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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Teams Eye Patriots' Crennel

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2005; 11:37 AM

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has a full schedule in the next two days, interviewing with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers for their head-coaching vacancies.

Crennel is scheduled to meet with the Browns today and is to huddle with 49ers officials Saturday. The 49ers sought and received permission Thursday from the Patriots to interview Crennel, a day after firing Dennis Erickson.

_____Rankings & Picks_____
Mark Maske reveals how teams ended up at the finish of the regular season.
Mark's first-round playoff picks
____ The Road to Jacksonville ____
 NFL Playoffs
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At a Glance
Rams at Seahawks
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST; ABC
Jets at Chargers
Saturday, 8 p.m. EST; ABC
Broncos at Colts
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST; CBS
Vikings at Packers
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST, FOX

_____  Week 17 Results _____
Washington 21, Minnesota 18
Baltimore 30, Miami 23
Tennessee 24, Detroit 19
St. Louis 32, N.Y. Jets 29 (OT)
Cincinnati 38, Philadelphia 10
New England 21, San Fran. 7
Cleveland 22, Houston 14
Green Bay 31, Chicago 14
New Orleans 21, Carolina 18
Pittsburgh 29, Buffalo 24
Arizona 12, Tampa Bay 7
Seattle 28, Atlanta 26
Jacksonville 13, Oakland 6
San Diego 24, Kansas City 17
Denver 33, Indianapolis 14
N.Y. Giants 28, Dallas 24

Two-Minute Drill
Stars and stats from Week 17

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_____More NFL Insider_____
NFL Teams Eye USC Coaching Duo (washingtonpost.com, Jan 6, 2005)
49ers Fire Coach Erickson (washingtonpost.com, Jan 5, 2005)
Decision Time for 49ers' Organization (washingtonpost.com, Jan 4, 2005)

Under NFL rules, an assistant coach on a team that's in the playoffs can have one interview during his club's bye week with each team interested in him for a head-coaching position. He then is prohibited from having a follow-up interview or accepting a job until his club is eliminated from the postseason.

Crennel is regarded as one of the league's most qualified assistants, and he probably would have landed a head-coaching job last winter if not for the Patriots' run to a second Super Bowl title in three seasons. None of the seven clubs that changed head coaches a year ago was willing to wait that long to make a hire. Browns officials have pledged to wait until after the Feb. 6 Super Bowl, if necessary, to hire the coach they regard as the right choice for them, but teams usually are unwilling to remain that patient because they end up wanting to get started assembling assistant coaches and preparing for offseason roster-retooling.

Crennel and Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis called last winter for changes to be made to the league's anti-tampering rules, which govern coaching interviews and hires, but no alterations were enacted. Weis solved the problem by taking a college job. He has been hired as the head coach at Notre Dame but will remain with the Patriots until their season ends . . . .

University of Southern California Coach Pete Carroll continues to say that he is not interested in the 49ers' head-coaching job.

"I have not been contacted," Carroll said Thursday, according to the Associated Press. "I don't expect to be contacted, and I'm not interested."

John York, the co-owner of the 49ers, has expressed interest in Carroll, the former Patriots and New York Jets head coach who has led USC to back-to-back national titles. College coaches, of course, rarely admit to having interest in other jobs because of the potential effect it would have on recruiting. But people who know Carroll say it indeed is the longest of long shots that he would leave USC, even if York makes him a blockbuster offer that includes a contract worth more than $5 million per season and total control over the team's football operations . . . .

Phil Savage and the Browns applied the finishing touches Thursday to a five-year contract to make Savage, formerly the director of player personnel for the Baltimore Ravens, the club's senior vice president and general manager. He is to be formally introduced at an early-evening news conference today and participate, along with owner Randy Lerner and team president John Collins, in the club's scheduled interviews with head-coaching candidates in the coming days.

The Browns have lined up interviews with Crennel, Pittsburgh Steelers assistant head coach Russ Grimm and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. They also plan to interview their own interim coach, Terry Robiskie, on Monday and likely will get together soon with Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They already have interviewed Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

University of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, once a Browns assistant coach on the same staff as Savage, continues to say that he's not interested in the job.

Comeback? What Comeback?

San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees was voted the AP's NFL comeback player of the year, but did he really deserve it?

Yes, Brees had a phenomenal season. He was one of the league's most valuable players and led the Chargers to the AFC West title after the team was extremely eager last offseason to replace him as its starter. Brees and the Chargers were among the sport's best success stories.

But all Brees came back from, really, was his own previously poor play. Compare that to the comeback of the man who finished second in the voting -- Carolina Panthers linebacker Mark Fields, who missed last season while undergoing treatments for Hodgkin's disease -- or to that of the player who was third in the balloting -- Buffalo Bills tailback Willis McGahee, who sat out last season while recovering from the serious knee injury that he suffered in the final game of his college career, putting his NFL future in doubt. Perhaps there needs to be a re-examination of what constitutes a comeback . . . .

Larry Lacewell, the Dallas Cowboys' scouting director, announced his retirement after 13 years with the team. He had been the point man on the club's last 11 drafts. Lacewell is close to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and his departure is viewed by many in the league as a sign that Coach Bill Parcells plans to be more firmly in control of the team's roster reshaping this offseason. The Cowboys are coming off a 6-10 season but have two first-round draft choices and abundant salary cap space to make a bid to improve rapidly . . . .

The league selected the coaching staffs of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to coach the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala. Being picked to work the game and the week of practices that lead up to it is considered an advantage in preparations for the NFL draft, since those coaching staffs will have first-hand experience with the strengths and weaknesses of some of the top available prospects . . . .

Buffalo defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is scheduled to interview for the head-coaching job at Syracuse. The school sought and received permission from the Bills to conduct the interview, although that was merely out of courtesy because there is no arrangement between the NFL and college football that requires such a request to be made. Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the job . . . .

The Falcons sent quarterback Michael Vick home Thursday without participating in practice because he was sick. Atlanta has a first-round playoff bye this weekend . . . .

Wide receiver Koren Robinson participated in Seattle's practice Thursday after being sidelined Wednesday because of a sore hip. Coach Mike Holmgren still hasn't said whether Robinson will have a role in Saturday's playoff game against the St. Louis Rams. Holmgren put the wideout on the inactive list for last Sunday's win over the Falcons and sent him home, reportedly because Robinson had missed practice on Saturday. It was the sixth time in a seven-game span that Robinson was out of the lineup because of disciplinary issues that included a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Holmgren indicated that he will make the decision about Robinson's status, but he met with a group of his players to keep them informed about his thinking on the matter . . . .

The Seahawks have been hoping defensive end Grant Wistrom could be available Saturday. But it appears increasingly unlikely, with Wistrom still unable to practice because of a knee injury. He hasn't played since re-injuring his left knee on Dec. 12. It has been a frustrating, injury-filled seasons for Wistrom. He played only nine games and had 3- 1/2 sacks during the regular season after leaving the Rams via free agency in the offseason to sign a six-year, $33 million contract with the Seahawks that included a $14 million signing bonus . . . .

The Seahawks, with help from some Seattle-area businesses, avoided a local television blackout of Saturday's game. The NFL gave the club a 24-hour extension, until Thursday afternoon, to sell tickets before a blackout was imposed, and a few companies bought blocks of tickets . . . .

Rams left guard Tom Nutten did some limited work during Thursday's practice, testing his ailing knee. It remains unclear if he'll play Saturday . . .

Chargers wide receiver Keenan McCardell has a sore hamstring but has been practicing this week and is virtually certain to be in the lineup Saturday against the Jets . . .

Jets defensive end John Abraham practiced at only about three-quarters speed Thursday, and the club remained uncertain whether he'll be able to play in San Diego after sitting out the last four games because of an injured knee. The status of wideout Wayne Chrebet also remained unclear because of a mild concussion . . .

Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark has practiced this week and likely will play Sunday against Denver. He suffered a concussion on the helmet-to-helmet hit by Broncos safety John Lynch last weekend that led to the league fining Lynch $75,000 . . .

The Broncos defenders are vowing to be as physical as possible with the Colts' receivers, trying to follow the same formula for bottling up the Indianapolis offense that the Patriots used during last season's AFC championship game. That game led to the offseason decree by the NFL's competition committee for game officials to crack down on clutching-and-grabbing tactics by defensive backs -- which, in turn, helped to produce the record-breaking numbers of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning this season. The officials aren't likely to allow Denver's defensive players to manhandle Manning's wideouts in a high-profile playoff game, so the Broncos might be setting themselves up for a day full of illegal-contact and defensive-holding penalties. It hasn't helped, either, that they've signaled their intentions so early and so publicly . . .

Steelers Coach Bill Cowher indicated he is waiting until next week to decide whether tailbacks Duce Staley or Jerome Bettis will start Pittsburgh's playoff opener after a first-round bye . . .

Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair was involved in a minor automobile accident in Nashville on Thursday, a week after undergoing surgery on his injured sternum, but reportedly was not hurt . . .

Jacksonville Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio met with team owner Wayne Weaver this week, and the two apparently emerged without any hard feelings about Del Rio's late-season flirtation with LSU. Del Rio initially agreed to interview for the school's head-coaching job but pulled out of the meeting because Weaver had not been informed of the deliberations . . .

Quarterback Chris Redman, a former starter in Baltimore, was among four players signed to future contracts by New England. Redman worked out for the Patriots recently after sitting out this season following shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. Redman and the other three players -- wide receiver Jake Schifino, tight end Joel Jacobs and offensive tackle Jeff Roehl -- will be officially added to the Patriots' roster when the league-wide limit expands next month to 80 players per team for the offseason . . .

Chicago is pressing to hire former University of Illinois head coach Ron Turner as its offensive coordinator. The Bears interviewed Turner on Wednesday, a day after firing Terry Shea. Turner also is a candidate in Baltimore . . .

Panthers special teams coach Scott O'Brien is retiring . . . New Miami coach Nick Saban is bringing along at least three of his LSU assistants -- Will Muschamp, Bobby Williams and Derek Dooley -- to be on his Dolphins staff. Their exact roles are not yet clear.

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