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Browns convey encouraging signs about Patriots assistant

The head of a group that helps minority candidates said Friday he had a ``very encouraging'' conversation with the Cleveland Browns about Romeo Crennel's chances of becoming head coach.

BOSTON (AP) _ The head of a group that helps minority candidates said Friday he had a ``very encouraging'' conversation with the Cleveland Browns about Romeo Crennel's chances of becoming head coach.

``They said that his interview was excellent, that the owner was thoroughly impressed with him, that they liked him a whole lot,'' said John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

Crennel, defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, will coach in the AFC championship game Sunday in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.

Two other assistants still in the playoffs, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress and Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ Grimm also were interviewed for the Cleveland opening. None of the three can be hired until his team is eliminated.

The Browns also interviewed Terry Robiskie, their interim coach who went 1-4 after Butch Davis resigned.

Wooten said he called the Browns after Crennel's interview, his customary follow-up with minority candidates to see if the team had any recommendations about how the candidate can improve for future interviews.

They said, `No,' that he was outstanding,'' Wooten told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home outside Dallas.I said, 'So we can conclude he's in excellent position?' and they said, 'Yes, he's an excellent candidate.' We also know they like other people.''

On Sunday, Childress will coach in the NFC title game against Atlanta before Crennel and Grimm coach from opposite sidelines in the AFC game.

Wooten was an offensive guard with the Browns from 1959 to 1967. That team became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 and a new Browns franchise began in 1999. He's also held front office positions with Philadelphia and Baltimore.

He said he last talked with Browns president John Collins on Wednesday night.

The Browns have not spoken publicly about each candidate's chances. The Patriots were en route to Pittsburgh on Friday night and did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Crennel, 57, is in his fourth season as the Patriots defensive coordinator after one season in that position with the Browns. He has been an assistant on four Super Bowl champions _ in the 1986 and 1990 seasons with the New York Giants and the 2001 and 2003 seasons with the Patriots.

He also interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers head coaching job that went to Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Crennel's agent, Joe Linta, said Friday he had not spoken with Browns officials since the interview about two weeks ago with Collins, Browns owner Randy Lerner and general manager Phil Savage. Last year, Crennel interviewed with several teams, including Buffalo, Oakland, Chicago and Oakland. The previous season he spoke with San Francisco about the job that went to Dennis Erickson

One of the problems (in getting hired) is you have to be a hot guy and for years he never had the benefit of the press backing him,'' Linta said.After a couple of Super Bowls and the way (the Patriots) played, the guy couldn't hide anymore.''

The Browns could make an announcement as soon as Sunday night.

Wooten said he last spoke with Crennel on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I just told him that I heard tremendous things out of Cleveland. Just keep on doing what you're doing,'' Wooten said.It's more meaningful for me for him to come in as a champion.''

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