Browns locking up the requisite talent, and several even are buying houses in the same neighborhood.
Randy Lerner avoids interviews in times like these, when minicamp is on and the football people are doing their thing. When the Browns’ owner bumped into a writer after Wednesday’s practice, though, he shared a laugh about one topic. “You’ve got to love a guy who buys a house on the same street as his position coach,” Lerner said. It’s true. Rookie quarterback Brady Quinn closed a deal in the neighborhood of Rip Scherer, an assistant head coach who is in charge of QBs. The cold memory of a 4-12 year is starting to melt in the heat of an approaching season. The bosses talk a lot about digging in and settling down. Toward that end, they gave Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham a two-year contract extension. When he accepted the deal Thursday, it meant he, Scherer, Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Head Coach Romeo Crennel are signed through 2009. General Manager Phil Savage said Grantham’s extension reflects a quest for continuity and locks up a talent. Grantham was in the hunt for the head coaching job at Michigan State late last year. “We think Todd’s got a big upside and has the potential to be an NFL head coach in time,” Savage said. Browns employees seem to be warming up to Lerner, who enters his fourth full season as owner following the death of his father. “I’m very grateful to Randy,” said Grantham, who at 40, is a few years younger than the owner. “I have a lot of respect for him in what he’s trying to accomplish with this organization. “For Randy and Phil and Romeo to have the confidence in me means a lot. “As we move forward, I think you’ll see a lot of positive things with the Browns.” On one level, Grantham’s new deal defies logic. The Browns went 6-10 in his first year as the Browns’ defensive coordinator, 2005, then slipped to 4-12 in ’06. The team allowed 301 points in Grantham’s first year and 303 in his second. His defense allowed 5,069 yards in 2005 and 5,517 yards in 2006. “You could read anything into stats,” Savage said. “The offense works off the defense. The defense works off the offense. “You look at the rapport he has with our team. We’re a 3-4 defense, and he’s experienced in that scheme. He’s put two-plus years into this rebuilding project. “To me it just makes sense to keep going down that path. “We’ve got to get better defending the run. I think our pass rush will be better. We’ll see how the stats play out, but I think we’ll be much improved.” Reasons to suppose Grantham’s unit can make a substantial jump include: - Growth from linebackers Kamerion Wimbley, D’Qwell Jackson and Leon Williams, promising rookies last year. - Better line play after adding free agents Robaire Smith and Shaun Smith. - A breakthrough by safety Brodney Pool, a high second-round pick in 2005. - An end to a cornerback nightmare that sucked in cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon, Gary Baxter and Leigh Bodden in ’06. - Not being put in bad positions by a feeble offense. Grantham avoided making excuses for 2006. “We play the cards dealt us, bottom line,” he said. “No one else in the league cares about your problems. You just go play.” Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.