One day after Romeo Crennel announced his retirement, Bill Belichick reflected on the mark made across 50 years of coaching and 39 years in the NFL.
“Just a big congratulations to Romeo on his great career,” the New England Patriots head coach said in his press conference prior to the start of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. “Saw the retirement yesterday, and certainly, he had a great influence here and many other places that I worked with him. And just his contribution to the league, to the National Football League, and in so many ways.”
Crennel, 74, went undrafted out of Western Kentucky in 1970 before becoming a graduate assistant and later the defensive line coach at his alma mater. Additional collegiate stops at Texas Tech, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech followed. Crennel broke into the NFL ranks with the New York Giants in 1981. There, he remained under the titles of special teams coach and defensive line coach through 1992.
The next seven seasons saw Crennel oversee the defensive lines of the Patriots and New York Jets under head coach Bill Parcells. He proceeded to log one campaign as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns before reuniting with another former colleague in Foxborough.
“He mentored so many other young coaches, not to mention hundreds of players,” said Belichick, who turned 70 in April. “Just really a first-class guy.”
Crennel served as New England’s defensive coordinator from 2001 through 2004. The five-time Super Bowl champion then returned to Cleveland as head coach, and the Browns narrowly missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2007. It stood as just the second season with a winning percentage above .500 for the organization since its rebirth.
Crennel later served as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and at the age of 73 in the fall of 2020, he was named the interim head coach of the Houston Texans after the departure of Bill O’Brien. The move made him the oldest to coach a game in league history.
Last year with the Texas, Crennel transitioned to the role of senior advisor for football performance.
“In his two stints here, we achieved a lot of success and certainly I personally owe a huge debt of gratitude to Romeo for what it did for me, what he did for our football team,” added Belichick. “The success that we had with him here, but also on a personal level with the Giants.”
The Pro Football Writers of America selected Crennel as the 2003 NFL Assistant Coach of the Year. He received the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award, recognizing lifetime achievement as an assistant coach, in 2020.