Since the Browns came back into the NFL in 1999, their record in the first game of the season has been stunningly awful.
In 12 years, the Browns have won their season opener precisely once — beating Baltimore 20-3 in 2004. In the other years, they’ve lost in every conceivable way. They’ve lost to good teams and bad teams. They’ve gotten creamed and they’ve lost 9-6 defensive battles. They even lost when Dwayne Rudd was penalized for removing his helmet on the last play of the game. With astonishing, soul-deadening consistency, the old Browns and new Browns have produced the same result. The season starts with a dispiriting 0-1 record, the team is in a hole, and they never seem to be able to fully claw their way out of it. It’s no wonder the team has made the playoffs only once in those 12 years.
This year, the Browns need to find a way to somehow win their first game, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Beating the Bengals is not an impossible dream. In fact, if the Browns really are heading in the right direction, the game against the Bengals is a game that they should — really, they must — win.
With Mike Holmgren fully at the helm of the franchise, a new head coach in Pat Shurmur and a new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes, exciting players like Peyton Hillis, Colt McCoy, and Josh Cribbs, and a roster stocked with younger players, it is time for the Browns to start slaying the ghosts and demons that have tormented this star-crossed franchise since its return to the league. It can be done. For years, the Browns could not win at Three Rivers Stadium — until suddenly, under Marty Schottenheimer and Bernie Kosar, they could. On Sunday, it is time for this Browns team, too, to start turning things around.