NFL - AFC NORTH
2022-2023 TEAM LEADERS
Its beginnings came in the All-American Football Conference when Cleveland businessman Arther McBride was awarded a franchise. Between that event in 1944 and the first played game in 1946, McBride hired Paul Brown, a successful coach at Ohio State, and for the Great Lakes Naval Station football team. When in the navy, Brown actually coached 21-year-old halfback Ara Parseghian, who 20 years later became the head coach at Notre Dame and won two National Championships.
McBride initially named the team the Panthers but scrapped that name in favor of the prevailing sentiment of fans and players that the team be named after Paul Brown. Brown objected, but eventually, he gave in, and the Cleveland Browns became official.
They also assembled quite a roster to begin their history, with Otto Graham signing as the team’s first quarterback. Lou Groza joined his old college coach, as did Marion Motley, who played for Brown at Great Lakes. Motley, along with Brown’s former player Bill Willis, from Ohio State, were the first two black players in professional football, breaking the color barrier a year before Jackie Robinson did so in baseball.
Life in the AAFC was good on the field, as the Browns became the dominant team in the league. But warring with the NFL over players, and the lack of a competitive balance in the AAFC, eventually led to its dissolution, and three of its teams, Cleveland, Baltimore, and San Francisco, were added to the NFL for the 1950 season.
Championships by the Cleveland Browns
The NFL doesn’t recognize the wins or Cleveland Browns stats from the AAFC since it wasn’t a league sanctioned by the NFL or a league that played against the NFL. But the Cleveland Browns recognize the four championships it won as a member of the AAFC in 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1949.
Not only did Cleveland win the title every year the AAFC was in existence, but they also completed a perfect 14-0 season in 1948 and had a 47-4-3 record over the four years.
1950 NFL Championship
When joining the NFL in 1950, no one was really sure how good Cleveland would be. Would their dominance in the AAFC carry over to the older and stronger league? A 10-2 record and a 30-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL Championship Game answered that question emphatically. Not only could the Browns compete, but they were also the best team in professional football.
1954 NFL Championship
The Browns won their conference in each of the years between their 1950 championship win and their win 1954, losing in the Championship Game in each of those three seasons – once to the Rams and twice to the Lions. But in 1954, they returned to the top of the NFL with a 56-10 thumping of the Lions on six total touchdowns from Otto Graham (3 passing and 3 rushing).
1955 NFL Championship
The Browns were repeat champions the following year after a 38-14 win over the Rams in Los Angeles. In his final game in professional football, Graham threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more.
1964 NFL Championship
By the time the Browns won another championship in 1964, the dynasty of the 1950s had turned over. The players were new, and so was the head coach, and the new star of the team was Jim Brown, who rushed for 114 yards in the 27-0 win over Baltimore.
Key Stats by the Cleveland Browns
Along with its four AAFC Championships and four NFL Championships, the Cleveland Browns have won their NFL conference 11 times, including an incredible run in the 1950s of seven conference titles in eight years.
Dating back to 1946, the Browns have won their division 12 times, including six division titles when they were members of the AFC Central.
The Browns have appeared in the postseason a total of 29 times.
Top Players in Cleveland Browns History
The 1950s were the heyday of the Browns, and it saw them turn out some of the best players in NFL history.
Otto Graham was a three-time NFL MVP, a seven-time league champion, and a member of both the 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams. He holds the record for the highest winning percentage ever by an NFL starting quarterback.
Those championship teams also featured Pro Football Hall of Famers Marion Motley, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, Len Ford, Bill Willis, Bobby Mitchell, Frank Gatski, and Mac Speedie.
The 1960s had five-time First-Team All-Pro Gene Hickerson, eight-time Pro Bowler Paul Warfield, four-time First-Team All-Pro Leroy Kelly, and the only player to finish his career averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game, Jim Brown. He was a three-time NFL MVP, an eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and is largely regarded as the best running back in the history of the National Football League.
In the 1980s, the Browns had one of the best tight ends in the history of the NFL in Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome. And a player sure to be in the Hall of Fame someday is offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has the longest consecutive snap count in NFL history at 10,363. He was a six-time First-Team All-Pro.
Top Coaches in Cleveland Browns History
Not only was Paul Brown the first coach in Cleveland Browns history and the namesake of the franchise, but he is also easily the best coach in Browns history, as one of the best in the NFL.
Brown won four consecutive AAFC Championships, was a three-time NFL Champion and won seven NFL conference championships. The five-time NFL Coach of the Year finished his career with 158 regular-season wins in Cleveland and another 55 as the founder and coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Perhaps most impressive for Brown are the assistants that served directly under him that went on to win NFL Championships of their own. That list includes Don Shula, Weeb Ewbank, Bill Walsh, and Chuck Noll – the winners of 10 Super Bowl titles.
Other coaches of note in Browns history include Blanton Collier, an assistant under Brown who won the NFL Championship in 1964, Sam Rutigliano, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, and Marty Schottenheimer, the winner of three AFC Central titles in his five years in Cleveland.