BEREA, Ohio — Down to perhaps his final days as Cleveland's coach, Romeo Crennel is still fighting for his job.
The Browns are swinging, too — at each other.
With his fate to be decided by owner Randy Lerner in the next few weeks, Crennel said Monday he believes he can make his team into winners again. The Browns, who went 10-6 last season, dropped their fifth straight game on Sunday, an embarrassing 14-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cleveland failed to score an offensive touchdown for the fifth straight game, a disturbing drought that now spans more than one month, nearly 21 quarters and 315 minutes of action.
"I think that if given the chance, I can turn it around," said Crennel, 24-39 in Cleveland since 2005. "We won 10 last year, so I feel like we can win 10 again or win more. That's not in my hands, that's not in my control. All I can do is make a case for myself and say that, given the chance, I would be able to get it turned around."
Lerner will evaluate Crennel and general manager Phil Savage once Cleveland's disappointing season — which unraveled in an ugly succession of injuries, excruciating losses, missed tackles and off-field controversy — mercifully ends Sunday when the Browns (4-11) visit the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to WKYC-TV's Jim Donovan, who is also the team's play-by-play radio announcer, Smith punched Quinn in the face following a heated verbal exchange inside the team's weight room. Browns tight end Darnell Dinkins confirmed the fight during a radio interview on WQAL, saying Quinn's face was marked.
Quinn is out for the season following surgery on a broken finger. Smith, who has been slowed by a calf injury, did not play in Sunday's game. Crennel said Smith, known as the team's biggest trash talker, was inactive because of a coaches' decision
Crennel refused to comment directly on the Smith-Quinn flare-up.
"I never talk about family business," Crennel said. "I haven't talked about family business since I've been here. So I'm not going to address it at this point or start talking about it. If it happened, it stays in house."
Crennel said conflicts among teammates are not uncommon, especially in a season as frustrating as the one the Browns are enduring.
"In a family you always have some disagreements and they get handled within the family," Crennel said. "I've got one brother and three sisters. When we were growing up we had altercations. You deal with them and you move on. That doesn't mean I dislike my brother or I dislike my sisters.
"That's part of being in a household, everybody trying to establish their turf. But that's part of it. You deal with it and you move on."
That would be the case on most teams. But the Browns seem to have more than their share of unusual incidents with Kellen Winslow's spat with management over his staph infection and Savage's profane e-mail to a fan among the most noteworthy this season.
Now they're dealing with a player smacking the franchise quarterback, another sticky issue for Lerner to review once the season ends.
None of the Browns was available for comment since Crennel gave his players the day off. The only ones who reported were those needing medical treatment, and that's quite a few.
Quarterback Ken Dorsey sustained injured ribs and a mild concussion Sunday, and may have to sit out the season finale. If he can't play, recently signed Bruce Gradkowski will have to start against the Steelers, who will likely rest most of their starters to get ready for the AFC playoffs. Return specialist Joshua Cribbs may also play more quarterback than just in a special package designed to utilize his unique skills.
As for Crennel, he's confident that because of his relationship with Lerner that he'll have an opportunity to outline why he should return for a fifth season. That doesn't mean he will be back, though.
"He's got a lot of different things he's got to consider and look at," Crennel said of Lerner. "He will make that determination in January after the season's over. At that time, when I get the chance to sit down and talk with him, then I can make my case. He's going to have to decide whether I've made a good enough case or whether he wants to stay with me in this job."
Crennel has never used injuries as an excuse, and he's not about to start. He is certain, however, that without them, the Browns would be much better.
"People don't want to hear excuses," he said. "They want to know why you didn't win. If you win, sometimes you can play poorly and win and everybody is OK with it. And when you lose, they want to know why you didn't win and that's the nature of this business and you have to understand that coming in.
Crennel feels despite not getting the Browns into the playoffs that his stay in Cleveland has included some success.
"I think we have made some progress here, but you cannot discount wins and losses and I haven't won enough," he said. "I have said that since Day 1, that I will be judged on the wins and losses. That's what you're judged on as a coach."