By: John Molori
April 05, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Browns get the Willie's
- T.O. in Big D
- Blitz Bits: "Mike and Mike" invade Boston, NFL notes

McGinest looking good in Cleveland brown Owens touches down in Dallas; Blitz Bits

While Patriots' fans continue to mourn the loss of Adam Vinatieri, David Givens and Willie McGinest, one of these free agents has spurred great joy in his new city.

John Chandler, a former sports reporter for Comcast in Boston and WVII in Bangor, ME, is a sports reporter and producer at WEWS NewsNet 5 in Cleveland, where the McGinest signing has been met with much glee.

"People in Cleveland did not think the Browns had a chance at signing McGinest," says Chandler, whose late uncle Nev Chandler was a legendary Indians and Browns play-by-play announcer.

"This is the kind of player that was a reach for the Browns up until last week, but when they rolled out LeCharles Bentley and company, it made you think (GM) Phil Savage just might roll the dice."

Browns head coach and former Pats' defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was not in Cleveland when McGinest signed, but he is pleased to be reunited with the veteran.

Says Chandler, "(Romeo) does not hide his love for the guy. Willie brings skill and savvy to the Browns. He's the kind of player the defense was missing last year.

"I keep going back to a piece of tape I saw from an old Patriots game. Romeo is clearly livid, pointing his finger into the face of a player. As the shot pulls out, you see that player is Willie McGinest, and he's all ears. There is a mutual respect there. I know that McGinest was supposed to visit Cleveland as a courtesy to Crennel, and then head out for other visits in New York and Miami. I think it says something that he never made it out of Cleveland."

Chandler believes that the arrival of McGinest will serve to further cement Crennel as the leader of the Browns. "I think Romeo wants to be perceived as his own coach, rather than a disciple of Belichick and Parcells.

"(Last season), there were plenty of questions about his in-game coaching ability. It's obvious Romeo knows the game better than 9 out of 10 coaches out there, but as the head coach, he struggled with decision making."

Chandler points to the quarterbacks and the clock as examples. "Romeo randomly inserted rookie Charlie Frye at quarterback in games, which sparked some pointed postgame comments from Trent Dilfer. Clearly coach and quarterback were not on the same page.

"When it came to clock management, well let's just say that he didn't make folks forget about (ex-Browns coach) Butch Davis. Romeo is upfront, sometimes brutally honest, but in Cleveland, where we dealt with Davis and his imaginary world, Romeo is a breath of fresh air."

While Crennel is thrilled to have McGinest, his feelings pale in comparison to Browns' fans. "They are overjoyed," says Chandler, a BU grad, "I think football fans are smart enough to realize that McGinest was signed with the idea that he has two more good years in him.

"Fans here are tired of hearing about three years down the road. Signing McGinest finally puts the focus on the immediate future of this team."

As a veteran of the both the Boston and Cleveland sports scene, Chandler sees what McGinest can bring to a team. He states, "He's a good fit for the Browns. He's comfortable in the 3-4 defense. The Browns don't need him to excel in it, as much as they need him to help the rest of the defense figure it out.

"Trust me, those players were lost when Romeo brought in the new scheme last year. The Browns signed Willie and Ted Washington to tutor as much as to tackle."

Chandler says that McGinest brings some needed veteran clout to a young defense. "For so many years there was a lot of talk about what to do, but nobody was accountable for getting it done.

"When push came to shove, there was no one player on the defense that others could point to and say, "˜OK, that's the way it should be done.' I get the sense that nobody will question Willie McGinest."

McGinest appeared on NFL Network after signing with the Browns and tossed some veiled shots at the Patriots for their apparent indifference in signing him.

Says Chandler, "Willie kept himself relatively quiet during the press conference (in Cleveland), refusing to take the bait that reporters cast time after time. There was one subtle hint that he was disappointed in the way the Patriots cut ties with him. I get the sense that what happened with New England will fuel his next three seasons."

Dancing Cowboy

McGinest isn't the only big name free agent to change teams. In fact, the most notorious free agent move is that of Terrell Owens to the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, the NFL's most obnoxious player has joined the league's most obnoxious team.

Newy Scruggs is sports director and lead sports anchor at KXAS-TV 5, the NBC affiliate in Dallas. Regarding the pre-Owens Dallas hype, he states, " People in Dallas didn't want T.O. because of his past. To be honest, they would have rather kept Keyshawn Johnson around because he showed he was a team player.

"Still, fans said they hated it but the Cowboys sold 150,000 T.O. jerseys in two days. That shows you they talk a good game, but just want wins. "

So, was the Owens signing a Parcells move or a Jerry Jones move? Says Scruggs, "Bill signed off on it. There is no way Jerry would just ram it down his throat. Keyshawn did tell me he heard second hand that Bill wasn't happy about him being let go. Bill wants to win so don't let yourself think he didn't have a say. It's not the first time he let Keyshawn go you know."

Scruggs, who hosts NBC5's "Out of Bounds" with ex-Cowboy Drew Pearson, says that Owens should be a good fit. "I think T.O. will be fine in his first year. He could be good in year two.

"If Parcells leaves, it could be ugly if they hire a softie like Steve Mariucci. I think Jerry Jones is making up for not drafting Randy Moss. It still eats at him that he listened to the fans, then the fans jumped on him after Moss became a star."

It remains a question how the freak show of Owens and agent Drew Rosenhaus will play in Dallas. Says Scruggs, "Rosenhaus looked at like a slimy salesman around Texas. Anybody can act right for $10 million. T.O. better learn to get some thick skin to deal with all the snipes and jabs the Tuna likes to take at his guys."

Owens already made his mark in Dallas when in 2000, as a member of the 49'ers, he danced on the Texas Stadium star as part of a touchdown celebration. Do Cowboys fans still hold a grudge?

"Yes, fans are still down about it," says Scruggs, who also pens a sports column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Former player George Teague said he was surprised they brought him in. Teague is a hero around here for defending the star that day, but Emmitt Smith said T.O. will be good for the Cowboys. Remember, these fans embraced (former 49'ers) Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, and they forgave Michael Irvin."

As for the anticipated Drew Bledsoe-Owens confrontation, Scruggs surprisingly puts the onus on the QB. "This is on Drew. If Bill gets it fixed, then Bledsoe better have a Pro Bowl year or he will hear it from T.O., the fans, the media, etc. The offensive line was sorry in 2005. If they can run the ball and keep Bledsoe upright, then they could have a chance."

Blitz Bits

NFL Network will unveil the 2006 NFL regular season schedule on a special edition of "NFL Total Access" hosted by Rich Eisen and Steve Mariucci, Thursday at 2:00 p.m. The show, re-airing at 7:00 p.m., will highlight flexible scheduling, the addition of NBC and NFL Network as broadcasters and weekly matchups"¦ ESPN's Tom Jackson, Chris Mortensen and Mel Kiper, Jr. will break down the probable NFL draft scenario for the Patriots during the 6:00 p.m. "SportsCenter" on Friday "¦ 890 ESPN Boston's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" will broadcast live from the Hotel Commonwealth's Great Bay restaurant for Red Sox Opening Day, April 11, 6-10:00 a.m. Following "Mike and Mike," ESPN Boston will premiere "Baseball Today," a new Red Sox pregame show, live from the Cask "˜n Flagon.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Boston Sports Review, New England Ringside Magazine, Boston Baseball Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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