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The Sunday Five: Top 10 Browns Stories From 2011

"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, we take a quick look back at the year 2011 and the top five ten stories of the year, in the order in which they occurred. These top ten stories can be viewed as "the top ten major storylines / things we'll remember" about this season, whether positive or negative.

Editor's note: This was intended to contain only five moments, but my list was way too long. I have instead adapted it to ten moments.

Bullet_mediumPat Shurmur is hired as head coach, and the Browns switch to the West Coast Offense and the 4-3 defense. The Shurmur hiring came as a surprise since he was virtually unknown, and his offense in St. Louis was not known for being very good. His "knowledge of the system" and his mentoring of Sam Bradford, along with family ties to the Holmgren coaching tree, helped lead to the hire.

Bullet_mediumPeyton Hillis makes the cover of Madden 2012. Fans voted on ESPN for Hillis to be the coverboy, as he beat out players such as Ray Rice, Aaron Rodgers, and finally Michael Vick. Cleveland fans were very pleased to have Hillis on the cover at first, but little would they know that the "curse" would play a role during the season.

Bullet_mediumBrowns pull off a first-round trade with the Falcons to gain an extra first-rounder in 2012. The Browns moved down in the first-round in the 2011 draft, taking Phil Taylor at No. 21 overall. The extra pick in 2012 sets them up with a golden opportunity to acquire the best quarterback in the draft, or take two high-impact players.

Bullet_mediumThe NFL Lockout ends, and the offseason is on the fast-track to the start of the regular season. It was a long couple of months as we wondered if the season would ever get started. Progress came slowly, but at the end of July, things were settled and we experienced a once-in-a-lifetime scenario where free agency took place after the draft, the new rookie salary cap was in place, and training camp and the preseason all took place in fast-forward mode.

Bullet_mediumThe Bengals' quick snap between Bruce Gradkowski and A.J. Green catches the Browns' defense napping; a sign of things to come the rest of the season. It was a baffling moment for fans who had high hopes for the Browns, and the Bengals were not projected to be a very good team.

Bullet_mediumMooncamping retires from Dawgs By Nature after being named the "boldest" member of the site. He later joined our Detroit Lions affiliate, but has seldom posted there. We have missed mooncamping's comedic relief since his departure.

Bullet_mediumPeyton Hillis misses the Dolphins game with the "flu", and the media controversy ensues for the next couple of months. The fact that Hillis was hoping for a new contract did not help matters, as people started to question whether he was really sick or really injured.

Bullet_mediumRyan Pontbriand is cut after a botched snap costs Cleveland a divisional game against the Bengals. This might not seem like a big one, but it was to me. The botched snap situation played a big role this season, and Pontbriand's release after many years with the team still came as a surprise.

Bullet_mediumBrian Schaefering and Scott Paxson send Ben Roethlisberger to the locker room with an ankle injury, disrupting the quarterback situation for Pittsburgh to close out the season. This was easily my favorite moment of the regular season, because the pain on Roethlisberger's face and the silence at Heinz Field was all so real.

Bullet_mediumJames Harrison delivers a sickening blow to the head on Colt McCoy. McCoy returns to the game despite having a concussion, leading to national headlines and league-wide changes in the way concussions are handled. Will the Browns get revenge on Harrison as the year 2012 commences?