers to the New York Giants' defense. The defending Super Bowl champions had as much to do with the Browns' first victory of the season as anything Crennel's team did.
The Giants' defense sacked Bengals Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer six times in beating Cincinnati 26-23 in overtime in Week Three. Palmer was so bruised and battered, particularly his right elbow, that he couldn't answer the bell against the Browns.
Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who hadn't thrown a regular-season pass since 2005. It showed. His timing was bad. His footwork was worse. And his decision-making was just plain awful. Three interceptions and a lost fumble were critical components of the Browns' first win of the year.
Crennel has been on the hot-seat due in large part to some questionable decision-making, poor use of the game clock, players who seem to lack discipline, and his refusal to bench slump-ridden quarterback Derek Anderson.
The truth is, Anderson and Company didn't win this game. The Bengals lost it.
Give some credit to the Browns' defense. It played well enough to beat a bad football team. Had Palmer been available, it might very well have been a much different story.
Many had speculated that had the Browns lost to the Bengals, Crennel might have faced the same scenario as Sam Rutiglaino did 24 years ago. Then-owner Art Modell hated the Bengals more than any other team in the NFL, due in large part to the fact the Bengals were founded by former Browns head coach Paul Brown. The day after the Browns lost to the Bengals, 12-9 in 1984 to fall to 1-7, Modell fired Rutigliano, even though they were very close friends.
I don't get the feeling current owner Randy Lerner and Crennel have that same type of relationship, so it should be much easier for Lerner to can the man who seems to think he's smarter than many of his advisors.
That was obvious when Crennel decided to start Anderson against the Bengals, despite reported calls for changes from virtually everyone in the organization. Advisor Jim Brown even went public with his opinion and, according to the greatest running back in NFL history, the feelings of others within the organization. The feeling was that if Brady Quinn started, it would give the Browns a much-needed spark.
Crennel refused to listen, thus giving Anderson a chance to shine against a winless defense that came into the game ranked 24th in the NFL. That much-maligned defense looked like world-beaters in limiting Anderson to just 4-of-10 passing for 27 yards in the first half as the Bengals crawled to a 6-3 lead at intermission.
If the first three games of the season hadn't convinced Crennel a change was needed, the first half against the Bengals, including Anderson missing a wide open receiver on a key fourth-and-one play, should have done so. But it didn't. Nor did an interception on the Browns' first second-half drive, which began around mid-field thanks to an excellent kickoff return by Joshua Cribbs.
With his team trailig by a field goal and playing totally lifeless football against a team that was without its leader, the situation begged for Crennel to call upon "Sparky."
But he didn't.
To Anderson's credit, he led the Browns on a nice scoring drive that started late in the third quarter and culminated with a go-ahead touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards early in the fourth. But had it not been for an encroachment, the drive would have ended when Anderson had a flat pass to Edwards intercepted, only to be nullified by the penalty.
Jamal Lewis said the Browns' performance against the Ravens was "pathetic." Sunday's game against the Bengals, even though it resulted in a victory, wasn't much better. It was, however, probably good enough to save the jobs of both Crennel and Anderson through the upcoming off week.
Refusing to bench Anderson despite his obvious problems is the most glaring of Crennel's blunders as the head coach. When you add in some of the other decisions Crennel has made this season, including twice sending Dawson out for meaningless fourth quarter field goals, you have to wonder how concerned he is about keeping his job.
Why should he be? He turned his one winning season as a head football coach into a $4 million contract extension through the 2011 season. Even if Crennel orders three pizzas a day every day until he lands another coaching job (as an assistant no doubt), that should be enough dough, even if the pies are large with extra thick crust.
It was only eight months ago that general manager Phil Savage said, "We're pleased to get this two-year extension done with Romeo Crennel. Romeo has proven that he can be a winning NFL head coach, and he has the respect of the players and of the entire organization. Not only is Romeo an excellent coach, he is a person of impeccable character, which sets an exemplary tone for everyone in the Browns' organization."
I wonder if Savage still feels that way today? I wonder if one winning season actually "proves" he can be a winning NFL head coach? I wonder if he has the "respect of the players and of the entire organization" after making the decision to stick with Anderson?
My guess would be that of all the above comments, the only one true today is that "he is a person of impeccable character."