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CLEVELAND BROWNS Crennel takes the reins



Published: Wed, February 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



There's much work to be done for the former Patriots defensive coordinator.

BEREA (AP) -- Romeo Crennel's long wait is over. An assistant coach for 35 years, he's finally in charge.

Fresh from winning a third Super Bowl title as New England's defensive coordinator, Crennel was introduced Tuesday as coach of the Cleveland Browns, a team with far more imperfections than the one he left.

"I've been somewhat successful as a position coach. Now being able to take the reins of a team and try to run a whole team, that's special," Crennel said at a news conference.

"I'm excited about it. I want to be successful, and I want to win and that's what I want to try to bring to Cleveland, a winning football team."

The 57-year-old Crennel is the 11th full-time coach in Browns history and the team's first black coach. He's the NFL's sixth minority coach, but the only one with a Super Bowl ring for each finger of one hand.

Contract in hand

Crennel received a five-year, $11 million contract from the Browns, who are coming off a disastrous 4-12 season that was scuttled by major injuries and highlighted by the resignation of Butch Davis on Nov. 30.

In hiring Crennel, the Browns, who are just 30-66 with one playoff appearance since returning to the league in 1999, selected an older, more experienced coach instead of going for an up-and-coming college candidate, as they did in 2001 when they plucked Davis from the University of Miami.

Crennel joins Tony Dungy of Indianapolis, Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati, Dennis Green of Arizona, Herman Edwards of the New York Jets and Lovie Smith of Chicago among the league's black head coaches.

As Crennel was being introduced by the Browns, the Patriots were being paraded through the streets of Boston. But Crennel knew he was in the right place.

"Considering the alternative, this is a good one to be at," said Crennel, who was joined at the news conference by his wife, Rosemary, and two of his three daughters.

Several opportunities

Crennel, who began his pro coaching career with the New York Giants in 1981, was passed over for head coaching jobs in the past. Last year, he interviewed with several teams, including Buffalo, Oakland and Chicago. The year before, he spoke with San Francisco about the job that eventually went to Dennis Erickson.

But after the Browns interviewed him on Jan. 7, they knew Crennel was their guy. Except for a small window during the Patriots' postseason bye week, league rules prohibited the Browns from having any discussions with Crennel while New England was still playing.

The secret was out, though, and if the Browns were having any doubts about Crennel as their choice, he reassured them by devising defensive schemes that stopped Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in the AFC playoffs.

On Sunday, the Patriots barely had another Vince Lombardi Trophy in their grasp following a win over Philadelphia in Jacksonville, Fla., when Browns president John Collins called Crennel to offer him the job.

Crennel's first priorities in Cleveland will be to hire assistants and get to know general manager Phil Savage. The Browns are counting on the Crennel-Savage combination to reverse six years of questionable draft picks and turmoil.

Crennel will reportedly bring in Maurice Carthon from Dallas as his offensive coordinator, and Patriots defensive backs coach Eric Mangini is the leading candidate to run Cleveland's defense.

That was Crennel's job with Cleveland in 2000 under Chris Palmer. The Browns haven't improved much since Crennel left, and he'll be faced with some major decisions. One is the future of quarterback Jeff Garcia, who struggled in his first season in Cleveland after signing a four-year, $25 million free agent deal last March. Garcia is due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 1.




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