When Romeo Crennel arrived to the Houston Texans he came in good faith that Head Coach Bill O'Brien was selling a good product. Crennel prior to interviewing with the Texans had not met O'Brien and their first contact came in that meeting for potentially becoming the defensive coordinator for the Texans.
"I really didn't have a relationship with him. I didn't know him at all. That is why I wanted to sit down and talk to him. After talking to him, I felt that he was a football guy. Football was important to him and winning was important to him."
Crennel felt that the defense that was here from the 2013 season had talent this could be a good situation for him as the Defensive Coordinator under O'Brien. The talk with O'Brien and the talent he saw on film made it an easy move to take the position with the Texans.
"I was excited about that and thought this was a good situation." Crennel added, "A lot of positives, and good players too. I looked at the record from last year; all of the games were close games. I know being in the league as long as I have, there is a thin line between winning and losing. I felt that this was a good situation, could be a good situation. Of course everyone thinks when you are 2-14 that you are no good. Your record is what it is, but from what I saw on tape, I saw guys hustling, I saw guys giving effort and guys being in the game in the fourth quarter. That indicated to me that maybe they weren't that far away."
Being one of the most decorated coaches in NFL history with 4 Super Bowl rings under his belt, one as a defensive line coach for the New York Giants and three as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Crennel is bringing the traditional 3-4 scheme to Houston that focuses on a defense built around the defensive line.
"You've got to have those big, strong and physical guys on the inside to make the inside of the defense good and then you can put those athletic guys on the edge and let them flash a little bit. They're not allowed if the guys inside don't do their jobs. We've got to be good on the inside."
He continued with how important the nose tackle position is for the Texans,
"To play the 3-4 defense, you have to be good down the middle. That starts with the nose. Hopefully you can get a guy that commands double teams because if he commands double teams, then someone is going to be free. We tell them that you have to command the double team and then beat the double team at the line of scrimmage to get somebody free because if you get double teamed and get knocked five yards back, chances are someone is not going to be free and there is going to be a big hole in the defense. Nose is critical. He has to be able to win one-on-one, force the double team and then not get killed on the double team. Then that allows the linebackers behind him to be good."
Crennel has stuck with the idea that the defensive line is key to building his defense and with the Patriots had four season of unit that ranked in the top 15 each season and three of those were top 7 in overall defense. Those defenses were known for being versatile and forcing turnovers at a decent rate and getting the ball back to their offense. Crennel is hoping to re-create a defense that gives the Texans a versatile group that can lineup with any offense in the NFL.
Not Too Fast
Despite the good work that has been put in by the Texans defense through Voluntary Mini-Camp and OTAs, Crennel is using caution before getting too excited about the defense.
"We are going to continue the rest of this week and go into minicamp next week and then we'll get some time off and get back in for training camp. I think that is when we really find out what we have. Like I've said in the past, everyone looks good in shorts. We've been in shorts so everyone can look good shorts. You've got to put the pads on because this is a contact game and a physical game. We've got to find out what the guys can do with pads on. Then I think we'll know what we have and exactly what we are working with at that time."
RAC Has To Prove Himself Now
With a coaching career that has spanned nearly 40 years and 12 of those at the NFL level, Crennel know the business all too well. Head Coaching stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns that resulted in 28-55 overall record that let him know the business is a what you have done for me lately.
"There is a thin line between winning and losing and a thin line between being good and bad." Crennel continued, "That is just the way this business is. It is what have you done for me lately, and I haven't done anything lately. I've got to work to try to get something done."
At Crennel's age, 66, and taking two seasons off from the game, he spent time at his Alma Mater Western Kentucky unwinding and helping the football team. He knows his coaching career is coming to an end and he wants to end it on a good note and things have change for Crennel as a coach,
"I think with myself that I am at the stage in my career where people are important. We all want to win, but if you've got good people and you can work with good people, that make the job easier in my mind." Crennel continued, "I just felt that this situation was a good situation. I felt that the people were good people and that would enjoy working with them. That made it easier for me to come and give it a shot."
The pedigree is known and Crennel has started his tenure in Houston be taking the intensity O'Brien wants from his coaches to the practice field. A father figure for the current staff and players on the team have made Crennel an immediate favorite around the Texans facility. His genuine love for the game and his players is evident the way he handles himself and getting the Texans back to being winners is his number one goal.
"We have a challenge of coming in, trying to win games and quote ‘turning things around.' I think it is a good challenge. I think we are up to it and are working hard at it. The players are working hard at it trying to learn a new system."