After 50 years of coaching, including 39 seasons in the NFL, Romeo Crennel announced his retirement on Monday.
“Football has been my entire life and it’s been a dream come true to coach for 50 years,” said Crennel. “There are so many friends to thank who have helped me and supported me throughout my career. I especially want to thank the fans and owners of the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans for allowing me to contribute to the game that I have loved so much for so long. I’ll miss everything about coaching and teaching, but the thing I’ll miss the most is being around the guys every day. My goal was to put every player and coach in the best position to succeed and I consider every guy I coached or worked with a part of my family. I would also want to thank my wife Rosemary and my three daughters, Lisa, Tiffany and Kristine, for all of their support over the years. Because of their love and selflessness, I have been able to live out my dream. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to spend more time with my grandchildren while staying around the game of football.”
One of the most decorated assistant coaches in NFL history, Crennel was a part of 17 playoff appearances with 13 division crowns, six conference titles and has won five of the six Super Bowls he has appeared in (New York Giants – XXI and XXV, New England Patriots – XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX). In recognition of Crennel’s accomplishments, the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) awarded him with the 2020 Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman Award for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach.
“My family and the entire Houston Texans organization would like to congratulate Romeo Crennel on his historic coaching career,” said Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair. “After 50 seasons, Romeo retires as one of the most respected figures in NFL history. His incredible resume and contributions to the game of football will be difficult to duplicate. Romeo poured everything he had into his players and led his teams with hard work, diligence and integrity. He has impacted and influenced so many players, coaches and staff members over the last five decades and we’re honored he spent the last eight seasons with us. Our organization is better because of Romeo Crennel in so many ways. He will always be a Texan and we wish him, his wife Rosemary and his family nothing but the best in all that retirement brings.”
Crennel’s last eight years in the league were with the Houston Texans as a defensive coordinator (2014-16), assistant head coach (2017-19), associate head coach (2020), interim head coach (2020) and senior advisor for football performance (2021). In 2020, after his promotion to interim coach, a 73-year-old Crennel became the oldest person in NFL history to serve as a head coach in a game, a record previously held by former Chicago Bears head coach/owner and NFL co-founder George Halas.
Crennel came to Houston following three years with the Kansas City Chiefs (2010-12), where he served as defensive coordinator (2010-11), interim head coach (2011) and head coach (2012). Prior to Kansas City, Crennel spent four seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (2005-08) in his second stint with the organization.
From 2001-04, Crennel served as defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, where he helped the team win three Super Bowl titles. Over those four seasons in his return to New England, the Patriots registered a 48-16 (.750) regular season record and a 9-0 postseason mark. Crennel was named the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America following the 2003 season, where he led a Patriots defensive unit that allowed a league-low 14.9 points per game.
Prior to a one-year stint as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator/defensive line coach in 2000, Crennel spent three seasons as the defensive line coach with the New York Jets (1997-99). Before joining the Jets, Crennel served as the defensive line coach for four campaigns during his first stint in New England (1993-96), helping propel the club to a berth in Super Bowl XXXI.
Crennel began his NFL coaching career with a 12-year stint with the New York Giants (1981-92), serving as the defensive line coach (1990-92), special teams coach (1983-89) and special teams/defensive assistant coach (1981-82). During his tenure with the Giants, the club qualified for the playoffs six times, claiming wins in Super Bowls XXI and XXV. While with the Giants, Crennel worked with multiple Super Bowl-winning head coaches in Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin.
Crennel began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1970 at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, before enjoying four seasons (1971-74) as the school’s defensive line coach. From there, Crennel began his longtime association with Parcells at Texas Tech (1975-77) where Parcells served as defensive coordinator. He also spent two years at Mississippi (1978-79) coaching the defensive ends. Crennel concluded his collegiate coaching career with a one-year stop at Georgia Tech (1980).
A four-year starter on the defensive line for Western Kentucky, Crennel was elected captain as a senior and earned team MVP honors. He attended Fort Knox High School in Fort Knox, Ky., and Central High School in Amherst, Va. Crennel and his wife Rosemary have three daughters, Lisa Tulley, Tiffany Strokes and Kristine Cullinane. The Crennels also have eight grandchildren.