New Browns coach changes attitudes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

I went into the Browns' dressing room expecting to find the team feeling good about losing to the Indianapolis Colts.

The final score was 13-6 Sunday at the RCA Dome, which just might be the loudest place to play in the NFL. I thought this game would be a blowout, that the Colts' speed would be too much for the Browns. I feared a blowout.

Instead, I was impressed with the Browns' game plan, their determination and how they didn't panic while giving themselves a chance to pull an upset. Coach Romeo Crennel was not.

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"We made too many mistakes," he said.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," he said.

"We did not do enough to win the game," he said.

What about that dubious illegal blocking penalty called on Frisman Jackson that wiped out an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dennis Northcutt?

"It doesn't matter what I think of the call," Crennel said. "You can't put yourself in that position (to be penalized)."

Northcutt agreed, "We have to put a stop to it. We can't beat a good team with penalties. You didn't see them getting any touchdowns called back."

This is the second time in three games that Northcutt has lost a touchdown to a penalty. He's not feeling sorry for himself. He's just stating the obvious.

The Browns are improving, but there remain many things that can be fixed things under their control.

That's when it hit me

. . .

The attitude is changing. The standards are being raised. There will be no more talk about the Browns "playing their hearts out … spilling their guts" as former coach Butch Davis often said after a loss to a good team.

Crennel wants more.

The first-year coach is not going to just praise his team for playing hard. These are professionals. They are like anyone else with a job - they are expected to give maximum effort.

Crennel knows that too much bad behavior had been tolerated over the past few years. He knows the Browns had gained a reputation as a team that lacked discipline.

He won't say these things directly. He's just putting his own system into place, and it goes much deeper than Xs and Os. It's a hard-nosed, bottom-line approach that comes from the New England Patriots where coach Bill Belichick will never settle for anything except what he considers the best from his team.

Most of the players are getting with the program. Quarterback Trent Dilfer seemed to play well, completing 22-of-29 passes for 208 yards and no interceptions.

"It's discouraging," Dilfer said. "I thought we'd score three to four touchdowns, I really did. We didn't get any big plays."

And he meant it.

Crennel is making the players accountable to the coaches, their teammates and themselves. It's a key step to bringing the Browns back to NFL respectability.

Terry Pluto is a sports columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal.