CLEVELAND (Feb. 6) - New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel accepted an offer to coach the Cleveland Browns, his agent told The Associated Press shortly after the Patriots' Super Bowl victory Sunday night.
Joe Linta said Browns president John Collins called Crennel "about two minutes" after the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles to offer him his first head coaching job.
"He has accepted, pending us working out a contract," Linta said from Jacksonville, Fla. "Hopefully, we can get it done quickly and he can begin putting together a staff."
Linta said he'll be on a 6:30 a.m. Monday flight to Cleveland and will go straight to the team's headquarters in suburban Berea to begin contract talks.
As long as things go well, the Browns will introduce Crennel as their 11th full-time coach - and first black coach - in team history on Tuesday.
Linta said he will seek a five- or six-year deal for the 57-year-old Crennel.
"He's not like most first-time coaches," Linta said. "He's a guy with more credentials. Although he hasn't been a head coach, he has five Super Bowl rings. The Browns aren't just getting a coach. They're buying into a program. They are getting 25 years of experience and knowledge."
Crennel's move to Cleveland is no surprise. It had been expected for weeks, and was only delayed because the Browns weren't allowed to have contact with the 24-year NFL coaching veteran while the Patriots were still playing.
New England's season ended Sunday when the Patriots seized a place among the great dynasties in NFL history by beating Philadelphia 24-21 for their second straight title and third in four years.
The Browns are hoping Crennel can bring them back to glory, but there's much work to be done.
As the Patriots celebrated their latest Super Bowl win, Crennel said he was thrilled the Browns called with their offer.
"It felt real good," he said. "I've been in this business for a little while. I've always been told if you work hard and you're good at what you do, you'll get an opportunity to move up."
Crennel, who began his pro coaching career on Ray Perkins' staff with the New York Giants in 1981, will be Cleveland's third coach since 1999, when the Browns returned to the league as an expansion team.
Since then, the club has gone just 30-67 and lost their only playoff game in 2002.
This will be Crennel's second stint with the Browns. He served as the club's defensive coordinator in 2000 under Chris Palmer, who was fired after going just 5-27 in two years. In Crennel's one season in charge of Cleveland's defense, the Browns recorded 42 sacks - a 17-sack improvement over the previous year.
Before hiring Butch Davis in 2001, the Browns interviewed Crennel, who was a candidate for other openings the past few years but was passed over despite his success and a handful of Super Bowl rings.
But he emerged as the Browns' No. 1 choice during a Jan. 7 interview in Boston with Browns owner Randy Lerner, Collins and general manager Phil Savage, who had been hired that day.
"I put my best foot forward," Crennel said last week at the Super Bowl. "If their impression was that I floored them, then that's great."
During an interview on media day in Jacksonville, Crennel gave a glimpse of what type of coach he will be with the Browns.
Crennel, who spent four seasons on Bill Belichick's staff in New England, said that if he was hired as a head coach he would prefer to use a 3-4 defense. The Patriots perfected that scheme, using it to confounded opposing offenses.
"It's been good to me," he said.
Cleveland's base defense last season was a 4-3 under coordinator Dave Campo, who is not expected to be retained by Crennel.
Offensively, Crennel hopes to mimic what was successful for the Patriots: a run-oriented system that will try to make big plays when possible.
"You'd like to be able to run the ball, use play-action passes and throw the ball when you want to throw the ball down the field."
Crennel isn't the only assistant leaving the world champions for a head coaching job. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is going to Notre Dame.
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Being a Browns fan I'm not disappointed with this.