Browns struggle in season openers

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
1:00
PM ET
The last time the Cleveland Browns won a regular-season opener, Jeff Garcia was the starting quarterback. The year was 2004 -- which may feel like ages for long-suffering Browns fans.

Could this be the year the Browns end their infamous streak?

Historically, the Browns are awful in season openers. The team is 1-11 in Week 1 games since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Chris Palmer era, Butch Davis era, Romeo Crennel era and Eric Mangini era all got off to losing starts.

Browns rookie head coach Pat Shurmur has a chance to accomplish what none of his predecessors were able to. Shurmur has a good opportunity to win his Cleveland coaching debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at Browns Stadium.

It's a winnable game for the rebuilding Browns. The Bengals feel the same way and are rebuilding this year as well. It could be a long season for the loser of this year's "Battle of Ohio."

This game could have even more meaning for Cleveland. The Browns may dodge a huge bullet in Week 2 if future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning (neck) is unable to play. Most pegged it as an automatic loss for the Browns. But without Manning, the Colts are beatable.

But it all starts with the regular-season opener for Cleveland, which has been a huge hurdle. Can Shurmur, quarterback Colt McCoy and the rest of the Browns get over the Week 1 hump this year?

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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