The Cleveland Browns are one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional football.
The Browns made their mark early in the game’s history.
Led by former Ohio State head coach Paul Brown, the team dominated the short-lived All-American Football Conference in the 1940s.
Those teams were led on the field by men like Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and Lou Groza, just to name a few.
Their successes in the AAFC led them to join the NFL, where they continued to have success.
Great names such as Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly took over for Graham and Motley.
Great players continued to play for the team throughout the generations.
While the modern incarnation of the Cleveland Browns has struggled to find success on the field, there have been some standout performers.
This list takes a look back at the 50 greatest players to put on the brown and orange.
Take a look, and see if you agree.
Let us know if you think we missed anyone.
50. Milt Morin
Milt Morin became the first-ever UMass 1st round draft pick in 1966, and just one of two all-time for the program.
Morin was a consensus All-American in his final season at UMass.
Morin was chosen by the Browns in the first round of the NFL draft and the 3rd round of the AFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.
When he joined the team, owner Art Modell called Morin into his office and offered him a $6,000 salary.
The number was the same amount of money Morin would have made if he would have chosen to use his college degree and become a teacher.
Fortunately for the Browns, Morin chose the gridiron.
For 10 seasons Morin was one of the Browns’ most important pass catchers at tight end.
He racked up over 4,000 yards receiving and 16 career touchdowns.
He earned himself two Pro Bowl selections in the process.
Today in #Browns History:
1951: In a 13-turnover game, the Browns roll past the Chicago #Cardinals 49-28.
1973: Browns tie #Chiefs 20-20 on a last minute Mike Phipps pass to Milt Morin.
— That One Sports Show (@tosspodcast) December 2, 2018
For many Browns fans, Morin is one of the franchise’s greatest Hall of Fame snubs.
Just two months after he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in May of 2010, Morin died of a heart attack at the age of 67.
49. Don Fleming
There is no doubt Don Fleming should be higher on this list than he is.
Unfortunately, his career and life were cut short by tragedy.
Fleming was drafted in the 28th round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals but decided to stay in school at the University of Florida.
After skipping the 1959 NFL season, he managed to convince the Cardinals to trade him to the Cleveland Browns.
Not only was Fleming a native of Ohio, but he was a close friend of Bernie Parrish, a fellow Florida grad and Browns defensive back.
#June4 1963 Don Fleming college and pro football player who was a defensive back in the #NFL for three seasons has his football career cut short by his accidental death He played college #football for the University of Florida #Gators and professionally for the Cleveland #Browns pic.twitter.com/L8l8pSCNAy
— 1960s Sports (@1960sSports) June 4, 2019
For three seasons those two men anchored the secondary for the Browns.
Fleming started most games at safety, and intercepted 10 passes and recovered 4 fumbles.
He was named to the All-NFL team in 1962.
With NFL salaries not what they are today, Fleming spent the off-seasons working and planning for his career after football.
While at the University of Florida, Fleming majored in building construction and he spent the offseason in Winter Park, Florida working as a foreman for a construction company.
On June 4, 1963, Fleming and a coworker were operating a crane when the boom of the crane brushed an overhead 12,000-volt high-tension electrical transmission line.
Fleming and his coworker were electrocuted and killed in the accident.
Fleming’s death came just weeks after the death of Ernie Davis.
Both Fleming’s #46 and Davis’s #45 were retired in memory of the players by the Browns.
48. John Wooten
John Wooten was one of the first African-American’s to ever earn All-America honors while playing in the interior positions of the offensive line.
He did so while starring for the University of Colorado Buffalos from 1955-1959.
Wooten was later honored with an induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Browns snapped him up in the 5th round of the 1959 NFL Draft and played him at left guard.
Wooten played nine seasons for the Browns where his main job was to block for Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) January 19, 2016
During 6 of the 7 seasons Wooten blocked for Brown, he led the league in rushing yards.
This included his 1965 MVP season in which Brown rushed for 1,544 yards and a league-leading 21 touchdowns.
Wooten was named to the Pro Bowl in 1965 and 1966 and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 1966.
He was also a member of the 1964 Browns team to win the NFL Championship.
After one final season in 1968 with the Redskins, Wooten retired.
He began a career as a front office executive in 1975 with the Dallas Cowboys before working for the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens.
He retired in 2003.
After retiring in 2003, Wooten became the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group that works with the NFL to improve minority hiring practices in the league.
47. Kevin Mack
Kevin Mack was drafted by both the NFL and the USFL in 1984.
He took a chance and played with the Los Angeles Express, choosing Hollywood over Cleveland.
That decision proved to be the wrong one, and by 1985 Mack had joined the Browns.
He was a success almost instantly.
Mack rushed for over 1,000 yards his rookie season and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Paired with Earnest Byner, the teammates became just the third pair of running backs to each rush for 1,000 yards in one season.
He earned the nickname “Mack Truck” for his last name and his bruising running style.
If the Browns needed a tough yard or two, it was Mack they turned to.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 22, 2020
Mack’s most important run came in the final game of the 1989 season.
With 39 seconds on the clock, Mack dragged four defenders across the goal line for a touchdown.
The score gave the Browns a 24-20 victory and the AFC Central Division title.
Mack played in 99 games for the Browns, rushing for 5,123 yards and scoring 46 touchdowns.
He is the ninth highest scorer in franchise history and ranks fifth in career rushing yards.
Mack was inducted into the Cleveland Legends program in 2007.
46. Phil Dawson
Phil Dawson is one of the greatest Cleveland Browns of the 21st century and the franchise’s second greatest kicker.
There’s no shame in that when the club’s greatest kicker is Lou Groza.
Dawson had bounced around some practice squads in 1998 after going undrafted out of the University of Texas in 1998.
Dawson finally found a job in Cleveland in 1999.
Dawson quickly got his place in the “new” Browns history books as he scored the team’s first points on their return back to the NFL.
While the franchise struggled on and off the field around him, Dawson was one of the only bright spots.
He currently ranks as the 7th most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 2, 2019
Dawson is the franchise’s all-time leader in field goals, consecutive field goals, and most field goals in a game.
Perhaps Dawson’s greatest contribution to the team was his longevity.
Dawson spent 14 years with the Browns.
These were some of the worst teams in the franchise’s history, but no matter how bad it got you could always count on Phil Dawson.
When Dawson left the Browns in 2013, he was the only remaining member of the 1999 Browns team that reentered the league.
Sure, Dawson spent a few years playing in San Francisco and Arizona at the end of his career but he is a Brown through and through.
Dawson signed a one-day contract with the Browns in order to retire with the franchise in 2019.
Folks who say kickers can’t affect a team don’t understand Phil Dawson. He epitomized the best of the Browns long history. Reliable. Trustworthy. Humble. Dedicated to team. The truest professional. He would have fit in every era. It’s right he retire as a Brown. #respect pic.twitter.com/ec5UtO2lrk
— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) August 2, 2019
45. Abe Gibron
Abe Gibron joined the Browns after the dissolution of the AAFC, where he was a member of the Buffalo Bills for one season.
In an incredible move, Gibron was sold by Bills owner James Breuil, along with two other players, to the Browns in return for a 25% share in the team.
That seems odd by today’s standards, but the move worked out well for both men.
Gibron became a stalwart on the Browns offensive line.
He was charged with blocking for some of the greatest names in football history, such as Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and next to ends Mac Speedie and Dante Lavelli.
At this point in their history, the Browns were the best team in the league and won 3 out of 5 NFL Championships from 1950-1955.
Gibron was at the heart of all of it.
— Ken Crippen (@KenCrippen) September 22, 2016
He was named an All-Pro in 3 seasons with the Browns and was named to the Pro Bowl 4 times.
In 1956, Gibron suffered a leg injury and he was cut by the team midway through the year.
Gibron played the rest of the season and one further season with the Philadelphia Eagles before playing one season with the Chicago Bears.
He retired in 1959.
Gibron stayed in football after his playing days were done and even became the head coach of the Bears from 1972-1975.
44. Earnest Byner
Earnest Byner was drafted in the 10th round in the 1984 NFL draft out of East Carolina University.
Byner was a star running back for the Browns from 1984-1988, and again from 1994-1995.
Byner and fellow running back Kevin Mack were paired together to make one of the most prolific backfield partnerships the league has ever seen.
Both men rushed for over 1,000 yards in the 1985 season and Byner was instrumental in leading the Browns to the AFC Championship games in 1986 and 1987.
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) July 21, 2018
Unfortunately for Byner, he is most remembered for “The Fumble” during the 1987 AFC Championship game against the Broncos when he fumbled just before scoring the likely game-winning touchdown.
Despite that tragic moment, Byner had a fantastic NFL career.
At the end of a 14-year NFL career Byner retired with the 16th-most rushing yards in NFL history with 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Browns fans some of his finest seasons were spent in Washington where he was a 2-time Pro Bowler and 2-time Super Bowl champion with the Redskins.
“The Fumble” aside, Byner’s remarkable career makes him one of the Browns’ greatest draft steals of all time.
What a career.
43. Bob Gain
Bob Gain was a star coming out of college at the University of Kentucky.
Despite being drafted by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, the Outland Trophy winner chose to join the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League instead.
After a Grey Cup-winning season in Canada, Gain returned to the States and signed with the Cleveland Browns.
He played one season in Cleveland before spending a year with the Air Force during the Korean War.
Upon his return from the Air Force, Gain helped begin the Browns dynastic run in the NFL.
Over the next 11 seasons, Gain was a defensive standout on six Eastern Conference Championship teams and 3 NFL Championship teams.
Bob Gain, an eight-time All-Pro defensive lineman with Cleveland who helped the Browns win three consecutive NFL titles, has died. He was 87 pic.twitter.com/k6I2V2SHBM
— tatooed goalie dad #31🇵🇹🇨🇦 (@sandropacheco71) November 17, 2016
Gain was selected for 1st and 2nd team All-Pro honors 8 times and was selected to the Pro Bowl 5 times.
In his finest season, 1957, the Los Angeles Times voted Gain the NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Gain was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and is a member of Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame and the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, where he grew up.
Bob Gain died in 2016, so it’s his family that waits by the phone each year to find out if he will be selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Gain is often considered to be a bubble candidate for selection.
To highlight this, the Professional Football Researchers Association named him to the “Hall of the Very Good” in 2010.
42. Cody Risien
Cody Risien was taken in the 7th round of the 1979 NFL draft out of Texas A&M.
Risien was a massive offensive tackle, even by today’s NFL standards.
Risien stands a whopping 6 foot, 7 inches tall.
Don’t get confused, he isn’t on this list because of how tall he is.
He’s on this list because he’s one of the greatest Browns offensive linemen of all time.
Cody Risien ❤️ pic.twitter.com/kQdSbd7PaW
— Jennie Bertolasio (@JennieBert_72) July 8, 2014
Risien had the distinction of blocking for four 1,000 yard rushers, a mark of distinction for a lineman.
He was a part of 5 NFC Central Division title-winning teams, and in 2010 he was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Hall of Legends.
Not bad for a guy taken that late in the draft.
During his 11-year career, Risien was named All-Pro once and was named to two Pro Bowls.
Interestingly, he was not named to the Pro Bowl during the season he was named All-Pro.
Despite these awards, possibly the greatest honor of Risien’s career is that Kathie Lee Gifford named her son after him.
The idea came to Gifford and her then-husband, sportscaster Frank Gifford while watching a Browns football game.
Amazingly, both Cody’s were born on March 22nd.
41. Eric Turner
The legacy of E-Rock Turner in Cleveland is a complicated one.
The Browns selected Eric Turner 2nd overall in the 1991 NFL draft out of UCLA, where he was an All-American.
Turner was the highest selection for a defensive back in the modern era of the NFL.
With that selection comes a mountain of pressure.
Add to that the highest first-year compensation in NFL history and you’ve got a lot to live up to.
The problem is that when you are the 2nd pick in the draft you are expected to be outstanding.
Good just won’t cut it.
But Turner was just good.
He was an integral part of the Browns’ stingy defense, but apart from his standout 1994 season, he never rose above the level of good.
Eric Turner #29
“He would hit you so hard it would ruin your whole week.” pic.twitter.com/iFu8TYqulz
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 9, 2019
However, during that 1994 season, he was spectacular.
He led the league in interceptions with 9 and was a 1st-team All-Pro selection.
He was also named to the Pro Bowl in 1994.
From there, the numbers went down and he had 0 interceptions the following season.
Then the Browns were moved to Baltimore and his career was briefly rejuvenated before he spent 3 final seasons in Oakland in mostly backup roles.
Tragedy struck in 2000 when at just 31 years old Turner died of stomach cancer.
He died just weeks after publicly stating he wasn’t ill.
Eric Turner recorded 30 interceptions in just 109 games, including two picks that he returned for touchdowns.
40. Mike Pruitt
Mike Pruitt showed up to Browns camp having been drafted 7th overall by the organization.
When he arrived, he must have been thrilled to hear all the talk about the exciting tailback named Pruitt.
Unfortunately for Mike, that talk was about the man he would back up, Greg Pruitt.
While there was no familial relationship between the two men, the two formed a friendly and competitive relationship on the practice field.
After spending two seasons as the backup for the elder Pruitt, Mike finally got his shot when Greg went down with a knee injury.
The 1979 season was a breakout one for Pruitt, rushing for 1,294 yards which was good for fifth in the NFL that season.
He never looked back.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 22, 2020
Pruitt would top 1,000 yards 3 more times in his career, all with the Browns.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1979 and 1980.
In 1984, Boyce Green took over the starting running back job for the Browns, and Pruitt was once again relegated to backup work.
Pruitt was cut by the Browns just weeks before the start of the 1985 NFL season.
He spent the next two seasons with the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring after the 1986 season.
Pruitt finished with 7,378 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career, and trails only Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly in rushing yards as a Cleveland Brown.
39. Joe DeLamielleure
Like any good lineman, Joe DeLamielleure’s greatest achievements come with the achievement of others.
So when he looks back at his career he can be proud to have blocked for 2 different NFL MVPs.
Before being traded to the Browns, DeLamielleure made his name about 200 miles up I-90 in Buffalo.
With the Bills, he played an important role in their “Electric Company” offensive line that led the way for O.J. Simpson.
In 1980 he was traded to the Browns where he would anchor the line for Brian Sipe to win his MVP award in 1980.
DeLamielleure is the first person to have ever blocked for both a 2,000-yard rusher and a 4,000-yard passer.
This 1980 card has Joe DeLamielleure listed at 6’3” and 250lbs. He’s a HOF guard. How many QB’s on the league today are that same size?#BrownsTwitter #ClevelandBrowns #DawgPound pic.twitter.com/i4XMUjrHvA
— Metcalf Up The Middle (@metcalfupmiddle) February 22, 2020
While with the Browns he led a line that had the lowest sack percentage in the league for most of his time there.
He played in every game during his 5 seasons in Cleveland.
DeLamielleure played his final season back in Buffalo in 1985 before retiring.
Most of his personal accolades came with the Bills during the 70s, but he did earn one of his 6 All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods with Cleveland in 1980.
He was named a member of the 1970s All-Decade team and is a member of both the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor and the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame.
In 2003, DeLamielleure was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
38. Ray Renfro
When Ray Renfro was drafted, Paul Brown didn’t know what to do with him but he knew he was an incredible athlete.
If you were a tremendous athlete, a genius head coach such as Paul Brown would eventually figure out what to do with you.
Ray Renfro was taken in the 4th round out of the University of North Texas in 1952.
Keep in mind that in 1952, the Browns were already a team loaded with champions.
What do you do with an athlete who hasn’t mastered any positions?
Brown tried Renfro at tailback and punt returner, but he failed to fully impress.
“Old Days”Cleveland Browns Ray Renfro catches TD pass from Otto Graham in the 1954 Championship game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium as Browns defeat Lions 56-10.#Cleveland #Browns #lions #Detroit #1950s #NFL pic.twitter.com/92OBXKkD56
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) June 12, 2018
Then Renfro lined up at wide receiver, and he quickly became known as “Rabbit” as he shot past defensive backs.
The joke around the huddle became that Renfro could line up, shout “Good luck” to his teammates, and make it to the endzone in time to hear himself say it.
That pure speed led Renfro to put up monster numbers in the golden age of the ground game.
Throughout his 12-year career, Renfro caught 281 passes for 5508 yards and a whopping 54 touchdowns.
Do the math, that’s one touchdown catch every 5.6 passes he caught.
Now that’s a home run hitter.
Before he retired Renfro had been named to 3 Pro Bowls and was a 2-time NFL Champion.
He later went on to win a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys as a wide receivers coach.
37. Eric Metcalf
The Browns needed a weapon on offense in 1989.
They went with the all-purpose star Eric Metcalf with their first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.
While at the University of Texas, Metcalf was a star on the gridiron, but also on the track team.
He was the 1988 US Track and Field Champion and a two-time NCAA champion in the long jump.
Metcalf was exactly the kind of athlete the Browns needed to threaten teams on offense and special teams.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 7, 2019
He was sensational.
In just his second NFL season he led the league in kickoff return yards, with over 1,000, and returns for a touchdown with 2.
Metcalf was the kind of weapon any coach would dream of.
He finished his career with 17,230 all-purpose yards, which when he retired ranked him in the top 10 in NFL history.
He’s one of just a few men who have ever returned more than 10 punt returns and kickoff returns for a touchdown.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) August 23, 2019
Metcalf was named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro teams 3 times each, twice with the Browns.
Metcalf played 4 seasons in Cleveland before playing for 6 other teams until his retirement in 2002.
He was part of the trade the San Diego Chargers made to move up to pick Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL Draft.
36. Greg Pruitt
When Greg Pruitt fell to the Browns late in the second round of the 1973 NFL Draft, the people in the front office must have been astounded at their good fortune.
While at the University of Oklahoma, Pruitt was a consensus All-American in his final two seasons.
He finished in the top 3 in Heisman voting both years and still ranks 3rd in Sooner history for the most all-purpose yards.
A late second-round pick?
Pruitt started hot too.
He was a Pro Bowler in his first season in the league when he totaled 1,112 total yards for the season.
Pruitt was a threat whenever he touched the ball so while he wasn’t the lead tailback yet, he was getting touches in the receiving game and on punt and kickoff returns.
• SB18 Champ🏆
• 5 Pro Bowls
• 2x Second-Team All-Pro (UPI)
• Ranked #6 in career all-purpose yards upon retirement (13,262)
• 3 straight 1,000-yd rushing seasons (CLE '75-77)
• 97-yd PR TD (Raiders '83) pic.twitter.com/sojecudXTN
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) August 18, 2019
Pruitt would go on to make the Pro Bowl a total of four times in his Browns career and was named a second-team All-Pro in 1977.
The elusive back played 9 seasons in Cleveland and rushed for 5672 yards and 27 touchdowns.
He ranks 4th all-time in Browns history for rushing yards.
Perhaps his greatest contribution to the league was his on-field equipment choices.
Pruitt made a habit of wearing flimsy jerseys that would “tear-away” when they were grabbed.
When the jersey would rip, Pruitt would evade the tackle and the defender was left with a hand full of material.
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) April 23, 2017
“For it to be effective, you couldn’t wear anything under it,” Pruitt told Cleveland Magazine. “It got pretty cold playing on the lakefront.”
The NFL banned the jerseys in 1979 as they were seen to give the wearer an unfair advantage.
Pruitt was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982 and finished his career there, winning the Super Bowl in 1983.
35. Chip Banks
Chip Banks came into the league with all the pressure in the world on him.
The linebacker was drafted with the #3 overall pick out of the University of Southern California.
Banks began living up to those expectations immediately.
Banks had an instant impact on the Browns defense playing in 9 games, recording 5.5 sacks and 1 interception.
He was given the NFL Rookie of the Year Award for his play.
Banks would go on to a great career on the field for the Browns over his 5 years with the team.
He was named to 4 Pro Bowls and was named to various All-Pro teams.
Banks never missed a game for the Browns during his time with the team and he played an important role in their back-to-back division titles in 1985 and 1986.
OLB Chip Banks was a Cleveland Browns Pro-Bowler, and holds the NFL record for the largest shoulder pads ever made. pic.twitter.com/lX9kKnDbZE
— Shawn McKenzie 🇺🇸 (@SMcK17) January 17, 2016
Unfortunately for Banks and the Browns, off the field issues often plagued Banks throughout his Browns career and afterward.
Banks held out ahead of the 1985 season and skipped training camp.
During this time did not communicate with his teammates or coaches.
When the Browns publically discussed trading Banks so they could select Miami Hurricanes quarterback Bernie Kosar in the upcoming draft, Banks threatened to retire if the trade went through.
The deal went ahead, but without Banks included.
Eventually, coach Marty Schottenheimer got tired of dealing with Banks and his antics and sent him to the Chargers.
Banks spent a few more seasons in the NFL with San Diego and Indianapolis before retiring in 1993.
Banks may not have been one of the most popular players in Cleveland Browns history, but he was one of their greatest linebackers.
34. Bill Glass
After spending 4 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Bill Glass was traded to the Browns with Jim Ninowski and Howard “Hopalong” Cassady in exchange for Milt Plum, Tom Watkins, and Dave Lloyd.
Bill Glass started all seven seasons at defensive end for the Browns and played a key role in the 1964 NFL Championship and their Eastern Division Championship of 1965.
During the 1964 Championship Game, Glass had a key sack in the game and helped keep the prolific Colts offense to just 181 yards.
At 6’5” and 255 pounds, Glass was more like a modern defensive end than the edge rushers of his time.
He brought speed and agility to a position defined at the time by strength and size.
— John P Erwin III MD✭ (@HeartOTXHeartMD) February 3, 2019
Glass made the Pro Bowl 4 times between 1962 and 1967, but ironically, it was a season in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl that he would set the Browns record for most sacks in a season with 14.5.
However, the game was different in those days and Glass was most effective using his speed and athleticism to stop the most dangerous play in the game, the end sweep.
Glass was a 5-time All-NFL honors winner and missed just 4 games his entire career.
In retirement, Bill Glass started a prolific prison ministry, Bill Glass Champions for Life, which witnesses to inmates around the country.
33. Hanford Dixon
Hanford Dixon played all 8 of his professional seasons in Cleveland.
The cornerback is one of the greatest Browns defensive backs of all-time and together with Frank Minnifield formed one of the greatest cornerback pairings in NFL history.
In fact, Dixon and Minnifield were named by NFL.com as the Number 2 “Best Cornerback Tandem of All-Time.”
At one point in his career, during the 1987 season, Dixon was so dominant that he reportedly only had seven passes thrown his way the whole season.
#Browns vs Steelers Rivalry:
The one where Hanford Dixon messed around and picked off 3 passes. pic.twitter.com/kn6N4Ef5eI
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) November 14, 2019
It is thanks in large part to Dixon that the Browns section known for the rowdiest fans became known as the “Dawg Pound.”
The section was named for Dixon’s “barking” to teammates and especially Minnifield.
Dixon made the Pro Bowl three years in a row from 1986 to 1988 and was named an All-Pro in 1986 and 1987.
Dixon’s biggest regret is the same as most fans.
“The only regret I have is that we lost three AFC Championship Games. Nothing would make me happier now than to see the Cleveland Browns get to the Super Bowl.” he said.
These days Dixon is still visible in the Cleveland community as a football analyst on the local CBS affiliate and as a color analyst for FS Ohio’s high school game of the week coverage.
Dixon is also formerly the head coach of the Cleveland Crush, in the Lingerie Football League.
32. Frank Minnifield
Frank Minnifield is an example of how hard work and talent can overcome size and stature.
At just 5’9” tall, Minnifield was considered too small to play college football, and he had to walk on to the football team at the University of Louisville.
Minnifield eventually earned his scholarship, but when it came time to go pro, he was once again shut down.
Minnifield played for the Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers in the USFL, before finally getting his shot in the NFL when the Browns signed him in 1984.
The deal worked out great for both parties.
Minnifield finally got to play in the NFL and the Browns got a shutdown corner for nearly a decade.
Paired together with Hanford Dixon, the two became the most dominant cornerback duo in the league.
Minnifield intercepted 20 passes and recovered 7 fumbles in his 9 years in Cleveland.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 8, 2019
Minnifield was named to the Pro Bowl in 4-straight seasons from 1986-1989 and named an All-Pro in 1988.
Minnifield was selected to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team at the end of the decade.
More importantly, Minnifield and Dixon came up with the name Dawg Pound for the cheering section at the old Municipal Stadium.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 23, 2020
31. Alex Mack
Alex Mack wasn’t in Cleveland for a long time, but while he was a Brown, he was excellent.
Mack was a starter at center from day one of his Browns career.
It wasn’t easy early, but Mack settled in, aided by All-World tackle Joe Thomas.
Sneak peak at Sunday's game program featuring Alex Mack pic.twitter.com/hg4sNGzP
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 18, 2011
During the 2009 season, Mack and the Browns’ offensive line paved the way for Jerome Harrison’s 3-straight games of over 100 yards.
That run included Harrison’s 286-yard game, a total that ranks third all-time.
Mack was named as the center on the All-Rookie team that season.
Mack started every game during his second season as well, including a Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans while playing through appendicitis.
He was named a Pro Bowl alternate that season.
Alex Mack didn’t miss a single snap in his professional career until he broke his fibula in a Week 6 game against the Steelers in 2014.
Mack would be named to the Pro Bowl 3 times during his time in Cleveland and was named All-Pro once.
Mack left for the Atlanta Falcons ahead of the 2016 season, where he has earned All-Pro honors 2 more times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 3 more times.
30. Bobby Mitchell
Bobby Mitchell was drafted in the 7th round in the 1958 NFL Draft out of the University of Illinois.
Mitchell almost wasn’t a professional football player though.
He was so good at baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals offered him a professional contract out of high school.
When Mitchell arrived in Cleveland, he was partnered with Jim Brown and together they formed the most prolific running back tandem in the league.
In 4 seasons in Cleveland, Mitchell was a yards machine.
Mitchell gained 2297 yards on the ground while splitting time with Jim Brown.
Mitchell was selected to play in the 1960 Pro Bowl.
He added 1463 receiving yards, 607 punt return yards, and 1550 kickoff yards.
Mitchell also scored 38 touchdowns in that time.
At one time, Mitchell held the Browns career record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown.
Melancholy trails to Bobby Mitchell (1935-2020)
An incredible player, a pioneer and a dear friend of Bobby Kennedy ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Nasd7uq2E5
— PTI (@PTI) April 6, 2020
He still holds the Browns rookie rushing average record at 6.3 yards per carry.
In 1962, Mitchell was traded to the Washington Redskins in the deal that brought Ernie Davis to Cleveland.
Mitchell went on to have a terrific career in Washington as a receiver, earning multiple All-Pro honors.
After retiring in 1968, Mitchell went on to work in the Redskins front office, where he worked until 2002.
Mitchell was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983.
Mitchell has the distinction of being honored as a Ring of Honor member for both the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins.
29. Jim Ray Smith
Next on our list is not only one of the best players in Cleveland Browns history, but also one of the biggest Pro Football Hall of Fame Snubs of all time.
Jim Ray Smith was taken in the 6th round, 64th overall, out of Baylor University in 1954.
While at Baylor he was a two-way tackle, meaning he played on both sides of the ball.
Once he made his way to Cleveland, after about 2 years of military service, he was first tried out at defensive end and then moved to guard on the offensive line.
Despite his prowess on the line, Smith was one of the Browns fastest players, which prompted coach Paul Brown to use him in the messenger guard positions shuttling plays into the huddle.
In 1958, Smith took over the starting job at guard and became one of the league’s best guards, paving the way for Fall of Fame careers for Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell.
2nd TTM return today is from former Browns Guard Jim Ray Smith! Thank you Mr Smith! @WaxPack916 @DOCBZ17 @AlexK245 @CeeMX97 @MyPenIsHugeTTM @autographblog @TTM_Todd @MikeSorenson1 @pintandrew @Sabres_Bills_NY @tommys54321 @DubMentality @GundersonNathan pic.twitter.com/a9efnKxatl
— Cliff (@oriolesrise) March 20, 2020
During his time in Cleveland, Smith was named to 5 Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro first or second-team 5 times.
Despite his success and accolades, Smith retired in 1961 to focus on his real estate business.
What a different NFL it was then.
The team managed to convince him to come out of retirement for one final season in Cleveland before being traded to his home-state Dallas Cowboys.
Jim Smith is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Baylor University Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Just one Hall is missing.
Maybe someday he’ll get the call for Canton.
28. Bernie Parrish
Bernie Parrish’s NFL career almost didn’t happen.
While at the University of Florida, Parrish was an exceptional football player who once rushed for 2 touchdowns, kicked two extra points, caught an interception, and made 7 tackles in one game.
He was also an All-American baseball player who accepted a contract with Major League Baseball.
Despite his prowess in baseball, Parrish opted for football.
He was drafted in the 9th round of the 1958 draft.
Parrish spent the next 7 seasons in Cleveland and made himself known to opposing quarterbacks.
— Mal Thursday (@MalThursday) September 7, 2014
During his 7 year run with the Browns he played in 94 games, starting 92.
Talk about value late in the draft.
Parrish was an integral part of the 1964 Browns NFL Championship team.
While in Cleveland Parrish totaled 29 interceptions, and returned 3 for touchdowns.
He was named to 2 Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro once.
In 2017, Parrish was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Hall of Legends.
During his time with the Browns, Parrish was active in the NFL Players Association.
He first served as a team representative and later as the vice president of the players union.
He later went on to write a best-selling book, “They Call It A Game,” that attempted to expose the National Football league as a money-hungry league, that only cared about the bottom line.
He also claimed, without substantiated evidence, that the NFL had fixed the outcomes of some of its games.
Parrish had a full career, especially for a guy who could have had a different career altogether.
27. Walt Michaels
Step into the way-back machine with us for this one, as we look back at the career of linebacker Walt Michaels.
Michaels was drafted in the 7th round of the 1951 NFL Draft out of Washington and Lee University.
Before playing a game for the Browns he was traded to the Green Bay Packers.
Suffolk Sports Hall of Famers in #NFLDraft: Walt Michaels, who resided in Suffolk when he was a #Jets coach, was selected by the #Browns in 1951, 7th round, 86 overall, out of Washington and Lee. #SuffolkHOF pic.twitter.com/PCZZLIyO6G
— Suffolk Hall of Fame (@SuffolkHOF) April 28, 2018
Apparently, the Browns noticed a Michaels-sized hole in their defense because he was subsequently traded back to the Browns after playing just one season in Wisconsin.
For the next 10 seasons, the Browns had their defensive leader and a dominant force at the linebacker position.
During this time, Michaels was named to 5 straight Pro Bowls and led the team to 5 straight NFL Championship games, winning back-to-back titles in 1954-1955.
Perhaps though, Michaels’ greatest honor is that he was given the freedom by coach Paul Brown to call many of the plays for the defense.
"Bill Walsh called it the West Coast offense. He picked it up when he was working for Paul Brown in Cincinnati. I get a big charge out of it. We used to call it the Jim Brown-Bobby Mitchell offense."
― Walt Michaels (born this day, October 16, 1929) pic.twitter.com/2NVscMBgmY
— MacCocktail (@MacCocktail) October 16, 2019
Knowing that it should come as no surprise that Michaels went on to have a long and illustrious career as a coach in the NFL.
He is most well known for his tenure in charge of the New York Jets, who he took to the AFC Championship game in 1982.
Michaels was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1978.
26. Mike McCormack
Mike McCormack had already played two seasons of professional football before he joined the Browns in 1954.
After returning home from the Korean War, he found that his team, the Dallas Texans, had folded.
Paul Brown, having seen McCormack play in previous seasons acquired him immediately.
McCormack would spend the next 9 seasons in Cleveland where he would put together one of the greatest careers any offensive tackle could have.
McCormack retired in 1962 having been selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times and been selected All-Pro in all 9 of his seasons with the Browns.
Happy Birthday to the late Mike McCormack, ; 10 year career, 6X Pro Bowl, 9X All Pro, Browns Ring Of Honor, Coach Paul Brown said “I consider McCormack the finest offensive tackle who ever played pro football “, Member Professional Football Hall of Fame ; 6-21-1930 to 11-15-2013 pic.twitter.com/zOGWoFXuXH
— Larry in Missouri (@LarryInMissouri) June 21, 2019
Who was on the line for the Browns back-to-back NFL championships in 1954 and 1955?
As is the case with any offensive lineman, often the biggest reward they can get is if the quarterback or running back has excellent seasons.
McCormack played a key role in helping to develop Jim Brown’s legendary career.
In his 1979 memoir, coach Paul Brown wrote, “I consider Mike McCormack the finest offensive tackle who ever played pro football.”
High praise from the legendary coach.
In 1984, Mike McCormack was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring from playing, McCormack was the head coach of the Eagles, Colts, and Seahawks.
He performed the duties of general manager for the Seahawks and the Panthers.
25. Walter Johnson
Walter Johnson is one of the most interesting Cleveland Browns players of all-time, and one of the team’s best.
Johnson was drafted by the Browns in the second round of the 1965 NFL draft out of Los Angeles State.
The defensive tackle played 13 years in the NFL, 12 with the Browns, and never missed a single game.
That’s remarkable especially when you consider Johnson’s side job.
Professional wrestling was just beginning to catch on in the United States, and the NFL season didn’t last all year, so Johnson decided to try his hand at wrestling for a while.
Johnson’s pro wrestling career lasted from 1968-1984.
While he was never regarded as a top wrestler, he was a popular attraction due to his NFL stardom.
The ref for the Sheik vs Brazil main event was Joe Louis, world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. Preliminary wrestler, Walter Johnson, was a defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns and also a pro bowler. pic.twitter.com/fkHqiPM0uX
— Gary Cappetta (@GaryCappetta) July 20, 2019
Could you imagine a player in the National Football League being allowed to wrestle in the WWE in the offseason?
On the gridiron, Johnson and Jerry Sherk formed one of the top defensive line tandems in the league.
He earned the nickname “Zoom” for being remarkably quick and agile off the line for his 6’4”, 265-pound frame.
A lot of people have been asking who was the Walter Johnson who briefly appeared on Dallas wrestling cards briefly in the early 1980's.
Johnson spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Browns, before finishing his career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1977. pic.twitter.com/GcYOAY8QQw
— World Class Memories (@WCCWMemories) May 9, 2019
Johnson was a Pro-Bowl selection three straight years from 1967-1969.
He was an All-Pro selection in 1968.
In 2008, Johnson was elected into the Cleveland Browns Legends Program.
24. Frank Gatski
Otto Graham and Marion Motley put up incredible numbers in their day.
There are many people that played a part in their successes, including those men themselves, but one man was right at the center of all of it, literally.
That man was their center, Frank Gatski.
Apologies for the terrible pun, but it was true.
Gatski was renowned for his strength and consistency in pass protection and his ability to open up running lanes for Motley.
Gatski returned from World War II, spent a season at Auburn University, and then tried out for the Browns.
In order to get to the Browns training camp in Bowling Green, Ohio to try out, Gatski had to hitchhike from his home in West Virginia.
For Gatski, it was either a career in football with the Browns or a career digging coal in the mines of West Virginia.
Luckily for Gatski he made the team.
It worked out for the Browns too as they ended up with a Hall of Fame center.
— 𝐏𝐫𝐨 𝐅𝐨𝐨𝐭𝐛𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐉𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐥🏈 (@NFL_Journal) June 6, 2019
Gatski won 8 league championships in his time in football.
He won 4 AAFC and 3 NFL Championships with the Browns and won one additional NFL Championship with the Detroit Lions in his final season.
Gatski was named to 1 Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro 4 times.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
23. Jerry Sherk
Jerry Sherk was drafted by the Browns in the 2nd round of the 1970 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma State.
While at Oklahoma State, Sherk was a member of both the football team and the wrestling team, for which he was named an All-American on the mat.
Undoubtedly those grappling skills came in handy on the defensive line, and it showed early in his career as he was a starter for the Browns almost from day one.
His first game was the first-ever broadcast of Monday Night Football and his ability to get to the quarterback was quickly on display his rookie season.
Sherk started every game for the Browns in his first 7 seasons, which is an incredible record for a defensive lineman.
During this time he was named to the Pro Bowl 4 times and named All-Pro and AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1976.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 16, 2017
During a game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in 1979, Sherk had an infected boil scraped off on the field turf the game was played on.
Somehow, staph infection from the field entered the open would and entered Sherk’s body.
The infection made it all the way to Sherk’s knee and eventually almost killed him.
Despite fighting off the infection, Sherk never fully recovered.
He played in just 1 game during the 1980 season and the 1981 season, his final as a professional.
Sherk played only in obvious pass-rushing situations.
Sherk ended his career after the 1981 season, having played in 147 games for the Browns.
22. Jim Houston
Jim Houston could have played his professional ball either for the Buffalo Bills, or the Cleveland Browns.
He was drafted by both teams in 1960.
Being a kid from northeast Ohio, Houston chose to play for Paul Brown and the Cleveland Browns.
His brother, Lin Houston, was already a member of the Browns, so that probably helped sway his decision too.
Actually, looking back there was only one team Houston was ever going to play for.
He’d spent his entire football career in Ohio and would go on to complete the rare football “triple crown” all in the Buckeye state.
Houston won a state championship as a high schooler in Massilon, a national championship at Ohio State, and an NFL championship with the Cleveland Browns.
Houston was a 4-time Pro Bowl defensive end and linebacker for the Browns from 1960-1972.
Houston was an integral part of the 1964 NFL Championship.
Congrats @denzelward for being #4 pick and heading to Cleveland! Only fourth Buckeye taken in first round by @Browns since 1960. Hope you join my old man Jim Houston and Paul Warfield as all time legends in Cleveland! pic.twitter.com/PQ60FUOgmS
— Dave Houston (@DWHouston7) April 27, 2018
Houston earned the nickname “Mr. Dependable” because he missed just 3 games his entire career.
Those three games all came during the 1962 season when he was recalled to active duty in the Army.
Houston was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
21. Josh Cribbs
Josh Cribbs is one of the best players at his position in the history of the NFL.
Cribbs would be higher on this list if his position, return specialist, had more of an impact on the game.
That’s not to take anything away from Josh Cribbs, who is tied for the most kickoff returns for a touchdown of all-time.
Joshua Cribbs was undrafted coming out of Kent State, where he was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history.
Cribbs was signed as a return specialist but also lined up at wide receiver.
Cribbs had an almost instant impact returning kicks.
During his rookie season, Cribbs averaged 24.5 yards per kick return, and his 1,094 return yards set a franchise record.
It was during this season that he returned his first kick for a touchdown.
As mentioned earlier, Cribbs would go on to return 7 more kicks for a league-record 8 in his career.
He would go on to break his return yards record a few times during his career.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) March 24, 2019
Cribbs was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007, 2009, and 2012.
He was an All-Pro in 2007, and 2009.
At the end of the decade, Cribbs was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team.
Cribbs spent his final 2 seasons with the Jets and Colts before retiring in 2014.
20. Michael Dean Perry
The Perry family of Aiken, SC are known for one thing, and one thing only.
They make great defensive lineman.
Not only did the family produce William “Refrigerator” Perry, of Chicago Bears fame, but also Browns defensive tackle, Michael Dean Perry.
It didn’t take long for him to make his mark in Cleveland either, as he saw playing time in all 16 games his rookie season.
During that rookie campaign, he recorded 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and even returned one of those fumbles for a touchdown.
Big number 92 really got going in his second season when he made his first of 6 Pro Bowls, 5 of those as a Cleveland Brown.
Perry made 3 straight Pro Bowls from 1989-1991.
During those three seasons, Michael Dean Perry recorded 27 sacks, while playing in every game each season.
For his efforts, he was also named First-team All-Pro in ’89 and ’90, as well as AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1989.
Arguably though his biggest honor came off the field when McDonald’s named a sandwich after him.
The sandwich was named the “MDP” and larger than any other sandwich the restaurant chain offered at the time.
In total, Perry played 109 games and tallied 51.5 sacks while wearing the orange and brown before moving on in his career.
19. Bernie Kosar
Yes, Bernie Kosar played his college ball in Miami, but he’s a Northeast Ohio boy through and through.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Kosar announced ahead of the 1985 draft that he wanted to play for the Browns.
Eventually, Kosar got his way through the 1985 Supplemental Draft.
Kosar would spend the next 9 seasons in Cleveland and would become one of the Browns greatest ever players.
Kosar established himself as the Browns starter in his second season as he led the team to a 12-4 record and the top seed in the AFC.
“The Drive” ended that playoff run.
Kosar had his best statistical season in the strike-shortened 1987 season when he threw for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns.
He led the AFC in quarterback rating.
Once again, the John Elway-led Broncos ended the Browns playoff run.
The Browns 1989 season was the 3rd time in four years that the Browns were eliminated from the playoffs by the Denver Broncos.
Kosar set an NFL record in 1990 and 1991 when he threw 308 consecutive passes without an interception.
That record would stand for nearly 20 years.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) January 6, 2019
Kosar’s career in Cleveland came to an end when newly hired coach Bill Belichick benched Kosar in favor of Vinny Testaverde.
After the Browns released Kosar in 1992, Kosar spent three years in Dallas and Miami, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys.
Kosar threw for 21,904 yards and 116 touchdowns in 108 games for the Browns.
That ranks him 3rd all-time in Browns passing yardage behind only Brian Sipe and Otto Graham.
18. Gary Collins
Gary Collins was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns and slotted into the starting lineup as the Browns punter.
No, the Browns didn’t take a punter in the first round, Collins was also a wide receiver.
Collins was a standout at both positions for the Browns eventually.
In his second year with the team, he led the Browns in receptions and the league with 13 touchdown receptions.
In 1964, rookie Paul Warfield took the team by storm, but Collins didn’t stay on the sidelines.
Instead, Collins showed how clutch he was by catching 3 touchdown passes in the 1964 NFL Championship game against the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts.
Gary Collins would go on to be named to the Pro Bowl in 1965 and 1966.
He was also named an All-Pro in 1965, 1966, and 1969.
Collins was named as a member of the NFL’s 1960’s All-Decade team.
Collins’ Browns career came to an end when Nick Skorich took over coaching the Browns.
The two men didn’t see the world in the same way and after one season with Skorich in charge.
Collins announced he would either retire or demand a trade to either the Redskins or the Jets.
When a trade deal couldn’t be agreed to, Collins retired.
— Seb ⚔️🏈⚾️⚽️🐏🇨🇦 (@CJ28MTL) August 20, 2017
In total, Collins had 331 receptions for 5,299 yards and 70 touchdowns in his Browns career.
He ranks 5th in Browns career receiving yards, 4th in career receptions, and 1st in touchdown receptions.
17. Paul Warfield
Paul Warfield didn’t spend his whole career in Cleveland, but he spent 8 of his best years in the brown and orange.
The Ohio State alum was born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Warren to be exact, so the Browns were in his blood.
He was drafted out of Ohio State as a defensive back, but in preseason workouts he impressed receivers coach Blanton Collier so much that he switched roles.
Warfield set the league on fire in his rookie season in 1964, catching 52 passes for 920 yards and 9 touchdowns.
He averaged a whopping 17.8 yards per reception.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 22, 2020
He helped the Browns win the 1964 NFL Championship over the Indianapolis Colts.
After his rookie season and the league triumph, Warfield was named to the Pro Bowl and was given All-Pro honors.
That was the first Pro Bowl of 8 Warfield would be selected to, and 1 of 3 with the Browns.
Warfield would be selected to the All-Pro team 6 times, 3 times with the Browns, and 3 times with the Dolphins.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 7, 2019
Despite being one of the Browns’ most popular players, and one of their best, Warfield was traded to the Miami Dolphins after the 1969 season.
He later admitted that he was both shocked and disappointed by the trade, but the deal worked out for Warfield.
Warfield would be a member of the 1972 Dolphins squad coached to an undefeated season by Don Shula.
Warfield would spend 5 seasons in Miami before returning to the Browns for the 1976 and 1977 seasons.
After he retired from the game of football, Warfield was named to the 1970s All-Decade Team, and the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
16. Frank Ryan
Frank Ryan joins this list as the Browns quarterback who most recently won an NFL Championship.
Unfortunately, that was in 1964.
Ryan joined the Browns in 1962 after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.
He was initially brought in to back-up the starter, Jim Ninowski, but after Ninowski broke his collarbone in a game against the Steelers, Ryan took over.
Ryan remained in the job until the 1969 season when he moved on to the Washington Redskins.
During those years in Cleveland, Ryan established himself as one of the league’s best passers.
In 1964, Ryan threw for 2,404 yards and 25 touchdowns.
That season he led the league in touchdowns as the Browns won the NFL Championship.
— Sad CLE Sports (@SadCleveland) December 27, 2017
Ryan would be named to the Pro Bowl that season and the next two seasons.
After an injury-plagued 1965 season, Ryan would come back to dominate the league.
Ryan threw for 2,976 yards and 29 touchdowns, which was a Browns record at the time.
These numbers helped to offset the loss of Jim Brown, who had retired before the start of training camp.
Ryan’s career in Cleveland would end on the bench.
The once-great quarterback was benched after a poor start to the 1968 season.
The team released Ryan midway through the season.
Incredibly, Ryan earned a Pd.D. in physics from Rice University while playing for the Browns.
Even more incredibly, Ryan began teaching at Case Institute of Technology, now Case Western Reserve University, during 1967.
Ryan ranks fourth all-time in Browns history with 13,499 yards passing and second with 134 touchdowns.
15. Brian Sipe
Brian Sipe was drafted in the 13th round of the 1972 NFL Draft out of San Diego State and then wasn’t heard from for a couple of years.
Even through his 3rd and 4th season he yo-yo’d between the huddle and the bench every couple of games.
Finally, in 1976 Sipe made the job his and he went on to become one of the Browns’ greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
It took until about the turn of the decade for Sipe to hit his peak, being named 2nd team All-Pro in 1979 before his 1st team All-Pro and NFL MVP season in 1980.
In that incredible 1980 season, Sipe threw for over 4,000yards and 30 touchdowns.
Sipe lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 1972.
Of course, that 1980 playoff run was ended by the infamous “Red Right 88” interception from Sipe that sealed a divisional-round victory for the Raiders in Cleveland.
Sipe’s Browns career ended in 1984 when he moved to the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.
Sipe is still the Browns all-time passing leader with 23,713 yards and second-most in touchdowns with 174.
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) August 9, 2019
14. Mac Speedie
Mac Speedie played 3 seasons of football at the University of Utah before the outbreak of World War II took him into the Army.
During the war, Speedie played for the Fort Warren Army base football team.
During that time they played against the Great Lakes Naval Station team coached by Paul Brown.
Speedie made an impression on Brown because after the war Brown made a priority of signing Speedie to his new Cleveland Browns football team.
Speedie quickly became an important part of an offense full of future Hall of Famers, Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and Dante Lavelli.
As a child, he had a bout of Perthes Disease that left him with one leg shorter than the other.
This left Speedie with a running gait that was rather unorthodox.
However, it did give him the ability to throw defenses off with incredible misdirection runs.
Speedie spent seven seasons in Cleveland before moving on to play in Canada.
During his time in Cleveland Speedie was a six-time First-Team All-Pro selection.
Speedie was incredibly dominant during the Browns’ AAFC years, leading the league in receptions 3 times.
He also led the AAFC in receiving yards twice.
Speedie was named to the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade team and in 2020 will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 15, 2020
13. Len Ford
Len Ford’s Cleveland Browns career began after two seasons in the AAFC with the Los Angeles Dons.
When the AAFC folded, Ford was selected by the Browns in the second round of the 1950 AAFC Dispersal Draft.
Ford was one of 5 black players on the Browns roster, which at the time was about a third the number of black players in the entire NFL.
Before Paul Brown signed Bill Willis and Marion Motley, there was an unofficial rule prohibiting the signing of black players.
His Browns career got off to a slow start as a Chicago Cardinals player elbowed Ford in the face breaking his nose, cheekbone, upper jaw, knocked out two teeth, and loosed several others.
Ford played in just 4 games that first season and had to have plastic surgery to rebuild his face.
He played with a custom-made facemask from then on.
Len Ford of the Cleveland Browns with a custom facemask to protect a broken jaw. pic.twitter.com/2UgXc9Mu9t
— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) July 24, 2017
However, Ford begged Paul Brown to reinstate him for the 1950 NFL Championship Game, in which Ford entered off the bench and turned the game around for the Browns.
Over the next 8 seasons, Ford would go on to be one of the most important players on the Cleveland defense.
Ford was named a first-team All-Pro in four straight seasons between 1951-1954.
Ford was a member of 3 NFL Championship teams in the 50s and was on four other runner up teams.
After his retirement, Ford was named to the NFL’s 1950s All-Decade Team and in 1976 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
12. Dick Schafrath
Dick Schafrath almost didn’t have a football career.
Schafrath was such a good athlete in high school he had to choose between playing college football for Woody Hayes at Ohio State or playing baseball for the Cincinnati Reds.
After choosing football and spending four years at Ohio State, Schafrath was picked in the second round of the 1959 NFL Draft.
He arrived in Cleveland at just 220 pounds, which Paul Brown deemed too light.
To gain weight, Schafrath worked out using the new fitness technique, weight lifting.
He also entered eating contests all across the state.
That seems like more fun than weight lifting.
Schafrath was 270 pounds within a year.
Schafrath played 13 seasons in Cleveland.
At the left tackle position, he protected Hall of Famer Otto Graham.
Happy Birthday Dick Schafrath, “The Mule”, out of @OhioStateFB : National Champion, 13 year @NFL career, 176 games played, 158 games started, 7X Pro Bowl, 4X 1st Team All Pro, @NFL Champion 64, former member of Ohio Senate; 83 Today… pic.twitter.com/YtPVzMGQ8I
— Larry in Missouri (@LarryInMissouri) March 21, 2020
He also opened running lanes for Hall of Fame running backs, Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly.
Schafrath was a Pro Bowler 7 straight seasons between 1963-1969.
He was an All-Pro selection 4 times.
He was also a member of the 1964 NFL Championship team.
Schaftrah kept things interesting in retirement.
He became known for stunts and challenges such as wrestling a bear and canoeing across Lake Erie.
Schafrath went on to serve in the Ohio Senate from 1986 to 2003.
11. Clay Matthews Jr.
Clay Matthews was the cornerstone of the Browns defense during one of the most important eras of the franchise.
However, the most impressive thing about his career is his incredible longevity.
Matthews played 19 seasons over 3 decades.
When Matthews retired, he had played the 17th-most games of anyone in NFL history and only a handful of the men in front him weren’t punters or kickers.
In his final season, and at 40, Mathews became the oldest player ever to record a sack.
Matthews is the most underappreciated player of his generation.
Despite recording the 3rd most tackles in NFL history, Matthews was named to just 4-Pro Bowls and only one All-Pro team.
He is consistently left waiting by the phone for his call to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The disappointment of the Hall of Fame continues a theme for Matthews, who was present for the most infamous losses in Browns history.
Talk about heartbreak.
The lack of ultimate glory overshadows an excellent career.
Matthews totaled 1,595 tackles, 69.5 sacks, and 16 interceptions during his career.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) September 29, 2019
He played 17 seasons in Cleveland before spending two final years in Atlanta.
10. Dante Lavelli
You know a wide receiver is great when he earns the nickname “Gluefingers.”
Dante Lavelli was one of many former Buckeyes Paul Brown added to his newly formed Cleveland Browns at their inception.
The wide receiver had played just one varsity season at Ohio State before the outbreak of World War II.
Lavelli was drafted in 1942 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Siege of Bastogne.
Upon returning home from war, Lavelli was offered a contract with the Detroit Tigers, who had drafted him into their organization out of high school.
However, when he was offered the chance to play football, he chose the Browns instead.
He joined an offense that included Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Lou Groza, and Mac Speedie.
They would all go on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Browns and Lavelli would dominate the AAFC for 4 seasons.
The Browns won every AAFC Championship and racking up a 47-4-3 record.
Lavelli ranked second all-time in receiving yards behind only Speedie.
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) June 2, 2017
The outstanding performances kept coming for Lavelli as the Browns moved into the NFL.
Lavelli was named to three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team.
He was a member of 3 NFL Championship winning teams leading to a grand total of 7 championships in 11 years with the Browns.
Lavelli was named to the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
9. Bill Willis
Imagine for a moment that you’re finishing your college career at Ohio State as a National Champion, an All-American, and as one of the greatest players ever to play in the Horseshoe.
You’re probably thinking you’ve got a long a prosperous career in professional football ahead of you.
Unless you’re Bill Willis in 1945.
There wasn’t an official policy banning African American’s from the NFL, but it had been the unwritten rule of the league since the ‘30s.
What’s a young, football-loving athlete to do?
The next best thing, coaching.
Willis took the vacant head coaching job at Kentucky State College, a historically black college in Frankfurt, Kentucky.
That just wasn’t what Willis wanted to do though.
“My heart was not really in coaching”, he would say later.
Hearing that his former Ohio State coach Paul Brown was starting a new team in the newly formed All-America Football Conference he asked Brown to a tryout.
Eventually, he and fellow Brown Marion Motley became the first African-Americans to play professional football in the modern era.
It’s a good thing Brown gave Willis a chance because Willis would go on to become one of the best defensive linemen in the history of professional football.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 17, 2017
Willis broke the mold of the typical defensive lineman.
At just 210 pounds, Willis relied on his speed and intelligence to wreak havoc.
Willis played 8 seasons for the Browns and earned All-Pro honors in each season, including his years in the AAFC and NFL.
Willis was a member of the 1950 Browns NFL Championship team and four AAFC Championship teams.
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
8. Ozzie Newsome
You never really know how well a draft pick will perform.
Some early round picks flame out and never amount to much, but so do some later round picks.
Every once in awhile though you’ll know right away how a player is going to turn out.
With Ozzie Newsome, the Cleveland Browns and the entire NFL knew right away he was going to be something special.
The tight end was drafted with the 23rd pick in the 1078 NFL Draft and had such a prolific rookie season, he was named Browns Offensive Player of the Year.
He was the first rookie in 25 years to win the award.
🎂Happy Birthday🎂Hall of Famer, 3x Pro Bowler & @Browns great Ozzie Newsome! Playing his entire 13yr career in CLE, Ozzie is the Brown’s all-time leader in REC (662) & REC yds (7980). In the 1986 AFC Div Rd win vs the Jets, Newsome led all receivers w/6 RECs & 114 yds! #Browns pic.twitter.com/lWVvPY5zhb
— 80s Football Cards (@80sFootballCard) March 16, 2018
Ozzie Newsome would be named an All-Pro in 6 seasons and go to the Pro Bowl 3 times.
While he never won a Super Bowl, Newsome set numerous franchise receiving records.
He held the record for most yards in a game until Josh Gordon broke that in 2013.
He still holds the records for receptions, with 662 and yards, with 7,980.
Newsome was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
After his retirement in 1990, Newsome embarked on a career as a front office executive that started with the Browns in 1991 and ended with the Ravens in 2018.
Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome was the first black general manager in NFL history! Newsome, the architect of two Ravens Super Bowl teams, is possibly the most impactful NFL executive of the past 20 years. #AfroFirsts #BHM pic.twitter.com/8Q0bA24JGj
— NFLPA Former Players (@NFLPAFmrPlayers) February 26, 2020
7. Marion Motley
Marion Motley would be a legendary name even if he hadn’t been a great football player.
In 1946, Motley broke the football’s color barrier along with Browns’ teammate Bill Willis.
No. 6 on @nflnetwork's Top 100 Game Changers: The 1946 Re-Integration
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 2, 2019
Motley was invited to try out for the Browns by coach Paul Brown after he had served in World War II.
It turned out to be a good move for both Motley and Brown.
Motley had an instant impact, helping the Browns win the AAFC in each of the league’s four seasons in existence.
At 6 feet 1 inch tall, Motley was an incredible force to be reckoned with while running the football.
At that size and speed, he also made a tremendous linebacker.
When the league folded in 1949, Motley was the league’s all-time leading rusher.
Motley’s and the Browns’ successes continued in 1950 in a new league, the NFL.
Motley set an NFL record in October 1950 when he dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers so heavily, he averaged 17 yards per carry.
That record stood until a historic performance from Michael Vick in 2002 topped that.
During that title-winning season of 1950, Motley led the league in rushing despite not averaging more than 12 carries per game.
He was a unanimous All-Pro selection that season.
One of the first two African-Americans to play professional football, Marion Motley was a FORCE.
Will he earn a spot on the #NFL100 All-Time Team?
— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2019
Injuries derailed the last few years of his career and he never regained his dominance at either position.
After sitting out an entire year with injuries, Motley was dealt to the Steelers just to play linebacker.
While the move didn’t last the full season for Motley, he did become one of the first players ever to play for both the Browns and the Steelers.
Motley’s career has been recognized as one of the greatest of all time.
He was named to the 1940s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary Team, the 100th Anniversary Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
6. Gene Hickerson
Gene Hickerson left Ole Miss as one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history in the Southeastern Conference.
When he eventually retired from the Cleveland Browns, he left as one of the greatest linemen in the history of the NFL.
Because of his speed and athleticism, Hickerson was immediately moved to the guard position in his rookie year.
Coach Paul Brown used him as a “messenger” guard, a role that required Hickerson to deliver plays from the sideline to the huddle.
During his 15-year NFL career, Hickerson had the distinction of blocking for three Hall of Famers, Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly.
During his time with the Browns, the team never experienced a losing season.
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) October 17, 2018
Hickerson picked up All-Pro honors 7 times, Pro Bowl honors 6 times, and was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team.
He was also a member of the 1964 NFL Championship team.
Hickerson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
He was wheeled onto the stage by the three men he spent most of his career blocking for, Brown, Mitchell, and Kelly.
The announcement was made that “one last time, Gene Hickerson leads Bobby Mitchell, Jim Brown, and Leroy Kelly.”
It was a fitting tribute for a great lineman.
OM grad Gene Hickerson is inducted into Pro FB HOF by the three HOF RBs he blocked for… pic.twitter.com/mXbv9gYKoF
— HEd (@minedyingbride) December 20, 2016
5. Leroy Kelly
Leroy Kelly would be the greatest running back of almost every NFL franchise but the Cleveland Browns.
Kelly had to wait his turn to display his greatness.
The man ahead of him?
The great Jim Brown.
As a rookie, Kelly starred as a return man because the greatest running back of all-time was taking up the lion’s share of the carries.
Kelly was an impressive return man, averaging 24.3 yards per return.
During Kelly’s 1964 rookie season, the Browns picked up the NFL Championship.
After biding his time as a return man and backup running back, Kelly got his shot in 1966 when Jim Brown retired.
Kelly took the ball and ran with it.
He led the league in rushing in two of the next three seasons and touchdowns in three straight seasons.
During those three years, he was named first-team All-Pro each season.
It's Throwback Thursday!!! And you do you know what that means??? We dig into the archives… Today we highlight RB Leroy Kelly (1964-1973) He was a 6x pro bowler and a NFL HOFer. Do you remember??? #clevelandbrowns #tbt #highlights #thisiscle #orangeandbrown #dawgpound pic.twitter.com/GgibX3loIl
— BrownsTown USA Podcast 🎧 (@BrownstownUSA) March 28, 2019
The success didn’t stop there.
In 1970 Kelly overtook Bill Brown as the active career rushing yards leader in the league.
1973 was Kelly’s final season with the Cleveland Browns.
When he left the team he had totaled 7,274 yards and 74 touchdowns.
At his retirement, he ranked 4th all-time in yards and third in touchdowns.
Leroy Kelly spent one final professional season with the Chicago Fire of the World Football League before hanging up the cleats for good.
Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
4. Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas became a Brown with the 3rd pick of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Little did Browns fans know he would go one to become one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 27, 2017
Joe Thomas immediately won the Browns starting left tackle job and was on the field for every Browns’ offensive play for the next 10 years.
Thomas played an NFL record 10,363 consecutive snaps.
A true “iron man.”
— NFL 32 (@NFL32__) October 14, 2018
Despite the lack of success going on around him, Thomas excelled.
Thomas made 10 straight Pro Bowls from 2007-2016.
Thomas was a First-Team All-Pro 7 times, and a Second-Team All-Pro 2 times.
Thomas, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly are the only Browns players who have ever been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of their first five seasons.
Joe Thomas’ iron man streak came to an end in 2017 when he suffered a torn bicep in his left arm that ended his season.
While the injury didn’t directly end his career, Thomas decided it was time to hang it up after the season ended.
Joe Thomas allowed just 30 sacks during his entire career and was also acknowledged for rarely committing holding penalties.
This is mainly due to his athleticism and quickness, as well as his unorthodox blocking style that some have likened to “throwing a shot put.”
In retirement, Joe Thomas hosts a popular podcast with former Cleveland Brown Andrew Hawkins called the ThomaHawk Show.
He also has uses his engaging personality and football knowledge as an analyst on the NFL Network.
3. Lou Groza
After starring playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes for one season, Lou Groza enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II.
While in the Army he received a package from his coach at Ohio State, Paul Brown, who was soon to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
The package included footballs and a contract for Groza to sign to become a member of the Cleveland Browns.
It’s not exactly an “and the rest is history” situation, but it was a pretty remarkable beginning to a legendary career.
The war ended in 1946 and Groza became a Brown.
— John Skrtic (@SkrticX) September 6, 2019
Groza played mostly at placekicker for his first two seasons, but he eventually became the Browns starter at left tackle too.
In his first season, Groza set records for the number of field goals and extra points kicked.
By the end of Groza’s career, he was a 4-time All-American Football Conference Champion and a 4-time NFL Champion.
Groza was a 4-time All-Pro selection and the 1954 NFL MVP.
A kicker as MVP; that’s how good Lou Groza was.
Groza played for the Browns until he was 44 years old.
When Groza retired he had kicked 234 field goals, 641 extra points and scored a total of 1,349 points in the NFL.
Groza is immortalized in bronze outside the Browns training facilities in Berea.
2. Otto Graham
Football fans these days view Tom Brady as the greatest winner of all-time.
Otto Graham would like a word.
From 1946 to 1955, Otto Graham quarterbacked the Cleveland Browns to 9 straight league championship games and won 7 of them.
Graham and the Browns won 4 All-America Football Conference titles before dominating the National Football League, winning 3 titles.
Graham was not just a great leader, but also a great individual player.
He was the NFL’s passing leader and passer rating leader in 2 seasons.
He was also the NFL’s MVP in 3 seasons.
Graham was a 4-time All-Pro quarterback.
#Cleveland @Browns show joy in dressing room after defeating Steelers 30-7. Left to right FB Ed Modzelewski, Coach Paul Brown, and QB Otto Graham. December 4, 1955. Source: @Cleve_Memory pic.twitter.com/Od8qHXkk2H
— John Skrtic (@SkrticX) March 21, 2019
Otto Graham was named to the 1950s All-Decade Team, the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary Teams.
Graham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Graham holds NFL records for yards per pass attempt and winning percentage for a starting quarterback.
Interestingly, Otto Graham wore number 60 for most of his career.
He was forced to switch to 14 in 1952 when the NFL began limiting the numbers that specific positions could choose to wear.
Before beginning his career with the Browns, Otto Graham was a professional basketball player with the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League.
Graham was a member of the 1945-46 Royals championship-winning team.
This made Graham one of just 2 people to have won titles in two of the four major American professional sports.
1. Jim Brown
This entire article should have been thrown out if Jim Brown was not ranked number 1.
Jim Brown has been named to so many all-time teams and Hall of Fame’s that it’s difficult to list them all, but we’ll try.
Jim Brown was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Brown was named to the 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
Jim Brown is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game for a career, and his 5.2 yards per carry average is still 2nd best all-time.
Brown was an 8-time All-Pro selection and a 3-time MVP.
He also led the Browns to the 1964 NFL Championship.
Jim Brown led the league in rushing 8 times before retiring early after just 9 seasons.
When you have won everything, what else is there to do?
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 22, 2020
For Jim Brown the answer was Hollywood.
Jim Brown went on to feature in such films as The Dirty Dozen, The Running Man and Slaughter.
In total, Jim Brown has actor credits in 52 films.
Not a bad second act.
Jim Brown is the greatest Browns player of all-time and it isn’t even close.