- Team Name: Cleveland Browns
- Year Established: 1946
- Stadium Name: FirstEnergy Stadium
- Stadium Capacity: 67,431
- Conference: AFC
- Division: North
- Super Bowl Appearances: 0
- Super Bowl Victories: 0
The Cleveland Browns were founded in 1944 by taxi firm owner, Arthur B “Mickey” McBride and started life playing in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) which they dominated for the four years it was in existence.
They were originally going to be called the Cleveland Panthers after they ran a competition to name the team.
It’s not fully known whether the Panthers name was the winner of the competition or not as many people wanted them to be called the Browns after their first head coach, Paul Brown. Either way, General C.X. Zimmerman, who owned the previous Cleveland Panthers team in 1926, said he owned the name and wanted compensation if this new organisation was going to use the name. Head coach, Paul Brown, is also said to have not wanted the Panthers name as they were a failure during their time in the 1920’s and he didn’t want to be associated with them.
A previous favourite of locals was to call the team the “Browns”, after their head coach. This coach, Paul Brown, had rejected this idea a couple of times previously, but after the naming competition, and subsequent compensation claim, had turned out the way it did the team and coach went with the “Browns” idea. Coach Paul Brown was
said to be uncomfortable with the team being named after him but eventually bowed to publics wishes.
Early Days & the AAFC
The team played its first game in 1946 against the Miami Seahawks in front of 60,135 fans at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns won 44-0 and went on in a similar fashion to win 4 straight AAFC championships between 1946-1949. The Browns totally dominated the AAFC with 52 wins, 4 losses and 3 tied games.
This dominance by the Browns could have been a factor in the downfall of the AAFC as crowd numbers fell year after year as fans tired of one-sided games. The ending of the AAFC led to the Browns and two other teams from that league moving over to join the NFL, which was considered by many to be the stronger league of the two at the time. The other two teams to switch were the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, both good teams in their own right. The Browns would now represent the city of Cleveland in this league after the Cleveland Rams, who had done this role in the NFL whilst the Browns were dominating the AAFC, moved out to Los Angeles the season after winning the 1945 NFL title game. From 1950 the Browns were Cleveland’s representatives in the world of football.
Joining the NFL
The early years of football in the NFL went well for the Browns after many people had dubbed them as, “no more than the best team in a poor league”. Their first game in the NFL was, perhaps, the biggest test they could have faced as they were scheduled to play against the defending champion Eagles. The Browns laid to rest any doubters claims about their skill level as they blew past the Eagles 35-10. They went on to a 10-2 regular season record and a championship game (eventually to become known as the Super Bowl) against the team they had taken over from as the football representatives of the city of Cleveland, the Rams. The Browns would win the NFL crown on their first attempt after a close fought 30-28 victory on a Lou Groza field goal.
The team would then go on to appear in the next three championship games only to lose them against the Rams and twice to the Detroit Lions. After those three losses, though, they got back to winning ways with two more championship titles to their name. So, although the record books show that the Browns have never won, or even appeared in the Super Bowl, us fans can take some solace in the fact that our team has at least won the league’s biggest prize in dominant fashion many times in the past (I’ll take anything during these days of near winless seasons 😉 ).
The Browns run of league dominance came to an end in 1956 when their legendary QB, Otto Graham, retired and they struggled to find a quality replacement (sounds familiar to today’s troubles). Many of the other original Browns players also retired from the game at this point which further hindered the team’s ability to continue its success in the league. The team did, however, pick up a certain Mr Jim Brown from the 1957 NFL Draft with the 6th overall pick, which saw the team switch to a more run-focused style. They managed to reach the championship game again, but no more titles were won as a trend of post-season near misses set in.
The 1980’s Cleveland Browns
The team’s next spell of post-season action came in the 1980’s when they reached the heights of the AFC Championship game on three occasions behind the passing of Pro Bowl QB, Bernie Kosar and running of Pro Bowl running backs, Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack.
Their attempts to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl were thwarted all three times, one step short, by the Denver Broncos, led by their legendary QB, John Elway. The first two of their three encounters were closely fought affairs, but the third encounter, in 1989, would be an easy win for the Broncos by a score of 37-21.
Yes, that Bill Belichick
After the good times of the 1980’s, things started to go downhill for the Browns in 1990 which saw the firing of head coach, Bud Carson, after just one and a half years in charge. His replacement was the now New England head coach – and widely thought of as the best head coach to ever coach in the NFL – Bill Belichick who they acquired from the New York Giants where he was defensive coordinator.
Belichick’s start in Cleveland was a slow one as the team went 6-10 in his first season in charge followed by a couple of 7-9 seasons. It was 1994 when things started to look good again for the franchise as they went 11-5 in the regular season and made it to the AFC Divisional game before being beaten by their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even though things were starting to look good again under the leadership of Bill Belichick, owner Art Modell decided to announce in November 1995 that he would be relocating the franchise to Baltimore in 1996, therefore leaving the city of Cleveland without a team. Fans and media alike were furious about the decision as they believed the team was on the brink of something special after getting a great coaching team in place as well as one of the best defenses in the league.
The 1995 season, not surprisingly, was a disaster after the announcement to move and the team finished with a record of 5-11. Art Modell also fired Bill Belichick before the franchise moved to Baltimore.
The team would return to Cleveland in 1999 after a deal was struck during the relocation to Baltimore that all the rights to name, colours and logos would not go to Baltimore but would stay in Cleveland.
During its time back in the league, it doesn’t seem to have been able to find any stability and continuity with ownership, coaching and Quarterback changes happening as a regular occurrence.
One of the lowest points of the team’s history could be argued to have been during the 2016 season when they narrowly missed becoming only the second team in history to have a winless season when they managed to beat the San Diego Chargers, 20-17. The old rivals of the Browns, the Detroit Lions, are still the only team to have had a winless season when they went 0-16 in the 2008 season.
From past eras, the Browns have had rivalries with a few teams of which the Broncos are one. They are the team responsible for making the Browns miss out on a Super Bowl spot 3 times during the late 1980’s.
Today the Pittsburgh Steelers are the biggest rivals of the Browns and this rivalry is known as the “Turnpike Rivalry”. Due to the Browns not doing very well and the Steelers thriving in recent times, the rivalry has cooled somewhat, especially from the point of view of the Steelers organisation and fanbase.
Due to animosity between Paul Brown and former Browns owner, Art Modell, which saw Brown leave and go to Cincinnati, there has been a rivalry between the two sides. It is called the “Battle of Ohio” as that is the state both cities are in. Paul Brown even chose the same shade of orange for the Cincinnati Bengals to wear when he went there. This has since been changed to a lighter orange shade and the black stripes added. When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970 Art Modell moved the Browns to the AFC partly to fuel the rivalry between the Browns and Bengals as they would play each other more regularly.
The very same Art Modell was the owner of the Browns who decided to move the franchise to Baltimore in 1996, much to the horror and anger of the team’s fans. This move left the city of Cleveland with no franchise after having had such a rich history within the game for many previous years. The fans and many experts also thought they were on the verge of some successful times but we’ll never actually know now. The Baltimore organisation don’t really see this as much of a rivalry as the Cleveland fans as they see it more as a bitterness aimed at former owner Art Modell.
Three of the teams mentioned above are all in the AFC North with the Browns, which makes for a very enjoyable season for Browns fans like me.