Quiet, reserved, and gentlemanly is how those who have played under Romeo "Rac" Crennel describe him. But he's also known for his "Rac Attack" tirades, which he uses to motivate players. The Patriots talked about "Rac Attacks" during Super Bowl week and how inspiring they were.
Crennel, who was officially introduced as the Cleveland Browns' head coach yesterday, might need a few well-timed "Rac Attacks" to motivate a team coming off a 4-12 campaign.
Crennel, who was the Patriots defensive coordinator the last four years -- a period in which they won three Super Bowls -- returns to a team for which he was defensive coordinator under Chris Palmer in 2000.
Crennel, 57, signed a five-year deal worth $11 million, with a chance to earn more in bonuses.
"I'm excited about it," said Crennel who was accompanied at the Browns' training facility in Berea, Ohio, by his wife, Rosemary, and two of his three daughters. "I want to be successful, and I want to win, and that's what I want to try to bring to Cleveland, a winning football team."
Browns president John Collins and general manager Phil Savage hope that Crennel's fatherly image can bring respect to the organization. They also feel that being a part of three championships with the Patriots and his long resume of working with top coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick will serve Crennel well in establishing a right way of doing things on the field and off it.
The hiring of Crennel is a complete about-face from the younger, more dynamic Butch Davis, who resigned Nov. 30. Davis went 24-35 after being hired in 2001, and got the Browns to the playoffs in the 2002 season, but the team got worse the last two seasons.
"I'm not a yeller or a screamer," said Crennel, whose hiring brings the number of minority head coaches in the NFL to six. "I work with some guys who have been like that, but I motivate more with individual attention to a guy. I try to find out what that guy needs. If he needs me putting my arm around him, I will put my arm around him. If he needs me yelling at him, I can yell at him. I can do that. If he needs me giving him a nudge, I can give him a nudge. If he needs me talking to a veteran on the team and saying, `Veteran, you go talk to this guy and get it straight,' I can do that.
"There are a lot of different ways you can motivate players to play, but I'm a teacher. I can teach football. I can teach fundamentals. I can teach technique. That's going to be my strong point. I'm a communicator. I can get across a message."
Crennel did not want the added responsibilities of being a general manager, which is why the Browns hired Savage from the Baltimore Ravens.
One of Crennel's first challenges will be putting together a staff.
"I have not hired anybody yet, I just got hired today," Crennel said. "There are a lot of people that I am interested in. I like Eric [Mangini, Patriots defensive backs coach] a lot because he helped me tremendously. He might be one of the guys we decide to talk to. Phil and I have to talk about what direction we are going to go and who is available."
Crennel also will have to decide what to do at quarterback. Veteran Jeff Garcia signed a five-year, $25 million deal last year, but his first season in Cleveland was extremely frustrating; he never liked the offense.
The Browns could cut bait with Garcia or allow him to work in a new offense. Or they could draft a quarterback in the first round or wait for a veteran such as Drew Bledsoe to become available.
The other quarterbacks the Browns used this past season were Kelly Holcomb, 31, and Luke McCown, 23.
"They have an experienced quarterback, a young quarterback, and then there is one in between," said Crennel. "Whether they will be good in this system or not, only time will tell that."
When asked what kind of players he wanted, Crennel sounded as though he wanted to build the Patriots all over again.
"I'm not looking for it to be flashy," he said. "I'm looking for my team to be a physically tough team. I need physical guys. I need tough guys. That's what I've always had. I'd like to acquire those kinds of players here in Cleveland: guys who are going to be physically tough, guys who will take the blocker on, guys who will tackle."
Crennel, who has been an assistant coach for 35 years, didn't make any promises about instant success. For one thing, he loves the 3-4 defense, but the Browns have been using a 4-3 with rushing tackle Courtney Brown.
"The 3-4 has been my background, and whether we can get to that right away, I am not sure because I have to look at the personnel," said Crennel. "How that affects Courtney, that remains to be seen. If I have to transition to the 3-4 and go to the 4-3 for a while, then he will fit in one way; if I go all the way to the 3-4, he will fit in another way. We have to look at the personnel and then we can make that decision."
Crennel said he takes great pride in being an African-American who has finally made it to a head job.
"In many cases, I have been the only African-American on a staff or in the neighborhood," he said. "The way that I carry and conduct myself, I know that it carries an impact on the rest of America and on African-Americans in particular. The best thing I can do for minorities trying to work themselves up the ladder is to be successful."