Romeo Crennel gets a two-year extension

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Romeo Crennel

The Browns coach is signed through the 2011 season.


CLEVELAND — Willie McGinest always believed Romeo Crennel would turn the Cleveland Browns into winners.

For a long time, though, it seemed like the 36-year-old linebacker was about the only who did.

“There was a lot of prejudgment about Romeo,” said McGinest, who played for Crennel in New England. “And it was really unfair. It takes time. It takes players, and it takes a coach to do that.”

Crennel did it.

The 60-year-old former defensive assistant, whose future in Cleveland was shaky after two forgettable seasons and picking quarterback Charlie Frye over Derek Anderson to start last September, signed a two-year contract extension on Tuesday with the Browns, who won 10 games in Crennel’s third season and finally appear repaired.

Crennel had two years remaining on the five-year deal he signed in February 2005. The extension, believed to be worth about $4 million per season, takes Crennel through the 2011 season.

The Browns were one of the NFL’s surprise teams in 2007. One season after going 4-12, they went 10-6, won a franchise-record seven home games and missed the AFC playoffs only because of a tiebreaker.

Crennel thanked owner Randy Lerner for giving him the chance to be a head coach.

“I know over the last couple of years, he probably had some doubts about whether he had made the right choice or not, but I had no doubts,” Crennel said Tuesday. “I knew that the program that I was implementing could be a winning program.”

Crennel’s extension was not a surprise. General manager Phil Savage was pleased with Crennel’s performance and immediately following the season said the club would reward the coach’s efforts.

Savage and agent Joe Linta have been in ongoing talks the past two weeks, but neither side felt any urgency to finalize the deal.

However, recent two-year extensions given to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker — he replaced Todd Grantham, fired on Jan. 11 — sped up the Browns’ timetable to get something completed with Crennel.

“We’re pleased to get this two-year extension done with Romeo,” Savage said in a statement. “Romeo has proven that he can be a winning NFL head coach, and he has the respect of the players and of the entire organization.”

Crennel was an assistant coach for 25 years before he was hired by the Browns on Feb. 8, 2005, just after winning his third Super Bowl title as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. He was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator in 2000 before joining New England.

But without the same talent to work with in Cleveland, Crennel’s first two seasons with the Browns were rough. They went 10-22, including 1-11 against AFC North opponents, and Crennel started 2007 on the proverbial hot seat.

His days appeared to be numbered after Cleveland was thumped 34-7 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in its home opener. Two days later, Frye was traded to Seattle.

However, the Browns bounced back. Behind a high-scoring offense and despite having one of the league’s worst defenses, they won their most games since 1999, finished 3-3 in their division and were still in the playoff picture until Tennessee beat Indianapolis in the regular-season finale to secure the conference’s final postseason berth.