Rich's Rant: It's Time. Fire Away

Rich Passan was the first to say it: Please, Randy Lerner, put us all out of our misery.

It's time. No need to wait until Dec. 29.

Why prolong the agony? It's not worth it.

In fact, it's way past the time for Romeo Crennel to step down. Or for Randy Lerner and Phil Savage to remove him from his current job. Probably the latter because the former ain't happening due to pride.

By stubbornly refusing to put an end to one of the saddest chapters in Cleveland Browns history, Lerner and Savage have hung their coach out to dry.

Watching and listening to Crennel at his news conferences on Mondays is painful. Everyone knows he's the lamest of lame-duck coaches in the National Football League (except, maybe, for Rod Marinelli in Detroit) and yet, the Browns keep trotting him out.

The season, for all practical purposes, is over. It's been over for more than a month now. And the fallout, at least on the coaching level, is inevitable, Lerner's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Crennel is gone after this season. Lerner and Savage know it, the fans know it, the media knows it and he knows it. So why embarrass the man and make him face the media only to go through the motions? Let him leave while he still has some dignity left.

What harm would it do to have Rip Scherer or Rob Chudzinski take over for the final two games? How much uglier can it get? The nadir has already been reached. That was pretty much assured in Monday night's drubbing in Philadelphia by the Eagles.

Right now, the Browns are a zero on offense. As in no touchdowns in the last 254 minutes from that side of the ball. They couldn't scare a good college defense. Forty-six consecutive drives without reaching the end zone. One would think they would score a TD on offense by accident. Their ineptitude sullies the name of the team.

Leave it to the defense, courtesy of a Brandon McDonald pick six, to snap a TD drought that had reached nearly 250 minutes.

There isn't a strong enough adjective to describe the misery this team has put its fans through this season. It is light years beyond embarrassing. And someone has got to pay a steep price for that.

Why not start now. Like today.

To dismiss Crennel at this juncture will do no more harm to the season than the first 14 games have. It wouldn't be without precedent. Dick Modzelewski replaced Forrest Gregg with one game to go in the 1977 season.

The Browns are careening toward a 4-12 record – 5-11 if you're optimistic and see a victory against Cincinnati this Sunday – and the fans are beyond angry. Even some of the sycophants have stepped back and allowed themselves to question the party line.

Nothing is going to save this season short of euthanasia. OK, that's hyperbole, but you get the point.

When the 2008 season began, no one, not even the most pessimistic fan, believed it would conclude in such a manner.

It sadly has reached the stage with the fans where making fun of Crennel. It's not enough to coarsely question his ability to coach. Now, it's getting personal with not-so-vague references to his corpulence. That's blatantly unfair and cowardly, but it unfortunately will continue until he's history.

The Browns, to Crennel's credit, are not going through the motions, although no one would blame them if they did. The players know Crennel will not be their coach next season. It's time to stop the charade and pretend everything will get better. It won't. At least not this season.

Crennel looks like a fool when he continues to talk about winning games and using the best players, usually the veterans, to achieve that goal. It's apparent he's paying no attention to those who want to see what the future holds by playing some of the younger players and is going out on his own terms.

"We're going to look to try and win a game," he says. "That's why you coach. Now if a younger guy gives you a chance to win, then you can do that and you can maybe try to mix him in to maybe try to give him a play or two.

"I think maybe we cut back on some things that we're trying to do, understanding what some of the limitations are and do a little bit less. If there's somebody we think can help us win, then we'll tweak it."

When speaking in this manner, Crennel has relied on coach-speak, that language designed to sound good, but mean nothing.

Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe nothing. It's over. The words ring hollow even though the players won't admit it. Monday night's performance attests to that.

At this point of the season, everything has been tried. There's no going back to the drawing board. Not this late in the season. If these Browns don't know how to win now, they never will under Crennel.

There is nothing more to be learned. There is no building momentum for next season because the 2009 coaching staff will consist of different faces.

Hard to believe, but it is entirely conceivable the Browns could win up in the AFC North basement this season. If the Bengals win out in the final two weeks and the Browns drop their final two games, the Bengals finish third.

Crennel will depart Cleveland with a legacy of ineptitude, much like his three predecessors (including an interim) since the 1999 return. His five Super Bowl rings have translated into 24 victories in four years, 25 if you're an optimist, and 40 losses, 39 if you're an optimist. It will net him a 5-19 record against AFC North teams, 6-18 if you're an optimist.

Optimism about the Browns has arrived in short supply in the last decade. It has been extremely difficult being an optimist for Browns fans the last 10 excruciatingly long seasons.

When Crennel walks through the exit door for the final time in Berea, the next guy coming through the door on the opposite side hopefully will enjoy more success.

It certainly couldn't be any worse.

Then again, isn't that what was said when Butch Davis departed?

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