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Texans Lose Most Experienced Coach In Franchise History

On Monday, former Texans’ assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel retired after 50 years of coaching in the NFL and college. Here’s a look at his impact on the Texans over the years, the potential consequences of his departure, and one of the greatest coaching careers of all time.

A Hall Of Fame Career

With 50 years of coaching under his belt, perhaps no one has made a more underrated impact on the defensive side of the football than Romeo Crennel. He played a pivotal role in serving on the staff of several all-time great coaches, including Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Todd Haley, and more.

Crennel’s first NFL job was way back in 1981 as the Giants’ Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Assistant. There, he aided legendary head coach Bill Parcells in building up the New York defense to be the best in the league throughout the decade. Crennel also worked closely with the leader of this “Big Blue Wrecking Crew”, Lawrence Taylor, who has been called the greatest defensive player in NFL history.

After winning two Super Bowls with the Giants, Crennel later joined Bill Belichick, another former member of Parcells’ staff, on the Jets. And, when Belichick left to be the Patriots’ head coach in 2001, Crennel followed to be his defensive coordinator and right-hand man. With the combination of Crennel and Belichick’s defensive expertise, and a young Tom Brady working wonders on offense, New England won three super bowls in the four seasons Crennel coached there.

With over 20 years of success as an NFL coordinator, Crennel was finally granted his first head coaching opportunity in Cleveland at the start of the 2005 season. Unfortunately, despite lasting longer than most Browns’ head coaches, Crennel found limited success during his four-year tenure, only mustering a .375 win percentage. However, he did lead Cleveland to their first winning season in five years, going 10-6 in 2007.

Leading The Bulls On Parade

Fast forward to 2014, when Bill O’Brien was named head coach of the Houston Texans. With them both having a connection to Bill Belichick in New England, O’Brien was able to recruit Romeo Crennel to serve as the team’s new defensive coordinator.

The effects of Crennel on the Houston defense were almost instantly revealed. In Crennel’s first year in 2014, he improved the Texans’ league rank in points allowed all the way from 24th to 7th. Then, in 2015, Houston took a monumental leap forward, finishing third in overall team defense. Finally, Crennel secured a franchise-best, first overall finish defensively for the Texans in 2016.

The only thing more satisfying than having the statically best defense in all of football is winning games to go along with it. And that’s exactly what Romeo Crennel’s unit helped the Texans do. When O’Brien and Crennel took over in 2014, Houston was coming off of a franchise-worst 2-14 season. But, while instability at the quarterback position continued, the Texans’ defense paved the way to three straight winning seasons from 2014 to 2016 and back-to-back playoff appearances in ’15 and ’16.

Perhaps the biggest impact Crennel had during this three-year stretch as the Texans’ defensive coordinator was on player development. Of course, several stars were already in place on the Houston defense in defensive end JJ Watt, linebacker Brian Cushing, cornerback Jonathan Joseph, and others. However, Crennel helped to elevate each of these players to a new level individually, as well as foster a true sense of brotherhood in the locker room.

One evident result of this was JJ Watt winning back-to-back defensive player of the year awards under Crennel, even being in the MVP conversation after an electric 2014 season. And, even without Watt on the field, Crennel found success, contributing to the breakout seasons of pass rushers Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus in 2016.

Absolute legend of the game and even better man. — JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 6, 2022

A Fitting End With The Texans

In 2017, Crennel was promoted to the role of assistant head coach in addition to his defensive coordinator duties for the Texans. However, as the Houston offense suddenly electrified with superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the charge, the Houston defense slowly diminished in dominance. Many of the players who contributed to the Texans’ previous top-five defensive finishes exited their primes or moved on to better opportunities. Additionally, Crennel’s “old-school” mindset was ultimately unable to keep up with the “modern” NFL style of offense, especially with several dynamic, young quarterbacks running the AFC. Nonetheless, Crennel adapted just enough, and the Texans still made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.

Although it appeared most of the excitement in his career was over by 2020, Crennel got an unexpected opportunity to be Houston’s head coach in the middle of the season. This development came after Bill O’Brien was fired after a series of well-known mishaps, with an 0-4 start to the year being the last straw. Crennel did a noble job, finishing the year with a record of 4-8, and doing what he could to salvage a franchise on the verge of collapsing in on itself.

During this stretch, Crennel also earned a few meaningful victories to close out his coaching career. One was a “full circle” moment when he beat his long-time friend and mentor Bill Belichick in a 27-20 Houston win over New England. Another joyous occasion came on Thanksgiving Day when Crennel and the Texans dismantled the Lions.

This past season, Crennel remained a senior adviser with the team and helped jumpstart what looks to be a long rebuild for the Texans. Fortunately, he can now enjoy a well-deserved retirement. His daily presence in the building will be greatly missed by players, coaches, and fans alike. After all, Crennel was evidently a key part of some of the best Texans’ teams in franchise history. But, change is always good, and bringing in some fresh blood, makes for an exciting future.



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