Derry: A Tale of Two Patriots

LB Willie McGinest

Willie McGinest and Romeo Crennel are both classy, and both will be leaving Cleveland...

There were two very classy people on the Browns' sideline Sunday afternoon who were likely there for the final time.

One went out with a bang, the other with a whimper.

Linebacker Willie McGinest, a 15-year veteran who might call it a career, played like a man possessed. On one of his many impressive plays, he combined with D'Qwell Jackson to put a devastating hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that might put a serious crimp in the Steelers' playoff hopes.

Roethlisberger, after having his head bounce off the ground, was taken from the field on a stretcher with a little less than two minutes to play in the first half. It was later reported that Roethlisberger had suffered a concussion.

McGinest is a true professional on and off the field. He helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowl victories and was a team leader, mostly through his actions, throughout his career.

McGinest certainly didn't mean to injure Roethlisberger, but definitely had his motor running at full speed all afternoon, not just on that one play.

The USC product has made no official announcement, but there has been quite a bit of speculation that he'll hang up his shoulder pads in the coming months, ending what many believe was a Hall of Fame career.

Meanwhile, McGinest's good friend and longtime coach both in New England and with the Browns, Romeo Crennel, almost certainly saw his reign as the Browns' head coach end much the same way it went for four of the five years he filled that role.

Four double-digit loss seasons, including this year's surprisingly dismal 4-12 record, made it a no-brainer for owner Randy Lerner to make a change. The two unknowns as Crennel trudged off the field for the final time were the timing of the firing and whether general manager Phil Savage would be given the pink slip as well.

I still believe Lerner hired the right people back in 2005 when he brought in Crennel and Savage. He just happened to hire them for the wrong jobs.

Crennel should have been hired as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Savage should have been hired as player personnel director. The problem is neither would have left their prior jobs with the Patriots and Ravens, respectively, to fill those jobs for a franchise in disarray.

It's now being speculated that Crennel might be asked to accept the Browns' defensive coordinator job. I can't possibly see that happening.

The new head coach is not going to want a guy around who some players might think got a raw deal; that he should still be the head coach. That can only lead to a divided locker room.

As for Savage, the fact he's been told he will not participate in the decision-making regarding the next head coach tells you all you need to know about his future.

Will he accept a lesser role, one where he no longer has control of the 53-man roster? Not likely, considering he can sit at home and get paid millions of dollars while waiting for a better opportunity.

The question is, will Savage get another general manager job before Crennel gets another head coaching job? I think he will because I doubt Crennel will ever again be a head coach. His forte is defense and someone will quickly grab him up.

Savage, who is still very young, can again be a GM, especially if he has learned from his mistakes. Believe me, there has been plenty of "learning" taking place not only this year, but in years past.

For his sake, I hope he learned you have to treat pro athletes with respect, especially prima donnas like Kellen Winslow. You have to avoid all negative interaction with fans. You can't hang your head coach out to dry. And when acquiring players, you do have to take personality into the equation. Not all your players have to be alter boys, but you can't have inmates running the asylum.

Oh, by the way, the Browns lost Sunday's game, 31-0, to the Steelers. The reason I waited so long to point out that fact is because the game itself was meaningless for both teams.

The only thing on the line for the Browns was whether or not they could avoid setting an NFL record for the longest streak without an offensive touchdown.

Coming into the game, the 1974 Chicago Bears held the record with 22 straight quarters of futility. That record is now 24 as the Bruce Gradkowski-led Browns never came close to the end zone.

Six straight games without a running or passing touchdown. Absolutely amazing!

Thank goodness the season is officially over for the Browns and a new year and a new era are just days away. The off-the-field activities should prove to be a whole lot more interesting than what we've seen over the past 17 weeks.

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