INDIANAPOLIS: The twinkle is back in Romeo Crennel’s eye. The confidence and forcefulness have returned to his voice.
On Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Crennel seemed like the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator who persuaded the Browns to hire him as coach in 2005, not the one scarred by four tumultuous years in Cleveland that produced a 24-40 record.
On Jan. 9, Crennel was named coach of the Kansas City Chiefs after going 2-1 in an interim capacity when Todd Haley was fired. In Week 15, Crennel’s Chiefs handed the Green Bay Packers their only loss of the regular season.
“A lot of times you don’t get second chances in this business,” Crennel said at Lucas Oil Stadium. “You just go along and try to do the best job you can. If you do that, then people take notice. I’ve got a second chance and I’m going to try to do it better than I did it the first time around.”
Crennel, 64 and with 30 years in the NFL, will draw on his Browns experience.
“Try to avoid quarterback controversies, for one,” he said. “I think that’s key and we were able to do that toward the end of last season. If we can get a guy in place that everybody feels good about and everybody can rally around, I think that gives us the best chance.”
Crennel is grateful to Kyle Orton, picked up off waivers from the Denver Broncos when starting quarterback Matt Cassel hurt his throwing hand in Week 10 and was placed on injured reserve. Orton was also hurt and didn’t return until the final three games. The Chiefs still have Cassel, but Crennel wants to bring back Orton.
Another Griffin fan
The Chiefs (and Browns) met with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III Friday night and Crennel came away raving about the Heisman Trophy winner. And it wasn’t just because of their shared military backgrounds. Crennel’s father was a sergeant in the U.S. Army, in which Griffin’s mother and father served.
“You only have 15 minutes to talk to guys and that goes very quickly when you’re talking to an entertaining young man like he is,” Crennel said of Griffin. “He’s very sharp. He’s well thought out. He gives great answers. We could have talked to him for an hour.”
Asked whether Griffin was the type of player you go get, Crennel said, “The type of person that you go get. Not only was he sharp in football, he was sharp about life. And because he is an Army brat like I was an Army brat, there is a special connection there. I’m going to give him a little bit more headway than I’m going to give some other guys.”
The Chiefs hold the 11th pick in the first round and would seem like a long shot to trade up for Griffin. Asked why they interviewed the top three quarterbacks, including Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, Crennel said, “You always talk to everybody. In Cleveland there was a quarterback who went all the way down to 22 [Brady Quinn]. You never know what is going to happen, so you have to be prepared.”
Benard in plans
The Browns will try to re-sign defensive end Marcus Benard, even if they don’t offer him a restricted free-agent tender, a league source told the Beacon Journal.
Pro Football Talk reported Saturday that the Browns don’t plan to make Benard a tender offer. However, the source said, “nothing is set in stone on that.”
If the Browns don’t tender Benard, they would still try to sign him to a free-agent contract. Free agency begins at 4 p.m. March 13.
Benard is rehabilitating from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in October and expects to make a full recovery and be able to play football again, Browns General Manager Tom Heckert told the Beacon Journal this month. Other than a broken hand, Benard’s injuries were not disclosed.
Benard, 26, led the Browns with 7.5 sacks in 2010.
Breaking down QBs
Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said Luck is the most dynamic quarterback prospect since John Elway, but he also had plenty of praise for Griffin.
“This is the best-throwing athlete I’ve seen come out in a while, far better than Michael Vick, far better than Cam Newton,” said the NFL Network’s Billick. “… This guy has as pure a throwing action for an athletic quarterback, clearly has the intelligence and will translate to the NFL very well, in my opinion.”
Billick also discussed Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and could interest the Browns.
Flynn has started only two NFL games, including one last season, when he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions.
“It was a spectacular game against a team that was highly motivated and pretty good,” Billick said. “It wasn’t like a throwaway game and the guy throws six touchdowns against a team that was laying down.
“It’s a roll of the dice because you have a limited amount of data. … What happens in the entire season? Yeah, you’re going to pay for that, but what you have to pay versus the risk on a draft choice or some of the other options, probably a pretty good risk.”