Similarities to 2007 have to end after Week 1

Jun 13, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson watches as quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson watches as quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the home opener for the first time since 2007. Hopefully, the similarities between this Browns team and that one end there.

The Cleveland Browns will face a familiar foe in the Pittsburgh Steelers when the open the 2017 NFL season on Sept. 10 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

It will mark the first time in 10 years that the Browns will host the Steelers in the home opener, and there are a few parallels between that season and the one coming up this fall.

No one expected much from the Browns 10 years ago as they were coming off a 4-12 season. Cleveland entered the season with a quarterback that some fans erroneously believed was the answer (Charlie Frye), Derek Anderson and a rookie from Notre Dame (Brady Quinn, fresh off the most bizarre contract holdout in recent memory).

Frye won the starting job, but that only lasted until midway through the second quarter of what would turn into a 34-7 loss to the Steelers. Head coach Romeo Crennel pulled the plug on Frye after watching him complete just four of 10 passes for 34 yards and taking five sacks – two of which came on the final two snaps of Frye’s Browns career.

While Anderson was not able to pull out a win that day, he did go on to have one of the most unexpected seasons in league history, passing for 3,787 yards (fifth best in franchise history), 29 touchdowns (tied for second most in franchise history) and 19 interceptions (good enough for No. 10 on the team’s single-season list).

Quinn would start just one game that season, the season-finale against the San Francisco 49ers, but was replaced by Anderson after throwing just eight passes.

The Browns would finish the season at 10-6, still the last winning record by the team, and just miss the playoffs. Many still blame Anderson’s poor performance in a Week 16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, in which he threw four interceptions, as the reason the Browns missed the playoffs, but road losses to the Oakland Raiders, who finished 4-12 that season, and the Arizona Cardinals were just as damaging.

The Browns traded Frye to the Seattle Seahawks two days after the loss, where he would spend one year. He then played a season with the Raiders and was out of the NFL at age 28.

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Quinn never lived up to his first-round hype, making just 12 starts with the Browns over the next two years. After being out of the league for the 2010 and 2011 season, he spend a lone year with the Kansas City Chiefs, making eight starts, before also being out of the league at age 28.

Anderson, while never able to repeat the magic of the first half of the 2007 season, has been able to carve out an 11-year career, mostly as a backup quarterback, his current role with the Carolina Panthers.

The 2007 season was a mirage for the Browns, who still have not recovered and finally bottomed out in 2016 with a 1-15 record in the first year of a strategic rebuild.

Like that 2007 team, this year’s Browns enter the season with a quarterback situation featuring a presumptive starter with a large fan bandwagon in Cody Kessler, a quarterback hoping to relaunch his career in Brock Osweiler, and a rookie selection from Notre Dame in DeShone Kizer.

The Browns will also be looking across the field at the Steelers on opening day.

But the similarities between the two teams has to end there.

The 2007 team got a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Anderson, along with contributions from aging veterans (Jamal Lewis rushing for more than 1,300 yards comes to mind), and had the ball bounce their way on numerous occasions – most notably in overtime wins against the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens.

The signs were there during the season, even if as Browns fans we all wanted to ignore them, that the team’s success was a one-year wonder and not sustainable.

There is no way that this year’s team will win 10 games, but with a roster that is one of the youngest in the league, they are also being built for sustained success. Rather than hope they can reach double-digit wins if everything goes their way, this team is being constructed to compete for a playoff spot on an annual basis.

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Things may look familiar when the Browns and Steelers square off on Sept. 10 in the season’s first game.

But for everyone’s sake, those similarities need to end once the final whistle blows that afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.