CLEVELAND After winning another Super Bowl, New England's Mr. Do-It-All issued a warning to the rest of the NFL.
''Look out for Cleveland next year,'' said two-way standout Troy Brown. ''They're getting a great coach.''
Romeo Crennel, who borrowed Brown from the Patriots' offense to play cornerback this season, accepted Cleveland's offer to be their next head coach Sunday, fulfilling the longtime assistant's lifelong dream.
Crennel's agent, Joe Linta, arrived at the Browns' headquarters in suburban Berea on Monday morning and spent the day in contract negotiations with team president John Collins, the final step in making the 57-year-old defensive coordinator the 11th full-time coach and first full-time black coach in Cleveland history.
Linta, seeking a five-year deal for his client, said talks were progressing and he expects the contract to be finalized Tuesday.
''It has gone very well,'' Linta said. ''We've hammered out a lot of things, we'll get this thing done.''
Linta said Crennel is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland on Tuesday and will be introduced by the team at an afternoon news conference.
His return to Cleveland he was the Browns' defensive coordinator in 2000 will cap an emotional few days for Crennel, who just won his third Super Bowl title with New England and the fifth of his career as one of the league's pre-eminent assistants.
But now he'll be in charge of rebuilding the Browns, who are coming off a disastrous 4-12 season that included Butch Davis' resignation on Nov. 30. Crennel is inheriting a team that has gone 30-66 since its expansion rebirth in 1999. Over the same span, the Patriots won consecutive Super Bowls, three titles in four years and assured their place among the league's dynasties.
Soon to be fitted with another Super Bowl ring, Crennel is ready for a new challenge.
''Now I have an opportunity to take the next step, be in charge of a team, and see if I can be as successful as I have in the past,'' he said.
Crennel's initial task in Cleveland will be assembling a coaching staff. He has reportedly chosen Maurice Carthon to be his offensive coordinator, prying him away from Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys.
Carthon, a fullback for the New York Giants when Crennel was a defensive assistant for Parcells, previously worked with Crennel on Bill Belichick's staff in New England.
Crennel's top choice to be his defensive coordinator is believed to be Patriots defensive backs coach Eric Mangini, whose brother-in-law is Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. The 34-year-old Mangini is considered a rising star and could be offered a job by other teams.
Another possible candidate to join Crennel is Patriots linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, who played for the Browns from 1993-95.
Terry Robiskie, who served as Cleveland's interim coach for five games after Davis quit, may stay with the Browns as wide receivers coach, the job he had for three seasons before being promoted to offensive coordinator last season. Robiskie went 1-4 filling in for Davis.
Coming from New England's system, Crennel, who began his pro career as an assistant with the Giants in 1981, has a deep appreciation for what great chemistry on a coaching staff can produce.
His loyalty to Belichick allowed the selfless Patriots to maintain a level of consistency and excellence rarely seen in today's game. Crennel is leaving New England as is offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who is headed for Notre Dame.
The trio of coaches spent nine years together coaching either the Giants and Patriots and as the final seconds ticked off in the win over Philadelphia in Jacksonville, Fla., Belichick, Weis and Crennel huddled for the final time.
They hugged and cried. Only then did Crennel realize he wouldn't be on the same sideline with his friends again.
''It did (hit me) when Bill, Charlie and I got together,'' Crennel said. ''That let you know it was over, the last time we were going to coach together. It felt different, a little strange. But if you have to go out, go out a winner of the Super Bowl. We've been together a long time. To know the finality, it hits you. But football is a game of change.''
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