Rome Crennel was both a help and a hindrance to the New York Jets’ championship aspirations
Long tenured NFL coach Romeo Crennel announced his retirement on Monday, ending four almost-uninterrupted decades of league service, accompanied by another 11 at the collegiate level. The New York Jets were one of his six stops on the NFL circuit, serving as the team’s defensive line coach for three seasons (1997-99).
“Football has been my entire life and it’s been a dream come true to coach for 50 years,” Crennel said in a statement released by the Houston Texans, his final NFL employer.
“There are so many friends to thank who have helped me and supported me throughout my career. I especially want to thank the fans and owners of the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, and Houston Texans for allowing me to contribute to the game that I have loved so much for so long.
“I’ll miss everything about coaching and teaching, but the thing I’ll miss the most is being around the guys every day. My goal was to put every player and coach in the best position to succeed and I consider every guy I coached or worked with a part of my family.”
Crennel was a mainstay on staffs headed by Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. His NFL journey began with the Giants in 1981 as a special teams and defensive assistant before taking over the former’s coordinator spot two seasons later (1983-89).
Under his watch, kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh and punter Sean Landetta combined for three All-Pro team appearances. Crennel also earned the first of five Super Bowl rings in 1987. The second came four seasons later when Crennel was in the midst of his first year as the Giants’ defensive line coach. During that season, he guided Erik Howard to the lone Pro Bowl of his 11-year career.
Though Crennel stuck around in New York for two more seasons after Parcells’ departure, he reunited with the Big Tuna when the latter accepted the head coaching position in New England. After four seasons (1993-96) and one Super Bowl appearance (a loss to Green Bay in the final year), the two moved onto the Jets. Crennel served as the Jets’ defensive line coach from 1997 to 1999.
Together with Belichick as defensive coordinator, Gang Green amassed a 29-19 record and won the AFC East title in 1998 en route to the conference title game. Crennel and Belichick were among several future NFL head coaches on the Jets’ staff at the time, a roster that also included Al Groh, Todd Haley, and Eric Mangini.
After Parcells’ retirement, Crennel held the same position in Cleveland before joining newly minted Patriots head coach Belichick in New England as the defensive coordinator for the next four seasons (2001-04). He was responsible for the defensive endeavors of the New England dynasty’s early days, boasting an impressive arsenal of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, Richards Seymour, and former Jets protege Anthony Pleasant.
Three more Super Bowl rings awaited Crennel, winning the 36th, 38th, and 39th editions. Some view the unofficial start of the Patriots dynasty as Ty Law’s pick-six that opened scoring in the eventual 20-17 upset victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Crennel’s success eventually yielded head coaching offers. Though success evaded him in that role (32-63 over parts of seven seasons with Cleveland, Kansas City, and Houston), Crennel did earn the Browns’ first 10-win season since their revival at the turn of the century in 2007. As an interim boss with the Chiefs in 2011, Crennel earned an upset victory over the undefeated Packers, dealing Green Bay its only loss of the regular season.
In his final NFL days, Crennel filled a variety of roles with the Texans, including a 12-game stint as the head coach in 2020.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags