Bill Belichick praises Romeo Crennel, Tony LaRussa and Tom Crean

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The story of the 2001 Patriots is one of the best in sports. They came together in a time of terror for all Americans and won the hearts of many of those people by beating the vaunted St. Louis Rams for their first of five Super Bowl titles to date.

The biggest strength of that team was its defense. And while Bill Belichick should get tons of credit for being the genius coach that he is, it's easy to forget that Romeo Crennel, who is now with the Houston Texans had a massive impact on that unit. Belichick had high praise for Crennel, went as far as to say that he wasn't as responsible for the defense as many believed. 

When I was in New England in 2001 when Coach [Dick] Rehbein died in preseason, Charlie [Weiss] and I handled the offense and kind of handled the quarterbacks there. I turned the whole defense over to Romeo and that was a great year for us defensively in 2001. Examples like that where I’ve really leaned heavily on him and he always came through. [He’s] a really good football coach, a good person and did a great job of bringing along some of our younger coaches, coaches like Josh McDaniels and Brian Daboll, guys like that, that were on our staff that he taught and helped teach to become great football coaches who have carried on his legacy and many of the fundamentals and beliefs he has have transferred to them.

Crennel was also the defensive coordinator for New England's Super Bowl victories against Carolina and Philadelphia. He left New England to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns following the 2004-2005 season, then went to Kansas City for two years before ending up with Houston.

But he's not the only coach that Belichick has had good things to say about recently. Former Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean were guests of Belichick today at the Patriots' joint practice with the Texans in West Virginia.

Belichick and LaRussa have a long documented friendship, which Belichick talked about with the media.
My relationship with Tony has been great. I’ve learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport. I’ll never forget the time he let me get in the dugout with him for an exhibition game. Baseball—it seems like just throw it and hit it, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I saw just how much there is on every single pitch and the focus, concentration, all of that.

Belichick said he and Crean speak frequently and learned a lot about running an organization from him.

I’ve had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tom, watched him at Indiana. He allowed me to kind of watch practice and spend time with his organization, with his team. Again, different sport but I learned a lot from his organization. We speak pretty frequently. Different motivations, teachings, coaching is coaching, even though the sport is different. Players are players, and there are different things you can do to help them. He is a very progressive guy.

Belichick always seems to take something positive away from everyone he meets, so it's really no wonder he runs such a well-oiled machine in New England.

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