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Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in Cleveland, Ohio. They play in the Northern division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Cleveland Browns began play in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference and joined the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC folded. The team won all four AAFC titles and had one undefeated season (1948 - 15–0), as well as four NFL Championships.

History

1946–1949: The AAFC years

The Cleveland Browns were founded in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference, under businessman Arthur B "Mickey" McBride. Not long after gaining the franchise, McBride named Ohio State Buckeyes coach Paul Brown as vice president, general manager and head coach. The franchise conducted a team naming contest in 1945. The most popular submission was "Browns" in recognition of Paul Brown, already an established and popular figure in Ohio sports. Brown at first objected to the name and the team selected from the contest entries the name "Panthers." However, after an area businessman informed the team that he owned the rights to the name Cleveland Panthers from an earlier failed football team, Brown rescinded his objection and agreed to the use of his name.

Brown parlayed his ties to the Buckeyes and the Navy (where he'd coached a base football team during World War II) into the most extensive recruitment network that had ever been seen at the time in pro football. He used it to assemble a team that, in terms of talent, would have been more than a match for any NFL team—including quarterback Otto Graham, kicker/offensive tackle Lou Groza, wide receiver Mac Speedie, fullback Marion Motley and nose guard Bill Willis. The Browns dominated the AAFC, winning all four of its championships including the 1948 season in which they became the first unbeaten and untied team in professional football history—24 years before the NFL's perfect team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Cleveland's undefeated streak (including 2 ties) reached 29 games, and included 18 straight wins and the 1947 and 1948 AAFC championship games. During the AAFC's four-year run, the Browns lost only four games. The Browns issued occasional challenges to NFL teams, only to be turned down almost out of hand each time.

Thanks in large part to McBride's promotional efforts, the Cleveland area showed terrific support for the Browns from the moment they were created. The team saw a record setting average attendance of 57,000 a game in its first season. The Browns unexpectedly had Cleveland to themselves; the NFL's Cleveland Rams, who had continually lost money while in Cleveland despite winning the 1945 NFL championship, moved to the booming area of Los Angeles after the 1945 season (the team is now located in St. Louis).

1950–56: NFL

The AAFC dissolved after the 1949 season, due largely to the Browns' near absolute domination of the league. Jim Crowley, the AAFC's first commissioner, later said that if the AAFC had held a draft rather than simply encourage its teams to sign as many top players as possible, the league may well have survived. When the NFL agreed to take in three of the AAFC's teams for the 1950 season, it was a foregone conclusion that the Browns would be included.

The Browns' first NFL game was against the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. The overwhelming consensus at the time was that the Eagles would blow the Browns off the field; there were still many who thought the Browns were merely the dominant team in a minor league. However, the Browns were determined to prove they belonged. They shredded the Eagles' vaunted defense for 487 yards of total offense en route to a 35–10 blowout.

Behind a potent offense that included future Hall of Famers Graham, Motley and Dante Lavelli, the Browns picked up right where they left off in the AAFC. After going 10–2 in the regular season, the Browns defeated the New York Giants 8–3 in a playoff game and then beat Cleveland's previous NFL tenants, the Rams (who were now in Los Angeles), 30–28, in the NFL Championship game. Since the NFL does not recognize the AAFC's records, this technically makes the Browns the most successful expansion team in league history. However, the 1950 Browns were not an expansion team in any sense of the term.

During the next season, the Browns went 11–1, facing the Rams in a rematch of the previous year's title game. A 73-yard touchdown pass by Norm van Brocklin to Tom Fears in the fourth quarter put Los Angeles in the lead for good. The 24–17 loss was the Browns' first in a championship game.

Cleveland also advanced to the 1952 NFL championship game, finishing 8–4 to face the Detroit Lions. A muffed punt, several defensive stands, and a 67-yard touchdown run by Doak Walker combined to help the Lions win 17–7, frustrating the Browns for the second consecutive year. On the upside, Ray Renfro became a star with 722 yards receiving and 322 yards rushing.

The Browns then started the 1953 season winning 11 straight games, but finished with a loss to the Eagles in the final week, and then lost the 1953 Championship game in a rematch with the Lions. The game was, however, closer than the year before. With the score tied at 10 going into the final quarter, Lou Groza kicked two field goals to put Cleveland up 16–10. But Detroit's Bobby Layne threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jim Doran with under two minutes left and the Lions won 17–16.

In 1954, the Browns finished 9–3 and met up with Detroit in the championship for a third consecutive year. This time, however, the Browns were relentless on both sides of the ball, intercepting Bobby Layne six times and forcing three fumbles. Otto Graham threw three touchdowns and ran for three more, en route to a 56–10 thrashing and the Browns' second NFL crown.

The Browns kept rolling along in 1955. Chuck Noll had a productive season at linebacker with five interceptions, Graham passed for 15 touchdowns and ran for six more, and the team, who finished 9–2–1, won their third NFL Championship game in six seasons 38–14, against the Los Angeles Rams. In 10 years of existence, the Browns reached the title game every year (four in the AAFC, six in the NFL) and won seven of them.

Graham retired before the 1956 season due to injuries, and the Browns floundered without him behind center. Three quarterbacks (George Ratterman, Babe Parilli, and Tommy O'Connell) were used, none of them throwing more touchdowns than interceptions. The team's 5–7 record was the team's first losing season ever.

1957–70: The Jim Brown Era

The Browns responded in 1957 when they drafted fullback Jim Brown out of Syracuse University, who easily became the NFL's leading rusher (and NFL Rookie of the Year) with 942 yards in a 12-game regular season. Once again at the top of the division at 9–2–1, they advanced back to the championship game against Detroit. But the Lions dominated from start to finish, causing six turnovers and allowing the Browns' two quarterbacks (Tommy O'Connell and Milt Plum) only 95 yards passing in a 59–14 rout.

In 1958 Jim Brown ran for 1,527 yards, almost twice as much as any other running back. In his nine seasons in the league, he crossed the 1,000-yard barrier seven times. The only snag in their getting back to another championship was the New York Giants. They lost to New York on the last week of the season after a spirited fourth-quarter comeback, then, due to their equal 9–3 records, faced the Giants again in a tiebreaker game with the winner going to the finals. However, the Giants limited Jim Brown to eight yards and the team committed four turnovers as they were shut out 10–0.

In 1959 the Browns started 6–2 but finished 7–5, out of championship contention, despite Brown once again leading the league in rushing with 1,329 yards. In 1960, Plum threw for 21 touchdowns and Brown's 1,257 yards was still best in the NFL, but the team still finished second at 8–3–1.

Art Modell purchased the team from David Jones (who had bought the team from McBride in 1953) in 1961. 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 Brown and replaced him with longtime assistant Blanton Collier. Many of the Browns' younger players—such as Jim Brown and Frank Ryan had chafed under Brown's autocratic coaching style. Collier rode his team with a considerably looser rein. He also installed a much more open offense and allowed Ryan to call his own plays. In Collier's first season, the Browns went 10–4 and finished a game out of the conference title, led by Jim Brown's record 1,863 yards rushing.

In 1964, the Browns went 10–3–1 and reached their first title game in 7 years. The Browns throttled the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 27–0, with receiver Gary Collins catching 3 TD passes to earn the MVP award. The Browns would go to three more NFL title games in Collier's eight-year tenure—including 1968 and 1969, after Jim Brown retired. After the 1970 season, Collier retired due to increasing deafness; that same year the Browns finished 7–7 and was replaced by offensive coordinator Nick Skorich.

1971–84: The Kardiac Kids

Skorich led the Browns to a division title in 1971 and a wild-card berth in 1972. In the latter year, the Browns nearly defeated the Dolphins in the second round—the closest the Dolphins would come to losing a game that season (until the Dolphins played the Steelers in the Conf. Championship game, beating the Steelers by only 4 points compared to the browns 6 (1972 NFL Season) They barely missed the playoffs in 1973.

However, the Browns' era of success came to a crashing halt as the team dropped to 4–10 in 1974. Neither Mike Phipps nor rookie QB Brian Sipe was effective; 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 mark 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 Pittsburgh 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 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. A loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season finale cost them a share of the division title, but running back Greg Pruitt continued his outstanding play by rushing for exactly 1,000 yards, his second-straight four-digit season.

The Browns continued to roll in the first half of the 1977 NFL season, but an injury to Brian Sipe by Pittsburgh's 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 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 Cincinnati 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 of this dramatic season came in the closing seconds when Sipe called what became known as "Red Right 88" and passed 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 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 Houston 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 USFL 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.

1985–90: Kosar and the Broncos Rivalry

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 six 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, a feat that has not been repeated since. 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 1986 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 a defense with 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 one of the NFL's stingiest defenses. With these on their side, the Browns clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the 1987 Divisional Playoff game, 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. Final score Browns 23 Jets 20.

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 arch-nemesis of the Kosar era. As it had been the previous week, the showdown proved again to be it was an overtime heart-stopper. But this time, it was John Elway and the Broncos who came away the victors. Pinned in on their own two yard line with 5:11 left to play and the wind in his face, Elway led his now famous 98-yard drive, which is now known by NFL historians as simply "The Drive"). With 37 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 right-side upright to win the game 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. At 10–5, the Browns won the AFC Central again. Cleveland easily defeated the Indianapolis Colts 38–21 in the divisional playoff and traveled to Denver for a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship. 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 it at 31–31. The Broncos regained the lead with a 20-yard Sammy Winder touchdown with under 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. When it looked like he had an open route to the end zone, he was stripped of the ball by Jeremiah Castille. 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 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 Kosar, 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. Schottenheimer was quickly hired by the Kansas City Chiefs 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, headlined by Slaughter's Pro Bowl-worthy 1,236 yards receiving, 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 3 points and, later, when Jim Kelly's desperation pass to the end zone on the final play of the game was intercepted.

Cleveland's 34–30 win set them up for a rematch with the Broncos in Denver for the AFC Championship. While their two previous matchups went down to the wire, this one 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.

1991–95: Bill Belichick and Modell's move

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.

In 1992, 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 but ABC, the network broadcasting the game, declined to cover or mention the protest. It was 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 2–7 record in the nine games after the announcement. When fans in the Dawg Pound became unruly during their final home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, action moving towards that end zone had to be moved to the opposite end of the field. 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 game.

1996–1999 (Inactivity)

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 for Baltimore, the Baltimore Ravens, retaining the current contracts of players and personnel. There would be a new team, but the Browns' name, colors, history, records, awards and archives would remain in Cleveland. Coincidentally, the only other current NFL team to suspend operations without merging with another, the St. Louis Rams, had once played in Cleveland (they suspended during the 1943 season, at the height of World War II).

During this period the threat of relocation to Cleveland was used by several teams, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos, to help convince the taxpayers in those areas to fund new stadiums.

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 for a North American record $530 million for a professional franchise, 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.

1999–2004: Rejoining the NFL

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.

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 saw the Browns start 0–7 en route to a 2–14 finish, the worst in franchise history. 2000 was little 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 thanks 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.

The Browns did not sustain the momentum, finishing with double-digit losing records in 2003 and 2004. Davis resigned in December 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.

2005–present

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. Despite the change, the 2005 and 2006 seasons saw the Browns losing trend continue.

Prior to the Browns' final game of the 2005 NFL season, ESPN reported that team president John Collins was going to fire general manager Phil 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, with owner Randy Lerner filling in as de facto CEO for the time being.

In the 2007 season, the team saw a remarkable turnaround on the field. After opening the season with a 34–7 defeat to 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, throwing five touchdown passes, which tied the franchise record. The Browns finished the 2007 season 10–6, barely missing the playoffs on tie-breaker rules. Nevertheless, the 10–6 record was the team's best record since 1994. Six players earned Pro Bowl recognition. Coach Crennel agreed to a two-year contract extension.

Season-by-season records

Logo and uniforms

The Browns are the only team in the NFL that does not have a logo on their helmets. Even though the team has had various logos throughout the years, such as the "Brownie Elf" mascot (a logo that Art Modell did away with in the mid-1960s, feeling it was too childish; however, its use has been revived under the current ownership.) and the Brown "B" in a white football, the club's orange "logo-less" helmet has become its primary trademark. The only time that the Browns ever had a logo on their helmets was during one preseason game vs Green Bay in 1965; it was a brown "CB". (the "CB" Logo is what Art Modell tried to use as a replacement for the "Brownie Elf" mascot.)

Since debuting in 1946, the Browns' uniforms have essentially remained the same. However, the team originally wore white helmets before switching to orange (with a white center stripe.) on a full-time basis in 1952. (In the 1950 & '51 seasons, the Browns wore the white helmets in day games and plain orange helmets in night games because of an NFL rule prohibiting the use of white or light-colored helmets for night games because of the lighting and the use of a white football for night games. Also because of night games, they experimented with silver game pants in the 1950 & '51 seasons, and a third orange jersey for night games in the 1954 season.) From 1957 to 1960, the players' numbers were on the sides of their helmets. In 1960, the Browns went to the now familiar brown-white-brown stripe sequence on the helmets.

The original designs of the jerseys, pants, and socks have remained mostly intact although the helmet has undergone significant revisions:

Jerseys: 1. Brown (officially "seal brown") with white numerals and a white-orange-white-orange-white stripe sequence on the sleeves. 2. 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.)

Pants: White with an orange-brown-orange stripe sequence on the sides. The stripes are of equal width.

Socks: Brown or white to match the jerseys with the identical stripe sequence as the jersey sleeves.

Helmet: Solid white (1946–1949); solid white for day games and solid orange for night games (1950–1951); orange with a single white stripe (1952–1956); orange with a single white stripe and brown numerals on the sides (1957–1959); orange with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence and brown numerals on the sides (1960); orange with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence (1961–1995 and 1999–present).

Over the years, the Browns have had on-again/off-again periods of wearing white in 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 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. Since 1999, the team has worn white, brown and orange jerseys at home.

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 1975–1983 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 the pre-season.)

In 1985, the uniform returned to a look similar to the original design and remained that way through 1995.

In 1999, the expansion Browns adopted the traditional design with two exceptions: 1. Jersey-sleeve numbers were moved to the shoulders. 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. Also in 2002, 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 appeared occasionally with the white jerseys in 2003–2005 and again in 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.

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, during a Monday night nationally-televised preseason game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. 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. No final plans have been made as to whether or not the team will wear the pants for any other road game this year.

Fans

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 (however, it does not account for the ratio of winning to losing seasons by a team), 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.

The most prominent organization of Browns fans is the Browns Backers Worldwide (BBW). The organization has approximately 93,100 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, and Sri Lanka. According to The Official Fan Club of the Cleveland Browns, the two largest international fan clubs are in Alon Shvut, Israel and Niagara, Canada, with Alon Shvut having 129 members and Niagara having 310..

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 of 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 (1981–1989), is credited with naming the Cleveland Browns defense 'The Dawgs' in the mid-80's. Dixon and fellow 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.

Notable famous Browns fans, among others, include:

Condoleezza Rice was a football fan from the time she was born, and by the age of 3, following in the footsteps of her father (who was high school football coach at the time and athletic director in Birmingham, Alabama) became a life-long fan of the Cleveland Browns.. Drew Carey is also a noteworthy loyal fan of the Cleveland Browns, growing up in the Cleveland area. He has deep Cleveland roots, and also supports the Cleveland Indians. .

Players of note

Current roster

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 five more players 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
Inducted No. Player name Tenure Position(s)
1965 60, 14 Otto Graham 1946–1955 Quarterback
1967 Paul Brown 1946–1962 Head coach
1968 76, 36 Marion Motley 1946–1953 Fullback
1971 32 Jim Brown 1957–1965 Fullback
1974 46, 76 Lou Groza 1946–1959
1961–1967
Offensive tackle
Placekicker
1975 56, 86 Dante Lavelli 1946–1956 Wide Receiver/Tight End
1976 80 Len Ford 1950–1957 Defensive end
1977 Forrest Gregg††† 1975–1977
1977 30, 60 Bill Willis 1946–1953 Defensive lineman
1981 87 Willie Davis 1958–1959 Defensive end
1982 81 Doug Atkins 1953–1954 Defensive end
1983 49 Bobby Mitchell 1958–1961 Wide receiver
Halfback
1983 42 Paul Warfield 1964–1969
1976–1977
Wide receiver
1984 74 Mike McCormack 1954–1962 Offensive tackle
1985 22, 52 Frank Gatski 1946–1956 Offensive center
1987 16 Len Dawson 1960–1961 Quarterback
1993 65 Chuck Noll†† 1953–1959 Offensive guard/Linebacker
1994 44 Leroy Kelly 1964–1973 Running back
1995 74 Henry Jordan 1957–1958 Defensive tackle
1997 44 Don Shula†† 1951–1952 Defensive back
1998 25 Tommy McDonald 1968 Wide receiver
1999 82 Ozzie Newsome 1978–1990 Tight end
2003 64, 68 Joe DeLamielleure 1980–1984 Offensive guard
2007 66 Gene Hickerson 1958–1973 Offensive guard
† Performance with Browns incidental to induction
†† Performance with Browns as a player; inducted as a head coach
††† Performance with Browns as a head coach; inducted as a player

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
Inducted Player name Position(s)
2007 Don Cockroft Kicker
2004 Gary Collins Wide Receiver
2006 Doug Dieken Offensive tackle
2003 Hanford Dixon Defensive back
2003 Bob Gain Defensive tackle
2007 Horace Gillom Punter
2007 Bill Glass Defensive end
2006 Jim Houston Linebacker
2004 Tommy James Defensive back/Punter
2008 Walter Johnson Defensive tackle
2001 Bernie Kosar Quarterback
2008 Warren Lahr Defensive back
2007 Kevin Mack Running back
2002 Clay Matthews Linebacker
2008 Eric Metcalf Running back
2006 Walt Michaels Linebacker
2005 Frank Minnifield Defensive back
2001 Michael Dean Perry Defensive end
2001 Greg Pruitt Running back
2004 Mike Pruitt Running back
2001 Ray Renfro Wide receiver
2005 Frank Ryan Quarterback
2003 Dick Schafrath Offensive tackle
2005 Jerry Sherk Defensive lineman
2002 Brian Sipe Quarterback
2005 Jim Ray Smith Offensive tackle
2002 Mac Speedie Wide receiver
2008 Paul Wiggin Defensive end

Other notable alumni

Retired uniform numbers

All-time first-round draft picks

Coaches of note

Head coaches

Current staff

Radio and television

As of 2006, the Browns' flagship radio stations are WMMS, 100.7 FM, a hot talk/rock station, and news/talk station WTAM 1100 AM. Jim Donovan, formerly of NBC Sports and sports director of WKYC Channel 3, is the play-by-play announcer, former Browns offensive tackle Doug Dieken is the color analyst, and WTAM sports anchor/reporter Andre Knott serves as sideline reporter. WTAM Sports Director Mike Snyder and former Browns quarterback Mike Pagel host the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows. During the preseason and early September games, WTAM will broadcast the Cleveland Indians games while WMMS will broadcast Browns games when both teams play during the same time.

In 2006, preseason telecasts moved to WKYC (with Jim Donovan and Bernie Kosar) from WOIO after a controversy arose over the 911 calls at the drowning death of the team owner's niece (see above). Both Fox Sports Ohio and SportsTime Ohio have weekly shows about the team.

WJW-TV Channel 8 ("Fox 8") locally televises any regular season games which are nationally broadcast by ESPN or NFL Network.

Cleveland native Arsenio Hall's television program, The Arsenio Hall Show, was 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."

In popular culture

  • In the 1966 Billy Wilder movie The Fortune Cookie, which starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in their first on screen pairing, Lemmon played a CBS cameraman accidentally injured by a Browns' player during a game at Cleveland Stadium and Matthau played his huckster lawyer intent on suing the Browns and CBS. Matthau won the best supporting actor Oscar for the role. Crowd shots were filmed at the Stadium during the October 31, 1965 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
  • In the eleventh episode of the third season of the Simpsons, entitled “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”, Homer Simpson is overheard by two German businessmen, Hans and Fritz, saying that Mr Burns wouldn’t sell the power plant for less than $100 million. The two businessmen, who are looking for a business acquisition, count all the cash they have and remark that they could pay that much and still “have enough for the Cleveland Browns”.
  • The Family Guy character Cleveland Brown is an obvious reference to the team.
  • In the movie Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Larry the Cable Guy makes reference to going to the bathroom as "Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl"
  • Drew Carey has made jokes about the Cleveland Browns (particularly their poor performance during the time) in a couple episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway?

References

External links


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