Browns History - Great Beginings for a Great Future

Great Beginnings for a Great Future

How a legacy is started

The Cleveland Browns. It is a name synonymous with winners, champions, excellence, dominance, and execution. They are the winningest team in professional football history. The numbers prove it. The 8 championships prove it. The most winning quarterback in history prove it. Why? There is one simple reason: the way the team was built. An owner with the business sense of Mickey McBride (founder) and the prowess and eye for talent of coach Paul Brown were the main ingredients in the recipe of DYNASTY that the Browns built. There had been others before, and there have been others since, but no single football team, NFL or otherwise, has ever dominated a league the way the Browns did for their first 20 years of existence. The 49ers had the 80's, the Steelers had the 70's, and the Packers the 60's. The Browns, however, dominated from their first game in 1946 until their championship of 1964. Take a look at how they accomplished all of this, and why it will never be duplicated in any professional sport.


Mickey McBride was a business man. He was well to do. All of his ventures emanated success. He owned the only taxi fleet in the city of Cleveland. While raising his boys, he found a love for the game of football. The game of which they played. He would travel to South Bend, Indiana every weekend to see his boys play for the University of Notre Dame and coach Frank Leahy. One day in the winter of 1944, he ventured out to Chicago, Illinois. He heard of a new football league that was in the works and being started by none other than the inventor of the baseball all-star game, Arch Ward. McBride's passion for football drove him for the desire to have his own professional franchise, and he was there to inquire about getting a team for his city, Cleveland. Ward, after careful review of McBride's personal and financial affairs, granted him one and the All-America Football Conference was born.

Back in 1944 when this upstart league was formed, Cleveland Municipal Stadium was being The 1945 Cleveland Ramsoccupied on Sundays by a team known as the Cleveland Rams. This was not an obstacle for Mickey McBride, however. He figured that his new franchise could alternate Sundays with the established but unsuccessful Rams. The Rams, however, were trying to change their losing ways. In the 1945 season, they took home the NFL Championship for the first time, hanging on against Sammy Baugh and the Washington Redskins for a 15-14 win. It appeared that Cleveland would have a winner playing in Municipal Stadium with this new AAFC franchise. That wasn't to be the case, however. Even though they wore the NFL crown, the Rams lost huge money in Cleveland, as they had been for years. Team heads decided to move the team to an untapped market: Los Angeles. This was great for McBride. No Competition meant more ticket sales on Sundays. His franchise wouldn't have to worry about scheduling at Cleveland Stadium, either.

All the while, McBride was busy building his team. He knew that the key to a winning team was a capable field general. His first choice was Frank Leahy, the coach of his sons at Notre Dame. He liked Leahy's approach to the game and style of coaching. Leahy was busy in the war to end wars, but McBride was prepared to approach him upon his return. The president of the university found out about this, and asked McBride not to requisition Leahy since the entire team was somewhat built around him. McBride decided not to take Leahy, but now he didn't know where to turn. It was suggested to him that he may want to look at Paul Brown.

Brown was a winner. It didn't matter at what level or where he was, his teams won big, and won often. McBride liked this. Even though Mr. Brown had been primarily a high school coach, he was from Northeast Ohio. He had coached the Massillon (HS) tigers, and the Ohio State Buckeyes, so he was well known. At the time that McBride heard of him, he was coaching at Great Lakes and winning there too. After an interview with Brown, McBride decided that Brown was his man. He signed Paul Brown (even though Brown was still obligated to the Navy for the duration of the war) and began paying him. Brown wanted total control over all football operations, to include player acquisitions. He made it clear that he was to be the leader of the team. McBride agreed, and Brown began to build the greatest pro team in history.

Brown decided right away that he would not sign any players that were under contract in the NFL. When he was looking at players, he not only judged performance and potential, he weighed the player's character as well. There would be no disrespect towards other players, coaches, or the fans on his team. The first player he decided on was Northwestern University's Otto Graham. Brown immediately caught attention with this acquisition. Many skeptics wondered why he had passed up great talents such as Frankie Albert, but Brown had been impressed with Graham's play against his Ohio State teams. Graham had beaten Brown twice as the offensive leader for Northwestern. Brown then began assembling the rest of his team. He filled it rich with players from his former teams. He also took a big step in signing Marion Motley. Motley, an African-American, was a punishing runner, and Brown had no qualms about signing a black player. He also made it clear to the rest of his team and the world that there would be no hazing or hatred for any team member, or they would be gone. Motley played his first professional game in the fall of '46, the same time as Jackie Robinson. He didn't get near the publicity as Robinson did, but he was a pioneer that paved the way for blacks in sport just the same.

Nobody questioned Brown's decisions much more after that. The team didn't, the fans didn't, and even the owner Mickey McBride didn't. In fact, there was only one time where McBride confronted Brown on something. Brown had hired 5 assistant coaches, which Mickey thought was excessive. However, as soon as Brown said simply that he needed them, McBride accepted his decision, and never questioned another one again.

By the time Brown was finished assembling his team, he had Hall of Famers such as Graham, Motley, Lou Groza, and others. Many were from the Armed Forces that had just finished fighting in World War II. He was confident that this team would perform well on the field, and would work well as a team. Speaking of this team, there was no name for it as of yet. There is somewhat of a false myth as to how the team got named. Many believe that there was a contest held through a local newspaper for the team name, and "Browns" was an overwhelming winner. That is somewhat true, but here's the real story:

Mickey McBride decided to hold a contest in a local newspaper to name his team. After the contest was over, the "Panthers" had been chosen, and the winner of the contest received a $1,000.00 war bond. It was later discovered that the name "Cleveland Panthers" was used previously by a team that had little success in the game. McBride decided that his team was not to be associated with a loser in any way what so ever. He decided to hold a second contest, but he let the first winner keep his prize. He offered a second bond for $1,000.00. This was great publicity for the team, and for McBride. After word got out about the Panthers being rejected, Many people started suggesting names of other champions. One of the most popular champions of that time was boxing legend Joe Louis, respectfully known as the "Brown Bomber". This was decided on as the new name, and the second winner received his prize, also. McBride, after convincing Paul Brown, shortened the name to just "Browns". Paul Brown was adamant about not naming the team after him, but technically, it was being named after Joe Louis, so he agreed.

Now Everything was set. The only thing left to do was start playing. Would the Browns be champions? Find out in the next step of the tour.

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