KANSAS CITY, Mo. —From the moment the Chiefs fired Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel appeared destined to become their next coach. His first move as interim coach was a forceful one, benching struggling quarterback Tyler Palko in favor of Kyle Orton, and that one little switch pulled any and all momentum squarely behind Crennel.
By the time his first week was finished, the Chiefs had beaten the previously undefeated Packers and Crennel had a locker room full of players on his side.
Perhaps general manager Scott Pioli as well. The Chiefs interviewed other candidates seemingly only to verify their initial thought — that the 64-year-old Crennel was the right man for the job.
No other viable contender emerged, and now the Chiefs seem poised to give the job to Crennel, who finished 2-1 as interim coach, in the upcoming days.
Crennel makes a lot of sense for the Chiefs on a lot of levels:
Even in a seriously dysfunctional season, the Chiefs finished 7-9 and a game behind the other three teams in the AFC West. So they believe with a few tweaks they can win the division title next season. That being the case, continuity makes sense, and Crennel can provide it. The Chiefs can work on fixing their problems right away. They'll waste no time installing new offensive or defensive systems or having to learn about the current players. The Chiefs will need to hire a new offensive coordinator and some other assistants, but those moves can be relatively seamless by keeping Crennel in charge.
Pioli and Crennel have a level of respect for one another that, as we learned when Haley was the coach, is necessary as long as Pioli is the general manager. These two have proven they can work together.
The players wanted Crennel retained as the head coach. Crennel won't have to change any cultures or win over any factions in the locker room. That's already been done.
When Haley was fired Dec. 12, among the other popular options for the Chiefs were former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. But Fisher indicated he will choose between head coaching jobs with St. Louis and Miami while the Chiefs never reached out to McDaniels. He appears headed back to New England as an assistant coach.
The Chiefs have interviewed several candidates, including Crennel. Among the others was Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. He has impressive credentials — the Packers were in the top 10 in scoring and yardage in each of his five seasons as coordinator — but the Chiefs would have to wait on him.
The Chiefs wouldn't be able to hire Philbin, who also interviewed for the Miami job, until Green Bay's season is finished. The Packers don't play their first playoff game until Jan. 15, and if they advance to the Super Bowl, Philbin wouldn't be available until early February. The Chiefs want a coach long before then.
Crennel had a 24-40 record coaching the Browns from 2005 through 2008 in his only other time as a head coach. But Crennel's record may have been more a factor of problems in Cleveland than with his coaching.
The Browns lost with coaches they had before Crennel and are again losing with those hired after him.
Crennel in 2005 inherited a team that had won nine games over the previous two seasons. He didn't fare much better in his first two years, winning a total of 10 games.
But the Browns broke through the following season, finishing 10-6 and narrowly missing the playoffs. Crennel couldn't sustain that success. Cleveland won just four games in 2008 and he was fired after the season.
In the three seasons since, with two different head coaches, the Browns won a total of 14 games.