Browns not ready for change

By Tom Withers The Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio – Romeo Crennel’s boss isn’t planning to make him the next former Cleveland coach. Not now, and not anytime soon.

Browns general manager Phil Savage strongly backed Crennel yesterday, saying it was unfair to blame him for all Cleveland’s problems and temporarily snuffing speculation the struggling club was on the verge of a coaching change.

“Romeo has the total support of (owner) Randy Lerner and myself,” Savage said. “He has the respect of the team. They believe in him. Randy and I are 100 percent behind him. We’re going to do everything in our power to help him rest of the next five games, the upcoming offseason and next year.”

Crennel, just 9-18 in two seasons with Cleveland, has come under heavy attack for the Browns’ 3-8 record and a perceived lack of player discipline. During Sunday’s 30-0 loss to Cincinnati, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who has spouted off before this season, argued on the sidelines with teammates – a spectacle that led many to think Crennel had lost control of his team.

Savage not only refuted that notion, but he said he and Crennel are inseparable in all matters related to the team.

“Romeo and I are in this together,” said Savage, hired in January 2005, one month before Crennel. “When he has failure, I have failure. When he has success, I have success. You can’t put some of the problems we’ve had this year at the feet of one person. It’s a team and an organization.”

Bothered by speculation surrounding his coach’s future, Savage said he met with Crennel before addressing the media and told him, “I’m going to try to put an end to this.”

Savage has done that – for now.

“It’s really not fair to him and it’s utterly ridiculous,” Savage said. “There is a silly season before the draft and unfortunately the last month of an NFL season is what I would call a silly season. It’s ludicrous.”

Crennel appreciated Savage’s public gesture, but isn’t so sure it will completely extinguish calls for his head.

“It should be the end of the story,” Crennel said. “But in my years in the NFL, I know things can change and do change. I will tell you I am going to do the very best job I can to lead this team, try to build a consistent team that will give us a chance to compete in the division and for the championship.

“We haven’t been winning, unfortunately. But we are working, doing as much as we can to try to win.”

The Browns have again been riddled with injuries at key positions, making progress nearly impossible.

Still, Savage feels the club has made small strides in getting back to respectability, and feels the Browns have fewer problems with player conduct that most NFL teams.

“I feel like we’re going to come out on the other side of this,” he said.

Several Browns players were pleased to learn of Savage’s support of Crennel, who came to Cleveland shortly after winning a Super Bowl as New England’s defensive coordinator – his fifth title as an assistant.

“Romeo is a great guy and when people taste blood they are going to try and gobble him up,” tight end Kellen Winslow said. “He’s got nothing to worry about. He’s a great coach.”

Savage feels that the 59-year-old Crennel, Cleveland’s third coach since the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, has fulfilled all the expectations the team had for him when he was brought in to help fix a fracture franchise.

“We needed someone to come in and provide a steady hand to the team and organization,” Savage said. “We needed to regain the trust and respect of the players from the head coaching position. I can tell you that he has done that on an hourly, daily and weekly basis since he’s been here.”

Savage addressed several other areas during his 45-minute talk. Among them:

– Edwards’ behavior has been disappointing, but Savage feels the 23-year-old will learn from the experience. Savage also feels Crennel did the right thing by handling any discipline internally.