A question still lurking in the background for this year's Cleveland Browns is whether head coach Romeo Crennel will get to fulfill the final year of his contract. To the objective eye, the safe bet would be against that happening. But this is Cleveland and this is the Browns and if there is one constant it's their unpredictability.
We've chronicled, several times, Romeo's shortcomings, all of which were on full display in the Maurice Carthon debacle. So, as Jim Leyland might say, we won't re-chew our breakfast on that one. And while we see a better organized offense since Jeff Davidson took over the play calling, the overall product is still woeful and showing little evidence of progress. That would seem to spell doom.
But putting all of that insignificant on-the-field evidence screaming that the head coach is overmatched, we'll instead consider Crennel's press conference yesterday.
Crennel has been praised for his relative candor in such settings. And compared to automatons like New England's Bill Belichick, Crennel looks positively chatty most times. But his discussion about quarterback Charlie Frye smacked of a coach who knows he's on his way out and just doesn't care anymore.
Crennel, clearly not on the same playbook as his boss, GM Phil Savage, openly questioned whether Frye is the long-term answer at quarterback. Sure, Crennel talked about Frye's intangibles: "He's got good talent, good ability, good leadership ability, got some toughness. The guys rally around him. At that position you've got to have that," Crennel said. But Crennel also sounded just a bit exasperated that Frye, like the rest of the team, hasn't made much progress. Crennel said that Frye was under "pretty good duress" early on in the season, making it tough to make a valid evaluation but, "going forward, we'll see that he's a capable quarterback."
Reading between the lines, Crennel has given Frye the benefit of the doubt for the early mistakes because of the offensive line. But now, not so much. Crennel seemed to attribute Frye's continued problems to his desire to "make a play." Translated: Frye still hasn't made much progress in learning when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
The fact that Crennel was unwilling to give Frye a solid endorsement, while intellectually honest, suggests that Crennel and Savage are not in sync on Frye's future. The fact that Savage didn't initially bring in a credible back-up and has since made no overt gestures in that direction strongly suggests that Savage sees things much differently when it comes to Frye's future.
If you are handicapping Crennel's chances of returning, this is the key development that bears watching. Yesterday's press conference was an subtle throwdown by Crennel to Savage that quarterback is another hole that may need to be filled. If Savage disagrees with this assessment, it will become the foundation upon which Crennel's departure is built as we can easily see the scenario developing where Crennel overtly puts his job on the line by demanding a change. However that scenario plays out will surely determine the future of the Browns. Here's hoping that owner Randy Lerner once again sides with his general manager against an overmatched and underachieving counterpoint.