Browns' Crennel signs two-year extension worth $4 million annually

Updated: January 29, 2008, 8:17 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Cleveland Browns have signed coach Romeo Crennel to a two-year contract extension through the 2011 season.

Romeo Crennel

Crennel

"We're pleased to get this two-year extension done with Romeo Crennel," Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "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. Not only is Romeo an excellent coach, he is a person of impeccable character, which sets an exemplary tone for everyone in the Browns' organization."

Parameters for the deal were hammered out between Savage and Crennel's agent, Joe Linta, during the Senior Bowl activities in Mobile, Ala., last week. The extension follows a turnaround season in which the Browns posted a 10-6 record and fell just shy of earning an AFC wild-card berth. The deal is believed to be worth about $4 million annually.

Crennel, 60, had two seasons remaining on the original five-year contract he signed when the Browns hired him for his first NFL head coach job in 2005.

In Crennel's first two seasons, the Browns compiled a 10-22 record, with just one divisional victory.

"There was a lot of prejudgment about Romeo," said linebacker Willie 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."

This season, Cleveland was 3-3 in the AFC North, and its 10-6 record tied that of division champion Pittsburgh. But the Steelers won the divisional tiebreaker by virtue of defeating the Browns in both meetings.

"From where we came from last year and where we are now is impressive," McGinest said. "But it's only a small indication of what's to come. Romeo has always been a winning coach from a winning organization, and that's what he's doing here."

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."

Fueled by an influx of solid young talent and a timely decision to switch starting quarterbacks after an opening-game loss to the Steelers, the Browns seem to be on the right path toward achieving sustained success. The defense still needs more quality starters, particularly in the front seven, but the offense, which statistically ranked No. 8 in the league, has plenty of playmakers.

Quarterback Derek Anderson, who replaced Charlie Frye after the opening-game loss, is a player in ascendance, and tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Braylon Edwards provide excellent targets. The offensive line was also upgraded, and first-round choice Joe Thomas quickly emerged as an outstanding left tackle.

"He really deserves an extension," Thomas told The Associated Press. "He did a great job this year and you can see that his plan is kind of taking hold, what his vision was when he first got hired.

"It will be nice for him to finally not feel the heat from everybody," Thomas said.

Crennel said he was pleased with the team's progress but knows he isn't guaranteed anything.

"I haven't really proven much other than I can win 10 games and not make the playoffs," he joked. "We need to make the playoffs to give ourselves the chance to go to the Super Bowl. If we can go to a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl, then that will be rewarding."

A longtime NFL assistant, Crennel has spent much of his 26 years in the league as a defensive coordinator. He earned five Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach.

"We played well. We were always well-prepared and we were well -coached," McGinest said. "That's just part of what Romeo did. Guys really started buying in this year. But more than anything, we started to become a family. Guys are pulling for each other, working hard and it's made a huge difference."

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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