The original Cleveland Browns were established in 1946 and were reportedly named after their famous coach Paul Brown. Brown coached the side for 16 years between 1946 and 1962 and was named coach of the year three times. The Browns were relocated in 1996 and now go by the name of the Baltimore Ravens who play in the NFL.
The new Cleveland Browns were established in 1999. They play in brown, orange and white at the originally named Cleveland Browns Stadium. Before they turned into the Baltimore Ravens, the original Browns played at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium until 1995.
The early AAFC years
The Browns enjoyed some of their best football during their early years in the All-America Football Conference. They ploughed through the AAFC league winning four consecutive titles between 1946 and 1949 which included an undefeated season in 1948. They were initially refused entry in to the National Football League (NFL) which was the main American Football league of the time and it remains so today.
Quarterback Otto Graham and Lou Groza were at the forefront of the Brown’s good football and they led the team to their AAFC domination. All six other teams in the league, Baltimore Colts, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Hornets, Los Angeles Dons, New York Yankees and the San Francisco 49ers were regularly brushed aside each season leaving the American football authorities with a problem. The league was becoming too predictable and the Browns too dominant.
There was no draft like there is now and teams were allowed to sign whoever they wanted, which meant it was possible for one team to be a dominant force. The Browns were eventually allowed in to the NFL after they had powered past all possible opponents in the AAFC which disbanded after the 1949 season. Cleveland’s four years in the AAFC showed they were a team of total domination, but they weren’t expected to fair so well when they entered the NFL.
The early NFL years
The Browns were in a good position as they entered the NFL possessing an underdog tag with nothing to lose. But on September 16th 1950 they faced the Philadelphia Eagles, who had won the NFL during the two previous years, and despite being massive underdogs, the Brown’s showed they were no pushovers as they trounced home winning 35-10.
They won ten of the 12 games in their first season and went on to beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-28 in a tight NFL Championship Game. The win led the Browns to their first NFL title in their debut season. The victory was even sweeter because the Rams used to play in Cleveland between 1937 and 1945.
This victory, the Browns’ fifth title in their fifth year as a club, had showed everyone in the NFL that they were not just there to make up the numbers and would have to be considered a serious force. The early 50’s went on to be some of the best times in the Browns’ history. They reached the NFL Championship game for their first five seasons in the NFL which included impressive seasons in 1951 and 1953.
The Browns won 11 games and lost just one in both 1951 and 1953. This was most impressive in 1951 when the Browns lost their first game but went on to win the next 11 to clinch another Championship Game tie with the Los Angeles Rams. But the Rams got their revenge this time and finished 24-17 winners.
However, the Browns were crowned NFL Champions once again in 1954 when they thrashed the Detroit Lions 56-10; the game was more important for the Browns because they had lost their previous two Championship Games against the Lions.
They retained their NFL title in 1955 with a 38-14 win against their previous rivals the Los Angeles Rams. This season was their 10th successive Championship game appearance and marked a notable achievement for a team only established 10 years previous.
The Browns were also producing quality football players. Quarterback Otto Graham won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award twice between 1953 and 1955 and he was inspirational in their two Championship game victories in 1954 and 1955. By 1957 the Browns had won the Division seven times in eight years, but there was a seven year gap before their next victory in 1964.
During this period, the Browns were rocked by the death of two of their players. Defensive back Don Fleming died aged 26 after being electrocuted. He played for the Browns for two years and was an up-and-coming star. A few weeks before his death Browns new signing Ernie Davis also died.
He was traded to Cleveland in December 1961 but he was diagnosed with leukaemia the following year. He was their first pick in the NFL draft in 1962 but sadly died in May 1963 aged 23. Both Davis’ number 45 shirt and Fleming’s number 46 shirt were retired by the Browns as a fitting memory to both players.
The mid-1960’s sparked a new era for the Browns. They won their fourth NFL crown in spectacular style with a 27-0 thrashing of the Baltimore Colts in 1964. They went on to win the Division in four of the next six years and firmly establish themselves as a high profile side. Despite their five titles they only managed to reach three Championship games which they lost to the Green Bay Packers, the Baltimore Colts and the Minnesota Vikings.
On the move again
In 1970 the Browns were on the move again. They were moved to the American Football Conference (AFC) and were crowned division winners the following year. However, the 1970’s was not a successful decade for the Browns. They reached the play-offs in 1971 and 1972 but all to no avail and that was the height of their success until the 1980’s came along.
Acceptable in the 80’s
The Browns were back on form in the 80’s. They clinched the Division Championship no less than five times in the decade, starting in 1980 and then in 1985, 86, 87 and 89. This era also became famous for the Browns fans because they became known as the “Dawg Pound.” As they barked in the stadium and wore dog masks to encourage their team, the fans were gradually gaining a reputation as well as the players and Cleveland were putting themselves firmly on the map.
However this period of domination in the AFC Championship was overshadowed by the Browns’ failure to reach any of the Superbowls despite winning five Championships. In 1986 and 87 the Denver Bronco’s put paid to their Superbowl hopes with close 23-20 and 38-33 victories respectively.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer left in 1988 and the curse of the Broncos returned in 1989. The Browns met them in the 1989 AFC Championship game and the Broncos ran out 37-21 winners. This was the last Championship that the team won under their original brand before owner Art Modell moved them to Baltimore and they became known as the Baltimore Ravens.
Times are changing
The new Browns retained the history of the old Browns but it was still a new side which began in 1999 after three years of building the stadium and team. The first season was anything but a success and the fans hoped it was not a taste of things to come as the Browns ended up winning just two of their 16 games.
It is their worst ever season to date and they lost all eight games at their new home, the Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns managed to get off the mark at their new stadium the following season, but they won only one more game than the previous campaign to leave the team progressing slowly.
The Lerner curve
Things started to improve on the field in 2002 and the Browns managed a playoff appearance, which coincided with the time that new owner Randy Lerner took up the reins of the club. He took over the ownership of the club from his father, Al Lerner, who died in October 2002. The Browns were unable to make the Playoff final in 2002 but Lerner’s arrival sparked new hope and desire into the Browns support.
But under Randy’s ownership the Browns remain a shadow of their former selves. Due to their recent injury problems they have been struggling. However, they are showing some signs of progress Browns fans believe that Randy Lerner could be the owner to take them back to their glory days of the 1950’s and 1980’s.
Super Bowl Champions:
NFL Champions (pre 1966): (4)
1950, 1954, 1955, 1964
AAFC Champions: (4)
1946, 1947, 1948, 1949
Super Bowls Appearances:
NFL Championship Games (Pre-1966): (9)
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1964, 1965
1968, 1969, 1986, 1987, 1989
Division Champions: (18)
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989
Playoff Appearances: (24)
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1994, 2002