BESIDE THE POINT HOME To subscribe to this blog via your RSS reader: CLICK HERE
To read more of Pat's articles: CLICK HERE
To follow Pat on Twitter (@PatMcManamon): CLICK HERE

A rundown on Browns openers since 1999, and quite a rundown it is!

By Pat McManamon

The Cleveland Browns have made opening the season quite the adventure since 1999. An adventure more like a clown show.

Since the team returned form a three-year hiatus, they’ve lost 12-of-13 openers, with 12 of those games played at home.

They’ve used 10 different starting quarterbacks on opening day (this season makes 11) and had five different coaches.

For those who forgot, or who want to remember for comedy’s sake, here’s a rundown.

And just think … Phil Dawson has lived through every single one of them.

1999 – The Browns return from a three-year hiatus was celebrated as if one of Caesar’s conquering armies was returning. The team had a Sunday night celebration, with Drew Carey, fighter planes overhead and an atmosphere that bordered on euphoric. The result: Two first downs and a 41-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

2000 – The Browns did a little better a year later, and actually were tied with Jacksonville 7-7 in the second quarter when Tim Couch threw a TD pass to JaJuan Dawson (remember that name)? That was the high water mark, though, as the Jags pulled away in the second half for a 27-7 win in a game when the Browns had nine first downs. This game ranks among the more normal of the Browns season openers.

2001 – The first game of the Butch Davis era yielded no touchdowns, six points and a last-second loss when Ryan Lindell made a 52-yard field goal with three seconds left. Naturally it didn’t come normally. The Browns had tied the game at six with just more than two minutes left, but gave up a 49-yard kickoff return to set up the field goal. Coach of that Seattle team? Mike Holmgren.

2002 – One of the more unforgettable ever, and not just because it was an opener. Kelly Holcomb had a rating of 130 and threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns — and the Browns scored 39 points and lost. This will forever be remembered as the helmet game, because when Dwayne Rudd thought the Browns had sacked Trent Green on the last play of the game he took off his helmet, flung it and started celebrating. Except Green had lateraled to offensive tackle John Tait, and his run and Rudd’s penalty gave the Chiefs one untimed down (zero on the clock) to kick a game-winning field goal. They did, erasing Dawson’s game winner with 29 seconds left. Classic. Simply unscriptably classic.

2003 — Is it possible a team could lose the opener by the same score two years out of three? In Cleveland it is. The Colts beat the Browns 9-6. The Browns limited Peyton Manning to three field goals, and lost. In 2001, the winning kick came with two seconds left. This one from Mike VanderJagt came with one second remaining. Holcomb thus started in two openers, scored 39 and six points and lost both.

2004 – The Browns first win in an opener came over the Baltimore Ravens in Jeff Garcia’s debut as a Brown. It happened because Garcia completed two long passes, and Ravens scored three points. Ninety-seven of Garcia’s 180 yards passing came on two plays. This was a good win, but it pretty much was the high-water mark of the Jeff Garcia era.

2005 – Since it’s never wise to win two openers in a row, the Browns lost the next one (all these openers, by the way, were at home). Cincinnati won 27-13, spoiling the coaching debut of Romeo Crennel and the quarterback debut of Trent Dilfer, the fifth quarterback to start an opener in seven seasons.

2006 – Charlie Frye became the sixth opening day starter at quarterback (notice a trend here?), and faced a Saints team considered one of the league’s worst. But on the first play of the game, the Saints ends did a complete jailbreak at Frye, Kevin Shaffer was called for holding and a touchdown pass was negated. It got worse from there, as the Browns totaled 186 yards in a 19-14 defeat.

2007 – The Steelers have their own way to hand humiliation to the Browns, and they did it again, making Frye look like a lost school kid as he tried to play in a 34-7 defeat. This game was highlighted by the great Paul Ernster dropping his first snap as he tried to punt. Ernster had been signed two days before the game. Of course the Browns had four penalties on the play. It went downhill from there, and two days later the Browns became the first team to trade their opening day quarterback two days after the opener. Memories, like the chorus of my mind … 

2008 – The Browns somehow turned that opening day loss a year ago into a 10-win season, and hoped to build on it. Didn’t happen as Dallas drubbed them 28-10 and Anderson threw for 114 yards. The highlight of this game: In the fourth quarter the Browns were down 28-7 and coach Romeo Crennel called for a field goal with more than 10 minutes to go. The 18-point deficit stood. Misty water color memories … 

2009 – Eric Mangini’s first game unveiled the Cleveland Browns cone of silence, as Mangini refused to say who his opening day quarterback would be until just before kickoff even though everyone in the world knew it would be Brady Quinn. The Browns were embarrassed, again, as a 13-10 hafltime lead (!) turned into 34-20 defeat that really wasn’t that close. Minnesota scored the first 24 points of the second half, and Adrian Peterson ran for 180 yards and threw Eric Wright to the sideline on one long run. The coach of the Vikings: Brad Childress. Scattered pictures … 

2010 – All the openers to this point were at home. Going on the road changed … nothing. Jake Delhomme’s debut (yes, Jake Delhomme) was abysmal, as he threw two bad interceptions, one that Tampa Bay turned into a touchdown in a 17-14 win. The Browns led the 14-3 at one point. Of the smiles we left behind … 

2011 – Yet another new coach (Pat Shurmur) and another new quarterback (Colt McCoy) made for another instant classic, as the Bengals beat the Browns 27-17 because the Browns didn’t break the huddle fast enough to cover Bengals receiver A.J. Green, who caught a game-winning touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski (yes, Bruce Gradkowski) In the game, Shurmur also was penalized 15 yards for running into an official on the sideline and knocking him over. “It happens,” Shurmur said. Especially in Cleveland. Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were … 

blog comments powered by Disqus

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Shurmurball 2012 is LIVE on September 9, 2012 at 9:20 am

    [...] from the Parma JV squad on Tuesday, and LeSean McCoy is starting in 1,000% of fantasy leagues. The Browns are 1-12 on opening day since 1999, and it’s finally time for [...]

  2. By Wednesday Night Long-Snapper: Glitches | RiverBurn on September 13, 2012 at 3:14 am

    [...] RELATED: Pat McManamon breaks down the Browns Opening Sunday history. [...]