Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Aug 2007

O Romeo -- Deny thy Quarterback and Refuse thy Name

Let me say from the beginning that I want to like Romeo Crennel. When I watch one of his press conferences, I see a head coach who -- unlike his old boss -- tries to provide a meaningful response to each question. When I watch the Browns play -- an infrequent occurrence over the past few years -- I don't find myself pounding my fist in coaching frustration (unlike when I watch, say, the Kansas City Chiefs). Crennel sometimes prompts those warm, fuzzy, bear-huggable, uncle-I-never-had feelings that I only get from certain NFL head coaches (Mike Holmgren or Andy Reid, for example).

Likeable Crennel may be, but he's sure making it awful hard to respect him. Case in point: the alleged quarterback "controversy" in Cleveland. A week or so ago, when asked if he planned to start Frye or Anderson during the preseason game against the Lions, Crennel said he planned to flip a coin. OK, whatever -- it's the preseason, and even though there's something untoward about the head coach deferring his starting decisions to random luck, the reality is that they both suck, and it doesn't really matter who he chooses since we all know Quinn will be starting once he can comprehend the playbook at a third-grade reading level.

But now here's Crennel, as quoted on the Browns' official website, describing how he plans to choose his opening day starter:

"With the competition we've had, which has been good, not announcing a starter is a possibility. Our first opponent might have to wonder who the quarterback is going to be. They might have to prepare for two guys which could be an advantage for us."

Ignore the loud guffaws you hear emanating from 31 defensive coordinators around the country. Disregard the demoralizing effect this must have on long suffering Browns fans -- to say nothing of the team in general -- to be toyed with this way. Instead, focus on the fact that this strategy makes no sense. If you really are going to play the whole "I'm going to confuse you, Mr. Defensive Coordinator, by playing coy with my two Arena-League level quarterbacks" game, you shouldn't announce your intentions in advance. Doing so simply alerts your opponent to scheme for both quarterbacks, instead of preparing for one quarterback only to get the other.

I understand that Crennel is on the hot seat this year. But if he keeps this nonsense up, the Browns should just fire him now.

Posted by: Ben Riley on 23 Aug 2007

23 comments, Last at 24 Aug 2007, 5:11pm by Tom


by B (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:48pm

I'm sure Dick LeBeau is terrified at the thought of having to come up with plans for different starting QBs in the opening game.

by Ben Riley :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:06pm


I imagine Rob Chudzinski is terrified for the same reason.

by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:11pm

Isn't Romeo just one more bit of ammo for the argument that the skill sets required for being a coordinator and being a head coach are completely different?

by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:11pm

Well, it's the difference between having your corners and backers jump routes short because the QBs have crap accuracy and noodle arms or blitzing and having your safeties play deep zones when the newbie hucks it in fear.

by joe football (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:13pm

Isn't that what he says he wants? For them to spend time scheming for both QBs? It's not like if the team said nothing that the other team would, I dunno, flip a coin and decide which QB to prepare for, they'd do it anyway

by Smeghead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:23pm

When I saw that title on this day, I assumed this would report that the Child had been christened Romeo Moynahan-Brady.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:26pm

"Crennel sometimes prompts those warm, fuzzy, bear-huggable, uncle-I-never-had feelings that I only get from certain NFL head coaches (Mike Holmgren or Andy Reid, for example)."

So you are a chubby chaser?

I agree it's stupid but when your offense is as inept as the Browns you have to come up with some pretty cockamamie ideas to keep it fun at least. I can picture Crennel twirling his moustache and cackling maniacally to himself as he came up with this latest scheme. He's no Dr. Moriarity but at least it's a start.

As for the coin flip, there's good precedent for using random luck to decide something about which one is indifferent, Buridan's Ass. A link to the subject is furnished below.

by Russ (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:47pm

I not sure it's a fantastic idea not to commit and I sure wish a QB was making the choice easy, but the premise of your article is not supported by a lot of what I read.

Take Romo's fall from grace last year -- many attribute it to having a few weeks of film for the D coordinators to study. It's the story we were told about Kelly Holcomb's success -- the D didn't have time to scheme him. And everyone in Pittsburgh who came in mid-season from Tommy Maddox to Ben Rothlisberger to Charlie Batch started really strongly (and has had subsequent struggles). it all speaks to the need to game plan a particular QB.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:52pm

#7 - Kudos to you, thats the second Moriarity reference inside a week on FO. We really should keep a tally.

by Aaron N (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 4:00pm

He lost me at the coin flip.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 5:12pm

Rowdy, the mere fact that any reader on this website has even heard of the Mises Institute proves once and for all that the consumers of FO's content are the smartest in all of football fandom. I become smarter just reading the comments.

Alas, I live in the Philadelphia area, so listening to the sports talk radio here negates any intelligence I may gain by reading this post.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 5:21pm

Just because he doesn't announce a starter to the media doesn't mean he can't let the team know who's going to be the starter. I guess I don't see what the big deal is.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 6:19pm


I'm a proponent of the tenet of "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice' (Rush) myself :-)

by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:26pm

#7. Thanks. I'm reading this site in an effort to put off reading a paper about Buridan's Ass, and you have to go and remind me that I'm slacking off from work!

by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 9:19pm

I have watched the Panthers for years suck at playing teams with unexpected or new starters. Three times last season we were tortured by quarterbacks starting their second game for their respective teams; Romo, Garcia, Campbell.

It is difficult to scheme for a quarterback only to have someone else back there with an entirely different skill set and tendencies. It is also difficult to try to prepare two defensive plans. A defender wants to go into the game knowing what he is going to do in whatever situation. If that situation depends on who the quarterback might be, its a nightmare for the defense.

by kaetab (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:41pm

As a long suffering Browns fan, you summed up my emotions of the "QB controversy" completely. What I don't understand is this, Frye and Anderson are so inept that neither looks like they want to be the starting QB, so we're going to hold Quinn out until the bye week when we are 1-5. So how exactly does Quinn get more prepared by getting only 20% of the 1st team reps as the #2 QB for 6 weeks as opposed to getting 80% as the designated starter for the remained of camp?

by Drew_BurgerMan_Bledsoe (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:52pm

The difference between successful NFL Head Coaches and unsuccessful ones generally comes down to how they handle the QB's. Those who can't seem to make up their mind tend not to last long. Those who pick a guy and play him until he makes it or breaks it and then makes aswitch adn sticks with it tend to succeed.

by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 1:44am

wow. this is a pretty strong reaction to a pretty benign story. you like most of the other things he's done but are flipping out bc he says he won't announce his starter? let's relax everyone. rip on the guy bc his oline still sucks and his offense hasn't looked so hot either. bc outside of leigh bodden we don't see much development of young players on the d - basically after 3 years there has been little to no improvement.

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 7:38am

Currently on Sports Pickle.

"Embarrassing Photos of Brady Quinn Dressed as a Cleveland Brown Hit the Internet".

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 1:14pm

Re 17:
I think you're really just saying that if a coach is choosing between a couple of bad QBs, he's not going to be a coach for much longer.

You know, I wish the Bears had recieved the benefits of the new QB gets hot when they first start theory. Unfortunately, it doesn't really help guys like Henry Burris, Jonathon Quinn, or Cade McNown.

by Bruce (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 3:08pm

I don't see the big deal either. His buddy Charlie Weiss is employing the same strategy at ND. I think we have a Browns fan here whose years of frustartion are catching up with him.

by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 3:17pm

You know, I wish the Bears had recieved the benefits of the new QB gets hot when they first start theory.

Ummm...Rex Grossman, anyone?

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 5:11pm

Re 20:

Don't you remember Chad Hutchinson throwing 4 touchdowns against the Vikings in 2004?