Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is expected to be named head coach of the Browns after the Super Bowl.
1. I think you can look for Bill Belichick to stay in-house when he has to replace coordinators Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) and Romeo Crennel (Cleveland Browns) after the season. "I definitely wouldn't be interested in bringing in someone and converting over to their system,'' he told me. "First, that would probably mean a huge change in personnel, and it would mean the coaches already here would have to learn a new way.'' What he also should have said is: No one from the outside world could come into our little batcave and adjust to the way we do things as well as someone from in-house. Re: the new coordinators, Belichick said: "Part of a coordinator's job is to run half the team for a good deal of the time.'' He has a guy on defense (secondary coach Eric Mangini, if Mangini doesn't bolt to Cleveland with Crennel or to rich Miami with Nick Saban, which I doubt), but there's no Weis-in-waiting on offense. Which brings us to ...
2. I think there's a sea-change happening out there in assistant-coachingville. I dropped by the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last week and a GM told me, "The spending on assistant coaches in this league is now crazier than the spending on free agents.'' Because coaching salaries aren't governed by the salary cap, teams can do whatever they want with assistants. Miami signed free-agent offensive line coach Hudson Houck for $850,000 a year. Yes: 850 for a line coach! This means, as I reported on HBO this week, that the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins will make a few bucks less than the offensive coordinator geniuses Tom Moore (Colts) and Charlie Weis (Patriots) combined. Moore/Weis: $900,000 ... Houck: $850,000. The Jets signed Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger for three years at $1.05 million per year. Not bad for a guy who'd been a pretty good but not great coordinator in Tennessee. The Titans have finished 17th, 8th and 11th the last three years in NFL offensive rankings. Saban has been given, in essence, a blank check from Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, which is pushing up the cost of all coaches because if Saban is paying good coaches $850,000, other teams have to respond.
Now Browns CEO John Collins tells me his new coach -- whoever that may be with a last name of Crennel, wink-wink -- will have a budget for assistant coaches, which is logical and, except for Miami, the way this league works. If Crennel values Mangini very highly, he could chose to offer the free-agent secondary coach $800,000 to run his defense. But if Mangini accepts, Crennel would have less to spend at other positions. One thing we do know about the Patriots: They're not likely to break the bank for a coordinator. I'd be surprised if Mangini got an offer for more than Weis' $500,000 as a first-time coordinator.
3. I think, and don't get me wrong, that it's good for the assistants that a bunch of them are getting this silly money. If Saban is worth $5 million a year, or whatever it is that he got from Huizenga, isn't the guy running his offense from top to bottom, Scott Linehan, worth at least 15 percent of that? Linehan's at $850,000. Good for the guys who work 14-hour days (and that's being conservative).
4. I think I get a kick out of the little spies used by profootballtalk.com. Have you seen it? It's an irreverent (to put it mildly) site with some valuable gossip and news. A few days ago, the site had an item about Bill Parcells watching a Senior Bowl practice and wondering if it was the Senior Bowl or the Blue-Gray Game -- the inference being the talent sure is down this year at the Senior Bowl.
5. I think, from the sounds of last night's opening press salvos, you're going to get some nice clothing and absolutely nothing interesting or bulletin-boardish from the Patriots and Eagles this week.
6. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. House gets better and better.
b. Coffeenerdness: Thank God for putting Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I've driven the length of it twice, round-trip, in the last two weeks, and that Sideling Hill Starb's is like an oasis in the Sahara.
c. I'm not a tennis fan, but the ends of a few of those Australian Open matches, like the Sharapova-Kuznetsova dogfight, were incredibly good sports viewing.
d. The Orioles are making a big mistake with Sammy Sosa. He's a classic downward-spiral guy. Maybe he'll total 28 homers in Camden Yards, but another hitter is not what that team needs. Especially another aging and declining one.
e. I'm hoping Sirius and XM merge. The NFL and MLB on the same satellite system? That's a good thing.
f. The (Newark) Star-Ledger really has a good sports section.
7. I think I might be the only guy around not moaning about Jacksonville as a site for this game. Sunday's forecast: high 60s and sunny during the day, 50s during the second half. Pretty good football weather, people.
8. I think the best thing the Dolphins could do at running back is wait till the market gets glutted with them (Travis Henry, Larry Johnson, and all the free agents like Shaun Alexander and Rudi Johnson), see if any team or agent is going to give one away, and, if not, take the best available one with a third-round pick -- either in the draft or in currency to get one of the good ones on the street. The free agents won't be worth it.
9. I think the Packers better help that secondary this offseason.