Chiefs' Crennel focused on finishing trying year


Chiefs' Crennel focused on finishing trying year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The only person who seems to be at ease with the question about Romeo Crennel's future with the Chiefs is the man who is being asked to answer it.

He's a coach who has only managed to coax two wins out of a team predicted to compete for the AFC West title. He's a guy respected and beloved in the locker room but who appears lost on the sideline, and who has had just one winning season in five years as an NFL head coach.

But he's also a man who witnessed one of his own players commit suicide after committing murder, and then served as the face of a franchise in mourning. He's a man who shelved his own emotions to provide unwavering leadership when the team walked into Arrowhead Stadium one day later and beat Carolina for one of those two victories.

``We're in this business to win, because that's how it's kind of counted, by your win-loss record,'' Crennel said this week, when asked about his future in Kansas City.

``When you're not able to win,'' he said, ``you always wonder about yourself: What do I need to do more? What haven't I done? And those kinds of things.''

Nobody knows exactly how hot Crennel's seat is in Kansas City, though.

Not even Crennel himself.

For one thing, general manager Scott Pioli's job also appears on the line after a season marked by on-the-field misery and off-the-field atrocities. An unprecedented fan rebellion has been calling for his job for weeks, and it's possible that the man who elevated Crennel from interim head coach to the full-time job last season may not be around long, either.

Pioli hasn't spoken publicly since the Chiefs' bye midway through the season, when he said that Crennel had his support. Pioli was with Crennel when linebacker Jovan Belcher took his own life outside the team's practice facility, adding another layer of complexity to the decisions that will soon be facing Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt.

Then there's the fact that Crennel simply won't spend time pondering his fate.

He's been a coach for more than four decades, progressing through the college ranks to the NFL, where he helped to win five Super Bowls as an assistant. He understands as well as anybody how tenuous life is in professional sports, and that next season is never guaranteed.

``The future is the next game,'' Crennel said. ``So that's the one I'm concentrating on and seeing what I can do to try to win the game. If we win the game, we'll see what happens down the road. The only control I have is trying to win a game.''

It's certainly an important game for reasons beyond the fate of the Chiefs' coach.

Indianapolis visits Kansas City on Sunday with a chance to wrap up an improbable playoff berth, something that few dreamed possible when they lost their first 13 games last season.

If nothing else, the rapid way the Colts have turned around their franchise should be heartening for the Chiefs, who are headed for one of the worst finishes in team history.

The question becomes who will be in charge of orchestrating that turnaround.

``This is a business, so you can't worry about that,'' said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who is on his fourth coach in eight years in the league. ``When you're having a losing season, everybody's job is in jeopardy, players and coaches. That's just the way it is, the nature of the beast.''

Crennel certainly graded out highly among players and fans when he took over for the fired Todd Haley last season, and then guided the Chiefs to a victory over then-unbeaten Green Bay and a season-ending road win against the Broncos.

Afterward, players chanted his name in the locker room, and many of them openly campaigned for the former Cleveland Browns coach to get the job on a permanent basis.

``That's the most disappointing part of this year, one of them, is not getting the results the way we feel for Romeo,'' Johnson said. ``We love Romeo. We were screaming for him after the season to be our coach, and for our season to turn out the way it did, it's disappointing.''

Crennel has tried just about everything to engender change within the team.

He benched incumbent starter Matt Cassel for quarterback Brady Quinn. He fired himself as defensive coordinator and appointed Gary Gibbs to the same role. He's even had a hand in the inspirational signs that are posted outside the Chiefs' locker room.

Nothing has worked, though, and now his job is in jeopardy.

``When you try different things and you still don't win, it kind of wears on you a little bit,'' Crennel said. ``You know you're going to play on Sunday, so you have to put that best foot forward and try to get that win, because that's the best thing that will make you feel better about yourself and about what you're trying to get done.''


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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should not expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that his the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side. But since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat the whole offense will be harder to defend

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:


Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 


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