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News » Browns coach not sweating slow start

Browns coach not sweating slow start

Browns coach not sweating slow start
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Romeo Crennel can't erase Cleveland's rough start. He can't make the silly penalties, dropped passes, turnovers or his team's 0-3 record go away.

If he was on a golf course, the Browns coach could pull out another ball, re-tee it and use his mulligan - a do-over.

"We're not playing golf," Crennel said Thursday. "It's football."

And it's starting to get a little heated for Crennel, whose fourth season in Cleveland wasn't supposed to go like this.

Coming off a surprising 10-win season when they just missed the playoffs, the Browns were expected to do big things in '08. However, heading into this Sunday's game at winless Cincinnati, Crennel's club has scored an NFL-low 26 points, is tied for first in penalties and is embroiled in a quarterback controversy.

Irate callers on local sports talk radio are demanding Crennel's head, and there have been widespread, unsubstantiated rumors that former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher recently purchased a home in the Cleveland area. Browns general manager Phil Savage didn't help matters by labeling a Week 2 game against Pittsburgh "almost a must win."

Uh-oh, Romeo.

Crennel's in the crosshairs.

"You never wish that on anybody," said kicker Phil Dawson. "We've all been there, but as a player you feel responsible. We're the ones who go out there and make penalties and fail to execute and don't win games. Coach really stands tall and takes it on his own shoulders and we respect that a great deal.

"It's hard because we love RAC (Crennel's initials and nickname) and we feel responsible for the heat he is taking."

With the Browns in a funk, Crennel's relationship with Savage has come under added scrutiny. Both insist their bond remains strong, and Savage offered support for his coach during a radio appearance on Thursday.

"There's enough blame to go around," Savage said. "That starts with me. All of us can do a better job. Romeo's not the kind of man who's going to beat the drum and say I did that to help us win. He's big enough to take the blame and big enough to handle the situation we're in right now.

"As long as the team plays hard for Romeo and they have a belief in him, then I don't think we have an issue. We just need to win a game."

Crennel, 20-31 since joining the Browns in 2005, understands that criticism comes with the territory. He's a football lifer, having broken into the pros as a special teams coach with the New York Giants in 1981. Crennel knows there are only two things that matter: wins and losses.

"I've said it all along, if you win, your chances of staying are better," he said. "If you lose, then that's part of this business."

Crennel went just 10-22 in his first two seasons as the Browns went through a painful rebuilding process that began paying dividends last year. He has already been through tough times, but that doesn't make this bad stretch any easier.

"Losing is hard anytime," he said. "You work your butt off to try to win. When you're not able to win, you're disappointed. You try to figure out why it is and why your team is doing some things that you know they shouldn't be doing. And if you're not able to get them out of that, it's really disappointing."

As Browns fans gnash their teeth over the losses, Crennel has tried to stay upbeat. According to his players, the 61-year-old grandfather has been positive and supportive during meetings. There are plenty of excuses for Cleveland's slow start - injuries, a tough schedule - but Crennel isn't using any of them.

The locker room is united behind Crennel.

"We want to win for him as much as we want to win for ourselves," said center Hank Fraley. "He's been great to us. I've really liked him as a coach. We've got to get out there and get a win for our team."

Fraley compared Crennel to Philadelphia's Andy Reid, his coach for five seasons, in his ability to remain calm amid turmoil.

"You can't panic," he said. "That's the last thing you want to do. We've all got to keep pulling together in the same direction. You can't change a season in one day. It's a roller coaster. Right now, we're just at the bottom of that hill, we just haven't gotten to the exciting part."

The ride could become frightful for Crennel and the Browns if they lose to the Bengals. Cleveland is already 0-2 in the AFC North, and following a bye week, the Browns' schedule gets tougher with a home game against the Giants followed by trips to Washington and Jacksonville.

Complicating matters is the muddled QB situation. Crennel's choice to stay with Derek Anderson over backup Brady Quinn was not popular outside Cleveland's locker room. It also seemed to clash with Hall of Famer Jim Brown's assertion that the team needed a spark. Brown is an adviser to the team.

Crennel, though, isn't concerned about external views.

"Everybody has an opinion," he said. "Some people voice their opinions. There's nothing I can do about what people think. The only thing I can do anything about is what my team does. How I can get my team to play better, that's my focus and that's my concentration. Everybody's got an opinion, but it doesn't mean it's right."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 25, 2008

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