After producing the NFL's No.1 ranked defense in 2016, Romeo Crennel will take on a new role in 2017. Crennel, promoted from defensive coordinator to assistant head coach this offseason, expands his responsibilities to assist Bill O'Brien in a number of areas.
"I think it was important to keep our staff together," O'Brien said Wednesday at the NFL Combine. "I think it was really important to make sure that Romeo knew what I wanted him to do as the assistant head coach – do a lot of things that relates to helping me, especially with me being a little more involved with the offense this year."
With the exit of George Godsey, the Texans will not name a new offensive coordinator heading into 2017. As a result, O'Brien will take on a bigger role in the Texans offense. Mike Vrabel, who served three seasons as the linebackers coach, will be the new defensive coordinator. Crennel will serve as "a second set of eyes," according to O'Brien, especially during the offseason.
"He's going to do a lot of different things," O'Brien said "He's going to help me with – let's just start with the offseason. He's looking at different opponents for me in different ways. He's helping me with my end of the draft. Let's move to OTAs. He's going to really help me from kind of a global perspective with the team like, 'Hey, what does the team need? How did this red area day go today? How did this third-down area go? I think you need more of this, more of that.'"
During games, Crennel's role is yet to be defined. O'Brien and Crennel have not yet determined if Crennel will continue to assist from the sideline or from the coaches' booth upstairs. Either way, Crennel will make that decision as his role continues to evolve.
"He's going to be wherever he wants to be, wherever he can help us the most," O'Brien said. "That's the thing. During the season, we haven't really gotten that far yet, but during this time of the year, he's doing a lot."
With Crennel as defensive coordinator, the Texans defense allowed an NFL-best 301.3 total net yards and 17.0 first downs per game in 2016. Houston finished with the best defense in the NFL for the first time in franchise history and did so without three-time Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. Crennel utilized 15 different starting lineup combinations, tied for second-most in the league last season.