What's special about the Cleveland Browns?

One of the most disconcerting aspects of traveling to a country whose language you don’t know is how the most commonplace things become indecipherable. Ask a stranger for directions and she may think to explain tricky vocabulary but she’ll almost never think to describe whether the place she just referred to is a city, train station, library, cafe, or all of the above. The same is true for sports natives. A thoughtful sports fan should be willing and able to explain a rule, but he’ll almost never think of explaining who a particular team is, what sport they play, or the team’s history and characteristics. In this series, we’ll do just that — describe what is unique about each sports team.

Cleveland Browns – the basics

  • Sport – Football
  • League – National Football League (NFL)
  • Conference – American Football Conference (AFC)
  • Division – AFC North
  • History – The Cleveland Browns have one of the more bizarre histories in sports history. They were founded in 1944 and named after their first head coach, Paul Brown, who later spread rumors of alternative sources for the name. The team began play in 1946 in the AAFC or All American Football Conference, a rival league to the NFL. In 1950 the team switched to the NFL. The team operated in Cleveland until 1996 when their then owner, Art Modell, moved the team to Baltimore. As opposed to every other team in NFL history that has moved, the city of Cleveland managed to hold on to its team’s name and history in a legal settlement and also got a guarantee from the NFL that a new team would be installed within four years and would take on the mantle of the old Browns. This came to pass in 1999 when the city was awarded an expansion team. So, the history of the Browns is bifurcated by a period of four years without football from 1996 to 1999.
  • Championships – The Browns won AAFC Championships in each of its four years in the league and then won an NFL championship in 1950, the first year in that league, as well. The Browns won three more NFL championships in 1954, 1955, and 1964 but haven’t won any in the Super Bowl era.
  • Rivals – The Browns have great rivalries with each of the teams in its division, and for good reason. The Cincinnati Bengals were started partially out of spite for the Browns by then ex-Browns coach, Paul Brown. The Baltimore Ravens are the team that once was the Browns before the Browns were born again. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the big brother that won’t stop beating them.

It’s a real shame that many NFL football fans only associate the Browns name with the newer edition of the team. The new Browns have faced similar issues to many expansion teams. It’s hard to build a winning roster and culture from scratch. The shame is that in all the commotion with moving the team to Baltimore and then recreating it in Cleveland, a proud, albeit not entirely successful franchise has been reduced to a laughingstock.

Here is the their winning percentage in each season since their inception:

Who are some notable players or figures from the Cleveland Browns?

Otto Graham is the answer to the question, “Wait, the Browns went to the championship game every year between 1946 and 1955 and won seven of them… who the heck was their quarterback?” Graham was one of the pioneers of the position. At the end of his career, in 1955, he left the Browns with a 114–20–4 record. He still holds the record for longest average pass completion. Graham was a renaissance man who was proficient as an instrumentalist on piano, violin, french horn, and cornet. He was also a great basketball player.

Jim Brown was the game’s greatest running back during his short career with the Cleveland Browns. Drafted by the Browns with the sixth overall pick in the 1957 NFL draft, Brown played his entire nine year career in Cleveland, where he set many, many records, even career records for running backs despite his abbreviated career. Brown retired abruptly before the 1966 season due to a disagreement with then owner, Art Modell. Modell was annoyed that Brown had missed part of training camp because of his role as an actor in the the movie The Dirty DozenBrown got annoyed (or more) at Modell and simply retired from football at the age of 29. Since his retirement, Brown has remained a cultural figure, particularly as a strong voice for racial justice.

Where do the Cleveland Browns play?

The blind date test

Imagine you’re about to go on a blind date and all you know about the person is that he or she is a Cleveland Browns fan. Here’s what you can guess about that person. Remember that all fans are unique. We bear no responsibility for any misunderstandings we engender. Trust but verify.

The experience of having had their team taken away, only to have it come back reinforced the lesson that good things come to those who wait. Of course, if they think the new edition of their team is a good thing, you’re in luck — you’ve got an optimist on your hands!

What will make a Cleveland Browns fan squirm?

Mention Orlando Brown (yes, another Brown), nicknamed Zeus, who had his career with the Browns shortened in a terrible accident when an official’s penalty flag hit him in the eye and nearly blinded him. Tragic.

Buy Cleveland Browns Swag!

What do the Cleveland Browns look like?

Team colors are orange, brown, and white. Their current uniforms look like this.

Cleveland Browns Uniforms

Current and recent teams

Coming soon — a post about the 2015 Cleveland Browns including an overview of their most interesting characters as well as what fans expect from the team this year.

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