Play in FirstEnergy Stadium
Headquartered in the Cleveland Browns
Training and Administrative Complex
All-America Football Conference (1946–49)
 Brown, Orange
|General manager||Ray Farmer|
|Head coach||Mike Pettine|
Conference championships (11)
Division championships (13)
|Playoff appearances (28)|
The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football franchise based in Cleveland, Ohio. They are currently members of the North Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football League (NFL). Their current home venue is FirstEnergy Stadium (called Cleveland Browns Stadium from its opening in 1999 to 2012). Their administrative offices and training facilities are located in Berea, Ohio. The Browns' official colors are burnt orange, seal brown, and white. They are unique among the 32 member franchises of the National Football League in that they do not have a helmet logo.
The Cleveland Browns were founded in 1945 by businessman Arthur B. “Mickey” McBride as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), which began play the following year. The Cleveland Browns went on to dominate the AAFC, compiling a 47–4–3 record in the league's four active seasons and winning its championship in each of them. Following the 1949 season, the AAFC folded, and the Browns were one of three franchises which joined the National Football League (the others were the San Francisco 49ers and the original Baltimore Colts). The Browns won a championship in their inaugural NFL season, as well as in the 1954, 1955, and 1964 seasons. From 1965 to 1995, they made the playoffs 14 times, but to date, have never won another championship and have never appeared in a Super Bowl.
On November 6, 1995, Art Modell, who had purchased the Browns in 1961, announced he was relocating the franchise to Baltimore, Maryland following the season. But the rights to the Browns' intellectual property were kept in trust for a future expansion team which would assume them. The Browns' operations were suspended for three seasons.
Since resuming operations in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had very limited success: a 77–163 record through the 2013 season. They have had two winning seasons: a 9–7 record in 2002 and a 10–6 record in 2007, and qualified for the playoffs in the former as a wild card team.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Founding and success in the AAFC (1944–49)
- 1.2 Success and challenges in the NFL (1950–56)
- 1.3 The Jim Brown era and new ownership (1957–65)
- 1.4 Continued success under Blanton Collier (1965–70)
- 1.5 The "Kardiac Kids" (1971–84)
- 1.6 Bernie Kosar and the Broncos rivalry (1985–90)
- 1.7 Bill Belichick and Modell's move (1991–95)
- 1.8 Inactivity (1996–99)
- 1.9 Lerner family ownership (1999–2012)
- 1.10 Haslam ownership (2012–present)
- 2 Logos and uniforms
- 3 Rivalries
- 4 Fan Base
- 5 Players
- 6 Coaches of note
- 7 Radio and TV
- 8 Pop culture
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Founding and success in the AAFC (1944–49)
The Browns origins date to 1944, when taxi-cab magnate David DeOcampo] secured the rights to a Cleveland franchise in the newly formed All-America Football Conference. The AAFC was to compete with the dominant National Football League once it began operations at the end of World War II, which had forced many professional teams to curtail activity, merge or go on hiatus as their players served in the U.S. military.
Early in 1945, McBride named 36-year-old Ohio State Buckeyes coach Paul Brown as the team's head coach and general manager and gave him a share in its profits. The move surprised and upset Buckeye fans, who had hoped he would resume his successful run at the school after the war. Brown, who had built an impressive record as coach of a Massillon, Ohio, high school team and brought the Buckeyes their first national championship, at the time was serving in the U.S. Navy and coached the football team at Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago.
The name of the team was at first left up to Paul Brown, who rejected calls for it to be christened the Browns. The franchise then held a naming contest to publicize the team, promising a $1,000 war bond to the winner. In June 1945, a committee selected "Panthers" as the new team's name. McBride, however, changed it to the Browns two months later, the result of another naming contest that suggested Browns, not after Paul Brown himself, but as a shortened version of Brown Bombers, a reference to the nickname of boxer Joe Louis. Some sources say McBride was asked for thousands of dollars in compensation from a businessman who owned the rights to the name Cleveland Panthers, an earlier failed football team.
As the war began to wind down with Germany's surrender in May 1945, the team parlayed Brown's ties to college football and the military to build its roster. Negotiations with players were handled by John Brickels, the team's acting manager, as Brown was still in the Navy. The first signings were Otto Graham, a former star quarterback at Northwestern University, and Herb Coleman, a center at Notre Dame, both of whom were then in the military. The Browns later signed kicker and offensive tackle Lou Groza and wide receivers Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie. Fullback Marion Motley and nose tackle Bill Willis, two of the earliest African-Americans to play professional football, also joined the team in 1946.
The Browns' first regular-season game took place September 6, 1946 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium against the Miami Seahawks before a record crowd of 60,135. That contest, which the Browns won 44–0, kicked off an era of dominance. With Brown at the helm, the team won all four of the AAFC's championships from 1946 until the conference's dissolution in 1949, amassing a record of 52 wins, four losses and three ties. This included the 1948 season, in which the Browns became the first unbeaten and untied team in professional football history, 24 years before the NFL's 1972 Miami Dolphins duplicated the feat. Cleveland's total undefeated streak stretched to 18 wins and included the 1947 and 1948 AAFC championship games.
The Browns had few worthy rivals among the AAFC's eight teams, but the New York Yankees and San Francisco 49ers were their closest competition. Cleveland met the Yankees in the 1946 and 1947 championships and faced the 49ers for the title in 1949, winning all of those games. One of the highlights of the AAFC years was a contest between the 49ers and Browns in 1948. Both teams came into the game undefeated, with the Browns 9–0 and the 49ers 10–0. Behind a stiff defense and helped by San Francisco turnovers, the Browns won the "clash of the unbeaten" by a score of 14 to 7 before a crowd of 82,769, a professional football attendance record at the time.
While the Browns excelled on defense, Cleveland's winning ways were driven by an offense that employed Brown's version of the T formation, which emphasized speed, timing and execution over set plays. Brown liked his players "lean and hungry," and championed quickness over bulk. Graham became a star under Brown's system, leading all passers in each of the AAFC's seasons and racking up 10,085 passing yards. Motley, who Brown in 1948 called "the greatest fullback that ever lived," was the AAFC's all-time leading rusher. Lavelli was the league's top receiver in 1946, while Speedie won those honors in 1947 and 1949. Brown and six players from the Browns' AAFC years were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Graham, Motley, Groza, Lavelli, Willis and center Frank Gatski.
The Cleveland area showered support on the Browns from the outset. Brown's celebrity was cresting in the late 1940s, thanks to his success with teams at the high school, college and now professional levels. Meanwhile, the Browns unexpectedly had Cleveland to themselves; the NFL's Cleveland Rams, who had continually lost money despite winning the 1945 NFL championship, moved to Los Angeles after that season. The Browns' on-field feats only amplified their popularity, and the team saw a record-setting average attendance of 57,000 per game in its first season.
The Browns, however, became victims of their own success. Their dominance exposed a lack of balance among AAFC teams, which the league tried to correct by sending Browns players including quarterback Y.A. Tittle to the Baltimore Colts in 1948. Attendance at Browns games fell in later years as fans lost interest in lopsided victories. Despite an undefeated season in 1948, only 23,891 people showed up to see the Browns beat the Buffalo Bills in the championship game. These factors – combined with a war for players between the two leagues that raised salaries and ate into owners' profits – ultimately led to the dissolution of the AAFC and the merger of three of its teams, including the Browns, into the NFL in 1949. The NFL has so far refused to acknowledge AAFC statistics and records because the Browns' achievements – including their perfect season – did not take place in the NFL or against NFL teams, and not even in a league fully absorbed by the NFL.
Success and challenges in the NFL (1950–56)
The AAFC proposed match-ups with NFL teams numerous times during its four-year existence, but no inter-league game ever materialized. That made the Browns' entry into the NFL in the 1950 season the first test of whether their early supremacy could carry over into a more established league. Some people suggested Cleveland was at best the dominant team in a minor league, while others were confident of its prospects in the NFL. The proof of Cleveland's mettle came quickly: its NFL regular-season opener was against the two-time defending champion Eagles on September 16 in Philadelphia. The Browns quashed any doubts about their prowess in that game, amassing 487 yards of offense—including 246 passing yards from Graham and his receivers—en route to a 35–10 win before a crowd of 71,237.
Behind a potent offense that featured Graham, Groza, Motley, Lavelli and running back Dub Jones, the Browns finished the 1950 regular season with a 10–2 record, tied for first place in their conference. Cleveland then won a playoff game 8–3 against the New York Giants on December 17 behind a pair of Groza field goals, turning the tables on a team that handed the Browns both of their regular-season losses. That set up the NFL championship match a week later in Cleveland, between the Browns and the Rams, the NFL team that had moved from Cleveland just five years earlier. The Browns won the Championship game, 30–28, on a last-minute Groza field goal. Fans stormed the field after the victory, carting off the goalposts, ripping off one player's jersey and setting a bonfire in the bleachers. "There never was a game like this one," Brown said.
After five straight championship wins in the AAFC and NFL, the Browns appeared poised to bring another trophy home in 1951. The team finished the regular season with 11 wins and a single loss in the first game of the season. Cleveland faced the Rams on December 23 in a rematch of the previous year's title game. The score was deadlocked 17–17 in the final period, but a 73-yard touchdown pass by Rams quarterback Norm van Brocklin to wide receiver Tom Fears broke the tie and gave Los Angeles the lead for good. The 24–17 loss was the Browns' first in a championship game.
The 1952 and 1953 seasons followed a similar pattern, with Cleveland reaching the championship game but losing both times to the Detroit Lions. The Browns finished 8–4 in 1952, but lost that year's championship game 17–7 after a muffed punt, several Lions defensive stands and a 67-yard touchdown run by Doak Walker scuttled their chances. The team finished 11–1 in 1953, and narrowly lost the championship game to the Lions by a score of 17–16 on a 33-yard Bobby Layne touchdown pass to Jim Doran with just over two minutes left.
While the championship losses sowed bitterness among Cleveland fans who had grown accustomed to winning, the team continued to make progress. Len Ford, who the Browns picked up from the defunct AAFC Los Angeles Dons team, emerged as a force on the defensive line, making the Pro Bowl each year between 1951 and 1953. Second-year wideout Ray Renfro became a star in 1953 with 722 yards receiving and 352 yards rushing, also reaching the Pro Bowl.
Meanwhile, in a November 15, 1953 game against the 49ers, Otto Graham took an elbow from linebacker Art Michalik that put a gash on his face requiring 15 stitches. Graham's helmet was fitted with a clear plastic mask and he was sent back on the field. While the use of face masks was not unheard-of – Y.A. Tittle was using one that season as he nursed a fractured cheekbone – the injury contributed to their development. Brown is often credited with inventing and patenting the single-bar face mask. Riddell, a sports equipment manufacturer, claims the "bar tubular" mask was invented by G.E. Morgan for Graham in 1955, although by the end of that year many players were already wearing some form of face protection.
During the summer before the 1953 season, the Browns' original owners sold the team for a then-unheard-of $600,000. The old stockholders were Arthur B. "Mickey" McBride and his son Edward, along with minority owners including McBride business associate Dan Sherby, Brown and four others. The buyers were a group of prominent Cleveland businessmen: Homer Marshman, an attorney, Dave R. Jones, a businessman and former Cleveland Indians director, Ellis Ryan, a former Indians president, Saul Silberman, owner of the Randall Park race track, and Ralph DeChairo, an associate of Silberman. McBride said he made the deal simply because he'd "had his fling" with football and wanted to move on to other activities. McBride's tenure as owner was viewed favorably, partly because of the Browns' on-field success but also because he gave Brown a free hand to sign players and coach. One of the new ownership group's first acts was to assure Cleveland fans they would give Brown the same kind of leeway.
The Browns came into 1954 as one of the most powerful teams in the NFL, having reached the championship in each of their first four years in the league. But the future was far from certain. Graham, whose leadership and throwing skills had been instrumental in the Browns' championship runs, said he planned to retire after the season. Motley, the team's best rusher and blocker in its early years, retired at the beginning of the season with a bad knee. Star defensive lineman Bill Willis also retired before the season. Still, Cleveland finished the regular season 9–3 as Graham and Lavelli excelled on offense and linemen Len Ford and Don Colo held up the defense. The Browns met Detroit on December 26 in the championship game for a third consecutive time. And this time the Browns dominated on both sides of the ball, intercepting Bobby Layne six times and forcing three fumbles while Graham threw three touchdowns and ran for three more. The Browns, who lost the last game of the regular season to the Lions only a week before, won their second NFL crown 56–10. "I saw it, but still hardly can believe it," Lions coach Buddy Parker said after the game. "It has me dazed."
The Browns kept rolling in 1955 after Brown convinced Graham to come back and play, arguing that the team lacked a solid alternative. Chuck Noll had a productive season at linebacker with five interceptions, Graham passed for 15 touchdowns and ran for six more, and the team finished the regular season 9–2–1. The Browns went on to win their third championship game in six NFL seasons, beating the Los Angeles Rams 38–14. It was Graham's last game; the win capped a 10-year run in which he led his team to the league championship every year, winning four in the AAFC and three in the NFL.
The end of the Graham era, however, was also the end of the Browns' dominant streak. The team floundered in 1956 as it struggled to find a permanent replacement for Graham. The season began with long-time backup George Ratterman at quarterback, but Babe Parilli took his place when the starter was injured. After Parilli was hurt, relative unknown Tommy O'Connell took up the position for the remainder of the season. None of them threw more touchdowns than interceptions, and Cleveland's 5–7 finish was its first losing season ever. Dante Lavelli and Frank Gatski retired at the end of the season, leaving Groza as the only original Cleveland player still on the team.
While the Browns' on-field play in 1956 was uninspiring, off-the-field drama developed after a Cleveland-based inventor named George Sarles let Brown test a helmet with a radio transmitter inside. After trying it out in training camp, Brown used the helmet to call in plays during a September 15 pre-season game against the Lions with Ratterman behind center. The device allowed the coach to direct his quarterback on the fly, giving him an advantage over franchises who had to use messenger players to relay instructions. The Browns used the device off and on into the regular season, and other teams began to experiment with their own radio helmets. The NFL's commissioner at the time, Bert Bell, banned the device in October 1956. Today, however, all NFL teams use in-helmet radios to communicate with players.
The Jim Brown era and new ownership (1957–65)
With Otto Graham and most of the other original Browns in retirement, by 1957 the team was struggling to replenish its ranks. Cleveland was coming off a series of bad drafts, including in 1954, when the team selected quarterback Bobby Garrett with the first pick. Garrett, Graham's presumed successor, did not play a single game for Cleveland, who traded him to Green Bay, brought him back three years later, then released him for good after he could not overcome a stutter that made calling plays in the huddle difficult.
In 1957's draft, however, Cleveland took fullback Jim Brown out of Syracuse University in the first round. In his first season, Brown was the NFL's leading rusher with 942 yards in a 12-game regular season and was voted rookie of the year in a United Press poll. Led by Brown's running and quarterback Tommy O'Connell's passing, Cleveland finished 9–2–1 and again advanced to the championship game against Detroit. But the Lions dominated the game, forcing six turnovers and allowing only 112 yards passing in a 59–14 rout, Detroit's last league championship to date.
Before the 1958 season, Cleveland was again in search of a quarterback. O'Connell had played well in the previous two seasons – he led the league in passing in 1957 – but lacked the stature and durability Paul Brown wanted in a starter. He stood at just 5 feet, 10 inches tall and was hurt numerous times, including a sprained ankle and a broken bone in his leg that kept him out of the last two games of the 1957 regular season. Due in part to these injuries, O'Connell retired early in 1958 to take a coaching job in Illinois, and Milt Plum was named the starter. Cleveland, however, was relying increasingly on the running game, in contrast to its pass-happy early years under Graham. As the team built up a 9–3 regular-season record, Brown in 1958 ran for 1,527 yards – almost twice as much as any other back and a league record at the time.
Entering the final game of the 1958 season, Cleveland needed to either win or tie against the New York Giants to clinch the Eastern Conference title and the right to host the championship game. On the game's first play from scrimmage, Brown raced 65 yards for a touchdown, giving Cleveland a 7–0 lead. Entering the fourth quarter, the Browns held a 10–3 advantage, but the Giants tied it then won it with two minutes left on a 49-yard field goal by Pat Summerall under snowy conditions. That set up a playoff between the Browns and Giants the following week. In that game, Brown was held to eight yards and the team committed four turnovers in a 10–0 loss. The Giants went on to play the Baltimore Colts in the championship, a game often cited as the seed of professional football's popularity surge in the U.S.
Cleveland's campaigns in 1959 and 1960 were noteworthy for Brown's league-leading rushing totals in both seasons. Plum became established as the starting quarterback, bringing a measure of stability to the squad not seen since Graham's retirement. The Penn State product led the team to a 7–5 record in 1959, and one year later, he turned in one of the greatest statistical seasons at his position in NFL history. Nonetheless, in 1960, the Browns dropped three games by a total of 10 points, finished with an 8–3–1 record and out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
|National Insurance Co.||30%|
Art Modell, a 35-year-old advertising executive from Brooklyn, purchased the team in 1961 from a group of shareholders led by National Insurance Company. The beginnings of a power struggle between Paul Brown and Art Modell took its toll. Journalist D.L. Stewart recounted in Jeff Miller's book on the AFL, Going Long, "As you well can imagine, Jimmy Brown and Paul were not thick. The buzz was that Jimmy had Modell working for him, and Paul took exception to that." The season otherwise was typical: a fifth consecutive league-leading season from Jim Brown and a half-decent performance in the standings, but again, at 8–5–1, they were two games out of a berth in the championship.
After a 7–6–1 record in 1962, Modell fired Paul Brown on January 9, 1963, and replaced him one week later with longtime assistant Blanton Collier. Many of the Browns' younger players, such as Jim Brown and quarterback Frank Ryan, had chafed under Brown's autocratic coaching style; in contrast, Collier ran the club with a much looser grip. He installed a much more open offense and allowed Ryan to call his own plays. In Collier's first season, the Browns won their first six games, but a damaging midseason slump ended up costing them the Eastern Division title as they finished one game back with a 10–4 mark. On an individual level, Jim Brown won Most Valuable Player accolades with a record 1,863 yards rushing.
Continued success under Blanton Collier (1965–70)
In 1964, the Browns went 10–3–1 and reached their first title game in seven years. They throttled the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 27–0, with receiver Gary Collins catching three touchdown passes to earn the MVP award. Currently, this is the most recent major league sports championship for the city of Cleveland. The following year, the Browns again reached the title game, but came up short against the Green Bay Packers.
That 1965 title game would mark the final game in a Browns uniform for Jim Brown. During the start of the subsequent training camp, Brown was still in England filming scenes for The Dirty Dozen due to production delays. On July 14, Brown announced his retirement from football to concentrate on his fledgling acting career. The Browns were able to blunt the effect of Brown's departure with the emergence of third-year running back Leroy Kelly, who would rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of the next three seasons, leading the league during the latter two years.
After missing out on the postseason in 1966, the Browns rebounded with a 9–5 season the following year. However, they were quickly eliminated by the Dallas Cowboys, 52–14 in the first round of the playoffs. In each of the next two seasons, the Browns took revenge on the Cowboys in the playoffs, winning by scores of 30–21 and 38–14, respectively. However, both victories were in turn followed by stinging defeats, preventing them from reaching the Super Bowl.
In May 1969, the Browns, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts, agreed to move in 1970 to the post-merger American Football Conference. Inconsistent performances throughout the 1970 campaign proved to be fatal to postseason hopes as the team finished one game behind Paul Brown's upstart Cincinnati Bengals with a 7–7 record. Late in the 1970 season, Collier officially announced his retirement due to increased hearing problems, and was replaced by the team's offensive coordinator Nick Skorich.
The "Kardiac Kids" (1971–84)
Skorich led the Browns to a division title in 1971 and a wild-card berth in 1972. In the latter year, the Browns battled the undefeated Miami Dolphins before losing 20–14, as the Dolphins went on to capture their first Super Bowl title with a spotless 17–0 mark. In 1973, the Browns were handicapped by a struggling offense, but remained in contention until the closing weeks of the season, finishing with a 7–5–2 record.
However, the team's era of success came to a crashing halt as it dropped to 4–10 in 1974. Neither quarterback Mike Phipps nor rookie Brian Sipe was effective behind center; they threw 24 combined interceptions to only 10 touchdowns. The Browns allowed 344 points, most in the league. It was only the second losing season in franchise history, and it cost Skorich his job.
Assistant coach Forrest Gregg took over in 1975, but the Browns stumbled out of the gate with an 0–9 start that finally came to an end on November 23 in a 35–23 comeback victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Three weeks later, third-year running back Greg Pruitt paced the team with 214 yards rushing in a rout over the Kansas City Chiefs, helping the team finish the season 3–11.
Cleveland showed marked improvement with a 9–5 record in 1976 as Brian Sipe firmly took control at quarterback. Sipe had been inserted into the lineup after a Phipps injury in the season-opening win against the New York Jets on September 12. After a 1–3 start brought visions of another disastrous year, the Browns jolted the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Steelers with an 18–16 victory on October 10. Third-string quarterback Dave Mays helped lead the team to that victory, while defensive end Joe "Turkey" Jones's pile-driving sack of Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw fueled the heated rivalry between the two teams. That win was the first of eight in the next nine weeks, helping put the Browns in contention for the AFC playoffs. The Browns rattled off wins over the Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, before a 21–6 loss to their cross-state rivals, the Paul Brown-owned Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns rebounded and picked up wins over the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and a second victory over Houston, giving the Browns a series sweep for the season. A 39–14 blow out loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season finale cost them a share of the division title, but running back Pruitt continued his outstanding play by rushing for exactly 1,000 yards, his second-straight four-digit season. Brian Sipe finished the season completing 178 passes in 312 attempts, for 2,113 yards. He also had 17 touchdown passes versus 14 interceptions.
The Browns continued to roll in the first half of the 1977 season, but an injury to Sipe by Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert on November 13 proved to be disastrous. Cleveland won only one of their last five games to finish at 6–8, a collapse that led to Forrest Gregg's dismissal before the final game of the season. Dick Modzelewski served as interim coach in the team's 20–19 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
On December 27, 1977, Sam Rutigliano was named head coach, and he aided a healthy Sipe in throwing 21 touchdowns and garnering 2,900 yards during the 1978 NFL season. Greg Pruitt and Mike Pruitt (no relation) led a rushing attack that gained almost 2,500 yards, but problems with the team's dismal pass defense resulted in the Browns finishing 8–8 on the year.
The 1979 campaign started with four consecutive wins, three of which were in the final minute or overtime. Four more games were won by less than a touchdown. This penchant for playing close games would later earn them the nickname "Kardiac Kids". Sipe threw 28 touchdown passes, tying him with Steve Grogan of New England for most in the league, but his 26 interceptions were the worst in the league. Mike Pruitt had a Pro Bowl season with his 1,294 rushing yards, while the defense was still shaky, ranking near the bottom in rushing defense. The team finished 9–7, behind division rivals Houston and Pittsburgh in a tough AFC Central.
The 1980 season is still fondly remembered by Browns fans. After going 3–3 in the first six games, the Browns won three straight games with fourth-quarter comebacks, and stopped a late comeback by the Baltimore Colts to win a fourth. The Browns won two more games in that fashion by the end of the season, and even lost a game to the Minnesota Vikings on the last play when a Hail Mary pass was tipped into the waiting hands of Ahmad Rashad. Sipe passed for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions (enough for him to be named the NFL MVP), behind an offensive line that sent three members to the Pro Bowl: Doug Dieken, Tom DeLeone and Joe DeLamielleure. The "Kardiac Kids" name stuck. A fourth-quarter field goal by Don Cockroft in the final game against the Bengals helped the Browns capture the division with an 11–5 mark, with the Oakland Raiders their opponent in the team's first playoff game in eight years. However, a heartbreaking end to this dramatic season came in the closing seconds when Rutigliano called what became known as "Red Right 88" and had Sipe pass toward the end zone, only to watch Oakland's Mike Davis intercept the ball. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl, and "Red Right 88" has numbered among the list of Cleveland sports curses ever since.
If 1980 was a dream season, then 1981 was a nightmare. Sipe threw only 17 touchdowns while being picked off 25 times. The Browns went 5–11, and few of their games were particularly close. Tight end Ozzie Newsome, their only Pro Bowler, had 1,004 yards receiving for six touchdowns.
In 1982 Sipe split quarterbacking duties with Paul McDonald, and both put up similar numbers. The Browns had little success rushing or defending against it, finishing in the bottom five teams in both yardage categories. Despite going 4–5, Cleveland was able to make the playoffs due to an expanded playoff system in the strike-shortened year. They were matched up again with the Raiders in the playoffs, but were easily defeated 27–10.
Sipe and the Browns got some of their spark back in 1983. Sipe had 26 touchdown passes and 3,566 yards, while Mike Pruitt ran for 10 scores on 1,184 yards. Cleveland even won two games in overtime and another in the fourth quarter. A fourth-quarter loss to the Oilers in their second-to-last game dashed their playoff hopes. At 9–7 the Browns finished one game behind the Steelers, and lost out on a wild-card spot due to a tiebreaker.
1984 was a rebuilding year. Brian Sipe defected to the upstart United States Football League after the 1983 season, and Paul McDonald was named the starting quarterback. Mike Pruitt missed much of the season and later ended up with the Buffalo Bills. Coach Sam Rutigliano lost his job after a 1–7 start as Marty Schottenheimer took over. The Browns coasted to a 5–11 record.
Bernie Kosar and the Broncos rivalry (1985–90)
In 1985, the Browns selected University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar in the Supplemental Draft. As a rookie, Kosar learned through trial by fire as he took over for Gary Danielson midway through the 1985 season. Progressing a bit more each Sunday, the young quarterback helped turn the struggling season around, as the Browns won four of the ten games Kosar started. Two young rushers, Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack, played a large part in the team's success as well; each ran for 1,000+ yards. The Browns' 8–8 record gave the team the top spot in a weak AFC Central, and they looked poised to shock the heavily favored Miami Dolphins in the Divisional Playoff game with a 21–3 lead at halftime. It took Dan Marino's spirited second-half comeback to win the game for Miami 24–21. While the Browns faithful may have felt the initial sting of disappointment, there was tremendous upside in the loss: Schottenheimer's team, with Kosar at quarterback, reached the playoffs each of the next five seasons, advancing to the AFC Championship Game in three of those years.
The Browns broke into the ranks of the NFL's elite—particularly on defense—with a 12–4 showing in 1986. Behind Kosar's 3,854 yards passing and one of the league's stingiest defenses featuring five Pro Bowlers (Chip Banks, Hanford Dixon, Bob Golic, Clay Matthews and Frank Minnifield), the Browns dominated the AFC Central with the best record in the AFC and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the Divisional Playoffs, the Browns needed some serious heroics (and a bit of luck) to overcome the New York Jets. The Jets were leading 20–10 with less than four minutes to play, with the Browns in a dire 3rd and 24 situation. As fate would have it, Mark Gastineau was called for roughing the passer, which gave Cleveland a first down. The drive ended with Kevin Mack running into the end zone for a touchdown. After going three-and-out the Jets went back on defense, but allowed the rejuvenated Browns to again drive the ball deep into their end of the field. With 11 seconds remaining in regulation, Mark Moseley kicked a field goal to tie the game. In the first of two ensuing overtime periods, Moseley missed his next attempt, but later redeemed himself by ending what had become the second longest game in NFL history, a 23–20 victory for the Browns.
The 1986 AFC Championship Game saw the Denver Broncos arrive in the windswept, hostile confines of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. No one knew at the time, but the Broncos would become Cleveland's nemesis of the Kosar era, having only lost once to the Browns in a span that still continues to this day. As with the Divisional Playoffs of the previous week, the AFC title game would also prove to be an overtime heart-stopper. But this time, it was John Elway and the Broncos who came away the victors. Pinned in on the Denver two-yard line with 5:11 left to play and the wind in his face, Elway embarked on his now-famous 98-yard march downfield, which is now known by NFL historians as simply "The Drive." With 34 seconds on the clock, Elway's 5-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jackson tied the game at 20 apiece. The 79,973 Browns fans in attendance were silenced when Rich Karlis' field goal attempt just made it inside the left upright to win the game 23–20 for Denver early into overtime.
The Browns' success was replicated in 1987, with 22 touchdown passes and 3,000 yards for Kosar and eight Pro Bowlers (Kosar, Mack, Dixon, Golic, Minnifield, linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Gerald McNeil, and offensive lineman Cody Risien). Cleveland won another AFC Central crown with a 10–5 record and easily defeated the Indianapolis Colts 38–21 in the divisional playoff to set up a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, this time in Denver. With the score 21–3 in favor of the Broncos at halftime, Kosar led a third-quarter comeback with two touchdowns by Earnest Byner and another by Reggie Langhorne. Early in the fourth quarter, Webster Slaughter's 4-yard touchdown catch tied the game at 31–31. The Broncos regained the lead with a 20-yard Sammy Winder touchdown with less than five minutes to go, setting the stage for another Browns comeback ... or so they thought. Kosar drove the Browns to the Broncos' 8-yard line with 1:12 to go, and handed off to Byner. Just when it looked like he had an open route to the end zone, Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille stripped him of the ball. The Broncos recovered what became known as "The Fumble". After taking an intentional safety, the Broncos had shocked the Browns again, 38–33.
Injuries to Kosar and two of his backups sidelined them for much of the 1988 season, but the Browns still finished 10–6. A final-week comeback victory in a snowstorm at Cleveland Municipal Stadium over the Houston Oilers clinched them a wild-card playoff spot and a home game rematch against the Oilers in the first round. After Mike Pagel, in for an injured Don Strock (the recently signed ex-Dolphins quarterback), threw a touchdown pass to Webster Slaughter late in the fourth quarter to pull the Browns within a point at 24–23, the Browns had three chances to recover an onside kick (due to penalties), but the Oilers recovered and stopped the Cleveland comeback.
Schottenheimer left the Browns by mutual agreement with Modell shortly after the loss to the Oilers. Modell was tired of losing in the playoffs, and Schottenheimer was tired of what he perceived as Modell's interference with his coaching personnel and game strategy. The Kansas City Chiefs quickly hired Schottenheimer for the 1989 season. Bud Carson was his replacement in Cleveland, but his tenure was short—only one and a half years.
The 1989 season opened with the Browns defeating the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh 51–0, which as of 2010 remains the most lopsided game in the rivalry as well as the all-time worst loss for the Steelers. The rest of the season was headlined by Slaughter's Pro Bowl-worthy 1,236 yards receiving, and was a success at 7–3 until a 10–10 tie with Schottenheimer's Chiefs in November led to a 3-game losing streak. Two comeback wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Oilers in the season's final two weeks kept them in the playoff race. The tie ended up being the Browns' saving grace, with their 9–6–1 record winning them the AFC Central title and first-round bye over the Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers at 9–7. The Browns narrowly survived a scare from the Buffalo Bills in their divisional playoff game, when Scott Norwood missed an extra point that would have pulled Buffalo within three points and, later, when Jim Kelly's desperation pass to the end zone on the final play of the game was intercepted by Clay Matthews.
Cleveland's 34–30 win set them up for another tilt with the Broncos in Denver for the AFC Championship. While their two previous matchups went down to the wire, the result of this particular game was never in doubt. The Broncos led from start to finish, and a long Elway touchdown pass to Sammy Winder put the game away in the fourth quarter. Denver easily won 37–21.
In 1990 things began to unravel. Kosar threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (10) for the first time in his career; and the team finished last in the league in rushing offense, and near the bottom in rushing defense. Carson was fired after a 2–7 start, and the team finished 3–13, second-worst in the league. After the season Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator of the then-Super Bowl champion New York Giants, was named head coach.
Bill Belichick and Modell's move (1991–95)
The Browns saw only a slight improvement under Belichick in 1991, finishing 6–10. Kosar was markedly better, with a ratio of 18 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and Leroy Hoard had a breakout season. The next season, with Kosar sitting out much of the season and Mike Tomczak in under center, Cleveland was in the thick of the AFC Central race before dropping their final three games to finish 7–9.
The 1993 season saw Belichick make the controversial decision of cutting Kosar while back-up Vinny Testaverde, who had been signed from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was injured. The Browns were in first place at the time and the Browns faltered as Todd Philcox became the starter. Kosar was signed by the Dallas Cowboys and a few days later led the Cowboys to a win in place of an injured Troy Aikman. Kosar would win a ring that season as the Cowboys won the Super Bowl with a healthy Aikman. Cleveland won only two of its final nine games finishing 7–9 once again.
Cleveland managed to right the ship in 1994, although the quarterback situation hadn't quite improved. A solid defense led the league for fewest yards allowed per attempt, sending four players (Rob Burnett, Pepper Johnson, Michael Dean Perry, and Eric Turner) to the Pro Bowl. The Browns finished 11–5, making the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. In the AFC Wild Card game against the New England Patriots, the Browns' defense picked off Drew Bledsoe three times, with Testaverde completing two-thirds of his passes, to win 20–13. Arch-rival Pittsburgh ended the Browns' season the following week, however, with a 29–9 blowout in the AFC Divisional game.
Modell announced on November 6, 1995, that he had signed a deal to relocate the Browns to Baltimore in 1996—a move which would return the NFL to Baltimore for the first time since the Colts relocated to Indianapolis after the 1983 season. The very next day, on November 7, 1995, Cleveland voters overwhelmingly approved an issue that had been placed on the ballot at Modell's request, before he made his decision to move the franchise, which provided $175 million in tax dollars to refurbish the outmoded and declining Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Modell's plan was later scrapped and taxpayers ultimately paid close to $300 million to demolish the old stadium and construct a new stadium for the Browns on the site of Municipal Stadium.
Browns fans reacted angrily to the news. Over 100 lawsuits were filed by fans, the city of Cleveland, and a host of others. Congress held hearings on the matter. Actor/comedian Drew Carey returned to his hometown of Cleveland on November 26, 1995, to host "Fan Jam" in protest of the proposed move. A protest was held in Pittsburgh during the Browns' game there—one of the few instances that Steelers fans and Browns fans were supporting each other, as fans in Pittsburgh felt that Modell was robbing their team of their rivalry with the Browns. Virtually all of the team's sponsors immediately pulled their support, leaving Municipal Stadium devoid of advertising during the team's final weeks.
The 1995 season was a disaster on the field as well. After starting 3–1, the Browns lost 3 straight before the news broke about the team's impending move cut the legs out from under the team. They finished 5–11, including a 1–8 record in the nine games after the announcement. Fans in the Dawg Pound became so unruly during their final home game against the Cincinnati Bengals that moving towards that end zone had to be moved to the opposite end of the field. Rows of empty seats were torn from the stadium and thrown on the field. Stalls and sinks in the restrooms were torn from the walls. Several fans set fires in the stands, especially in the "Dawg Pound" section, and assaulted security officials and police officers who tried to quell the growing fires. The Browns won their final home game. Belichick was fired by Modell via telephone in February 1996, exactly 1 week after the switch to Baltimore was made official. The new team became the Baltimore Ravens.
After extensive talks between the NFL, the Browns, and officials of the two cities, Cleveland accepted a legal settlement that would keep the Browns legacy in Cleveland. In February 1996, the NFL announced that the Browns would be 'deactivated' for three years, and that a new stadium would be built for a new Browns team, as either an expansion team or a team moved from another city, that would begin play in 1999. Modell would in turn be granted a new franchise, the NFL's 31st, for Baltimore, the Baltimore Ravens, retaining the current contracts of players and personnel. The Browns ceased play at the end of the 1995 season when Modell relocated the organization to Baltimore. The Browns franchise was then reactivated, and its roster restocked via an expansion draft before resuming play in the 1999 season. There would be a new team, but the Browns' name, colors, history, records, awards and archives would all remain in Cleveland. The move fueled a proliferation of 12 new stadiums throughout the NFL. Using the NFL–City of Cleveland agreement's promise to supply a team to Cleveland by 1999, several NFL franchises used the threat of relocation to coerce their respective cities to build new stadiums with public funds.
Cleveland NFL Football LLC (Cleveland Browns Trust) was formed by the NFL. President of the Trust was Bill Futterer, and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was the Trustee. The Trust represented the NFL in the stadium design and construction, managed the sale of suites and club seats, and sold Permanent Seat Licenses and season tickets. Additionally, the Trust reorganized the Browns Backers fan clubs across the United States, resumed coaches shows on television and radio throughout the state of Ohio, and conducted a dramatic one-year countdown celebration that incorporated the first live Internet broadcast in NFL history. The Trust operated its campaign under a Countdown to '99 theme, utilizing Hall of Famers such as Lou Groza and Jim Brown extensively, and sold nearly 53,000 season tickets—a team record in 1998. It remains the only time in professional American football history that a league operated a team "in absentia" in order to preserve the history of the franchise and to build value in that franchise for the future owner. The NFL sold the Browns as an expansion team in 1998 to former Browns minority owner Al Lerner. The purchase price was a then- North American record $530 million, more than double any previous selling price for a pro sports team. Commissioner Tagliabue announced that the Browns would be an expansion team, rather than a relocated team, at the owners meeting in March 1998.
Officially, the National Football League, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens all recognize the current Browns team as a continuation of the team founded in 1946. The Ravens 1998 Fan and Media Guide referred to longtime staffers as having worked for "The Modell organization" before the Ravens were created in 1996.
Lerner family ownership (1999–2012)
Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999 with high hopes and expectations, featuring deep-pocketed ownership in Al Lerner. The team's football operations appeared to be in solid hands in the form of president and CEO Carmen Policy and general manager Dwight Clark, both of whom had come from the San Francisco 49ers. Chris Palmer, former offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hired as head coach. The team was rebuilt from a special expansion draft and the regular NFL draft; the latter included the number one selection, QB Tim Couch.
It was to be expected that the resurrected Browns would struggle at first, as for all practical purposes they were an expansion team. However, the Browns' first two seasons were awful even by expansion standards. 1999 started with a home game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on ESPN Sunday Night Football, with Cleveland native Drew Carey participating in the opening-game coin toss. However, it would be the only highlight for the Browns that night. The Steelers got revenge on the 51–0 loss to the Browns ten years earlier (though Steelers All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson was the only player remaining from either team from the 1989 game) by beating the Browns 43–0 in their first game back. Though it is not the team's worst loss ever, it is their second worst loss since the team returned to the NFL, behind a 48–0 loss to Jacksonville on December 3, 2000.
The 1999 season saw the Browns start 0–7 en route to a 2–14 finish, the worst in franchise history. 2000 was slightly better, with a 3–13 finish—the lone highlight being the Browns' first home win in five years, against the Steelers on September 17. Compounding the fans' frustration was the Baltimore Ravens' win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV that season. Though the Ravens were considered a "new franchise", the team still had players such as Matt Stover and Rob Burnett who had played for the Browns before the Modell move. Palmer was fired after the season and replaced by University of Miami coach Butch Davis.
Under Davis the Browns became more competitive, finishing 7–9 in 2001, three games out of the playoffs. With the team apparently close to being a contender again, Clark was forced to resign after the season, and Davis was named general manager as well as coach. In 2002, the Browns finished 9–7, and due to multiple tiebreakers they made the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Facing Pittsburgh in the first round, the Browns led 33–21 with five minutes to go, but ultimately lost 36–33. Their largest lead in the game was 17 points—they led 24–7 in the third quarter; after that point the Steelers outscored them 29–9. Also during the 2002 season, owner Al Lerner died on October 2, and ownership then was taken over by his son Randy.
The Browns could not sustain the momentum from '02, finishing with double-digit losing records in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. Davis resigned November 30, 2004 with the team shouldering a 3–8 record; Policy had resigned earlier in the year. Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie was named interim head coach for the remainder of the 2004 season.
Before the 2005 season began, Romeo Crennel, a one-time Browns assistant coach under Chris Palmer and, at the time, defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, was named the Browns head coach. The team also hired Phil Savage – who had been Ravens VP/GM Ozzie Newsome's top aide – as a new general manager. But despite the changes, the 2005 and 2006 seasons saw the Browns losing trend continue, with records of 6–10 and 4–12 respectively. Prior to the Browns' final game of the 2005 NFL season, ESPN reported that team president John Collins was going to fire Savage. However, the resulting uproar from fans and local media was strong, and on January 3, 2006 Collins resigned instead. The role of team "President and CEO" was vacated until 2008, with owner Randy Lerner filling in as de facto CEO until Michael Keenan was hired.
In the 2007 season, the team saw a remarkable turnaround on the field. After opening the season with a 34–7 defeat by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns traded starting quarterback Charlie Frye to the Seattle Seahawks, with backup Derek Anderson assuming the starting role. In his first start, Anderson led the Browns to a 51–45 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, tying the franchise record of five touchdown passes in a single game. The Browns finished the 2007 season a surprising 10–6, but missed the playoffs due to a tie-breaker. Nevertheless, the record was the team's best since 1994. Six players earned Pro Bowl recognition, with Anderson starting for the AFC in place of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Coach Crennel agreed to a two-year contract extension.
The Browns entered the 2008 season with high expectations, and many pundits predicted that the team would win the division. The highlight of the season was an upset of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Monday Night Football. However, inconsistent play and key injuries led to a disappointing 4–12 record. The Browns ended up using four starting quarterbacks during the season: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Ken Dorsey were lost to injury; the fourth, Bruce Gradkowski, was signed mid-season. Ending with six straight losses, the Browns finished with a franchise first two consecutive shutouts. Savage and Crennel were subsequently fired.
On January 5, 2009, the Browns hired former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini as head coach. Mangini, who started his career as a ballboy in Cleveland, worked as an assistant under former Browns coach Bill Belichick until becoming head coach of the Jets in 2006. On January 25, the team hired George Kokinis as the team's general manager. The Browns continued to struggle as they became accustomed to a completely new coaching staff. Throughout the preseason, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson competed for the starting quarterback position. Quinn ended up winning the job, but after three games marked by team inconsistency (and an 0–3 record), he was benched in favor of Anderson. On November 1, the team announced the firing of GM Kokinis after only 8 regular season games (and a 1–7 record), with his duties essentially being assumed by Mangini. Soon afterwards, Mangini decided that a quarterback switch was to be made again, and Quinn given the starting job back. After being 1–11 at the three-quarters point in the season (12 games), the team went on a four-game winning streak and finished with a record of 5–11, highlighted by the team beating the Steelers after twelve consecutive losses against their bitter rival.
On December 21, 2009, as Mangini's first season was coming to a close, former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren was hired as team President and was given authority over the team's football operations. This hire was made after Browns owner Randy Lerner announced that he wished to bring in a "serious, credible leader" to steer the team in the right direction. After much public speculation by the media that Holmgren and Mangini would not be able to co-exist, Holmgren announced the retaining of Mangini and the entire coaching staff for the 2010 season. The following week, Holmgren hired former Philadelphia Eagles general manager Tom Heckert to become the new GM for the Browns.
After taking control as President, Holmgren decided to release Anderson and trade away Quinn (getting back eventual 1,100+ yard rusher and fan favorite RB Peyton Hillis in return). He signed veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003, along with veteran backup Seneca Wallace from the Seattle Seahawks. During the 2010 draft, the team of Holmgren, Heckert and Mangini focused mostly on improving the team's defensive secondary, although they also managed to acquire the University of Texas's Colt McCoy in the third round; McCoy has the most recorded wins as a starting quarterback in NCAA history.
Despite heading into the 2010 season with an overall sense of optimism, the Browns started off poorly. They set an NFL record when they lost their first three games after leading in the fourth quarter. They finally won their first game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4. However, both Delhomme and Wallace injured their ankles over the first five games, forcing Colt McCoy to start in Week 6 against the Steelers even though Mike Holmgren stated that he would sit and learn the entire season. Though McCoy lost his first NFL start against the Steelers, he was able to win the following week when the Browns upset the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints. With this victory, the Browns defeated the defending Super Bowl Champions three years in a row, becoming the seventh NFL team to achieve this feat. The Browns continued this positive streak by outplaying the New England Patriots for a 34–14 victory in their next game. However, they lost to the New York Jets in overtime the following week, despite a late 4th quarter game tying touchdown drive by McCoy. On January 3, 2011, after losing four games in a row to end the season, Holmgren and the Browns decided to fire head coach Eric Mangini, who posted a record of 10–22 in his two seasons as head coach. Eleven days later, Holmgren signed St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to become the new head coach, and former Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears head coach Dick Jauron as their defensive coordinator. While potentially hamstrung in attempts to install a new offensive system by the NFL lockout, the Browns played through the first half of the 2011 season at or near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. Starting several rookies, Shurmur's team was frequently beset by confusion in personnel and play-calling at critical junctures. Early in the year the defense surrendered a touchdown on a failure to break the defensive huddle, and the team's chances in several games were compromised by a host of special teams mistakes and meltdowns. At the midpoint of the season, in a telling series in which Shurmur called for a conservative ball-protection strategy, the Browns recovered their own fumble resulting from a mistakenly called hand off to a 3rd string tight-end lined up at fullback, only to botch a short go-ahead field goal attempt with a failed snap and uncoordinated line movement.
The Browns would go 4–12 in Shumur's first season, including losing six in a row to end the 2011 campaign.
New owner Jimmy Haslam announced on October 16, 2012 that Holmgren would stay on through the 2012 season in a lesser role (though still officially listed as president), and would then retire. On November 25, it was reported by CBS and confirmed by the Browns that Holmgren would officially step down following the Browns 20–14 win over the Steelers.
Haslam ownership (2012–present)
In July 2012, owner Randy Lerner announced that he planned to sell the Browns to businessman Jimmy Haslam. The sale was finalized on August 2, 2012 in excess of $1 Billion (USD). Haslam officially was approved as the new owner on October 16, 2012 at the NFL owners' meetings, and the very next day former Eagles president Joe Banner was named as the Browns new CEO.
The Browns began the 2012 season by losing their first five games. Having lost their last six games to end the 2011 season, this marked an eleven-game losing streak, tied for the longest in team history with the 1974–75 teams. On October 12, the Browns defeated the Bengals 34–24 in Cleveland, behind 2 TD passes from rookie QB Brandon Weeden (on his 29th birthday) to end the streak.
On January 15, 2013, Haslam and Banner announced that the naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium were sold to FirstEnergy, and the stadium would be renamed FirstEnergy Stadium. The name change officially received Cleveland City Council approval on February 15, 2013.
On January 18, 2013, the Browns hired Michael Lombardi – who had a previous stint with the Browns in the player personnel department in the '80s and '90s – as Vice President of Player Personnel (two months later he was officially given the title of general manager), making him Tom Heckert's replacement.
The Browns would finish with a 4-12 record in the first season under the new regime, finishing last in the AFC North Division, and losing seven in a row to finish the 2013 campaign. Following the 2013 season finale on December 29, 2013, the Browns fired Chudzinski after only one year as head coach.
On January 24, 2014, the Browns hired Mike Pettine (previously a defensive coordinator for the NY Jets, then Buffalo) as the 15th full-time head coach in team history (and seventh since the team's return in 1999).
Logos and uniforms
The Browns are the only National Football League team without a helmet logo. The logoless helmet serves as the Browns' official logo. The organization has used several promotional logos throughout the years; players' numbers were painted on the helmets from the 1957 to 1960; and an unused "CB" logo was created in 1965, But for much of their history, the Browns' helmets have been an unadorned burnt orange color with a top stripe of dark brown (officially called "seal brown") divided by a white stripe.
The team has had various promotional logos throughout the years, such as the "Brownie Elf" mascot or a Brown "B" in a white football. While Art Modell did away with the Brownie Elf in the mid-1960s, believing it to be too childish, its use has been revived under the current ownership. The popularity of the Dawg Pound section at First Energy Stadium has led to a brown and orange dog being used for various Browns functions. But overall, the orange, logo-less helmet continues to remain as the primary trademark of the Cleveland Browns.
The original designs of the jerseys, pants, and socks have remained mostly the same, but the helmets have gone through many significant revisions throughout the years.
Jerseys: 1. Home Uniforms: brown (officially "seal brown") with white numerals and a white-orange-white-orange-white stripe sequence on the sleeves. 2. Away Uniforms: white with brown numerals and a brown-orange-brown-orange-brown stripe sequence on the sleeves. The three white or brown stripes are approximately twice the width of the two orange stripes. (The original 1946 jerseys featured block-shadow numerals.) 3. A third orange jersey was used for night games in the 1954 season, as well as from 2002 to 2005 when the NFL encouraged teams to create a third jersey. In 2013 the Browns wore a combination of brown pants and jerseys in honor of Jim Brown.
Pants: 1. White – white with an orange-brown-orange stripe sequence on the sides (the stripes are of equal width). 2. Brown – solid brown (no stripes). Orange pants with a wider brown-white-brown stripe sequence were worn from 1975 to 1983 and become symbolic of the "Kardiac Kids" era. The orange pants were worn again occasionally in 2003 and 2004.
Socks: Brown or white with matching stripe pattern to jerseys (1946–83; 1985–95; 1999–2002 mid-season); solid brown with brown jerseys and solid orange with white jerseys (1984); solid brown when worn with white pants (2002 mid-season–2008); white striped socks with brown pants (2009) Exceptions: White striped socks appeared occasionally with the white jerseys in 2003–2005 and again in 2007. Brown striped socks appeared with 1957-style throwback uniforms in 2006–2008.
Helmet: Solid white (1946–1949); solid white for day games and solid orange for night games (1950–51); orange with a single white stripe (1952–56); orange with a single white stripe and brown numerals on the sides (1957–59); orange with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence and brown numerals on the sides (1960); orange with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence (1961–95 and 1999–present).
Over the years, the Browns have had on-again / off-again periods of wearing white for their home games, particularly in the 1970s and 80s, as well as in the early 2000s after the team returned to the league. Until recently, when more NFL teams have started to wear white at home at least once a season, the Browns were the only non-subtropical team north of the Mason-Dixon line to wear white at home on a regular basis.
Numerals first appeared on the jersey sleeves in 1961. Over the years, there have been minor revisions to the sleeve stripes, the first occurring in 1968 (brown jerseys worn in early season) and 1969 (white and brown jerseys) when stripes began to be silk screened onto the sleeves and separated from each other to prevent color bleeding. However, the basic five-stripe sequence has remained intact (with the exception of the 1984 season). A recent revision was the addition of the initials "AL" to honor team owner Al Lerner who died in 2002.
Orange pants with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence were worn from 1975 to 1983 and become symbolic of the "Kardiac Kids" era. The orange pants were worn again occasionally in 2003 and 2004.
Other than the helmet, the uniform was completely redesigned for the 1984 season. New striping patterns appeared on the white jerseys, brown jerseys and pants. Solid brown socks were worn with brown jerseys and solid orange socks were worn with white jerseys. Brown numerals on the white jerseys were outlined in orange. White numerals on the brown jerseys were double outlined in brown and orange. (Orange numerals double outlined in brown and white appeared briefly on the brown jerseys in one pre-season game.) However, this particular uniform set was not popular with the fans, and in 1985 the uniform was returned to a look similar to the original design. It remained that way until 1995.
In 1999, the expansion Browns adopted the traditional design with two exceptions: 1.) Jersey-sleeve numbers were moved to the shoulders, and 2.) The orange-brown-orange pants stripes were significantly widened.
Experimentation with the uniform design began in 2002. An alternate orange jersey was introduced that season as the NFL encouraged teams to adopt a third jersey, and a major design change was made when solid brown socks appeared for the first time since 1984 and were used with white, brown and orange jerseys. Other than 1984, striped socks (matching the jersey stripes) had been a signature design element in the team's traditional uniform. The white striped socks would appeared occasionally with the white jerseys in 2003–2005 and 2007.
Experimentation continued in 2003 and 2004 when the traditional orange-brown-orange stripes on the white pants were replaced by two variations of a brown-orange-brown sequence, one in which the stripes were joined (worn with white jerseys) and the other in which they were separated by white (worn with brown jerseys). The joined sequence was used exclusively with both jerseys in 2005. In 2006, the traditional orange-brown-orange sequence returned.
Additionally in 2006, the team reverted to an older uniform style, featuring gray face masks; the original stripe pattern on the brown jersey sleeves (The white jersey has had that sleeve stripe pattern on a consistent basis since the 1985 season.) and the older, darker shade of brown.
The Browns wore brown pants for the first time in team history on August 18, 2008, preseason game against the New York Giants. The pants contain no stripes or markings. The team had the brown pants created as an option for their away uniform when they integrated the gray facemask in 2006. They were not worn again until the Browns "family" scrimmage on August 9, 2009 with white-striped socks. The Browns have continued to wear the brown pants throughout the 2009 season. Browns quarterback Brady Quinn supported the team's move to wearing the brown pants full-time, claiming that the striped pattern on the white pants "prohibit[ed] mobility". However, the fans generally did not like the brown pants, and after being used for only one season, the team returned to their white shirt-on-white pants in 2010. Coach Eric Mangini told The Plain Dealer the Browns won't use the brown pants anymore. "It wasn't very well-received," Mangini said. "I hope we can get to the point where we can wear fruit on our heads and people wouldn't notice." At the time, the brown pants weren't officially dropped by the team, but simply not used.
The Browns chose to wear white at home for the 2011 season, and wound up wearing white for all 16 games as when they were on the road, the home team would wear their darker colored uniform.
The Browns brought back the brown pants in their home game against the Buffalo Bills on October 3, 2013 on Thursday Night Football, pairing them with the brown jerseys. It marked the first time the team wore an all-brown combination in team history.
The team's biggest rival in the AAFC was the San Francisco 49ers, though this has cooled and in some cases turned into a friendly relationship, as the Browns now play in AFC and the 49ers play in the NFC. Additionally, many 49ers personnel helped the Browns relaunch in 1999 as well as former team President Mike Holmgren having started his NFL career in San Francisco. In addition, 49ers owners John York & Denise DeBartolo York reside in the Youngstown, Ohio 60 miles southeast of Cleveland.
Often called the "Turnpike Rivalry", the Browns' main rival has long been the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though the Browns dominated this rivalry early in the series (winning the first eight matchups), the Steelers currently have the all-time edge 64–57, making it the oldest rivalry in the AFC. Former Browns owner Art Modell scheduled home games against the Steelers on Saturday night from 1964 to 1970 to help fuel the rivalry. The rivalry has been fueled by the proximity of the two teams, number of championships both teams have won, players and personnel having played and/or coached for both sides, and personal bitterness. Though the rivalry has cooled in Pittsburgh due to the Modell move (as well as the Browns having a 5–24 record against the Steelers since returning to the league in 1999), the Steelers are still top rival for Cleveland.
Originally conceived due to the personal animosity between Paul Brown and Art Modell, the "Battle of Ohio" between the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals have been fueled by the sociocultural differences between Cincinnati and Cleveland, a shared history between the two teams, and even similar team colors, since Brown used the exact shade of orange for the Bengals that he used for the Browns. (Though this has changed since then, as the Bengals now use a brighter shade of orange.) Modell, in fact, moved the Browns to the AFC after the AFL–NFL merger in order to have a rivalry with the Bengals. The rivalry has also produced two of the eight highest-scoring games in NFL history. Cincinnati has the all-time edge 42–37, having won the majority of games against the Browns since they returned to the NFL in 1999.
Created as a result of the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy, the rivalry between the Browns and Ravens was more directed at Art Modell than the team itself, and is simply considered a divisional game in Baltimore. At the time of the Baltimore Ravens' victory in Super Bowl XXXV, only five years after, there were personnel that had been members of the Browns. Unlike the other two rivalries, this one is more lopsided: the Ravens lead 20–7.
The Lions rivalry began in the 1950s when the Browns and Lions played in four NFL championships with the Lions winning three championships over the Browns and the Browns won one championship over the Lions. This was arguably one of the NFL's best rivalries in the 1950s. The two teams now since 2002 play an annual preseason game known as the Great Lakes Classic.
The Colts rivalry was hot in the 1960s. The Browns upset the Colts in the 1964 NFL championship (the last championship to date for the Browns) and the Colts got revenge by beating the Browns in the 1968 NFL Championship. The Browns also beat the Indianapolis Colts in a 1987 divisional playoff game.
The Broncos rivalry heated up in the 1980s when the two teams met in three AFC Championship games. The Broncos won them all including "The Drive" by John Elway in 1987 and on Earnest Byner's fumble in 1988.
Perhaps the most visible Browns fans are those that can be found in the Dawg Pound. Originally the name for the bleacher section located in the open (east) end of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the current incarnation is likewise located in the east end of Cleveland Browns Stadium and still features hundreds of orange and brown clad fans sporting various canine-related paraphernalia. The fans adopted that name in 1984 after members of the Browns defense used it to describe the team's defense.
Retired cornerback Hanford Dixon, who played his entire career for the Browns (1981–89), is credited with naming the Cleveland Browns defense 'The Dawgs' in the mid-80's. Dixon and teammates Frank Minnifield, and Eddie Johnson would bark at each other and to the fans in the bleachers at the Cleveland Stadium to fire them up. It was from Dixon's naming that the Dawg Pound subsequently took its title. The fans adopted that name in the years after.
The most prominent organization of Browns fans is the Browns Backers Worldwide (BBW). The organization has approximately 105,000 members and is considered the largest sports-fan organization in the USA. Browns Backers clubs can be found in every major city in the United States, and in a number of military bases throughout the world, with the largest club being in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition, the organization has a sizable foreign presence in places as far away as Egypt, Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka, and McMurdo Station in Antarctica. According to The Official Fan Club of the Cleveland Browns, the two largest international fan clubs are in Alon Shvut, West Bank and Niagara, Canada, with Alon Shvut having 129 members and Niagara having 310.
A 2006 study conducted by Bizjournal determined that Browns fans are the most loyal fans in the NFL. The study, while not scientific, was largely based on fan loyalty during winning and losing seasons, attendance at games, and challenges confronting fans (such as inclement weather or long-term poor performance of their team). The study noted that Browns fans filled 99.8% of the seats at Cleveland Browns Stadium during the last seven seasons, despite a combined record of 36 wins and 76 losses over that span.
Following former Browns owner Randy Lerner's acquisition of English football club Aston Villa, official Villa outlets have started selling Cleveland Browns goods such as jerseys and NFL balls. This has raised interest in England and strengthened the link between the two sporting clubs. Aston Villa supporters have set up an organization known as the Aston (Villa) Browns Backers of Birmingham.
The Cleveland Browns were the favorite team of Elvis Presley. Reason for this decision by the “King of Rock’n’Roll“ was the fact that his friend Gene Hickerson, with whom he had played football in their common youth in Memphis, were contracted by the Browns in 1957 and have played there during his entire active career until 1973. Also defender Bobby Franklin, who had played from 1960 to 1966 for the Browns, was a friend of Elvis Presley. Another fan of the team is Baseball-legend Hank Aaron.
Players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Cleveland Browns have the fourth largest number of players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a total of sixteen enshrined players elected based on their performance with the Browns, and eight more players or coaches elected who spent at least one year with the Browns franchise. No Browns players were inducted in the inaugural induction class of 1963. Otto Graham was the first Brown to be enshrined as a member of the class of 1965, and the most recent Brown to be included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is Gene Hickerson, who was a member of the class of 2007.
|Pro Football Hall of Famers|
|1965||60, 14||Otto Graham||1946–1955||Quarterback|
|1967||—||Paul Brown||1946–1962||Head coach|
|1968||76, 36||Marion Motley||1946–1953||Fullback|
|1974||46, 76||Lou Groza||1946–1959
|1975||56, 86||Dante Lavelli||1946–1956||Wide receiver|
|1976||53, 80||Len Ford||1950–1957||Defensive end|
|1977||30, 45, 60||Bill Willis||1946–1953||Middle guard
|1977||—||Forrest Gregg †||1975–1977||Head coach|
|1981||77||Willie Davis †||1958–1959||Defensive end|
|1982||83||Doug Atkins †||1953–1954||Defensive end|
|1983||49||Bobby Mitchell||1958–1961||Wide receiver
|1984||74||Mike McCormack||1954–1962||Offensive tackle|
|1985||22, 52||Frank Gatski||1946–1956||Offensive center|
|1987||18||Len Dawson †||1960–1961||Quarterback|
|1993||65||Chuck Noll †||1953–1959||Right Guard
|1994||44||Leroy Kelly||1964–1973||Running back|
|1995||72||Henry Jordan †||1957–1958||Defensive tackle|
|1997||96, 44||Don Shula †||1951–1952||Defensive Back|
|1998||29||Tommy McDonald †||1968||Wide receiver|
|1999||82||Ozzie Newsome||1978–1990||Tight end|
|2003||64||Joe DeLamielleure||1980–1984||Offensive guard|
|† Performance with Browns incidental to induction|
Cleveland Browns Legends
The Legends program honors former Browns who made noteworthy contributions to the history of the franchise. In addition to all the Hall of Famers listed above, the Legends list includes:
|Cleveland Browns Legends|
|2001||Michael Dean Perry||Defensive end|
|2001||Greg Pruitt||Running back|
|2001||Ray Renfro||Wide receiver|
|2002||Mac Speedie||Wide receiver|
|2003||Hanford Dixon||Defensive back|
|2003||Bob Gain||Defensive tackle|
|2003||Dick Schafrath||Offensive tackle|
|2004||Gary Collins||Wide Receiver|
|2004||Tommy James||Defensive back/Punter|
|2004||Dub Jones||Wide Receiver|
|2004||Mike Pruitt||Running back|
|2005||Frank Minnifield||Defensive back|
|2005||Jerry Sherk||Defensive lineman|
|2005||Jim Ray Smith||Offensive tackle|
|2006||Earnest Byner||Running back|
|2006||Doug Dieken||Offensive tackle|
|2007||Bill Glass||Defensive end|
|2007||Kevin Mack||Running back|
|2008||Walter Johnson||Defensive tackle|
|2008||Warren Lahr||Defensive back|
|2008||Eric Metcalf||Running back|
|2008||Paul Wiggin||Defensive end|
|2010||Cody Risien||Offensive tackle|
|2010||John Wooten||Offensive guard|
Retired uniform numbers
Cleveland Browns retired numbers
OL/K, 1946-59, '61-67
Browns Ring of Honor
Beginning in 2010, the Browns established a Ring of Honor, honoring the greats from the past by having their names displayed around the upper deck of FirstEnergy Stadium. The inaugural class in the Browns Ring of Honor was unveiled during the home opener on September 19, 2010, and featured the sixteen Hall of Famers listed above who went into the Hall of Fame as Browns.
First-round draft picks
Coaches of note
Cleveland Browns staff
Special Teams Coaches
Strength and Conditioning
Radio and TV
WKNR (850 AM), WKRK-FM (92.3 FM), and WNCX (98.5 FM) serve as co-flagship stations for the team's radio network. Games are covered on-site by play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan, sports director for WKYC channel 3; color commentator Doug Dieken, a former Browns offensive tackle; and sideline reporter Jamir Howerton. WKRK-FM personalities Jeff Phelps and Ken Carmen, along with WKNR personalities Tony Rizzo and Jerod Cherry host the network pregame show (heard in Cleveland on WKNR exclusively), while Phelps and WKRK-FM host Dustin Fox host the network postgame show (heard in Cleveland on WKRK-FM exclusively).
The team also produces Cleveland Browns Daily, a year-round daily radio show hosted by Nathan Zegura, Vic Carucci and Michael Reghi which airs on WKNR from 1–3 p.m. weekdays. A weekly version of the show airs Saturday mornings on WKRK-FM
Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC channel 3 is the broadcast TV home of the Browns, airing all non-network preseason games, and other Browns related programming during the season. Jim Donovan and former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar comprise the announcing team, with WKYC weekend sports anchor Dave Chudowski on the sidelines (Michael Reghi serves as radio play by play announcer during the preseason).
The Browns in-house production team won a pair of Lower Great Lakes Emmy Awards in 2005. One was for a primetime special honoring the 1964 NFL Championship team (The 1964 Championship Show) and one was for a commercial spot (The Paperboy)
Cleveland native Arsenio Hall's television program, The Arsenio Hall Show, is known for the audience's shouting "Woof, woof, woof!" while pumping their fists—a chant that was used by fans of the Cleveland Browns football team. He would refer to a section of the live audience as his "dawg pound."
- "Team Colors – NFL". August 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-25
- Cabot, Mary Kay (August 2, 2012). "Cleveland Browns sale to Jimmy Haslam group is complete". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- "Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has spell over football fans and politicians alike: Mark Naymik". cleveland.com. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
- Cleveland Browns-Team history
- Art Modell's decision to move Cleveland Browns haunted him for rest of life | cleveland.com
- Cleveland Browns Team Encyclopedia – Pro-Football-Reference.com
- "City To Get New Pro Gridiron Club". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Associated Press. September 3, 1944. p. B1. "Organization of the All-America Football Conference, a new coast-to-coast professional football league sponsored by 'men of millionaire incomes,' was announced officially today by Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and prime organizer of the new loop which will begin operations next year. ... Owners of franchises, Ward disclosed, were ... Cleveland, Arthur McBride, taxi-cab magnate."
- "Football And America: World War II". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- Dietrich, John (February 9, 1945). "Paul Brown Signs 5-Year Contract to Coach New Grid Team Here". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. A1. "In the most astonishing football story in many years, Lieut. (J.G.) Paul E. Brown, the Massillon boy who skyrocketed to fame as coach of Ohio State and Great Lakes, yesterday signed a five-year contract as coach and general manager of the Cleveland professional team in the new All-American Conference ... Also, Brown will technically become part owner, as he will share in the profits ... Though there has been a startling tendency for the leading coaches of the country to jump into the pro ranks, Brown, at the end of the war, was figured a sure thing either to return to Ohio State, where his 1942 team won a national championship, or take some lucrative college post elsewhere, possibly on the Pacific Coast."
- "Paul Brown". Ohio History Central, the Ohio Historical Society. Retrieved May 11, 2012. "[At Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio] Brown posted a record of eighty victories, eight losses, and two ties ... Brown coached at OSU from 1941 to 1945, attaining a record of eighteen victories, eight losses, and one tie. In 1942, his team also won the Buckeyes their first national championship in football."
- "Paul Brown To Coach The Great Lakes Grid Machine". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. August 22, 1944. p. 6. "Lt. Paul E. Brown, Ohio State's dynamic young football strategist, is a coaching king-pin again, but instead of guiding his erstwhile 'Baby Buckeyes,' he'll be steering the course this fall for the Great Lakes' Bluejackets."
- Dietrich, John (February 9, 1945). "Brown Signs 5-Year Contract To Coach New Grid Team Here". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 15. "[McBride] said that the new coach would pick the nickname for the team, and would be backed with plenty of money in hiring talent."
- "Brickles Is Back From Coast Trip". Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 11, 1945. p. 17. "The original suggestion for a name was that the team be called the 'Browns,' in deference to the coach, but this suggestion was turned down by the lieutenant. The club – and the newspapers – are hoping for a short, snappy name that goes easily into headlines."
- "New Pro Grid Club Is Named Panthers". Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 9, 1945. p. 12. "Panthers will be the name of Cleveland's team in the new All-America Football Conference, and John J. Hartnett of Lawrence, Mass., ... is the recipient of a $1,000 War Bond ... [Hartnett] got the big prize for the winning name in a contest that drew some 2,000 entries. There were 35 others who suggested Panthers ..."
- Witham, Drake (November 7, 1995). "Whom are the Browns named after? THE BROWNS' MOVE TO BALTIMORE". Baltimore Sun. "Jack Clary writes in his book, "Cleveland Browns," that an effort was made to associate the team with a winner, and Joe Louis was in his prime."
- Otis, Sam (August 16, 1945). "Brief News And Views on Sports". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 15. "... the new All-American Conference club of Arthur F. McBride did not fancy the selection of the prize committee that had thought Panthers would be just dandy, so they took matters into their own hands this week and chose a new nickname – the Browns."
- "Cleveland Panthers". The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 20, 1948). "Browns Win Third Title, 49 To 7". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 1. "For the Brownies, the victory was their 15th of the year, the 18th in a row over two seasons and it marked their 24th game without defeat. Thus, they became the first club in pro football history to go through a regular campaign and playoff without defeat and the first to rule their league three years in a row."
- "Franchises". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "Brown Denies He Is Trying To Sign '42 Ohio Players". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Chicago). United Press. May 5, 1945. p. 11. "[Brown] added that since he is in naval service all Cleveland contract matters are being handled by John Brickels, acting manager of the team ... 'I haven't talked to any men,' Brown declared. 'Our league cannot hope to operate until the 1946 season and the availability of those 1942 freshmen now in service is contingent upon how long it takes to whip the Japanese.'"
- "Brown Signs 2 Stars For New Grid Team". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). April 1, 1945. p. 1. "In his first visit here since he signed for the new post at a salary now known to be at least $25,000, Brown announced the first two players signed for his prospective team, and the appointment of another assistant coach. The players are Otto Graham, former star quarterback and forward passing phenom at Northwestern, and Herb Coleman, center of Notre Dame's 1943 national championship team. Graham is now a navy flier, and Coleman in the army."
- "Groza Signs With Browns, Continues Ohio State Studies". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland). February 14, 1946. p. 20. "The signing of Lou Groza, 22-year-old tackle and place kicking star, who was a freshman star at Ohio State in 1942, was announced yesterday by the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Conference."
- "Brown Explains All 'Secrets' Of His T Formation". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland). May 4, 1946. p. 16. "Some 15 of Brown's players who will try to bring Cleveland the first All-America title next fall were on hand. Among them were several who were on his teams at Ohio State – Lin Houston, Jim Daniell, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli and Gene Fekete."
- "Brown Grooms Entire Corps of Pass Catchers". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Bowling Green, Ohio). August 2, 1946. p. 17. "Don Greenwood, Tom Collella, Dippy Evans, Ray Terrell, Mac Speedie, Dante Lavelli, John Yonakor and Alton Coppage did most of the pass receiving [at the team's opening drills]."
- Goldstein, Richard (November 29, 2007). "Bill Willis, 86, Racial Pioneer in Pro Football, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2012. "In the autumn of 1946, a year before Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in major league baseball, Willis joined the newly formed Browns of the fledgling All-America Football Conference, playing guard on offense and middle guard – akin to today’s noseguard – on defense. ... When Brown was putting together his first Browns team, no black player had appeared in a pro football game since the National Football League of the early 1930s. But Brown signed Willis and Marion Motley, a powerful fullback. They were joined by Kenny Washington, a running back, and Woody Strode, an end, both with the 1946 Los Angeles Rams of the N.F.L., as the first black players in the modern game."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 7, 1946). "Browns Show Record 60,135 Versatile Attack, Crush Miami, 44–0". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 12. "The Cleveland Browns made 60,135 friends last night at Cleveland Stadium. ... the Browns made their championship debut in the new All-American Conference and first Cleveland appearance highly successful as they undid the Miami Seahawks, 44 to 0. It was appropriate that the largest crowd ever to see a league game in professional football was on hand to watch the inaugural of the Brownies ..."
- "Cleveland Browns". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 10, 2012. "The Cleveland Browns began as members of the rival All-America Football Conference (AAFC). After capturing that league's title in each of the four seasons the AAFC existed, the Browns moved to the NFL in 1950. ... AAFC Record: 52–4–3"
- "1946 AAFC Standings". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
- "1947 AAFC Standings". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
- "1949 AAFC Standings". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (November 14, 1948). "Browns Dig in to Stop 49ers' Rush". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 1. "The Browns, with nine victories and no defeats, and the San Franciscans, who have won 10 in a row, collide this afternoon at the stadium at 2."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (November 15, 1948). "Quick Score Sets 49ers Down, 14–7". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 1. "With the largest crowd in professional football history witnessing the clash of the unbeaten – a throng of 82,769 that filled every seat and all available standing room – the Cleveland Browns got the jump by converting a San Francisco fumble into a touchdown 45 seconds after the opening whistle and conquered their rugged opponents from the west coast, 14 to 7, yesterday at the stadium ... The story is one of defensive play – the champions' defense – as it so often is in any collision between elevens that have proven themselves so powerful offensively."
- "Brown Explains All 'Secrets' Of His T Formation". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). May 4, 1946. p. 16. "Dwelling upon his version of the T formation, which he developed in his two years as coach of the Great Lakes Bluejackets, Brown explained the workings of every position on the team. The 'secret' of success, of course, rests upon speed, timing and execution, rather than set plays."
- Dietrich, John (July 29, 1946). "Browns, Big And Brawny, Set For Training Kickoff". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Bowling Green, Ohio). p. 15. "'Gee, some of these kids are in great shape,' declared Paul E. Brown, head coach and general manager, as full of ginger as ever and his sharp eye seeking out the 'lean and hungry' candidates."
- "Otto Graham". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 11, 2012. "Topped AAFC passers four years, NFL two years."
- Jones, Harry (December 20, 1948). "Brown Calls His First Unbeaten and Untied Team Since '40 His Best Yet". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 23. "[Brown said:] 'How that boy can run I think he's the greatest fullback that ever lived ... Did you ever see a fullback who runs like a halfback in an open field?'"
- "Marion Motley". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 11, 2012. "All-time AAFC rushing champ."
- "Dante Lavelli". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 11, 2012. ".Top AAFC receiver as rookie, scored winning TD in title game, 1946."
- "Mac Speedie NFL Football Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "Rams, Pro Grid Champions, Will Move to Los Angeles". Pittsburgh Press (New York). United Press. January 13, 1946. p. 37. Retrieved May 11, 2012. "The National Football League today gave the Cleveland Rams, pro champions, permission to transfer their franchise to Los Angeles ... The Rams lost $40,000 despite their championship team in 1945, [owner Dan Reeves] said, continuing a record of financial setbacks suffered each year since he took over in 1941, and he had long planned to leave Cleveland."
- Neft, David S.; Cohen, Richard M. & Korch, Rick (1994). The Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present (Second ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-312-11435-4.
- "Browns Send 2 Backs To Colts". Cleveland Plain Dealer. April 15, 1948. p. 23. "[Jake] Leicht said he received a letter from Commissioner Jonas Ingram of the All-America Conference stating that he, Y.A. Tittle and Charley O'Rourke would go to Baltimore in another move to strengthen the Colts."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 10, 1950). "Browns Figure To Get Competition". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 2–C. "A year ago, when attendance at the Cleveland Browns' home games dropped more than 30% below the 1948 figures, the alarming decline in interest was attributed mainly to the Browns' complete dominance of the old All-America Conference. Fans made a plea for competition, though only two of eight games played a year ago were one-sided affairs. The competition is now available for the Browns, beginning Saturday night in Philadelphia where they clash with the eagles, two-time champions of the National League ..."
- Doyle, James E. (December 21, 1948). "The Sport Trail". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 23. "So good were Cleveland's Browns this year that their title playoff payoff was not so good ... All the citizens knew that the Buffalo Bills would be buffaloed Bills, and worse, in that final game at the stadium, so all but 22,891 of them stayed away."
- "Pro Football 'World Series' Game Assured As Two Leagues End Feud". Cleveland Plain Dealer. December 10, 1949. p. 17. "To the harried football moguls, who have been bleeding red ink in the costly battle to land big name college stars, it means a chance to get the business down to a sensible basis. ... Attendance fell off alarmingly in both circuits this year, but costs still were going up – especially in the player market."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 10, 1949). "2 Pro Football Leagues in Merger". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 1. "The most costly war in the history of organized sports ended yesterday when the All-America Conference and National Football League were merged into one 13-team circuit. ... The new circuit will be called the National-American Football League and will consist of the 10 clubs now operating in the National League and the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts of the All-America Conference."
- Grossi, Tony (15 February 2008). "1948 Cleveland Browns still lacking NFL respect". cleveland.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012. "NFL Vice President Joe Browne stated that going undefeated and untied was 'a sterling achievement,' but 'it was not achieved in the NFL nor against NFL teams, nor in a league which became in its entirety part of the NFL.' 'As such,' Browne wrote, 'our historians believe it is appropriate that it not be part of the official NFL records.'"
- "N.L. Challenged By All-America". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Chicago). Associated Press. February 21, 1945. p. 18. "Jim Crowley, commissioner of the All-America Football Conference, said today his league was willing to challenge the rival National Football League to a series of eight charity games before the beginning of the 1946 season."
- "A.A. Challenge Snubbed By N.L.". Cleveland Plain Dealer. August 25, 1947. p. 16. "The National Football League tonight declined a formal challenge by the All-America Conference to meet in a championship game with all the proceeds going either to the winner or to charity."
- Jones, Harry (December 20, 1948). "Brown Calls His First Unbeaten and Untied Team Since '40 His Best Yet". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 23. "Some say that the 1948 Cleveland Browns, undefeated and untied champions of the All-America Conference, unquestionably have the greatest football team of all time. Others say that the Browns may or may not be among the all-time greats, but are certainly the best in the land today, better by far than the Philadelphia Eagles of the National League. And there are a few who say that the Browns are simply a good team in a weak league."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 12, 1950). "Rugged Eagles Send Veteran Squad Against Browns; 31 Back From 1949". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 21. "It will be a big, experienced, defense-minded football team the Browns face when they make their bow in the National League Saturday night at Philadelphia. The Eagles are virtually the same team that has won the National League's eastern division three years in a row and the league championship the last two."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 18, 1950). "Browns' Versatile Air Attack Bewilders Eagles and Turns Opener into Rout". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). p. 24. "That was the story of Cleveland's pleasant baptism in the National Football League, the stunning 35-to-10 victory over the Eagles before 71,237 fans. ... Graham completed 21 passes for 246 yards ... It was [a game] that clinched the opinions that there was nothing freakish about Cleveland's invincibility in the league that went out of business last December."
- "1950 Cleveland Browns". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- "Sudden Death Overtimes for Both Playoff Games". Cleveland Plain Dealer. December 11, 1950. p. 1. "The New York Giants meet the Cleveland Browns for the American [Conference] title at Cleveland ... The Giants and Browns tied each with 10 victories and two defeats."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 17, 1950). "Browns Whip Giants, 8–3, on Groza's 2 Field Goals, Play Rams for Title Sunday". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Taking command in the first four minutes of play, a Cleveland team obsessed with a terrible eagerness to erase the memory of its only two losses of the season accomplished the mission by beating the New York Giants, 8–3, on the frozen field at the stadium to win the American Conference title."
- Jones, Harry (December 24, 1950). "Groza's Field Goal Is Signal for Celebration". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "The moment Lou Groza's 16-yard field goal cleared the crossbar in the last 20 seconds of what may well be the greatest gridiron spectacle in Cleveland history, 29,751 citizens went beserk at the stadium."
- Doyle, James E. (September 2, 1946). "The Sport Trail". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 25.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 16, 1951). "Cleveland Defeats Eagles 24 to 9, For 11th in Row". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Otto Graham threw two touchdown passes, Carl Taseff drove over from the one-yard line for another, and Lou Groza kicked a 21-yard field goal for the Browns' points as they chalked up their 11th consecutive victory as the National League's regular season drew to a close."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 23, 1951). "Browns Lose Title to Rams, 24–17". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Los Angeles). Retrieved May 12, 2012. "The city's six-year reign in professional football, started by Bob Waterfield and the old Rams back in 1945 and prolonged by the Browns through five glamorous seasons, ended today as Waterfield and the new Rams squeezed through to a 24–17 victory before 59,475 in the Coliseum."
- "1952 NFL Standings". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 28, 1952). "Lions Beat Browns, 17–7, For Title". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "A touchdown by Bobby Layne from one yard out in the second period following Horace Gillom's weak, 22-yard punt, Pat Harder's 36-yard field goal set up by Ken Carpenter's fumbled punt in the fourth period, and a dazzling 67-yard run off right tackle by Doak Walker in the third stanza did the business for the boys from across the lake as they capped a victorious season with a hard-earned 17–7 decision over the Browns ..."
- "1953 NFL Standings". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 27, 1953). "Browns Lose Title Game, 17–16". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Detroit, Michigan). Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Detroit's Lions scored the decisive points with only two minutes and eight seconds of play remaining to retain their league banner in a game that was just as close as the final score shows. ... For the Browns, it was the third straight season to end in the bitterness that comes with losing the championship game. This one was especially bitter, for the Browns were well on the way to a perfect record until two weeks ago."
- "Len Ford NFL Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- "Ray Renfro NFL". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (November 15, 1953). "80,698 See Browns Win, 23–21". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). Retrieved May 12, 2012. "... Otto Graham was forced out of action for the second time in his pro career with a gash on the left side of his face that required 15 stitches. Graham was hurt with the second period half completed when he caught an elbow flung by the 49ers' Art Michalik ..."
- "It's Open Season on T-Quarters". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Baltimore, Maryland). Associated Press. November 17, 1953. p. 26. "Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns was chopped up against the San Francisco 49ers. They put 15 stitches in his face and sent him out to finish the game with a plastic mask. A month ago, Y.A. Tittle of the 49ers received a triple fracture of the cheek bone and is back wearing a mask."
- Graham, Tim (2009). "Face of the NFL is gone: An ode to the single-bar". ESPN. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Team namesake and patriarch Paul Brown conceived the single-bar facemask. He ordered equipment manager Leo Murphy to fashion an appliance to keep quarterback Otto Graham on the field during a game in 1953."
- "Riddell History". Riddell. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "The breakthrough in face masks came in 1955. G.E. Morgan, invented the BT-5 face mask for quarterback Otto Graham. The "BT" in the invention's name was for bar tubular"
- "Marshall Hits Use of Masks By Pros". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Washington, D.C.). Associated Press. November 4, 1955. p. 29. "A check was run on Marshall's Redskins and it turned out that all but four of the 33 players on the squad use face masks."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (June 11, 1953). "Browns' Sale Brings $600,000". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 1. "The biggest franchise transfer in the history of the National Football League was completed yesterday afternoon when Arthur B. McBride and associates sold their Cleveland Browns ... Homer H. Marshman handed McBride a check for $50,000 as a binder in the $600,000 transaction, the biggest price ever paid for a professional football team. Marshman, Cleveland attorney and first president of the old Cleveland Rams in 1937, ... is in the syndicate that purchased the Browns and announced that Dave R. Jones would be the new president. Jones is president of Geometric Stamping Co. and a former Cleveland Indian director. Others in the deal are Ellis Ryan, former president of the Cleveland Indians ... Saul Silberman, owner of Randall Park race track ... Ralph DeChairo, an associate of Silberman's."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (June 9, 1953). "Brown Expected to Continue If Team Is Sold". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 25. "McBride is president of the Browns, but his son, Edward, a Miami (Fla.) attorney, is the team's largest stockholder. Edward recently purchased the stock held by his brother, Arthur jr., the elder McBride revealed. Other stockholders are Dan Sherby, vice-president; Harry Sherby, Dan's father; James F. Breuil of Buffalo, who acquired an interest in the team when his own Buffalo Bills were disbanded four years ago; Patrick Dunne, Robert H. Gries and Brown."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (June 11, 1953). "Browns' Sale Brings $600,000". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 1. "'I've simply had my fling at football and convinced myself that Cleveland always will buy the best,' he said. 'Now I'm getting out. I have a few other things to keep me busy.'"
- Cobbledick, Gordon (June 10, 1953). "McBride's Policy of Giving Hired Experts Free Hand in Running Grid Club Paid Off". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 1. "McBride has always stuck pretty close to the grandstand pew, which is what stamps him as an uncommonly shrewd club owner. He hired the best available talent to run his ball club for him, and he gave the talent a free hand. Scarcely knowing the difference between an end zone and an onside kick, he never undertook to tell Paul Brown how to coach the team, what players to buy, sell or trade or whom to claim in the college draft. Elementary? Maybe it should be, but most often it doesn't work that way."
- Sauerbrei, Harold (June 11, 1953). "Browns' Sale Brings $600,000". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 1. "'Will the new owners be as generous in allowing Brown to run their team as McBride was?' the group was asked. 'The answer to that,' Jones said, 'is yes!'"
- Heaton, Chuck (September 4, 1954). "Graham Lacks Blockers, But Retains Aerial Skill". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 22. "Graham, who claims that he will retire from football after this season, compiled the record against Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams despite the fact that his protection has not been the best."
- Heaton, Chuck (September 21, 1954). "Noll's Return Puts Browns at Full Strength for Opener with Eagles". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 27. "The number to be pared from the squad was down to six last night after Marion Motley announced his retirement from football. Hampered by a bad knee, which seemed to be getting chronic, the onetime great fullback called it a career after talking it over with Brown. ... 'He was one of the truly fine fullbacks in his prime, the type that comes along once in a lifetime,' [Brown said]. 'I certainly never will forget some of his runs and I imagine Cleveland football fans feel the same.'"
- "Brown's Original Club Reduced to 5 Players". Cleveland Plain Dealer. March 17, 1954. p. 30. "The number of Cleveland Browns remaining from the original squad organized by Paul Brown is down to five after yesterday's announcement from Guard Bill Willis that he has pulled on the football pads for the last time. ... 'In my opinion Bill ranks as one of the outstanding linemen in the history of professional football,' Brown said. 'He certainly was the fastest and many coaches use his technique as a model in teaching line play.'"
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- Heaton, Chuck (December 26, 1954). "Browns Regain Title, 56 to 10". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Down and being counted out only seven days back, the Cleveland Browns unloaded years of pent-up frustration on the Detroit Lions yesterday at the stadium to take over as the new champions of the National Football League."
- Heaton, Chuck (September 4, 1955). "Graham Agrees To Join Browns". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. C-1. "Graham, one of football's all-time great passers, retired last winter after nine successful seasons with Cleveland. However, he made it clear that he would return if the Browns got into trouble and that seems to be the case. So tomorrow morning he takes up his grid labors. ... George Ratterman, originally slated to inherit the top passing job, proved accurate enough. However, he was not able to throw the long ball as effectively as his predecessor and needed stronger pass protection because of his lack of size and slowness of foot."
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- Heaton, Chuck (December 26, 1955). "87,695 See Browns Keep Title". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 12, 2012. "Theft of seven passes plus a brilliant bow-out by the incomparable Otto Graham permitted the defending champions to romp with almost ridiculous ease to a 38–14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams."
- "Graham & Brown Firm Dissolution Marks End of Era in Pro Football". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). December 28, 1955. p. 25. "... for both the Browns and Graham it's the finish of an era ... Although Graham helped bail out the club when trouble came this season, there will be no further call for aid. His wish to retire is sincere and no attempt will be made to change that decision. ... A decade of Cleveland Browns football – one of 10 division crowns and three world titles and almost unbelievable success ended last Sunday."
- "Rookies Led Browns Back into Spotlight". The Wilmington News. Associated Press. December 24, 1957. p. 12. "Otto Graham had retired for the second and last time, and soon George Ratterman was hurt. They gave Babe Parilli the quarterback job and picked up an almost unknown, Tommy O'Connell, as insurance. Parilli was hurt, and O'Connell had to finish out the season."
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- Heaton, Chuck (October 10, 1956). "Browns Cut to 33-Player Limit by Putting Smith and Goss on Waivers". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). p. 35. "The Browns again plan to use the radio helmet for play calling on Sunday and it has been further refined so that coaches watching from upstairs will be connected with Brown's microphone and able to hear his play calling."
- "Giant Problem For Browns Is Gifford". Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). October 12, 1956. p. 36. "The Detroit Lions, victors in their first two games, have joined the growing list of teams using the radio helmet."
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- "Browns Swap Parilli For Garrett". News-Dispatch (Jeannette, Penn.). United Press. April 19, 1957. p. 10. "... the Cleveland quarterback problem ... has existed since the retirement of Otto Graham after the 1955 season and was a major factor in the Browns' loss of their Eastern Division NFL crown."
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- Heaton, Chuck (January 22, 1958). "Plum Moves Up As O'Connell Quits". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 25. "Retirement of Tommy O'Connell from the Cleveland Browns yesterday to take the position of backfield coach at Illinois puts the quarterbacking squarely on the broad shoulders of Milt Plum ... The decision of the 27-year-old O'Connell probably was swayed by the fact that he ran into several injuries in his second season with the Browns. Although he finished as the league's leading passer ... the chunky little fellow was out of the last two regular season games with a sprained ankle and what turned out to be a broken bone in his leg ... Brown indicated that O'Connell's physical limitations prevented him from figuring too prominently in long range plans. O'Connell is 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighs 190."
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