Crennel axed by the Browns

By Tom Withers
Associated Press / December 30, 2008
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BEREA, Ohio - Cleveland's offseason already has begun with a disheartening loss. Bill Cowher is not interested in coaching the rebuilding Browns.

Following a 4-12 season that began with Cleveland pegged as one of the NFL's rising teams, the Browns fired coach Romeo Crennel yesterday. The ouster came one day after general manager Phil Savage was dismissed by owner Randy Lerner.

Lerner has begun interviewing for both openings and met with Cowher Saturday night in New York. The former Pittsburgh Steelers coach and current CBS analyst told him he has no intention of returning to coaching in 2009. He asked Lerner to remove him from his list of coaching candidates.

"The explanation that he gave," Lerner said, "was that he was very focused on his kids and his life in North Carolina, and the way he's living in a noncoaching or, if you will, a civilian existence and that he wasn't finished with that."

Crennel went 24-40 in four seasons with the Browns, who entered 2008 with huge expectations but collapsed amid injuries and uneven play on offense and defense. They didn't score an offensive touchdown while losing their last six games and posted their fifth season of at least 10 losses in six years.

Although Crennel's dismissal had been expected for some time, Lerner waited until after the season out of respect for the 61-year-old coach and former defensive coordinator. Crennel never had been a head coach at any level before taking over the Browns in 2005.

"Romeo was a gentleman through and through," said Lerner, who met with the coach yesterday morning. "He was gracious to a fault."

Crennel told Lerner he may be willing to stay with the team in another coaching capacity.

Crennel was regarded as the top coordinator available when the Browns hired him shortly after they brought in Savage. Crennel accepted Lerner's offer in the hours after winning his third Super Bowl as New England's defensive coordinator. Crennel won two previous Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the New York Giants.

Lerner would prefer to hire an executive first and he has been granted permission to speak with New England's Scott Pioli for the GM opening. He did not say when the interview will take place.

Lerner said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was on his coaching list and he likely will contact Eric Mangini, fired yesterday by the Jets. Mangini began his pro career as an intern with Cleveland in the 1990s.

Lerner also expressed an interest in speaking with Bill Parcells, if he leaves the Miami Dolphins. Floyd Reese, Charley Casserly, and Tom Donahoe are other possibilities for the executive job.

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