Over the past few months, Browns coach Romeo Crennel has received high grades
for his ability to turn Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. into Pro Bowl
Nothing could be further from the truth. Or less deserved. Unless, of course,
you belong to the buck-stops-here crowd. In which case then, Crennel has done a
remarkable job in transforming the brashly outspoken two receivers.
But for those of you suspicious that someone else had a stronger hand in
quieting the two supremely gifted athletes and turning them into solid pros,
look no further than Wes Chandler, the receivers coach who operates well under
In his own quiet way, Chandler took two
almost-out-of-control young men and molded them into professionals on and off
In the previous two seasons, the most outspoken members of the team were the
mercurial Edwards and Winslow. Rash and thoughtless public statements landed
them in trouble. A sideline squabble during a game involving Edwards caught on
camera did nothing to soothe feelings.
They were young, immature, impetuous and generally hard to handle. And if
rumors are to be believed, the Browns were so unhappy with Edwards, they floated
his name as trade bait before the 2007 college draft. Fortunately, no one bit.
This past season, we heard not a peep from these two, who preferred to let
their actions speak a whole lot louder than their words would ever have. In
their own way, they stepped up and became team leaders, aiding in no small way
to forge a 10-6 record.
Don’t underestimate the importance of that role. Successful teams need
certain players to step forward and assume leadership. On offense, it usually is
the quarterback. But the quiet and reserved Derek Anderson was in his first full
season and needed to grow into that role. Edwards and Winslow filled it with
While their bravado might have spilled over onto the field in the form of
trash talk (which they backed up), it was quite different off the field.
The throw-me-the-damn-ball syndrome did not exist in the
locker room. One reason might have been offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s
More likely, it was because Chandler convinced Edwards
and Winslow to exercise patience and their time would come. Their game-in,
game-out performance in the surprising season was the direct result.
Under Chandler, Edwards and Winslow became more
precise in running their routes. And their concentration on catching the
football at times reached spectacular, sometimes miraculous, heights.
Edwards had the raw ability to become one of the National Football League’s
best wide receivers. He was fast, but an undisciplined route runner whose hands
betrayed him more than they should have. His talent needed to be harnessed. Chandler
worked the reins to perfection.
Winslow, though listed technically as a tight end, played quite a bit at wide
receiver in the Browns’ multi-receiver sets, creating mismatches opposing
defenses had problems with all season.
taught him the nuances of the position. Although that might not have been
necessary because of Winslow’s unique and sometimes quite extraordinary skill
set. He nonetheless was a more-than-willing student.
Chandler was quite familiar with Winslow
before arriving in Cleveland, having played with Junior’s famous father at San Diego in the 1980s. He
was a star wide receiver on that Chargers team after coming over from New Orleans in a 1981
He wound up with nearly 9,000 receiving yards in 11-plus NFL seasons and
landed in four Pro Bowls along the way after becoming the third player selected
in the 1978 college draft.
Winslow’s father became famous for his phenomenal and physically-draining
performance in the Chargers’ dramatic playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins in
the 1981 playoffs, but Chandler sparkled with six catches for more than 100
yards in that games and scored on a 56-yard punt return.
If there was anyone who could connect with Winslow and get him to concentrate
on how to conduct himself as a pro,
had to be the guy.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the old man took Junior aside and said something
like, “Son, trust me on this one. I played with the man. Wes Chandler is the
best thing to happen to you. Listen to him. He’s a good man. He’ll help you take
that next step. He knows what he’s talking about. Listen and learn.”
Chandler cut his coaching teeth in high school
ball and Central Florida University
in his native state before spending seven seasons coaching in NFL Europe. He
followed that with stints as wide receivers coach with the Dallas Cowboys and
In his own quiet way, he is demanding. Watching him in training camp last
summer, one could see he was a stickler for details. He’s a terrific teacher.
It’s one thing to play the game well. Teaching it is a different animal.
Chandler is in
because of Phil Savage, not Crennel. If Crennel had his way, Maurice Carthon
would still be the offensive coordinator and Terry Robiskie the wide receivers
Had it not been for Savage’s interference in almost totally revamping the
offensive coaching staff a year ago, no telling how low the Browns would have
finished last season.
So give credit where credit is due when it comes to the success of Edwards
and Winslow. Just make certain you place it where it belongs. In this case, it
belongs with Wes Chandler.