Latest posts by TommyMatyas (see all)
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Nowadays when people think of the Cleveland Browns, all they know of is a downtrodden franchise who have had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999, 8 head coaches since 1999, and have not made the playoffs since 2002. Granted, the team does not exactly deserve optimism after the performances they have put on the field for last decade. However, that does not negate the fact that the Cleveland Browns are one of the NFL’s most important and influential franchises of all time. A team that is tied for the 3rd most NFL Championships of all time, has the 6th most players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and has the most passionate and loyal fan base in professional sports will definitely produce its share of great moments, and there are a great number of them to choose from ever since there has been football being played by West 3rd Street. This list will take you down a pleasant memory lane, vividly reviewing the 10 best moments in Cleveland Browns history. The events are organized from oldest to most recent, but in no particular order of importance because some people may value certain moments over others. Make sure to leave a comment down below if you agree, disagree, or feel I left something out. Enjoy!
1. The Founding of the Browns
Where else could you start?
Ever since that fateful year of 1944, when Arthur B. McBride acquired the rights to a football franchise in Cleveland in the All-America Football Conference, all Cleveland Browns football has done in the time since is captivate our minds and hearts, and create everlasting memories. Who knew that a man who was only interested in football because his son played, could form a team that ever since it’s inception in the AAFC, would dominate 2 separate professional football leagues? But lets start from the beginning. Arthur “Mickey” McBride was an owner of taxi-cab company in Cleveland, and was interested in the profitability a professional football team could bring, after seeing his son play at the University of Notre Dame. After a failed attempt at buying the then Cleveland Rams of the NFL, McBride moved on to become the owner of the Cleveland team of the AAFC. Mickey then went on to hire the most successful coach in Browns history, and possibly football history, Paul Brown from Ohio State University, who consequently went on to sign 3 Hall of Famers in “Automatic” Otto Graham, Lou “The Toe” Groza, and Dante “Gluefingers” Lavelli. Finally there was the business of giving the team a name. A contest was held to pick a nickname for the team; the most popular entry being the Cleveland Panthers. Brown rejected the name due to it being the name held by a former football team that folded in 1933. Ultimately, after initial dismissal by Brown, the team was eventually dubbed the Cleveland Browns, in homage to their first head coach, and the rest is history.
“The Toe” sharing a moment after a game with Arthur McBride
2. 4 Championships in 4 Years in the AAFC
With the start of the All-America Football Conference in 1946, a new era of professionall football was about to begin. Initially viewed as a step down from the NFL, the AAFC would soon prove it belonged. An 8 team league that would eventually bring 3 of those teams into the NFL, the competition was fierce with players such as Art Donovan, Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, and George Blanda scattered throughout the league. However, the Browns were not phased. Starting with first year they were incarnated in the AAFC and being led by Hall of Famers Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and Dante Lavelli, the Browns steamrolled the competition to the tune of a 12-2, culminating with a 14-9 victory in the championship game over the New York Yankees. Otto Graham had a passer rating of 112.1, which was the single season record until it was surpassed by Joe Montana in 1989, Motley had the 4th most rushing yards in the Conference, and Lavelli led all recievers with 843 yards. They continued that trend in the 1947 season with a 12-1 record, ultimately defeating the Yankees again for their second straight AAFC Championship. 1948 was arguably their most dominant season, as the Browns accumulated a 14-0 record, with no team other then San Francisco having a record better then 7-7. The championship game was, as you’d expect, a complete landslide victory in the Browns favor; a 49-7 dismantling of the visiting Buffalo Bills. After 3 straight championships, the Browns had no intention of slowing down. In 1949, which was ultimately the last season of the AAFC, the Browns again dominated with a 9-1 record. And for the 4th straight time, the Browns took home the trophy as they defeated the 49er’s of San Francisco by a score of 21-7. After the 1949 season and the realization that the AAFC would not be able to sustain itself against the much larger NFL, the Conference folded. Nonetheless, the Browns dominance of this Conference will not be forgotten. With a 47-4 record, and 4 championships in their tenure in the AAFC, it would be clear they would have no problem in the NFL.
Game day program for the 1947 AAFC Championship
3. The Browns Take the NFL by Storm
After the folding of the AAFC, 3 teams from the Conference were merged into the NFL; the Baltimore Colts, the San Francisco 49er’s, and the Cleveland Browns. Many media pundits expected the Browns, who dominated the AAFC, to falter under the pressure and talent that NFL had. That could not be farther from the truth. Beginning they’re assault on the NFL in the 1950 season, the Browns would cruise to a 10-2 record, and end up in the NFL Championship games against the L.A. Rams. In a game for the ages, the Browns would win on a Lou Groza field goal with 28 seconds left in the 4th quarter by a score of 30-28, giving them 5 straight championships. However, that streak would end during the 1951 season. After another stellar regular season in which the Browns would go 11-1, they again would meet up against the Rams of Los Angeles. This time, the outcome would be in the Rams favor; behind a 73 yard pass by Norm Van Brocklin in the second half, and a marvelous defensive performance in the 4th quarter, L.A. would exact revenge on the Browns by a score of 24-17. 1952 and 1953 would also net a similar fate of defeat for the Browns. Despite “Automatic” Otto leading the NFL in passing yards both years, and the Browns getting to the Championship Game for a 7th and 8th consecutive time, the Browns would be defeated both years by the Detroit Lions, led by Bobby Layne. With 3 straight Championship game losses, one may think the Browns championship window was closed. Not quite. In a stage set for Hollywood, the Browns would meet in the Championship game against the Lions for a 3rd consecutive year. This time however, there would be no disappointment. Led by a defense that intercepted Bobby Layne 6 times, the Browns would work out the frustrations of the last 3 years by annihilating Detroit 56-10. The Browns would then take vengeance for their 1951 loss to the Rams in the Championship game, by defeating L.A. in the 1955 title game in dominating fashion, 38-14. With 6 straight Championship Game appearances, while winning 3, in their first 6 years in the NFL, it is safe to say the Cleveland Browns belonged.
Otto Graham scoring a touchdown in the 1955 Championship Game
4. The Jimmy Brown Years
Simply put, he was the greatest.
What can I say that hasn’t been said before? At 6’2, and 232 lbs, he was stronger, faster, and better than nearly anyone who has put on a pair of shoulder pads. Drafted with the 6th overall pick the 1st round out of Syracuse University, he dominated from his first day in the NFL. As a rookie, he totaled 942 rushing yards, with 9 touchdowns, while averaging 4.7 yards per carry, in 12 games while garnering Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. First down Jim Brown played a 12 game season his first 4 years in the league, and during that time averaged 1264 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 5.2 yards per carry. Comparing that to Adrian Peterson who averaged 1446 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 4.8 yards per carry in a 16 game season for his first 4 years in the League, makes Mr. Browns accomplishments even more amazing. After the NFL switched to a 14 game season in 1961, Jimmy really shined. From 1961-1965, he averaged 1451 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5.2 yards per carry per season. A career stat line of 12,312 yards, 106 touchdowns, and a remarkable 5.2 yards per carry is amazing considering defenses stacked the line to defend him each and every play. However like with many of the greats, stats do not tell the whole story. During his 9 year Hall of Fame career, Brown never missed a game. Adding in his responsibilities of running the ball, catching it, and returning kicks, his ability to stay healthy was his biggest asset. A 3 time MVP, who retired with the most rushing yards of all time, at the zenith of his career, its absurd to think what might have happened had Brown continued to play. My Grandpa used to always tell me stories about Jim Brown, saying how he used to always get up slowly, and act injured, only to run full force for 10 yards the very next play. It is tales like that that get passed down which truly quantify how amazing of a football player Jim Brown was.
First down Jim Brown
This is the year every Cleveland fan will remember until the Browns win a Superbowl. The last time the Browns won a championship. Many of the fans who were in attendance speak as it was the greatest day of their lives. It was December 27th, 1964. A chilly day at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Browns were here for one final battle against the Western Conference leading Baltimore Colts. Frank Ryan versus Johnny Unitas. Jim Brown against Lenny Moore. Paul Warfield confronting Raymond Berry. It couldn’t get much better. Many thought however it would not be close, as they felt the experience of the Colts would lead them to an easy victory over the Browns. However, like the Browns teams of the 40’s and 50’s, they didn’t care what about what was “supposed” to happen. After playing a stalemate of a first half that resulted in a 0-0 halftime score, Cleveland showed why it deserved to be champions in the second half. In front of 79,544 people, Frank Ryan threw 3 touchdowns to Gary Collins, and Lou Groza added 2 field goals to give the Browns their 4th NFL Championship, with a score of 27-0.
1964 NFL Championship ring
6. The Kardiac Kids
If there was ever a team that could perfectly exemplify Cleveland sports, it was the 1980 Cleveland Browns team, better known as the Kardiac Kids. Known to put their fans into cardiac arrest because of how close the games were, the Browns of 1980 made several memorable comebacks that reminded fans that they were never out of it. Starting in week 7 at home against the Green Bay Packers, the Browns were tasked with a 3rd and 20 from the Packers 46 yard line with 16 seconds left. MVP Brian Sipe was able to complete a touchdown pass to Dave Logan to win the game 26-21. The following week against the rival Steelers, the Browns overcame a 26-14 Pittsburgh lead to eek out the win 27-26. The next week, the Browns beat the Chicago Bears 27-21 thanks to a career passing day from Brian Sipe, who became the Browns all time leading passer. In Cincinnati and needing a win to secure the Central Division crown, the Browns were able to win 27-24 thanks to a field goal by Don Cockroft with 1:25 remaining in the game. However, in true Kardiac Kids fashion, Brian Sipe was intercepted in the waning moments of the AFC Divisional Round Playoffs against the Oakland Raiders, ending their magical season.
7. Hanford Dixon and the Formation of the Dawg Pound
The Cleveland Browns are known for their loyal, and sometimes crazy fan base, and no section of fans better fit that description than the group in the east endzone of First Energy Stadium, better known as the Dawg Pound. Every Sunday in the fall, the inhabitants of the Dawg Pound are barking and screaming to cheer on their beloved Browns, and to boo the opposing team. And even though everyone knows about the Dawg Pound, most don’t know how it began. It all started in the training camp for the 1985 NFL season. All-Pro Cleveland Browns cornerback Handford Dixon was trying to think of a way to “rally the troops”. He thought of the idea to refer to himself and other members of his defense as “dawgs”. Later on during training camp, his defensive backfield mate Frank Minnifield helped him concoct the thought process of, the quarterback was a cat, and the defensive line were the dogs. This lead to the lineman barking whenever they sacked the quarterback. The rabid Cleveland fan base soon picked up on this, barking along to great defensive plays. After the great reception of the trend by the fans, Dixon and Minnifield put up a sign declaring the east bleachers be known as the “Dawg Pound”. Soon after the fans in the bleachers, aided by alcohol, started donning dog noses and masks, to complete the transformation. This passionate fan base now had a unique rallying cry, which was formed through a bond between its fans and players, which is a perfect example of what kind of city Cleveland is.
The Dawg Pound out in full force
8. Browns V.S. Jets 1987
The best playoff game to ever go in the Browns favor.
Although most people remember the heartbreaking loss to the Broncos and John Elway the following week, the double overtime thriller against the Jets in the AFC Divisional Round was a better game, regardless of the outcome. Led by Bernie Kosar, the Browns overcame a 20-10 deficit with 4:08 to play, in one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NFL history. The stage for the comeback was set like a movie. After never throwing consecutive interceptions in his young NFL career, Kosar threw 2 which would end up giving the Jets a 20-10 lead. Kosar then steps into the huddle and says “We’re going to take this game”. Leading his team down the field with smart decisions, and quick throws, the Kosar-led Browns found themselves at the 1 yard line at the 2 minute warning. Kevin Mack scored a touchdown to make it 20-17 Jets. After a failed onside kick attempt, the Browns stingy defense dug deep and got the ball back with :51 seconds to play. Thanks to a circus catch by Webster Slaughter which put them at the 5 yard line, the Browns were in position to kick the game tying field goal. Mark Moseley booted it through the up rights which sent it to overtime. Overcoming a missed field goal by Moseley and multiple chances by the Jets offense to score, the Browns were finally able to win on a 26 yard field goal after a drama filled double overtime affair.
9. The Return
We all know what it was like. The gut wrenching defeat of having a part of you taken away, and not being able to do anything to stop it. That was the feeling when the coward known as Art Modell stole the Browns and moved them to Baltimore. However, although it was horrifying losing the Browns, getting them back is one of the best moments in franchise history. Not only because it meant that we could finally enjoy our football team again with friends and family, but because it showed the world that the fans had a voice. That Cleveland had a voice. That, even though we would get knocked down in having the soul of Cleveland taken away, we would get right back up and get it back, no matter what. It showed the world that even though we may have crushing defeats in sports, and have cold weather 7 months out of the year, that its not the sports or the weather or the attractions that make the city, it is the people that make it up that truly define how amazing of a city Cleveland is. No matter what, Cleveland will always stick together, and if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.
Don’t Mess with Cleveland
10. Johnny Football
Yes this is extremely premature.
Yes this whole Johnny Manziel experiment can backfire in managements face just like every other quarterback that has played here since 1999. And yes, I may only be doing this because I have been the president of the Johnny Cleveland bandwagon ever since I saw him shred Alabama last fall.
But what if this works.
If Johnny Manziel is able to lead the Browns to a Super Bowl, this will be unlike anything in Cleveland sports history. This will be unlike anything in sports history period. You have all seen the video of the Browns draft party erupting in cheers when Goodell announced Manziel was the pick. Immediately fans all through Northeast Ohio started doing the “Money Manziel” hands.
In a the few weeks that Mr. Football has been here, he has not only spiked ticket sales, merchandise, and interest in the Browns nationally, but hope for a fan base that has been severally lacking in that department since the late 80’s. Any quarterback that succeeds here would be loved, but if Manziel is the one to do it, he will be loved like no one else in the Browns history.
Even more then Bernie.
The attitude that is in your face. The play making ability that is unrivaled in the NFL today. The strong arm that can thread the needle through the cold Lake Erie wind. The chip on his shoulder that is the size of Cleveland. He is the perfect remedy for what has been ailing Cleveland Browns football the last 20 years. Like Cleveland, he has been doubted by many, and told how he will fail in the NFL, and how everyone can’t wait to see it. But also like Cleveland, he is tough and smart enough to know how to succeed in this blue collar town.
NFL, here comes Johnny Cleveland.