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November 30, 2023

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Browns’ GM comes to defense of Crennel

BEREA, Ohio – Browns general manager Phil Savage refuses to make coach Romeo Crennel the scapegoat.

Despite a second losing season and Cleveland’s failure to beat a team in its division, Savage said one person shouldn’t bear the responsibility for everything that went wrong with the team in 2006.

“There’s no way I can look in the mirror and say all of this is Romeo Crennel’s fault,” Savage said yesterday. “It’s just not fair to him.”

Savage blamed injuries, a difficult schedule and the lack of a core group of winning players as the main reasons for the Browns’ 4-12 record in his second season in charge.

Savage, speaking during a year-end news conference, reaffirmed that Crennel has the support of his players and that to make a change at head coach would set the

franchise back.

“I had a number of players come up to me during the latter stage of the year saying, ‘We believe in Romeo,'”

Savage said.

He noted that in spite of their record – 10-22 over the last two seasons – there was progress being made behind the scenes in terms of the organization’s stability. He identified a core group of players to build around that includes tight end Kellen Winslow, wide receiver Braylon Edwards and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.

But at the same time, he acknowledged they don’t know who their quarterback will be next season, saying that while Charlie Frye is the incumbent starter, Derek Anderson, who started three games late in the season, will have the chance to beat him out in a training camp competition.

Savage brushed aside the idea of bringing in a veteran through free agency, saying there won’t be an impressive group of quarterbacks on the market.

“Right now, we have Charlie and Derek and Ken Dorsey,” he said. “We ultimately could end up with those same three next year.”

On other topics, Savage said:

– The Browns have interviewed one outside candidate for offensive coordinator as well as assistant coach Jeff Davidson and quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer. Savage named the Browns’ inability to form an identity on offense as one of last season’s biggest


– There’s no timetable for the return of injured center LeCharles Bentley, who hurt his knee in training camp. “He’s still very positive about coming back to the Browns and playing at some point.”

– Minor offseason surgery on Winslow’s knee is a possibility but the tight end is having second thoughts.

– The changes to the coaching staff, including the four assistants not retained last week, were Crennel’s calls, not his.

– Savage wouldn’t say that Edwards needed more discipline after becoming a distraction to the team because of his tardiness to meetings and criticisms of his coaches and teammates.

He said Edwards, who finished with 884 yards receiving and six touchdowns, needed more mentoring and by nature is not a selfish teammate.

“The face of the Browns’ offense in the future is probably going to be No. 17 (Edwards) and No. 80 (Winslow),” Savage said. “We have to transform that talent into real professional stars.”

The Browns again have a number of problem areas to fix this offseason, including both lines. But Savage said perhaps the biggest problem is their psyche, overcoming the negativity that comes from losing for four straight seasons and seven out of the last eight since they came back to the NFL as an expansion team.

He attributed some of Edwards’ comments to the chronic losing.

“The frustration set in and some players did speak out,” Savage said. “We have to have more professionalism and more self-discipline.”

Savage said he wasn’t concerned about whether the Browns will pick No. 3 or No. 4 in the April draft _ a coin flip with Tampa Bay will determine the outcome. He said though that it was a good year to be in the top five.

Despite the pressure to produce wins, Savage said he was less concerned with a quick turnaround like the New Orleans Saints experienced this season, than building a team that will be competitive for years to come.

“I have no less confidence now than I did two years ago that the Browns can become winners,” Savage said.

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