When general manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel came to the Browns early in 2005, they made it clear that the rebuilding of the team could not be done overnight.
There were so many issues that it would take some time to address all of them.
But those words of caution were quickly forgotten by everyone after the Browns, in that first season of 2005, captured two of their last three games to finish 6-10, two victories better than their mark in 2004. And they were competitive in all but one contest.
Then came 2006, and the words of Savage and Crennel rang true. This wasn't going to be easy.
The Browns lost the two triumphs they had gained and fell back to their 2004 record of 4-12. And whereas in 2005, they ended on a high note, the '06 club struggled down the stretch, losing its last four games and six of its last seven.
And in those last four games, the offense disappeared. The Browns scored in single digits three times, and had just 17 points in the other game.
There was also a letdown defensively overall. The Browns gave up 356 points, or 55 more than in 2005. They surrendered 27 or more points in four consecutive games late in the year.
Quarterback Charlie Frye, from Willard (Ohio) High School and the University of Akron, had played well down the stretch in 2005 and was given the job in '06 after the Browns dealt Trent Dilfer to the San Francisco 49ers.
Without Dilfer to mentor him, Frye, a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, had to learn on the job. It was a difficult challenge for him and the offense.
The Browns lost their first three games en route to starting 1-5. They played competitive football -- in only one game, a 34-17 loss at Cincinnati in Week 2, were they blown out, and they lost one- and five-point decisions. But they had trouble scoring, putting up 17 points or less in five of the games, and 14 or less in four contests.
The Browns then put together their best four-game stretch of the season -- against some difficult competition. They went 2-2 and could have easily gone 4-0.
It started with a 20-13 triumph over a New York Jets team that entered the game with a 4-3 record on the way to a 10-6 finish and a spot in the playoffs. The Browns dominated, leading 20-3 at one point. Reuben Droughns led the way with 125 yards rushing.
The next week on the road against the San Diego Chargers, who would finish with an NFL-best 14-2 record, the Browns played possibly their best game of the year. They lost 32-25 after leading 12-10 at halftime. Phil Dawson kicked a team-record six field goals.
The Atlanta Falcons were 5-3 when they hosted the Browns the next week. Cleveland led 10-3 at halftime and held on for a 17-13 triumph, limiting Atlanta quarterbacks to 16-of-40 passing for 197 yards and two interceptions.
The Browns were feeling confident when they were ahead of Pittsburgh 20-10 after Joshua Cribbs' 92-yard kickoff return for a TD with 9:21 remaining, but the Steelers rallied for a 24-20 victory by scoring twice in the last 4:14. The Browns intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times.
A win might have gotten the Browns jump-started, but the devastating loss took its toll emotionally on the club. The next week, they fell 30-0 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
At home for a third straight game, against the Kansas City Chiefs, who were headed to the playoffs, Frye got off to one of the best starts of his career, completing 11-of-13 passes for 122 yards, a TD and a quarterback rating of 131.4 by halftime. But he left the game with a wrist injury, and Derek Anderson took over and led the Browns to a 31-28 overtime win on Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal.
Down 28-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Browns tied the score at 28-28 as Anderson threw a pair of TD passes to tight end Steve Heiden.
Anderson finished 12-of-21 for 171 yards and the two scores along with an interception.
Anderson passed for 276 yards and a TD four nights later in Pittsburgh in a nationally-televised game, but the Browns fell behind 27-0 and lost 27-7. They rushed for just 18 yards while allowing 303.
At Baltimore 10 days later, the Browns fell behind 17-3 in the first half, rallied to tie the score 17-17 halfway through the third quarter on two Anderson scoring passes and then lost 27-17.
Despite Droughns' 92 yards rushing, the Browns did not score an offensive TD the following week in losing 22-7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Frye returned to make a surprise start in the season finale at Houston on New Year's Eve, but it didn't help. They led 3-0 at halftime and lost 14-6.
Tight end Kellen Winslow, playing a full season for the first time in his three NFL years, caught 11 passes in the game and finished with 89, tying the team record set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome more than two decades before. The Browns had waited a long time to see what he could do after he missed all but two games of his first two seasons because of injuries, and they weren't disappointed.
On the other hand, Droughns rushed for just 758 yards, far off the total of 1,232 he had had the previous year.
But, as had been the case for much of the expansion era to that point, the Browns went into the offseason having to once again sort out their quarterback situation. Crennel liked what he saw of Anderson down the stretch and announced that he would compete with Frye for the job in training camp.
|9/10||L 14-19||New Orleans Saints||72,915|
|9/17||L 17-34||at Cincinnati Bengals||66,072|
|9/24||L 14-15||Baltimore Ravens||72,474|
|10/1||W 24-21||at Oakland Raiders||61,426|
|10/8||L 12-20||at Carolina Panthers||73,520|
|10/22||L 7-17||Denver Broncos||73,024|
|10/29||W 20-13||New York Jets||72,507|
|11/5||L 25-32||at San Diego Chargers||65,558|
|11/12||W 17-13||at Atlanta Falcons||70,793|
|11/19||L 20-24||Pittsburgh Steelers||73,296|
|11/26||L 0-30||Cincinnati Bengals||72,926|
|12/3||W 31-28 (OT)||Kansas City Chiefs||71,927|
|12/7||L 7-27||at Pittsburgh Steelers||55,246|
|12/17||L 17-27||at Baltimore Ravens||70,857|
|12/24||L 7-22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||69,603|
|12/31||L 6-14||at Houston Texans||70,097|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||250||303|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||70/209||100/228|
|3rd Down Pct.||33.5||43.9|
|4th Down: Made/Att||6/15||4/10|
|4th Down Pct.||40.0||40.0|
|Total Net Yards||4233||5517|
|Avg. Per Game||264.6||344.8|
|Avg. Per Play||4.5||5.3|
|Net Yards Rushing||1335||2275|
|Avg. Per Game||83.4||142.2|
|Net Yards Passing||2898||3242|
|Avg. Per Game||181.1||202.6|
|Net Punting Avg.||37.9||36.9|