The Cleveland Browns are a National Football League team based in Cleveland, Ohio.
In some accounts there may be confusion regarding the team's history due to unusual and unprecedented actions taken following the relocation of the original team to Baltimore, Maryland following the 1995 season. In an agreement between the city of Cleveland and the National Football League, the name, colors and history of the Browns were to remain in Cleveland, while the relocated club would technically be a new league franchise, the Baltimore Ravens.
For that reason, official records and Pro Football Hall of Fame players are attributed to the Browns and not to the Ravens. Some, however, consider the 1996 Baltimore Ravens and the relocated 1995 Browns as one continuous entity, often using the term The Modell Franchise to denote it (after its long-time owner, Art Modell). See the Franchise History entry below for full details of the move.
- Founded: 1946, in the All-America Football Conference; joined NFL in 1950.
- Home field: Cleveland Browns Stadium
- Previous home field: Cleveland Municipal Stadium (1946-1995)
- Uniform colors: Brown (officially "Seal Brown") and Orange
- Helmet design: Orange helmet with brown and white center stripe. No logo (for one game in 1965 the initials "CB" in brown appeared on each side).
- League championships won: AAFC: 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949. NFL: 1950, 1954, 1955, 1964.
Early days in the AAFC
The Browns are the only team in the NFL
that does not have a logo on their helmet
The Cleveland Browns were founded in 1946 under owner Arthur McBride. The team was to be named the Cleveland Panthers, but a semi-pro team was using that name and threatened to sue if the AAFC club used it as well. McBride then named the team after its first head coach, Paul Brown. Brown was uncomfortable with the idea of having the team named after him, stating publicly that the team was named after boxing champion Joe Louis who was known as the "Brown Bomber ".
In either event, the Browns were extremely successful in the early part of their existence, dominating the new All-America Football Conference, winning all four of its championships including with a landmark 1948 season in which they went unbeaten and untied - 24 years before the 'first' perfect team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
NFL dominance follows AAFC dominance
After the 1949 season the AAFC merged with the rival National Football League, with the Browns joining the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts as members of the older circuit.
Despite the change in leagues and what many football fans saw as a graduation to "the big league," the Browns simply resumed their dominant position among pro football teams, appearing in the next six NFL championship games, and capturing four championships during the 1950s.
Move to the AFC
The 1970 AFL-NFL merger would see the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts (the original, AAFC Colts were disbanded in 1950, with a new franchise being awarded for 1953) in the new American Football Conference aligned with the 10 teams of the American Football League.
While the realignment would greatly benefit the Steelers, the placement of the Browns into the AFC's Central Division would not be as good. Though the team won division championships in 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989, the team would fail to maintain their past success in winning league championships. In 1986, 1987 and 1989 the Browns would come one step short of a Super Bowl appearance, in each case falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The AFC Championship games against the Broncos produced some famous moments, including The Drive and The Fumble.
Original franchise relocated
Team owner Art Modell complained that he wanted a new stadium in the late 1980s. Cleveland City Council offered Modell an indoor stadium that would seat 68,000. Modell was upset that the new stadium would be too small, so he decided to put his own money into renovation of the old Cleveland Stadium. After seeing new stadiums built for other major teams, after years of complaining that a new stadium would be necessary to sustain the viability of the franchise, and despite years of sellouts and profitability, in November 1995 , Modell announced he would relocate the Browns to Baltimore, Maryland for 1996.
The announcement was met with unprecedented resistance from Browns fans, with over 100 lawsuits filed by fans, the city of Cleveland, and a host of others. Virtually all of the team's sponsors immediately pulled their support, leaving Cleveland Stadium devoid of advertising during the team's final weeks. Modell was forced to resign from the membership (and in many cases, leadership positions) of local civic and charitable organizations, and would literally be forced to leave the city - never to return.
In early 1996, the National Football League announced that the team would be 'deactivated' for three years, and that a new stadium would be built for a new Cleveland Browns team that would begin play in 1999. Modell would in turn be granted a new franchise for Baltimore, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Browns history, records, awards and archives would remain in Cleveland, to be given to the new franchise when awarded.
In early 1998 the National Football League began its search for an owner for the reborn Browns, finding one later in the year in Al Lerner , a former limited partner of the original Browns and a friend of Art Modell. Lerner would usher in the team's rebirth in 1999, but would die in October 2002 - four years to the day he was awarded the new Browns franchise. In death he would turn over the team to his son, Randy .
The team returned with high hopes and expectations, featuring solid ownership, solid general management in the form of former San Francisco 49ers president Carmen Policy, and head coach Chris Palmer . To date though, the franchise has not lived up to its lofty early expectations, with Palmer being dismissed after the 2000 season and Policy leaving the team in 2003. Palmer was suceeded by former University of Miami coach Butch Davis . Despite a 2002 AFC Wild Card qualification, the team saw a dismal record during the next two seasons leading to Butch Davis' resignation in December 2004. Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
As Super Bowl XXXIX approached, there was much speculation over who would become the new head coach. On January 6, 2005, it was announced that Phil Savage signed on as general manager. Savage was previously an administrative member for the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns before 1995. After the New England Patriots victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at the Super Bowl, Patriots' defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel signed on as the 11th head coach for the Browns and first African American coach in the team's history.
Players of note
Pro Football Hall of Famers:
Not to be forgotten: