The early part of the Browns' 2010 schedule is filled with intriguing storylines, starting with the first game of the season when they play the Buccaneers in Tampa.
It will be the first time since the franchise was restored in 1999 the Browns will open on the road. Most teams would rather open at home, but Cleveland Browns Stadium has not been home sweet home for the Browns. Incredibly, the Browns are 1-10 in season openers.
Being on the road isn't all that makes the opener interesting; the Browns will be facing Kellen Winslow Jr., whom they traded to the Bucs last year for a second-round choice in 2009 (Mohamed Massaquoi) and a fifth-round choice in 2010. That choice was part of the package, along with the 71st pick and another fifth-round choice, to move back into the second round so they could draft running back Montario Hardesty.
Last season the Buccaneers were 3-13, and that's another difference from the recent past. In 2009 the Browns were blitzed at the start of the season. They opened against the Vikings (10-6 in 2008), played at Denver (8-8) and hosted Baltimore (11-5 in 2008). Before that string of games was finished Brady Quinn was on the bench, the Browns were 0-3 and the season was beyond repair.
The second game is equally intriguing. Once again, the schedule maker gave the Browns what on paper should be a winnable game. The Browns host Kansas City in the home opener on Sept. 19. The Chiefs were 4-12 last year, one game off the Browns 5-11 finish.
There are subplots to the Chiefs' game, too. Scott Pioli, the Chiefs general manager, and Browns coach Eric Mangini were together with the Patriots from 2000-2005. Their friendship was fractured in 2007 when Mangini turned the Patriots in for what infamously became known as "Spygate."
Romeo Crennel, the Browns head coach from 2005-2008, is the Chiefs defensive coordinator. He took last year off after undergoing hip surgery.
If the Chiefs are hoping to get some insight from Crennel's knowledge of the Browns they are out of luck; the turnover since he was fired has been dramatic, starting with the quarterbacks. None of the four quarterbacks on the roster now -- Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brett Ratliff and Colt McCoy -- was on it in 2008.
The only significant players still on the offensive side of the ball from when Crennel was coaching are left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Eric Steinbach, running back Jerome Harrison and wide receiver Josh Cribbs. Harrison and Cribbs were used more in 2009 under Eric Mangini than they ever were used under Crennel.
The third game of the season is at Baltimore. That means the Browns will be facing Donte Stallworth, the receiver who was suspended for 2009 for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. Stallworth played for the Browns in 2008 and caught 17 passes. They cut him the day after he was reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.