Steven King

September Has Not Been A Month To Remember In Cleveland

Created on May. 20, 2013 6:00 AM EST

For a Cleveland Browns franchise that has had just two winning records in the 14 years of the expansion era (since 1999) and is in the midst of five consecutive losing seasons, every month has traditionally been a struggle in one way, shape or form.

Go ahead, just pick one. They all have flaws.

But specifically, the worst of the worst for the Browns has been September. And the best of the worst has been the following month, October. That trend is really apparent beginning in 2006 – the second of Romeo Crennel’s four seasons in charge.

Overall in that seven-year span, Cleveland is just 37-75 (.330). In September, it is only 5-19 (.208), butt that record improves dramatically to 12-14 (.462) in October. Generally speaking, the Browns have buried themselves early and then recovered, but they haven’t been able to sustain it.

Here’s a year-by-year look:
2006 – overall record of 4-12; 0-3 in September, 2-2 in October.
2007 – overall record of 10-6; 2-2 in September, 2-1 in October.
2008 – overall record of 4-12; 1-3 in September, 2-1 in October.
2009 – overall record of 5-11; 0-3 in September, 1-3 in October.
2010 – overall record of 5-11; 0-3 in September, 2-2 in October.
2011 – overall record of 4-12; 2-1 in September, 1-3 in October.
2012 – overall record of 5-11; 0-4 in September, 2-2 in October.

Even in 2007, when Cleveland recorded its most wins since 1994 and just barely missed making the playoffs, it sputtered somewhat in September. It wasn’t until October that the team got untracked. As one might expect with so many slow starts, the team has rarely ever started off on the right foot since it returned to the NFL.

The Browns head into the 15th season of their expansion era with a 1-13 record in season openers. Only in 2004 – when Jeff Garcia engineered a 20-3 decision over the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland – has Cleveland won its first game.

There’s no way to describe how bad that is or how much of a wet blanket that also throws on the enthusiasm of the players, coaches and fans. That’s especially true considering the fact that all but one of the defeats have been at home.

The following is a quick season-by-season look at that:
1999 – lost 43-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland.
2000 – lost 27-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland.
2001 – lost 9-6 to the Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland.
2002 – lost 40-39 to the Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland.
2003 – lost 9-6 to the Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland.
2005 – lost 27-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland.
2006 – lost 19-14 to the New Orleans Saints at Cleveland.
2007 – lost 34-7 to the Steelers at Cleveland.
2008 – lost 28-10 to the Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland.
2009 – lost 34-20 to the Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland
2010 – lost 17-14 to the Buccaneers at Tampa Bay.
2011 – lost 27-17 to the Bengals at Cleveland.
2012 – lost 17-16 to the Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland.

All teams want to get off to a fast start. It breeds confidence; that’s a given. But as evidenced by this nightmarish history in both the openers and September overall – and with the fact that they have a lot of young players and new players, a quarterback with a lot to prove in Brandon Weeden and also a new coaching staff and new management team – it’s even more important for the Browns to do it to compete in the AFC North. In reality, it’s probably the key to their season.

Can they do it, though?

We’ll begin to find out on Sept. 8 when Cleveland opens the season – again at home -- against the Miami Dolphins. Road games against the Ravens and the Vikings follow, in that order, before the Browns will finish the month by hosting the Bengals.

Sometime shortly after 4 p.m. on Sept. 29, we’ll know much more about the 2013 Browns and whether or not a good October has any chance to make or break their season.

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