Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel is set to return the city where his career reached some incredible highs before things inexplicably fell apart.
Crennel got a rare opportunity for African Americans when he was named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, leading the struggling franchise from 2005-2008. Wins were hard to come by, but Crennel managed to put together a 10-6 season in 2007 where he narrowly missed the playoffs.
The following season Crennel was fired after a 4-12 campaign, less than a year after he had signed a two-year extension. Crennel returns to Cleveland on Sunday for the first time as a head coach.
“I enjoy Cleveland,” said Crennel, who was also the Browns defensive coordinator in 2000. “We won 10 games. That’s probably the one that stands out the most. We won 10 games and really should’ve made the playoffs that year but we lost to Cincinnati in Cincinnati, in a bad weather game that kept us out. We were still in it in the tiebreaker, but you had to depend on other people to do things and you had no control over it, so we lost out on the tiebreaker.
“Winning 10 games and the Cleveland crowd and the fans there – that year was pretty special.”
While this is a return to Cleveland for Crennel, this will be first appearance at First Energy Stadium for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. He has heard about the Browns fans and the infamous Dawg Pound section which will only be partially filled due to COVID-19 protocols.
“This is the first time, other than the visit I had pre-draft, I’ve been in Cleveland so I’ve heard the history and the tradition that they have up there,” Watson said. “I think it’s called the Dawg Pound, so it’s definitely going to be a fun place to play. I heard it’s a great atmosphere regardless of how many fans are in there. It’s still a nice stadium to play in.”
Prior to the season beginning, this matchup looked like one the Texans and Watson would be heavily favored to win. But the tables have quickly turned with the 2-6 Texans struggling and going through coaching change turmoil, while first-year coach Kevin Stefanski has the Browns at 5-3 entering the second half of the season and very much a part of the playoff conversation.
Suddenly the Browns look like the more steady franchise.
“They started out pretty good,” Crennel said. “Everybody – this league is a tough league for everybody, but they’re in the hunt. They’ve put themselves in the hunt. We’ve got the last half of the season to play and we’ll see how they come out at the last half. Everybody wants to start strong, but a lot of times in the NFL, it’s how you finish.”
The Browns seem confident because they finally have a quality quarterback in Baker Mayfield, a strong running game led by Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb and also a standout defensive talent in former Texas A&M star defensive end Myles Garrett.
Currently Garrett is tied for the sacks lead in the NFL with nine sacks on that season. So it’s understandable he has Watson’s attention.
“He’s a beast,” Watson said. “He got paid what he deserved. He’s a guy that’s going to come every play. He’s a guy that you have to worry about each and every time. He’s a special talent. Very athletic. Can run. Very powerful. Very strong. Can bend around the edge. He’s a guy that we got to make sure that we can try to contain as much as possible and not let him take over the ball game.”