Patriots Crennel Gets The Most From His Players
By Dave Fletcher, Site Contributor
Rodney Harrison doesn't need antagonization from a borderline starter like Freddie Mitchell to motivate him to lay down the wood on Philadelphia's wideouts. Tedy Bruschi doesn't need to spin the national media's praise of Donovan McNabb into a web of aggression that will lead to a forced fumble or a key interception. And Richard Seymour doesn't need to use his part-time role in the game as proof that 75 percent of him is good enough to register a big-time sack or two.
No, the Patriots defense can find its motivation for this Sunday's Super Bowl standing right next to them rather than across the field on the opposing sideline. Even though defensive coodinator Romeo Crennel can't publicly say he's going to be the Cleveland Browns' head coach next season, it's a given that starting Monday, the job is his to accept. The veteran players of the New England defense will undoubtedly have that fact in the back of their minds when they take the field at Alltel Stadium. Sunday's game will be the last chance for players such as Willie McGinest, Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Seymour, Harrison, and Mike Vrabel to execute a defensive game plan drawn up the man who has helped create one of the best big play defenses of all time.
It would only be fitting that the final glimpse of Crennel in New England be one of his defensive players creating turnovers, disguising mismatches and wreaking havoc on the quarterback like so many times before.
"Guys will run through a wall for him," said Keith Traylor. "He's a great guy who takes care of his players. He'll listen to you. His office is always open. He definitely makes you want to go work hard for him."
Per usual, getting Crennel or any of the Patriots players to talk about anything past this Sunday was a fruitless cause during Tuesday's media day.
"I tell my players never to assume," Crennel said. "I don't have the job. I work for the New England Patriots. As long as I am a Patriot, I am a Patriot. After this game we will see what happens ... My expectation is to try to win the game this week. Then we'll see what happens next week."
McGinest was just as consistent in maintaining the "All-I-Know-Is-We-Have-A-Game-Sunday, That's-My-Story-and-I'm-Sticking-To-It" mentality.
"I don't know what's going on with Romeo Crennel," he said. "The only thing that really matters that I can tell you is what is coming up on Sunday ... The only thing that is important now is the game."
Don't believe what Willie says. It's a pretty good bet that he's hoping to make a few big hits on the Eagles offense to punctuate what has been a career rebirth under Crennel's 3-4 defense that moved McGinest away from the line of scrimmage as a defensive end to linebacker, where he has thrived over the past two years.
McGinest isn't the only one who has revitalized his career under Crennel's system. Johnson, Vrabel and Roman Phifer have contributed to the cycle of linebackers nicely, keeping the group fresh and constantly contributing to keeping the passing and running offense off balance.
"There is nowhere to run and hide on this defense," Johnson said. "You don't really get a lot of big plays from it, but you get a lot of big plays against it."
For a defense that Johnson claims doesn't get big plays, there's at least two AFC teams -- Indianapolis and Pittsburgh -- that would likely beg to differ that big plays aren't a key part of the repertoire. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Dominic Rhodes, Reggie Wayne and Jerome Bettis. That list of players victimized by turnovers thanks to the Patriots' defense will need to grow longer if the Patriots want to complete a Super Bowl trifecta.
For Crennel, it would be a sweet ending to what has been a very successful four years for the Patriots defense.
"I would have to say [this team's] done pretty well [over the past four years], because we're [going to] the Super Bowls and winning the Super Bowls. That's the objective of all the coaches I know," he said.
Of course, Crennel's fondest memories of New England may still be yet to come. Especially if the Patriots' defense has its way in Jacksonville.
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