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AFC NORTH Browns' top job waits for Crennel



Published: Tue, February 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cleveland is expected to hire New England's defensive coordinator.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel hasn't spoken to the Cleveland Browns about their coaching vacancy in nearly a month. He'll be hearing from them soon enough.

Win or lose against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, Crennel is expected to be offered the Browns' job shortly after the game Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.

If he accepts the position, Crennel will be introduced early next week as the 11th full-time coach, and first black coach, in Cleveland's storied history.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft appears prepared for Crennel's departure.

"There's nothing positive on Romeo, I don't know that for a fact," Kraft said after arriving in Florida amid reports that Crennel would join the Browns. "Part of your success is if you have good people, they will be hired away. Romeo is awesome. He's calm and solid. He deserves to be a head coach."

Browns must wait

NFL rules have restricted the Browns from publicly commenting on their coaching search. They have also been unable to negotiate a contract with Crennel or his agent, Joe Linta, until the AFC champion Patriots complete their season.

The sides have not talked since Jan. 7 when Crennel, 57, emerged as the club's No. 1 choice following his interview with owner Randy Lerner, president John Collins and new general manager Phil Savage, who was hired that day.

Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress is the only other coaching candidate interviewed by the Browns whose season is not over. Cleveland also interviewed offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, the club's interim coach, and Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

If Cleveland had intended to hire any other candidate, the Browns would have done so already.

Linta did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

The league's strict guidelines on pursuing coaches under contract with other teams has hampered off-season plans for the Browns, who have a lot of work to do after finishing 4-12. With Crennel likely to bring his coaching staff, several Cleveland assistants have taken jobs elsewhere and a few more could leave this week.

Possible homecoming

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Crennel will be going back to Cleveland, where he served as the Browns defensive coordinator in 2000 under Chris Palmer. After Palmer was fired in 2001, Cleveland interviewed Crennel for its top job before signing Butch Davis, who quit with five games remaining this season.

As if Crennel's four Super Bowl rings weren't impressive enough, the 24-year NFL coaching veteran enhanced his resume during the playoffs. The Patriots' defense first shut down league MVP Peyton Manning and Indianapolis' high-octane offense before flustering Pittsburgh rookie Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC championship.




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