Despite a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel figures to be a busy man over the next few days.
The San Francisco 49ers on Thursday sought and received permission from the Patriots to interview Crennel for their head coach vacancy, and the two sides will meet before the end of the week. Crennel is already scheduled to interview with Cleveland Browns officials on Friday for their head coach spot.
There were some preliminary discussions Thursday between San Francisco officials and Crennel and it is likely they will meet face-to-face on Saturday. The timing is important, since league anti-tampering rules stipulate that teams can only meet with candidates from franchises still in the playoffs, and with a bye, this week.
After this week, teams must wait until a candidate's team is eliminated from the playoffs before being able to speak to him. By league rule, both the Browns and the 49ers must interview Crennel in Foxboro.
This is the second time that Crennel will be a candidate for the 49ers' job. He was also interviewed in 2003, before San Francisco hired Dennis Erickson, who was dismissed on Wednesday after compiling a 9-23 record in two seasons.
Speculation has been that Southern California coach Pete Carroll, twice before a head coach in the NFL, tops the 49ers wish list. That may be the case but, after consecutive national championships, Carroll may be difficult to pry from the college ranks. Crennel certainly is regarded as a man more than ready to make the next career step.
It is not known if San Francisco owner John York has requested permission to speak with other coaches whose teams have a bye this week.
Crennel, 57, is a 24-year NFL veteran and has been a coordinator the past five seasons, first in Cleveland (2000) and then with the Patriots (2001-present).
He coached 11 seasons in the college ranks before joining the New York Giants staff in 1981. His career has included stints with the Giants (1981-92), Patriots (1993-96 and 2001-2004), New York Jets (1997-99) and Browns (2000).
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.