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Crennel's new challenge: The Browns

CLEVELAND (AP) _ From dynasty to disaster. Romeo Crennel is going from one NFL extreme to the other.

Shortly after helping New England win its third NFL title in four years, the Patriots' defensive coordinator accepted an offer to coach the Cleveland Browns, a chance to advance that he once worried would never come.

I've been in this business for a little while,'' Crennel said after the Patriots beat Philadelphia 24-21 to seal their place among the league's best teams ever.I've always been told if you work hard and you're good at what you do, you'll get an opportunity to move up.''

Crennel's agent, Joe Linta, said Browns president John Collins called him ``about two minutes'' after the Patriots' win to offer the 57-year-old Crennel, a five-time Super Bowl winner, his first head coaching job.

He has accepted, pending us working out a contract,'' Linta said from Jacksonville, Fla.Hopefully, we can get it done quickly and he can begin putting together a staff.''

Linta was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland on Monday for contract talks at the team's headquarters in suburban Berea.

As long as things go well, the Browns will introduce Crennel as their 11th full-time coach and first black coach in team history on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Linta said he will seek a five- or six-year deal.

He's not like most first-time coaches,'' Linta said.He's a guy with more credentials. Although he hasn't been a head coach, he has five Super Bowl rings. The Browns aren't just getting a coach. They're buying into a program. They are getting 25 years of experience and knowledge.''

Crennel's move to Cleveland is no surprise. It had been expected for weeks, and was only delayed because the Browns weren't allowed to have contact with the 24-year NFL coaching veteran while the Patriots were still playing.

The Browns are hoping Crennel can bring them back to glory, but there's much work to be done.

Crennel, who began his pro coaching career on Ray Perkins' staff with the New York Giants in 1981, will be Cleveland's third coach since 1999, when the Browns returned to the league as an expansion team.

Since then, the club has gone just 30-67 and lost their only playoff game in 2002. Last year, Cleveland went 4-12. The lone bit of decent news to come out of that woeful season: The Browns will have the third pick in April's draft.

This will be Crennel's second stint with the Browns. He served as the club's defensive coordinator in 2000 under Chris Palmer, who was fired after going just 5-27 in two years. In Crennel's one season in charge of Cleveland's defense, the Browns recorded 42 sacks _ a 17-sack improvement over the previous year.

Before hiring Butch Davis in 2001, the Browns interviewed Crennel, who was a candidate for other openings the past few years but was passed over despite his success and a handful of Super Bowl rings.

But he emerged as the Browns' No. 1 choice during a Jan. 7 interview in Boston with Browns owner Randy Lerner, Collins and general manager Phil Savage, who had been hired that day.

I put my best foot forward,'' Crennel said last week.If their impression was that I floored them, then that's great.''

Fittingly, New England's win over Philadelphia was sealed with a defensive stop as safety Rodney Harrison intercepted Donovan McNabb in the closing seconds.

As clock wound down, Crennel embraced New England coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who is leaving for Notre Dame.

Bill, Charlie and I got together right as the game was ending and that kind of let you know that it was over, that it potentially was the last time we'll coach together,'' Crennel said.But if you have to go out, to go out a winner of the Super Bowl, that's really a special feeling.''

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