When a new sports franchise is formed, you never know how long it will take until the franchise is successful.
For the new Cleveland Browns franchise in 1946, success was immediate, as the team won a professional football championship in its first year of existence – the first of five consecutive professional football championships for the Browns from 1946 to 1950.
One player who contributed to the early success of Cleveland was Mike Scarry.
Playing on both offense and defense, Scarry contributed to the Browns winning their first two professional football championships in 1946 and 1947.
We take a look at the life of Mike Scarry – before, during, and after his professional football playing career.
The Early Years Before College
Michael Joseph “Mo” Scarry was born on February 1, 1920 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.
Duquesne is a suburb of Pittsburgh.
His parents were Michael and Mary Scarry.
He had a brother, Jack, and two sisters, Sally and Mary.
Scarry attended both Duquesne High School and Holy Name High School.
He played football and basketball in high school.
He also was on the high school track team.
Basketball was Scarry’s best sport in high school.
“I was a two-handed hotshot.”
Waynesburg College (located in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh) offered Scarry a basketball scholarship, and he headed to the school for college.
The College Years
Scarry attended Waynesburg College from 1939 to 1941.
While Scarry played basketball at Waynesburg College, when the football coach asked him to try out for football, Scarry also played football.
He played center and linebacker on the football team.
Scarry left Waynesburg College for military service in the United States Army during World War II.
He served as an Infantry Lieutenant in North Africa under General George Patton.
While he was later playing professional football, Scarry would ultimately complete his college degree requirements (earning a bachelor of science degree) in 1947 at Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
The Pro Football Years
After being discharged from military service for medical reasons, as Scarry had asthma, Scarry signed with the Cleveland Rams in the National Football League (“NFL”) in 1944.
Scarry first played left tackle for the Rams in 1944.
However, he moved to center early in the season.
He also played on defense in 1944.
Scarry started all 10 regular season games for the Rams in 1944.
He had one interception, which he returned for five yards, in 1944.
Scarry helped the Rams offense rank in the 1944 NFL regular season fifth in passing yards (1,261), fifth in passing touchdowns (13), tied for fifth in rushing yards (1,141), and fifth in rushing touchdowns (13).
In addition, Scarry contributed to the Rams defense ranking in the 1944 NFL regular season second in recovered turnovers (44), first in recovered fumbles (17), third in lowest pass completion percentage allowed (42.2%), and fourth in defensive interceptions (27).
The Rams posted a 4-6 record in 1944.
In 1945, Scarry suffered a knee injury near the beginning of the season, but still started all 10 regular season games for the Rams.
He again played on both offense (center) and defense (right linebacker).
Scarry intercepted four passes in 1945, which he returned for 32 yards.
For his play in 1945, Scarry was named first-team All-Pro by the Chicago Herald American and second-team All-Pro by both Pro Football Illustrated and United Press International.
Scarry was team captain of the Rams in 1945.
With Scarry on offense, the Rams offense in the 1945 NFL regular season ranked third in points scored (244), second in total passing and rushing yards (3,481), third in passing yards (1,767), tied for first in passing touchdowns (16), first in average passing yards per passing attempt (8.9), first in rushing yards (1,714), second in rushing touchdowns (19), and first in average rushing yards per rushing attempt (4.6).
On defense, in the 1945 NFL regular season, Scarry helped the Rams defense rank third in fewest points allowed (136), third in fewest total rushing and passing yards allowed (2,489), first in recovered turnovers (44), second in recovered fumbles (16), first in lowest pass completion percentage allowed (39.1%), tied for second in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (9), second in defensive interceptions (28), second in lowest average passing yards per passing attempt allowed (5.8), fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,026), fourth in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (10), and third in lowest average rushing yards per rushing attempt allowed (2.9).
With a 9-1 record, the Rams won the NFL West Division title in 1945 and advanced to play in the 1945 NFL championship game against the Washington Redskins on December 16, 1945.
Scarry started the game and helped the Rams offense rush for 180 yards on 44 rushing attempts and the Rams defense held Washington to only 35 rushing yards on 34 rushing attempts.
The Rams defeated Washington 15-14 for Scarry’s first professional football championship.
The Rams decided to leave Cleveland and move the franchise to Los Angeles for the 1946 NFL season.
However, Scarry was one of five players (along with tackle Chet Adams, halfback Tommy Colella, back Don Greenwood, and fullback/defensive end Gaylon Smith) who did not want to go to Los Angeles with the Rams.
They claimed that their contracts were not with the “Los Angeles” Rams, but with the “Cleveland” Rams.
A court ultimately agreed with the players, who were thereby freed of their obligations to the Rams.
Instead, Scarry and the other players stayed in Cleveland, signing with a new franchise – the Cleveland Browns in the new All-America Football Conference (“AAFC”).
The AAFC began play in 1946, competing against the NFL.
With the Browns in 1946, Scarry, at a height of six feet and a weight of 214 pounds, played in all 14, and started 10, regular season games.
Scarry, in 1946, played center on offense and on the defensive line and linebacker on defense.
He often played 50 or more minutes of a 60-minute game.
In 1946, Scarry was part of a Browns offense that scored 30 or more points in six regular-season games – a 44-0 Cleveland shutout of the Miami Seahawks on September 6, 1946, a 31-14 Browns defeat of the Los Angeles Dons on October 20, 1946 (Cleveland rushed for 224 yards, including 143 rushing yards by future Pro Football Hall of Fame fullback Marion Motley), a 51-14 Browns triumph over the Chicago Rockets on November 17, 1946 (Cleveland rushed for 209 yards and future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham threw four touchdown passes), a 42-17 Browns win over the Buffalo Bisons on November 24, 1946 (Cleveland rushed for 292 yards), a 34-0 Browns shutout of the Miami Seahawks on December 3, 1946, and a 66-14 Cleveland victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers on December 8, 1946 (the Browns passed for 358 “net pass yards”).
Scarry also was part of a Cleveland defense in 1946 that held eight opponents to single digits.
First, in the above-described September 6, 1946 44-0 shutout of Miami, the Browns held the Seahawks to only -1 rushing yards and 28 “net pass yards” and scored two defensive touchdowns.
Second, on September 13, 1946, Cleveland defeated the Chicago Rockets 20-6 and held Chicago to only 81 “net pass yards”.
Third, on September 22, 1946, in a 28-0 Browns shutout of the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland held the Bisons to only 49 “net pass yards” and forced five Buffalo turnovers.
Fourth, in a 24-7 Browns victory over the New York Yankees on September 29, 1946, Cleveland held New York to only 36 rushing yards and forced five Yankees turnovers.
Fifth, the Browns held the Brooklyn Dodgers to only 37 rushing yards and forced six Dodgers turnovers, in a 26-7 Cleveland triumph over Brooklyn on October 6, 1946.
Sixth, on October 12, 1946 (for the sixth consecutive game holding the opponent to single digits), the Browns defeated the New York Yankees 7-0, holding New York to only 47 “net pass yards” and forcing five Yankees turnovers.
Seventh, in a 14-7 Cleveland win over the San Francisco 49ers on November 10, 1946, the Browns held San Francisco to only 69 “net pass yards”.
Eighth, in the above-described December 3, 1946 34-0 shutout of Miami (for the fourth defensive shutout by Cleveland in 1946), the Browns held the Seahawks to only 8 rushing yards and 38 “net pass yards” and forced nine Seahawks turnovers.
Scarry intercepted two passes in 1946.
He was named first-team All-AAFC by the New York Daily News and second-team All-AAFC by the AAFC and United Press International, for his play in 1946.
Toward the middle of the 1946 season, Cleveland head coach, and future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Paul Brown began to use Scarry to call the defensive unit’s formations.
Scarry helped the Browns offense rank in the AAFC regular season in 1946 first in points scored (423), first in total passing and rushing yards (4,244), first in passing yards (2,266), first in passing touchdowns (22), first in average passing yards per passing attempt (9.6), third in rushing yards (1,978), first in rushing touchdowns (27), and second in average rushing yards per rushing attempt (4.0).
In addition, with Scarry on defense, the Cleveland defense ranked in the 1946 AAFC regular season first in fewest points allowed (137), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,933), first in recovered turnovers (64), fourth in recovered fumbles (23), first in lowest pass completion percentage allowed (41.8%), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,317), first in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (8), first in defensive interceptions (41), first in lowest average passing yards per passing attempt allowed (4.4), fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,616), second in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (8), and tied for third in lowest average rushing yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.0).
The Browns won the AAFC West Division title, with a 12-2 record, in 1946.
Cleveland then advanced to the first AAFC championship game against the New York Yankees on December 22, 1946.
Scarry started the game and contributed to the Browns defense holding New York to only 65 rushing yards on 29 rushing attempts and 81 “net pass yards” (on eight pass completions from 20 pass attempts).
Cleveland defeated the Yankees 14-9 for Scarry’s second consecutive professional football championship.
In 1947, Scarry played in 11, and started six, regular season games, as Scarry’s asthma and injuries somewhat reduced his playing time.
He again played on offense (center) and on defense (linebacker).
Scarry was part of a Browns offense that scored 30 or more points in six regular season games in 1947.
First, on September 5, 1947, Cleveland defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-14.
Second, in a 55-7 Browns victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 12, 1947, Cleveland rushed for 223 rushing yards (including 111 rushing yards by Marion Motley).
Third, on September 26, 1947, in a 41-21 Browns triumph over the Chicago Rockets, Cleveland rushed for 232 rushing yards.
Fourth, the Browns defeated the Chicago Rockets again – 31-28 on October 19, 1947 (with future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Mac Speedie having 166 pass reception yards).
Fifth, on November 16, 1947, Cleveland defeated the San Francisco 49ers 37-14 (with future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Dante Lavelli having 127 pass reception yards).
Sixth, the Browns rushed for 334 rushing yards, in a 42-0 Cleveland shutout of the Baltimore Colts on December 7, 1947.
Scarry also was part of a Browns defense that held five opponents to single digits in 1947 – the above-described September 12, 1947 55-7 victory over Brooklyn (Cleveland held the Dodgers to only 39 “net pass yards” and forced five Dodgers turnovers), a 28-0 Browns shutout of the Baltimore Colts on September 21, 1947 (Cleveland forced six Baltimore turnovers), a 14-7 Browns win over the San Francisco 49ers on October 26, 1947 (Cleveland held San Francisco to only 85 “net pass yards”), a 28-7 Browns triumph over the Buffalo Bills on November 2, 1947, and the above-described December 7, 1947 42-0 shutout of Baltimore.
With Scarry playing center, the Cleveland offense ranked in the 1947 AAFC regular season first in points scored (410), first in total passing and rushing yards (5,547), first in passing yards (2,990), first in passing touchdowns (26), first in average passing yards per passing attempt (10.1), third in rushing yards (2,557), second in rushing touchdowns (24), and second in average rushing yards per rushing attempt (5.3).
Scarry also contributed on defense to the Browns defense ranking in the 1947 AAFC regular season first in fewest points allowed (185), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,888), first in recovered turnovers (51), fifth in recovered fumbles (19), first in lowest pass completion percentage allowed (42.6%), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,707), first in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (11), first in defensive interceptions (32), first in lowest average passing yards per passing attempt allowed (5.6), fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (2,181), third in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (12), and fourth in lowest average rushing yards per rushing attempt allowed (4.3).
Cleveland, with a 12-1-1 record, won the AAFC West Division title in 1947 and met the New York Yankees on December 14, 1947 in the 1947 AAFC championship game.
Scarry played in, but did not start, the game.
The Browns held the Yankees to only 89 “net pass yards” (on seven pass completions from 18 pass attempts) and defeated New York 14-3, for Cleveland’s second consecutive AAFC, and Scarry’s third consecutive professional football, championship.
1947 was Scarry’s last season as a professional football player.
Scarry’s asthma and injuries, which reduced his playing time in 1947, helped him decide to retire as a player after the 1947 season.
The Years After Professional Football
Scarry was married to Elizabeth (“Libby”).
He had five sons, Michael, Tom, Jim, Dennis, and John, and three daughters, Maggie, Sally, and Patricia.
While Scarry retired as a football player after the 1947 season, he was to remain active in football, principally as a coach, for over the next approximately 40 years.
Scarry had actually begun coaching even while he was a player, as he coached Western Reserve University’s basketball team, beginning in 1946.
In 1948, Scarry became head coach of Western Reserve University’s football team.
His teams posted records of 1-8-1 in 1948 and 4-5-1 in 1949.
Scarry in 1950 headed to California where he was an assistant football coach at Santa Clara University for two years.
Next, Scarry coached at Loras College, in Dubuque, Iowa, where he was an assistant football coach in 1952 and the head football coach in 1953 (when his team had a 5-2-1 record).
After two years as an assistant football coach at Washington State University in 1954 and 1955, Scarry was an assistant defensive line coach at the University of Cincinnati from 1956 to 1962.
While at the University of Cincinnati, Scarry began helping his former Browns quarterback Otto Graham coach the College All-Stars in the annual football College All-Star Game.
Scarry became a head football coach again in 1963, coaching his former school, Waynesburg College.
He also was the athletic director, head basketball coach, and athletic trainer at Waynesburg College.
In Scarry’s three years as head football coach at Waynesburg College, his teams compiled records of 6-2 in 1963, 5-4 in 1964, and 6-2-1 in 1965.
Waynesburg College won the Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1965, and Scarry was voted conference coach of the year.
The year after Scarry left Waynesburg College, in 1966, Waynesburg College, with many players whom Scarry had recruited and coached, won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (“NAIA”) national championship.
One of Scarry’s players at Waynesburg College, Ben Falcone, later said:
“If you made mistakes at practice, Mo [Scarry] would get literally in your facemask. We had the highest regard for him. He was a great guy. Yet we were scared. . . . He brought a lot of discipline. He worked you very hard, but he was a very good coach.”
In 1966, Scarry left the college ranks and headed to the NFL to serve as defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins, whose head coach was Otto Graham.
Scarry stayed with Washington for three seasons.
Scarry served as a scout in 1969, working for the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and Dallas Cowboys.
In 1970, future Pro Football Hall of Fame coach (and former Cleveland Browns player) Don Shula hired Scarry as defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins.
It turned out to be probably the most noteworthy coaching position that Scarry had.
With the Dolphins, Scarry served as defensive line coach from 1970 to 1974 and as both defensive line coach and running defense coordinator from 1975 to 1985.
During these 16 seasons from 1970 to 1985, Miami won the only two Super Bowls in the history of the franchise (an undefeated season in 1972 and in 1973), advanced to three other Super Bowls (in 1971, 1982, and 1984), and made the playoffs in a total of 12 seasons (in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985).
While Scarry retired from formal coaching after the 1985 season, he continued to work informally as a volunteer assistant for the Dolphins.
Don Shula later said about Scarry:
“I’ve been blessed with some great assistant coaches. He has to be considered one of the best. He was like a father figure to me.”
Scarry was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1964.
In the year 2000, Scarry was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Scarry died on September 9, 2012 in Fort Myers, Florida.
He was 92 years old.
The two seasons that Scarry played with the Cleveland Browns in 1946 and 1947 constitute only a small part of Scarry’s long career in football, but they remain notable for several reasons.
First, playing center on offense for Cleveland, Scarry achieved the goal of every offensive lineman – helping offensive skill position players (such as Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, and Mac Speedie) accrue higher statistics on the way to Pro Football Hall of Fame careers.
Second, Scarry contributed, on both offense and defense, to the Browns being a dominant team on both sides of the ball in the AAFC in 1946 and 1947.
Cleveland led the AAFC in a variety of different statistical categories in the 1946 and/or 1947 regular seasons – points scored (both seasons), total passing and rushing yards (both seasons), passing yards (both seasons), passing touchdowns (both seasons), average passing yards per passing attempt (both seasons), rushing touchdowns (in 1946), fewest points allowed (both seasons), recovered turnovers (both seasons), lowest pass completion percentage allowed (both seasons), fewest passing yards allowed (both seasons), fewest passing touchdowns allowed (both seasons), defensive interceptions (both seasons), and lowest average passing yards per passing attempt allowed (both seasons).
Third, and most importantly, Scarry contributed to the Browns winning games and ultimately two professional football championships.
In 1946 and 1947, Cleveland had an aggregate regular season and playoff record of 26-3-1.
When combined with the NFL championship that Scarry won with the Cleveland Rams in 1945, Scarry won professional football championships in three of his four playing seasons (all in the city of Cleveland).
Very few professional football players can claim such a “75% championship” career.
Scarry also has the distinction that he was the last surviving member of the original 1946 Cleveland Browns team.
While the Browns won other championships, the first two championships in 1946 and 1947 were important to set a precedent and framework for future success.
For his play on both offense and defense in these two seasons, Mike “Mo” Scarry should be remembered for his role in the early team success of the Cleveland Browns.