Browns to fire Crennel after Savage ousted

Updated: December 29, 2008, 10:19 AM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN.com

Cleveland Browns senior vice president and general manager Phil Savage was fired on Sunday, and team sources said coach Romeo Crennel also will lose his job.

After the Browns lost their final six games of the season, the team confirmed Savage's ouster. An official announcement on the GM and the coach is expected as early as Monday and no later than Tuesday.

Browns owner Randy Lerner told Savage by phone before the team left Pittsburgh after losing a 31-0 season finale to the Steelers. The Browns finished the season with a 4-12 record, dropping to a last-place finish in the AFC North behind the Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1).

Lerner is expected to make a run at former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, but there has been no indication that Cowher would embrace a job in Cleveland.

The Browns must adhere to the Rooney Rule and also interview minority candidates for the head-coaching vacancy.

If Cowher rebuffs Lerner, sources say the owner wants to go through a thorough process and is expected to interview a handful of candidates for the GM and head-coaching positions. League sources have speculated that Patriots vice president of personnel Scott Pioli is a potential successor to Savage. Lerner does not have a prior relationship with Pioli.

If Pioli is hired, head-coaching candidates are expected to be Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

Neither Lerner nor Savage could be reached for comment Sunday, and a Browns spokesman had no comment.

It was believed that Savage's future was somewhat secure, but in the past week, sources say he was notified by Lerner that he may not be involved in the franchise's process to address the future.

The Browns had high expectations after a 10-6 season in 2007 that resulted in lucrative contract extensions for both Savage and Crennel. Savage received a new four-year deal worth $2.7 million annually and Crennel got a two-year extension through 2011. Crennel has between $9 million and $10 million remaining on his contract, a source said.

Savage has had well-acclaimed drafts since he became the GM in 2004. In April 2007, he drafted Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas with the third overall pick and traded back into the first round to choose Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The Browns have had 10-12 players who were either selected to the Pro Bowl or who were Pro Bowl alternates during the past two years.

However, injuries and uneven play on offense and defense contributed to a dismal start that headed downhill after Quinn's season ended with a broken finger on his throwing hand on Nov. 17 in a 29-27 Monday night victory over the Buffalo Bills.

That was the last game the Cleveland offense produced a touchdown during the six-game losing streak to end the season.

Shortly after the Buffalo game, Savage had a nasty e-mail exchange with a disgruntled Browns fan that became public. Earlier, he was embroiled in a dispute with tight end Kellen Winslow, who claimed he was discouraged from disclosing that he had been sidelined by a staph infection, which has afflicted several team members in recent years.

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.

ALSO SEE