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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:27 a.m., Thursday, September 6, 2007

NFL: Many feel Cowher will end up in Cleveland

By Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal

BEREA, Ohio — Apparently the message that Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel is not on the hotseat didn't make it across the Ohio Turnpike.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said when he and his teammates discuss where their former coach Bill Cowher will end up, their odds are on Cleveland.

Cowher resigned after last season to spend time with his family in North Carolina and is now working for CBS. He played linebacker for the Browns from 1980 to 1982 and served as an assistant under Marty Schottenheimer from 1985 to 1988.

Asked on a conference call if Cowher might decline an opportunity to coach in Cleveland out of loyalty to Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Roethlisberger said, "Obviously, only he could tell you that. Honestly there's talk around here among some of the players, we joke around, we think that might be his No. 1 spot."

On Saturday, Browns General Manager Phil Savage attempted to silence speculation over Crennel's future. The Steelers might have discarded that sound bite because they've owned the Browns since 1970 (46-24) and figure that won't change starting with Sunday's season opener in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Crennel carries a 10-22 record, including 0-4 against the Steelers. He heads the list of coaches whose jobs are in jeopardy this season, along with Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and John Fox of the Carolina Panthers.

That's where Cowher comes in. Roethlisberger said he expects Cowher to coach again in the NFL.

"I think next year, that was my bet when he left," he said on a conference call. "I know it's not going to be long before he comes back. . . . I have a strong feeling he will be back one of those next two years."

Big Ben's remarks probably won't faze Crennel, who said he didn't hear Savage's vote of confidence.

"Every coach in the NFL is on the hotseat," Crennel said. "I'm no different than anybody else."

Executive adviser Jim Brown, who has the ear of owner Randy Lerner, seems to be in Crennel's corner.

"I've seen Romeo adjust to the demands," Brown said. "He's been a real strong gentleman in his position. He has allowed the organization to make changes, and he has kept controversy down and I give him a lot of respect because of that. It's an organization that has been organizing itself and had to find just how it was going to operate."

Brown praised the hiring of new assistants, including offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, wide receivers coach Wes Chandler, special teams coordinator Ted Daisher, running backs coach Anthony Lynn, offensive line coach Steve Marshall, tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts and offensive assistant Frank Verducci, along with strength coach Tom Myslinski. Savage also played a big part in their selection.

"The assistant coaches we brought in were strong," Brown said. "We had a strong draft, and if (Crennel) did not have the versatility or the ability to adjust, none of this could happen. He could have been the guy that could have thrown chaos into the organization. Just the opposite of that, he has been a guy who has allowed us to have a chance to display what we are hoping we can display Sunday on the football field."

Crennel, 60, said he hasn't changed since he walked in the door in February 2005.

"I'm the same guy," he said. "I just have more knowledge under my belt, and I can anticipate some things a little bit better. When you sit in the head coaching seat, there's something that happens every day that you don't anticipate. From the coaching standpoint, I'm the same coach."

Entering his 27th year in the NFL, but only his third as the man in charge, Crennel said he's more at ease now.

"I kind of know what's coming," he said. "My first year, having gone through camp and not knowing what to anticipate coming to meet with you guys, conference calls, game preparation and all those things, having this experience makes it easier."

As complimentary as Brown was of Crennel, he practically issued a challenge for this season.

"Football is not about how you're going to build for 10 years from now. It's about now," Brown said. "We have some good personnel. We have some experience, and we have some real strong young people. Cleveland right now is ready for put up or shut up. The media is ready for put up or shut up.

"We should all be alerted that yes, we haven't lost a game yet, but there's no point in talking about ifs, ands or what we're going to do in the future. The future is now, absolutely. The future is right now."