While the Cleveland Browns have not won the NFL championship since 1964, it would be wrong to suggest that the Browns have not had any success since 1964.
One such successful period for Cleveland was the seven seasons that Fred Hoaglin played for the team from 1966 to 1972.
During Hoaglin’s years with the Browns, Cleveland never had a losing season, won five division titles, and played in two NFL championship games.
— Brian Eugene (@brianeugenewhit) September 10, 2014
We take a look at the life of Fred Hoaglin – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Fred Hoaglin was born in Alliance, Ohio on January 28, 1944.
Alliance is located in eastern Ohio, about 15 miles northeast of Canton and 50 miles southeast of Cleveland.
Hoaglin attended East Palatine High School in East Palestine, Ohio.
East Palestine (about 35 miles to the east of Alliance) is located on the border of Ohio with Pennsylvania.
After graduating from East Palatine High School in 1962, Hoaglin headed across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to Pittsburgh to attend University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) for college.
Hoaglin lettered in football at Pitt in 1964 and 1965.
In 1964, Pitt posted a record of 3-5-2.
One of Hoaglin’s teammates at Pitt in 1964 was future Cleveland Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Hoaglin became a starter at center for Pitt in 1965.
Pitt had a 3-7 record in 1965, including a 13-9 Pitt victory over Oklahoma on September 25, 1965, a 28-14 Pitt defeat of Miami (Florida) on October 23, 1965, and a 30-27 Pitt win over Penn State on November 20, 1965.
Hoaglin also earned two varsity letters in golf at Pitt.
He ultimately received a degree in industrial engineering in 1968.
After playing in the 1965 North-South All-Star game, Hoaglin headed to the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
Hoaglin was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 1966 NFL draft; he was the 93rd overall pick.
During the first eight games of the 1966 regular season, Hoaglin saw no action.
The center position was manned by John Morrow, who had started every regular season and playoff game for Cleveland since 1960.
However, Morrow suffered a leg injury in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 6, 1966.
The injury ended Morrow’s NFL career, as he never played in another NFL regular season game.
Morrow’s injury was Hoaglin’s opportunity, as Hoaglin started the final six regular season games at center for the Browns in 1966.
Cleveland had a 9-5 record, but failed to make the playoffs, in 1966.
Hoaglin contributed to the Browns offense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1966 second in points scored (403), second in total passing and rushing yards (5,071), fifth in passing yards (2,905), first in passing touchdowns (33), tied for second in fewest sacks allowed (29), first in rushing yards (2,166), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (18), and first in average yards per rushing attempt (5.2).
In addition, in the 1966 regular season, Leroy Kelly rushed for 1,141 yards (second in the NFL).
Hoaglin started all 14 regular season games at center in 1967.
The Browns won the NFL Century Division title, with a 9-5 record, in 1967.
Hoaglin helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL regular season in 1967 first in rushing yards (2,139) and first in average yards per rushing attempt (4.8).
In addition, Leroy Kelly, in the 1967 regular season, led the NFL with 1,205 rushing yards.
Cleveland met the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional round playoff game on December 24, 1967.
Hoaglin started the game at center, but Cleveland (despite gaining 322 total yards) lost to Dallas 52-14.
In 1968, Hoaglin again started all 14 regular season games at center.
With a 10-4 record, Cleveland again won the NFL Century Division title in 1968.
The Browns offense, with Hoaglin at center, ranked in the NFL regular season in 1968 third in points scored (394), second in total passing and rushing yards (4,889), fourth in passing yards (2,858), second in passing touchdowns (27), first in fewest sacks allowed (21), third in rushing yards (2,031), third in rushing touchdowns (20), and second in average yards per rushing attempt (4.5).
In addition, in the 1968 regular season, Leroy Kelly again led the NFL with 1,239 rushing yards and Paul Warfield ranked second in the NFL with 1,067 receiving yards.
On December 21, 1968, Cleveland played the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional round playoff game.
With Hoaglin starting the game at center, the Browns scored three offensive touchdowns – a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bill Nelsen to Leroy Kelly, a 35-yard touchdown run by Kelly, and a two-yard touchdown run by Ernie Green – and gained 280 total yards.
Cleveland avenged its loss to the Cowboys in the 1967 playoffs, defeating Dallas 31-20.
The Browns then advanced to the 1968 NFL championship game against the Baltimore Colts on December 29, 1968.
Hoaglin started the game at center, but Cleveland lost to Baltimore 34-0.
In 1969, Hoaglin, at center, again started all 14 regular season games.
For his play in 1969, Hoaglin was invited to the Pro Bowl.
Cleveland, with a 10-3-1 record, won the NFL Century Division title for a third consecutive year in 1969.
Hoaglin’s play helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL regular season in 1969 third in points scored (351), fifth in total passing and rushing yards (4,428), tied for second in passing touchdowns (24), third in fewest sacks allowed (20), fifth in rushing yards (1,788), and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (17).
For the third consecutive year, on December 28, 1969, Cleveland met the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional round playoff game.
Hoaglin started the game at center, and his play helped the Browns gain 344 total yards and score four offensive touchdowns – two two-yard touchdown runs by running back Bo Scott, a six-yard touchdown pass from Bill Nelsen to Milt Morin, and a one-yard touchdown run by Leroy Kelly.
The Browns defeated the Cowboys 38-14.
In the next game, Cleveland played the Minnesota Vikings in the 1969 NFL championship game on January 4, 1970.
Hoaglin started the game at center, but the Browns lost to Minnesota 27-7.
For the fourth consecutive year, Hoaglin started all 14 regular season games at center in 1970.
Cleveland had a 7-7 record in 1970.
Hoaglin helped the Cleveland offense rank in the NFL regular season in 1970 fifth in passing yards (2,582) and second in fewest sacks allowed (16).
In 1971, Hoaglin played in 11, and started eight (games one through seven and game 14), regular season games at center.
Hoaglin missed several games because of a calf injury in 1971.
The Browns had a 9-5 record in 1971 and won the AFC Central Division title.
Hoaglin contributed to the Cleveland offense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1971 tied for third in rushing touchdowns (19).
Cleveland played the Baltimore Colts in a divisional round playoff game on December 26, 1971.
Hoaglin played in, but did not start, the game, but the Browns lost to Baltimore 20-3.
In 1972, Hoaglin played in all 14, and started four (games two through five), regular season games at center.
In 1972, Cleveland had a 10-4 record and again won the AFC Central Division title.
The Browns met the undefeated Miami Dolphins in a divisional round playoff game on December 24, 1972.
Hoaglin played in the game, but Cleveland lost to Miami 20-14.
The 1972 playoff game against the Dolphins turned out to be Hoaglin’s last game as a member of the Browns.
On January 22, 1973, Hoaglin was traded by Cleveland to the Baltimore Colts for a third-round draft pick in the 1973 NFL draft.
In 1973, Hoaglin played in all 14 regular season games, and started one regular season game, for Baltimore.
On August 7, 1974, the Colts traded Hoaglin to the Houston Oilers for a tenth-round draft pick in the 1975 NFL draft.
Hoaglin was with the Oilers for two seasons, playing in all 14, and starting seven, regular season games at center in 1974 and playing in all 14, and not starting any, regular season games in 1975.
On March 30, 1976, Hoaglin was claimed by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1976 NFL expansion draft.
In Hoaglin’s final NFL playing season in 1976, he played in 13, and started seven, regular season games for Seattle.
The Years After the NFL
Hoaglin married Janet, and they have two children.
While Hoaglin’s last season as an NFL player was in 1976, he remained involved in the NFL as an assistant coach for over 20 years.
First, Hoaglin was an assistant offensive line coach for the Detroit Lions from 1978 through 1984.
Second, from 1986 through 1992, Hoaglin was an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants.
While Hoaglin was an assistant coach for New York, the Giants won two Super Bowls – Super Bowl XXI (after the 1986 season) and Super Bowl XXV (after the 1990 season).
— James Light (@JamesALight) July 6, 2020
Third, Hoaglin was an assistant offensive line coach for the New England Patriots from 1993 through 1996.
Fourth, Hoaglin was hired as an assistant tight ends coach by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997.
Upon Hoaglin’s hiring, Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin said:
“Fred Hoaglin is an excellent, experienced coach who knows the National Football League very well through his 30 years in the league. He has been with winning teams and has coached many great players.”
Hoaglin coached for the Jaguars through 2001.
He was active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes activities.
After his retirement, Hoaglin resided in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
1966 could have begun a down period for the Browns franchise.
Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown retired after the 1965 season.
However, the run blocking and pass protection of Fred Hoaglin helped to keep the Browns as one of the best teams in the NFL throughout his seven years with Cleveland from 1966 to 1972.
In terms of contributing to individual success, it is easy to see that Hoaglin helped the performance of Pro Football Hall of Famers Leroy Kelly and Paul Warfield.
However, from the many games described above, Hoaglin also helped such other players as Frank Ryan, Gary Collins, Ernie Green, Milt Morin, Bill Nelsen, Ron Johnson, Reece Morrison, Bo Scott, Fair Hooker, Chip Glass, and Frank Pitts be successful.
In terms of contributing to team success, from 1966 to 1972, Cleveland compiled an aggregate regular season and playoff record of 66-38-1.
While Hoaglin played for the Browns, the team never had a losing record in a season and won three NFL Century Division titles, two AFC Central Division titles, and two playoff games.
Most notably, with Hoaglin at center, Cleveland came within one game of playing in the Super Bowl in both 1968 and 1969.
It may be mere coincidence but after the Browns traded away Hoaglin before the 1973 season, it would be eight seasons until Cleveland was next to make the NFL playoffs in 1980.
The Browns also ranked high in many annual NFL regular season offensive statistical categories while Hoaglin played for Cleveland.
Hoaglin’s durability helped him contribute to individual and team success for the Browns.
He started every regular season and playoff game at center for Cleveland from the ninth regular season game in 1966 through the seventh regular season game in 1971 – a streak of 74 consecutive regular season and playoff games as a starter on the offensive line.
To the extent that the goal of every offensive lineman is to improve the performance of other players (usually offensive skill position players) and the team, Hoaglin definitely achieved this goal while playing center for the Browns.
Cleveland Browns fans should remember Pro Bowl invitee Fred Hoaglin – one of the top centers in Browns history.