Rich's Rant: Why Is RAC Still 'Round?

When Romeo Crennel got his contract extension last off-season, the Browns head coach was asked what it meant. "It means I have to win next year", he said. But he hasn't. Rich Passan lays out what he feels needs to be done next.

It's the Monday after the week that was for the Browns and Romeo Crennel is still the club's head coach.

Why?

Why is this poor excuse for a National Football League head coach still around? What has he done to deserve continued employment in that role? The players need to hear a new voice. They're not responding to this one.

What is it going to take for the so-called brain trust sitting in the Ivory Tower in Berea to get this franchise heading in the right direction? Another embarrassing loss next Monday in Buffalo?

It's time for Browns owner Randy Lerner to man up and do something his general manager refuses to do because this baby ain't working. Do something that should have been taken care of after the 2006 season. Do something in an attempt to end the misery of his constituency: Browns fans.

If Phil Savage refuses, then both men have to go. The sooner, the better.

What Savage and his minions have accomplished in the last four-plus years is admirable up to a point, but it is not translating well in the only two columns that mean anything in the out-of-control world of NFL statistics. If I need to tell you what they are, you're in the wrong Web site.

Today, the Browns are 3-6 in a season that very well could be 6-3 with any kind of decent coaching and playmaking from the players.

I can just about guarantee you that Bill Cowher or Marty Schottenheimer would have had this team not only sitting at least at 6-3, it would be a hard-nosed 6-3, a passionate 6-3, a well-deserved 6-3.

This team needs a swift and well-placed kick in the hind flanks. And it needs a head coach whose approach to the game of football starts with the word passion.

I firmly believe in the trickle-down theory in the coaching industry. A football team is a direct reflection of its head coach. And Crennel, a nice guy, does not bring passion or smarts to his job.

Cowher and Schottenheimer are nice guys, too. Off the field. On the field, another personality emerges. Both are driven by their enormous desire to win. Their coaching records prove that.

Their teams had toughness, a will to win that was difficult to describe. These smart men are cut from the same cloth.

Whenever you played a Cowher- or Schottenheimer-coached team, you knew you were in for a long afternoon. Their teams played smart football. They rarely beat themselves. They imposed their will on opposing teams.

Mike Tomlin has continued Cowher's legacy in Pittsburgh with a hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach to the game. The Steelers remain a tough game on anyone's schedule.

Savage has maintained the right pieces and parts are in place for this team to be contenders. He's right. This is not a bad football team. It's just playing fundamentally bad football, primarily on defense. It has the talent to seriously challenge for postseason contention. We saw a glimpse of that last season.

The Browns checked in at 10-6 last season primarily because of an offense that overcame stunningly bad play by the defense. It was good enough to outscore opponents in order to beat them.

So why does Savage insist on the continued employment of a man who has taken that contending team and reduced it to near laughingstock status? A man whose bar continues to drop at an alarming rate?

Why Savage refuses to pull the plug on Crennel as the Browns sink further and further from this season's playoffs remains the great mystery.

The great defensive guru – that's what we were told when Crennel arrived with several Super Bowl rings dangling from his resume – has proven anything but.

We were told he'd straighten out the defense. We're still waiting.

The Browns were awful defensively before Crennel arrived and have somehow managed to get worse. Didn't think it was possible, but that's what has eventuated.

It's not as though Savage hasn't tried via free agency and the college draft. But one long look at the statistics tells you all you need to know.

After the first three years of Crennel's reign, it was determined by the organization that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was the problem. Welcome, Mel Tucker.

So why hasn't there been improvement? And I don't want to hear injuries as an excuse. The Denver Broncos played without five defensive starters Thursday night in that debacle by the lakefront.

This team has, at times, especially on offense, proven it is capable of producing a winning season. All you have to do is look at the last two games for proof. Blowing leads of 14 and 13 points in the second half to two easily beatable teams – both games at home, for goodness sakes – is unconscionable.

The Browns have the talent base to be a winning club, but have seriously underachieved. That is a direct reflection on Crennel.

It's all about coaching and making correct decisions with regard to personnel, tactics and strategy. In Crennel's case, the wrong decisions. He is too slow with his in-game decisions. The man does not think quickly on his feet. His time management defies logic.

Then there are the questionable decisions on who plays and who sits, like sticking with Jamal Lewis at running back. It has become apparent Lewis is nowhere near the runner he was last season. What's wrong with playing Jerome Harrison at running back, maybe even as a starter?

Harrison is clearly quicker than Lewis and has much better vision, witness his innate ability to find the cutback lanes. His slashing style is much better suited for defenses that tend to overreact.

Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt recently benched veteran running back Edgerrin James for rookie Tim Hightower. James had not been producing and Whisenhunt pulled the trigger to the shock of more than a few in Arizona and the rookie responded with a 100-yard game.

How difficult is it to send Lewis to the bench and start Harrison, who has done nothing but produce whenever called on? The knock on Harrison? He's not a very good practice player.

Give me an average practice player who produces in the game every time over the solid practice player who doesn't show up for the game. Last time I checked, most successful coaches play those players who give their teams the best chance to win.

I'm not necessarily advocating the hiring of Cowher or Schottenheimer. I'm advocating hiring someone who will bring fire, brains and a nasty attitude, a mean streak, to Cleveland's pro football team.

If that man is Cowher, go get him. That, of course, would mean the departure of Savage, whose star has fallen dramatically, mainly because Crennel has hauled it down. No way could Cowher and Savage coexist.

Somewhere out there on the coaching landscape is such a man. (No college coaches please.) It's time to identify him and bring him to town. This team deserves better than it has received on the coaching front the last 10 years.

The talent, for the most part, is there. Now bring in someone who can maximize it.



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