The Cleveland Browns are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The Cleveland Browns play in the American Football Conference (AFC) North Division with three other teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. The Cleveland Browns have won 4 AAFC Championships and 4 NFL Championships. Cleveland Browns Stadium, located in Cleveland, Ohio, hosts all Cleveland Browns home games.
In 1946, the Cleveland Browns were one of the original members of the All-America Football Conference, the AAFC. Led by legendary Head Coach Paul Brown, the Cleveland Browns won all four AAFC Championships during the League’s 4-year existence. In 1948, the Cleveland Browns even went undefeated and untied, and their undefeated streak lasted 29 games over the 1947, 1948 and 1949 seasons.
The Cleveland Browns began NFL play when three teams from the AAFC joined the NFL in 1950. In addition to the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts also joined the more established NFL that year. Most professional football critics at the time saw the NFL as a more elite league and they did not expect much success from any of the new teams admitted to the NFL. The Cleveland Browns proved these critics wrong. In its first season in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns finished the season with a 10-2 record, with both losses coming to the New York Giants. The Cleveland Browns avenged those earlier losses to the New York Giants by beating them 8-3 in a playoff game to earn a berth in the franchise’s first ever NFL Championship Game. In that 1950 Championship Game, the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship with a thrilling come from behind victory over the Los Angeles Rams 30-28. The next 5 seasons, the Cleveland Browns continued to dominate play in the “senior” NFL circuit. Although the Cleveland Browns lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the 1951 NFL Championship Game and to the Detroit Lions in the 1952 and 1953 Championship Games, the Cleveland Browns continued to make an imprint in the NFL each and every season. Behind the solid quarterback play of Otto Graham, the talented rushing of Marion Motley and the talented receiving of Mac Speedie, the Cleveland Browns were tough to beat. In 1954, the Cleveland Browns regained status as the best team in the NFL with a 56-10 destruction of the Detroit Lions in the NFL Championship Game. A year later, the Cleveland Browns won their 3rd championship in 6 years with a 38-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Over this stretch of time in the early 1950’s, Head Coach Paul Brown and the Cleveland Browns earned their stripes as one of the best teams in NFL history.
Legendary running back Jim Brown played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 through 1965. Jim Brown led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 5 different seasons and he is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 yards rushing per game over the course of his pro football career. Jim Brown was voted into the Pro Bowl in every season that he played. Following his football career, Jim Brown starred in numerous major motion pictures. His most memorable films include the 1967 war movie “The Dirty Dozen”, the 1987 comedy “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and the 1987 action movie “The Running Man”. He also acted as a coach in the recent movie “Any Given Sunday”. Jim Brown was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971.
While Jim Brown put up huge rushing totals during his career as a member of the Cleveland Browns, the team was only considered an average NFL team during that time. The only NFL Championship for Jim Brown came when the Cleveland Browns upset the Baltimore Colts with a 27-0 shutout in the 1964 NFL Championship Game. The Cleveland Browns made the NFL playoffs 6 more times from 1965 through 1972, even making it to the NFL Championship Game in 1965, 1968 and 1969. However, the Cleveland Browns always fell one game short during that span as the team could never seem to win that final NFL Championship Game.
After a fruitless 12-year span from 1973 through 1984, the Cleveland Browns made the NFL playoffs 5 straight years from 1985 through 1989. Led by Quarterback Bernie Kosar, young Running Backs Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack and a sturdy defense, the Cleveland Browns won the AFC Central 4 out of 5 years and made it to the AFC Championship Game 3 times. In each AFC Championship game, however, the Denver Broncos defeated the Cleveland Browns, denying the Cleveland Brown fan base the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl contest. The most devastating loss came in the 1987 AFC Championship Game when Earnest Byner fumbled the football inside the Denver Broncos’ 5 yard line just as he was about to score the tying touchdown. The Denver Broncos recovered the fumble and that game will always be remembered for Earnest Byner’s infamous “Fumble”. The Cleveland Browns have not won another NFL Championship Game since Jim Brown’s 1964 season.
In November 1995, long-time owner announced his desire to move the Cleveland Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore, Maryland. The announcement was met with disapproval from the city and the Cleveland Brown fan base, but the settlement agreement between the team, the city and the NFL was finalized in February 1996 and Art Modell moved the team from Cleveland to Baltimore for the 1996 season. In return for allowing Art Modell to move the team to Baltimore, the NFL stipulated that the history of the Cleveland Browns franchise, its colors and all past records and Hall of Fame Inductees would remain with the Cleveland Browns. The final Cleveland Browns game in Cleveland Municipal Stadium was played on December 17, 1995, as the Cleveland Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10.
The city of Cleveland did not have another professional football team until 1999. At that time, Al Lerner, a former partner of the original Art Modell ownership group, bid the highest amount for ownership of the “new” Cleveland Browns franchise. The city of Cleveland was excited to have a new ownership team and a new management team that consisted of former successful San Francisco 49ers executives, Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark. The excitement and high expectations have been short-lived, however, as the team failed to make the playoffs in all but one season since its “renewal.” Once again under new general management and a new head coach, the Cleveland Browns fan base hopes the team can return to the glory days of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
From 1999 through 2006, the Cleveland Browns only had 1 winning season. During the 2002-3 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns finished 2nd in the AFC North with a 9-7 record. The Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-33 in the wild card round of the playoffs. During the 2007-8 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns shocked the entire league by winning 10 games and finishing 2nd in the AFC North. Because of the intense competition in the AFC, however, the Cleveland Browns failed to qualify for post-season play. The Cleveland Browns have a young talented team on both offense and defense, so the future looks bright for this energetic team led by Head Coach Romeo Crennel.