The New England Patriots are keeping the Cleveland Browns waiting to hire a head coach.
Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel apparently has emerged as the front-runner in the Browns' coaching search, but he remained unavailable with New England's 20-3 triumph over the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC semifinal Sunday. Under NFL rules, the Browns are prohibited from hiring Crennel or even having a second interview with him until the Patriots' season is over.
____ The Road to Jacksonville ____ • Bill Belichick learned football from his father, longtime Navy assistant.
• The Eagles still think Terrell Owens has a chance to play.
• A trip to the Super Bowl fits perfectly into Eagles Coach Andy Reid's master plan.
• Tony Kornheiser: The pagentry, the tradition, the smell? A Jacksonville Super Bowl.
• Flexibilty builds success for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick.
_____ What's Next? _____ Super Bowl XXXIX
• When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 6
• Where: Alltell Stad., Jacksonville
• TV: Fox
• Latest Line: Patriots by 7
_____ Conference Results _____ NFC Championship
• Eagles 27, Falcons 10 | Box
• Patriots 41, Steelers 27 | Box
_____ Audio _____ • Jerome Bettis cites key turnovers that doomed the Steelers.
• Brady says the Patriots have taken nothing for granted.
• Brian Dawkins talks about the goals of the defensive unit.
• Vick credits the Eagles' defense.
_____ On Our Site _____ • Photos
• Talk about the playoffs.
• Graphic: The Patriots can beat teams on both sides of the ball.
_____ Divisional Results _____ Saturday
• Steelers 20, Jets 17 (OT) | Box
• Falcons 47, Rams 17 | Box
• Eagles 27, Vikings 14 | Box
• Patriots 20, Colts 3 | Box
_____ First-Round Results _____ NFC
• Vikings 31, Packers 17 | Box
• Rams 27, Seahawks 20 | Box
• Colts 49, Broncos 24 | Box
• Jets 20, Chargers 17 (OT) | Box
The Patriots play at Pittsburgh on Sunday in the AFC title game, with a chance to advance to the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla. Crennel probably lost a head coaching job a year ago because of the Patriots' run to a Super Bowl title. None of the seven teams with head coaching vacancies last winter was willing to wait to hire a coach.
But Browns officials have said they would wait until after the Super Bowl, if necessary, to get the coach they want, and Crennel's credentials were bolstered even further by the Patriots' dominant defensive performance against the Colts.
Two other Browns candidates, Steelers assistant head coach Russ Grimm and Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, also remain unavailable. Another, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, accepted the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching job yesterday. The Browns have interviewed their own interim coach, Terry Robiskie, and former Miami Dolphins interim coach Jim Bates.
Sherman Stripped of GM Duties
Green Bay Packers Coach Mike Sherman said yesterday that he accepts team president Bob Harlan's decision to strip him of the club's general manager duties and believes he can work successfully with just-hired GM Ted Thompson.
"It doesn't matter whether I agree or disagree,'' Sherman said during his season-ending news conference. "My boss made a decision.''
Harlan, convinced that one person should not do both jobs, hired Thompson on Friday. The former Packers executive most recently had been the Seattle Seahawks' vice president of football operations.
Sherman has one season remaining on his contract, and Harlan put the coach's future with the organization in Thompson's hands. Sherman, who said yesterday that he hopes to coach the Packers beyond next season, met with Thompson on Saturday and said he believes that the two can coexist. "I came away from my meeting with Ted convinced that we share a mutual goal,'' Sherman said. . . .
The Dallas Cowboys announced the dismissals of offensive line coach George Warhop and kicking coach Steve Hoffman. Tight ends coach Tony Sparano succeeds Warhop.
Former Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins was arrested yesterday after being shot during a struggle Saturday night with a Miami Beach police officer. Robbins, who reportedly was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, is expected to be charged with battery on an officer and trespassing, a police spokesman told the Associated Press.