The Cleveland Browns began as members of the rival All-America Football Conference (AAFC). After capturing that league's title in each of the four seasons the AAFC existed, the Browns moved to the NFL in 1950. Cleveland's domination continued as the Browns advanced to the NFL championship game six straight seasons and won the league crown in 1950, 1954, and 1955. The franchise added a fourth NFL championship in 1964.
The Cleveland Browns were born in 1944 when Cleveland businessman Arthur B. McBride acquired a franchise in the new All-America Football Conference that would begin play in 1946. McBride's first act after acquiring the team was to hire Paul Brown, who had been a very successful high school, college and service coach, as coach and general manager.
The teams of the AAFC basically were of comparable quality to those of the NFL but, in the first 10 years of post-World War II pro football, the Cleveland Browns proved to be the best in either league. With such all-time greats as quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and tackle-kicker Lou Groza leading the way, Cleveland won all four AAFC championships and amassed a 52-4-3 winning record. When the AAFC folded after the 1949 season, many insisted a major reason was the Browns' dominance that eliminated any viable competition.
The AAFC-NFL settlement called for the Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts to join the NFL. Many NFL diehards, still not convinced the Browns were for real, expected Cleveland to fail badly when they played against the established NFL teams. But the Browns quickly proved their domination was no fluke by opening the 1950 season with a stunning 35-10 victory over the defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland then won the NFL Eastern Conference championship for six straight years from 1950 to 1955 and NFL titles in 1950, 1954 and 1955.
The Browns won another divisional title in 1957, a year that saw the great running back from Syracuse, Jim Brown, join the team. In his nine-season career, Jim Brown rushed for 12,312 yards, a lifetime record that stood for more than 20 years.
The Paul Brown era ended after the 1962 season and he was replaced by a former assistant, Blanton Collier. Collier gave the Browns their last NFL championship in 1964, when they defeated the Baltimore Colts, 27-0.
The Browns reached the post-season playoffs 22 times in their first 40 years in the NFL. In addition to their four NFL championships between 1950 and 1964, they won 11 NFL Eastern Conference championships, three NFL Century Division titles and AFC Central Division championships in 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989.
In 1961, Arthur B. Modell purchased the Browns for a then-unheard-of price of $4 million. From the start, he was recognized as one of the NFL's more progressive leaders. But Modell stunned the pro football world in 1995 when he announced that he would transfer his Cleveland franchise to Baltimore to begin play in 1996.
Determined to keep the team in Cleveland, Browns fans and Cleveland city officials orchestrated an unprecedented grass-roots campaign to block the move. The NFL quickly responded and, working with city officials, developed a unique solution that not only provided for a new state-of-the-art stadium, but guaranteed the return of pro football to Cleveland by no later than 1999. Additionally, Art Modell agreed to relinquish the "Browns" name, colors and team history to the new owner of the suspended franchise.
Firsts, Records, Odds & Ends
June 4, 1944 as Charter Member of AAFC
Merged into NFL:
Cleveland Browns Stadium
Owner and President:
Senior Vice President & General Manager:
1950, 1954, 1955, 1964
1946, 1947, 1948, 1949
AAFC Western Divisional Championships:
1946, 1947, 1948, 1949
NFL Eastern Conference Championships:
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969
NFL Century Division Championships:
1967, 1968, 1969
AFC Central Division Championships:
1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989
(At Start of 2006 Season)
Retired Uniform Numbers:
#14 Otto Graham, #32 Jim Brown, #45 Ernie Davis, #46 Don Fleming, #76 Lou Groza
First NFL Draft Choice: Ken Carpenter, HB, Oregon State, 1950.
First Regular-Season Game in the AAFC: A 44-0 victory over the Miami Seahawks, 9/6/46.
First Regular-Season Game in the NFL: A 35-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, 9/16/50.
First Touchdown/AAFC: A 19-yard touchdown pass from Cliff Lewis to Mac Speedie vs. the Miami Seahawks, 9/6/46.
First Touchdown/NFL: A 59-yard touchdown pass from Otto Graham to Dub Jones vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, 9/16/50.
First Winning Season/AAFC: 1946 (12-2).
First Winning Season/NFL: 1950 (10-2).
First Playoff Appearance/AAFC: A 14-9 victory over the New York Yankees in the AAFC Championship game, 12/22/46.
First Playoff Appearance/NFL: An 8-3 victory over the New York Giants in the NFL Eastern Conference playoff game.
First to Rush 100 Yards in a Game: Marion Motley, 143 yards vs. the Los Angeles Dons, 10/20/46.
First 1,000-Yard Rusher: Jim Brown, 1,527 (1958).
First To Pass 400 Yards in a Game: Otto Graham, 401 yards vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, 10/4/52.
Most Career Rushing Yards: Jim Brown, 12,312 yards (1957-1965).
Most Career Passing Yards: Brian Sipe, 23,713 yards (1974-1983).
Most Career Receptions: Ozzie Newsome, 662 receptions (1978-1990).
All-Time Leading Scorer: Lou Groza, 1,608 points, (1946-1949 AAFC, 1950-1959, 1961-1967 NFL).
First Brown Elected to the Hall of Fame: QB Otto Graham, 1965.
It's A Fact: Twenty former Browns coaches or players have become NFL head coaches.
Cleveland Browns Legends
The Cleveland Browns organization honors the team’s all-time greats through the Cleveland Browns Legends Program. Each year former players are inducted into the Legends Program through a combination vote of panelists and fan voting, which takes place exclusively on ClevelandBrowns.com. The Cleveland Browns Legends are permanently honored in several areas throughout Cleveland Browns Stadium for fans to view on game days and all year round.
Jim Brown*, RB
Paul Brown*, Coach
Earnest Byner, RB
Gary Collins, WR
Doug Dieken, T
Joe DeLamielleure*, G
Hanford Dixon, CB
Len Ford*, DE
Bob Gain, DT
Frank Gatski*, C
Otto Graham*, QB
Lou Groza*, OL/K
Gene Hickerson, OL
Jim Houston, DE/LB
Tommy James, CB/P
Dub Jones, WR
Leroy Kelly*, RB
Bernie Kosar, QB
Dante Lavelli*, WR
Clay Matthews, LB
Mike McCormack*, OL
Walt Michaels, LB
Frank Minnifield, DB
Bobby Mitchell*, RB
Marion Motley*, RB
Ozzie Newsome*, TE
Michael Dean Perry, DL
Greg Pruitt, RB
Mike Pruitt, RB
Ray Renfro, WR
Frank Ryan, QB
Dick Schafrath, OL
Jerry Sherk, DL
Brian Sipe, QB
Jim Ray Smith, OL
Mac Speedie, WR
Paul Warfield*, WR
Bill Willis*, MG
More on the Cleveland Browns Legends Program>>>
* Also member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame