Juxtapose that draft record with those of Cleveland's AFC North brethren and the issue becomes high-definition clear. Four of Pittsburgh's first-round picks in that same period—defensive tackle Casey Hampton, guard Kendall Simmons, safety Troy Polamalu and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—are starters. In Baltimore (where from 1996 to 2004 Savage was a scout director and then player personnel boss), cornerback Chris McAlister, tight end Todd Heap, safety Ed Ree and defensive end Terrell Suggs start (plus former starting quarterback Kyle Boller still gets the nod on occasion). And in Cincinnati, defensive end Justin Smith, tackle Levi Jones and quarterback Carson Palmer are starters.
The Browns have tried to compensate for their draft errors through free agency, but they have often overpaid. By signing players to guarantees totaling almost $50 million in the last three off-seasons, Cleveland has raised expectations and increased the scrutiny of Crennel, whose cause has been hurt by freak injuries to key signees such as cornerback Gary Baxter and center LeCharles Bentley. Savage shot down the notion that Crennel is on the hot seat this season.
"I tried to address it before the season started that there was no Romeo watch," Savage said after Sunday's win. "People have a tendency to go to extremes. They want to bury teams, bury individuals. Today just goes to show that that is why the game is played. We've got a lot of talent, and people have to realize that it takes time for it to gel. I really feel this is the start of something good for us."
ONLY AT SI.COM Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.