This Day in Browns History: Jan. 30

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 31, 2012 – 2:06 am

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

Greg Pruitt might have been “second” in one respect, but in every other respect in the Browns portion of his NFL career, he was first-rate.

The Oklahoma running back, taken by the Browns in the second round of the NFL Draft on Jan. 30, 1973, became one of the best runners, receivers and returners in club history. He also was one of the most exciting, with his speed and ability to stop on a dime and change direction.

Pruitt, who played with the team from 1973-81 before being traded to the Los Angeles Raiders, is the fourth-leading career rusher with 5,496 yards. His 4.7 yards-per-carry average is also fourth, and his 25 rushing touchdowns rank him seventh.

His 323 receptions are third-best on the Browns. His 42-yard catch-and-run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973, on which he deftly eluded defender after defender en route to setting up the winning touchdown (which he scored), is one of the most electrifying plays in team history.

Pruitt is first with a punt return average of 11.8 yards.

And he’s third in combined yards – rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns – with 10,700.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Also in 1973, the Browns drafted both Arizona State wide receiver Steve Holden and USC guard Pete Adams.

Holden caught 62 passes for four touchdowns in four years (1973-76) with Cleveland.

Adams showed a lot of promise, but injuries cut his career short. He played just two seasons, 1974 and ’76.

*

Also on this date, Jan, 30, in draft history:

*In 1968, the Browns used their second-round pick to take LSU linebacker John Garlington, who played 10 years (1968-77) for the team and was either a full- or part-time starter on the left and right sides for all but the final two seasons. He had nine interceptions.

Taken in the third round that year was Southwest Texas State running back Reece Morrison, who was a reserve on offense and a returner for 4½ seasons, the highlight being in 1971 when he averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return.

*In 1974, on the final day of the draft, the Browns found a valuable – and versatile – offensive lineman in the seventh round in Gerry Sullivan of Illinois. He played center, guard and tackle, mostly as a reserve, and was a long snapper for eight years (1974-81).

In addition on this date:

*In 1956, Keith Wright was born in Mercedes, Texas. He played at Memphis and then was drafted by the Browns in the fifth round in 1978, spending three seasons (1978-80) as a reserve wide receiver and returner before a knee injury ended his career. He averaged 26.3 yards on kickoff returns in 1978 and then 26.8 the next year.

*In 2011, Browns center Alex Mack had a rare treat for a lineman, taking a lateral on a passing play and running 40 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC’s final points in its 55-41 loss to the NFC in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Officially, Mack, in his first Pro Bowl, got credit for having caught a 67-yard touchdown from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 29

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 31, 2012 – 2:04 am

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

Right to the very end, the Browns helped themselves as the two-day NFL Draft came to a close on Jan. 29, 1975.

They got three notable players, including one in the 17th – and final – round. In addition, one of those players became a mainstay of the defense for nearly a decade.

Running back Larry Poole, from Akron (Ohio) Garfield High and Kent State, was the first of those choices, being taken in the ninth round.  Mostly a reserve, he rushed for 588 yards (averaging 4.4 yards a carry) and two touchdowns and caught 32 passes for three scores in a three-year (1975-77) career.

Penn State linebacker Dave Graf was that 17th-round choice, playing five years (1975-79) as a back-up on defense and a contributor on special teams.

But the real plum was Dick “Bam Bam” Ambrose, a middle/inside linebacker from Virginia taken in the 12th round. He started as a rookie and remained in that role for nine years, through 1983, becoming one of the leaders of the defense.

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Also on this date, Jan. 29, in 1941, Bill Nelsen was born in Los Angeles. A 10th-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 1963 NFL Draft out of USC, the quarterback played for the Steelers for five years before being traded in 1968 to Cleveland, where his career took off.

Inserted as the starter early in that first season when the offense was struggling, he got the attack – and the team overall – turned around, throwing for 19 touchdowns with 10 interceptions as the Browns made it to the NFL Championship Game. The Browns returned to the title contest the next year, too, as he had 23 touchdown passes with 19 interceptions.

Playing on knees that were just about shot, he also led the Browns to the AFC Central title in 1971, his next-to-last year with the team.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 28

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 29, 2012 – 9:07 am

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

The Browns got more out of the second and final day of the 1958 NFL Draft than many teams got out of the first.

The conclusion of the draft, held on Jan. 28 of that year, produced Illinois running back Bobby Mitchell in the seventh round and Florida cornerback Bernie Parrish in the ninth round.

Mitchell was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1958 when he rushed for 500 yards, caught three touchdown passes and scored one touchdown each on punt and kickoff returns. He played four years with the team and is one of four Cleveland running backs enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With Mitchell and another of those Hall of Famers, Jim Brown, paired together, the Browns had one of the best backfields in NFL history.

The Browns traded Mitchell to Washington in 1962 for the rights to Ernie Davis and starred as a wide receiver for the Redskins for the next seven years.

After playing baseball in the Cincinnati Reds farm system in 1958, Parrish joined the Browns the following year and immediately became the starter at left cornerback, holding down the spot for seven seasons. He is fifth on the Browns with 29 career interceptions and is tied for third with three interceptions returned for scores.

Parrish was twice selected for the Pro Bowl, and his performance in neutralizing the great Baltimore Colts wide receivers played an integral role in the Browns’ 27-0 upset victory in the 1964 NFL Championship Game.

*

There is other Browns draft news that has occurred on this date, Jan. 28:

*In 1954, the Browns took two running backs, Chet “The Jet” Hanulak from Maryland in the second round and Maurice Bassett from tiny Langston (third round). Bassett led the club in rushing in 1954 with 588 yards and had six touchdowns, and Hanulak was second with 291 yards and had four scores. Bassett also was third with 20 receptions.

Basset played for the Browns for three seasons and Hanulak for two.

*In 1969, eight of the Browns’ first nine picks made the team. Running back Ron Johnson, a first-rounder from Michigan, rushed for 472 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie and caught 24 passes. He was traded to the New York Giants after the season.

Tulsa guard Al Jenkins, taken in the third round, played two years in Cleveland.

Another third-rounder, Florida State tight end Chip Glass, caught 31 passes for five touchdowns in five seasons.

Wake Forest cornerback Fred Summers (fourth round) was in Cleveland for three years.

Fair Hooker, an Arizona  State wide receiver (fifth round), led the way of all the draftees, catching 129 passes for 1,845 yards (a 14.3 yards-per-reception average) and eight touchdowns over six seasons. His 27-yard scoring catch with 8:11 left in the 1972 AFC divisional playoffs provided the Browns with a 14-13 lead over unbeaten Miami and gave the Dolphins their biggest score on the way to a perfect season and a Super Bowl victory.

Joe Righetti, a defensive tackle from tiny Waynesburg (sixth round), played two years for the Browns.

Like Hooker, Florida State safety Walt Sumner (seventh round) was a key player through 1974, intercepting 15 passes, including 13 in the first three seasons, one of which he returned for a score.

Kansas State wide receiver Dave Jones (11th round) played three seasons.

*In 1971, the Browns had a great draft, getting three players who combined to play very well for a combined 37 seasons.

Cornerback/safety Clarence Scott, a first-rounder from Kansas State who played 13 years, is third on the team with 39 career interceptions and made one Pro Bowl.

Houston’s Charlie Hall (third round) was a starter at left linebacker for all but the rookie season of his 10-year career.

A tight end from Illinois, Doug Dieken (sixth round) was converted to left tackle and played 14 years. He made it to the Pro Bowl once and set team records with 203 consecutive games played and 194 consecutive starts.

*In 1975, the Browns used their first-round pick to take Houston defensive end Mack Mitchell, who set a team rookie record (since broken) with eight sacks and went on to play four years.

But as it turned out, the biggest news on draft day that year came when the Browns traded their fourth-round pick to the New England Patriots for wide receiver Reggie Rucker. He was a star from the outset, topping the AFC with 60 receptions in 1975. He also led the team in catches in 1976 and ’78, finishing his seven-year Cleveland career with 310 receptions, sixth-most in team history.

In addition, he is fifth with 4,953 receiving yards, sixth with 32 touchdown catches and tied for eighth with a 16.0 yards-per-reception average.

*

Also, in other events on this date:

In 1980, the Browns traded their eighth-round pick in 1981 to the New York Jets for defensive end Marshall Harris, who was a three-year starter during the Kardiac Kids era.

In 1982, Browns assistant coach Jim Garrett was named director of research and development. The only other such position in the NFL then was in Dallas, where his son, Jason, now is coach.

In 1941, Larry Benz was born. Though born in Chattanooga, Tenn., he went to Cleveland Heights High School and played three years (1963-65) as a safety in the NFL – all with the Browns – and intercepted 16 passes. He tied for the team lead as a rookie (seven) and also in the 1964 NFL championship season (four), and led all by himself with five in ’65.

In 1944, Fred Hoaglin was born in Alliance, Ohio. A product of nearby East Palestine High School and the University of Pittsburgh, he was taken by the Browns in the sixth round in 1966 and became part of the team’s fine lineage at center.

He shared the starting job as a rookie with John Morrow, and then took over full-time following Morrow’s retirement after that season and held it, either fully or in part, through 1972, after which he played four more years with the Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers and Seattle Seahawks.


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Year away from football gave Childress fresh perspective

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 27, 2012 – 11:06 pm

By: Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

MOBILE, Ala. – Sometimes, the chance to step away from something you’ve done for a long time gives you a chance to get a fresher perspective.

New Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress had such an experience after being fired as coach of the Minnesota Vikings following the 2010 season and spending the 2011 campaign out of football. It marked the first time he had been in that position in 33 years, which was among the first thoughts that crossed my mind as I learned of his hiring Friday while here for the Senior Bowl.

Childress spent part of his first summer away from the game dabbling in media as an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio. In that capacity, he visited the Browns’ training camp as part of the satellite station’s training-camp tour and joined me as a guest on Cleveland Browns Daily.

During our conversation, he mentioned that while visiting the Browns he had discussed the chance to be an observer, rather than a participant, at a camp with team president Mike Holmgren. At the time, Childress saw being “able to see how somebody else does it for the first time in 33 years” as highly valuable even at this stage of his career.

Some of Childress’ visit was reviewing videotape with Browns coach Pat Shurmur, with whom he had worked on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff. Childress was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator and Shurmur was their quarterbacks coach. Although they shared the same vision for the West Coast offense (an obvious factor in the Browns’ decision to hire Childress), Childress approached the session with the expectation that he would learn something new.

“You only know what you know in your little box,” he told me. “… As we go down the road (with the tour) … I’m taking notes.”

Childress had said then he was “open and amenable” to any and all coaching opportunities that might come his way.

“I’m just happy and grateful that I’m having the opportunity to go around and see some different people do it,” he said.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 27

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 27, 2012 – 3:47 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

Through the years, Jan. 27 has been one of the busiest days in Browns history.

And the things that have happened on this date have had a lot to say about the direction of the franchise at those particular times.

It was in the 1970 NFL Draft that the team selected Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps and Texas offensive lineman tackle Bob McKay (first round), and Tennessee State defensive end Joe Jones and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Jerry Sherk (second round).

The Browns traded Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield to the Miami Dolphins to get the chance to take Phipps at No. 3 overall. He had some bright spots but also struggled during his seven seasons (1970-76) in Cleveland.

McKay was the full- or part-time starter at right tackle from 1971-74, then, in his final year of 1975, he shared right guard with rookie Robert E. Jackson.

Jones played seven seasons in two stints with the Browns, from 1970-71 and ’73, and then again from 1975-78. He is best known for his famous head-first “spike” tackle of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw in a 1976 game at Cleveland.

Sherk, a Cleveland Browns Legend, played for the team from 1970-81 and made four Pro Bowls. He no doubt would have played longer, had more Pro Bowl trips and maybe even received strong consideration for the Hall of Fame had he not sustained a staph infection on his knee in 1979 at Philadelphia, when he was having his best season statistically. It almost claimed his life, and he never really regained his skills.

In addition, on this date in 1989, Bud Carson was hired as coach of the Browns.

They gave the 57-year-old Carson, a defensive genius who had spent time with the New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams and Steelers, his first head coaching job in the NFL because they thought he could figure out a way to defeat quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos and get Cleveland to its first Super Bowl. The Broncos had edged the Browns in the AFC Championship Game following both the 1986 and ’87 seasons.

Carson, who abandoned the team’s 3-4 defensive scheme and replaced it with a 4-3, got the Browns back to the AFC title game – against Denver — in that first season of 1989, but once again, the Broncos prevailed, this time by 37-21.

The Browns ran out of gas with that group of players. Trying again in 1990, they started 2-7, causing Carson to be fired and replaced on an interim basis by offensive coordinator Jim Shofner, a former Cleveland cornerback. Carson’s overall record was 11-13-1.

The Browns went on to finish a then franchise-worst 3-13 in 1990, and Bill Belichick was hired as the full-time coach in the offseason.

*

Also on this date, Jan. 27:

*In 1980, center Tom DeLeone and fullback Mike Pruitt, both of whom are Cleveland Browns Legends, represented the club in the Pro Bowl, in which their AFC team lost to the NFC, 37-27, as the game began a 30-year run of being held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

*In 1968, two future key Browns were born in defensive end Anthony Pleasant (in Century, Fla.) and kicker Matt Stover (Dallas).

Pleasant, a third-round pick of the Browns in the 1990 NFL Draft out of Tennessee State, was the starter at right end for each of the six seasons (1990-95) he spent in Cleveland before the original franchise left and went to Baltimore. He was drafted the same season as Rob Burnett (fifth round), who would play opposite him at left end, giving the Browns solid bookends along their defensive line throughout that era.

A fine pass rusher, Pleasant recorded 33.5 sacks while with the Browns, including 11 in 1993 and eight in ’95.

Stover, from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, also the alma mater of longtime Browns kicker Phil Dawson, and Louisiana Tech, was a 12th-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 1990 but never played for them. He came to the Browns in 1991 as a Plan B free agent and played with the club through ’95, continuing the team’s lineage of great kickers. In his third game as a Brown, in 1991 at Cleveland, he hit a field goal as time expired to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals.

Overall with the Browns, Stover connected on 80.6 percent (108-of-134) of his field-goal tries, including going 26-of-28 in 1994 for an NFL-best 92.9 percent.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 26

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 26, 2012 – 5:15 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

The Browns – and their fans – could always count on Jerry Sherk.

No matter what else was going on with the team, he always stood out.

The 1975 Browns finished only 3-11 after having been 4-10 the year before. The franchise was going through its first prolonged down period.

This came during the height of Sherk’s career. However, because he was one of the best defensive tackles in team history — and also one of the best in the game at the time — players throughout the NFL still had the utmost respect for him, especially when it came to voting for the Pro Bowl.

In fact, Sherk was the lone Browns representative in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 26, 1976, when his AFC squad was edged by the NFC, 23-20. It was the third of what would be four consecutive trips to the game for Sherk. That’s tied for the second-most appearances in the Pro Bowl by a defensive lineman in Browns history.

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Also on this date in history, Jan. 25, two other former Browns of note were born in defensive tackle Henry Jordan (in 1935 in Emporia, Va.) and defensive back Judson Flint (in 1957 in Farrell, Pa., just across the Ohio border from Warren).

Jordan was taken in the fifth round of the 1957 NFL Draft out of Virginia and played for Cleveland for two years (1957-58) before going on to have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers.

Flint was a seventh-round pick of the New England Patriots in the 1979 NFL Draft but never played for them. He came to the Browns in 1980 and, with the Kardiac Kids facing some injuries in the secondary, stepped in and bailed them out by playing well in a reserve role as they captured their first AFC Central title in nine years.

He also played for the Browns the next two years before finishing his career in 1983 with a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 25

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 25, 2012 – 3:10 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

One of the biggest and most memorable days in Browns history occurred on Jan. 25, 1970.

That was when the Browns traded future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield to Miami for the Dolphins’ No. 3 overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, which they used two days later to select Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps.

Make no mistake, the Browns did not want to lose Warfield, a product of Warren (Ohio) Harding High School and Ohio State. Since he was drafted in the first round in 1964, Warfield had combined with Gary Collins to give the club arguably the best set of wide receivers in the league. The ability to have two playmakers like that in the passing game complemented a running attack that, first with Jim Brown and then with Leroy Kelly, and then with Ernie Green, was one of the NFL’s best. It gave Cleveland one of the most complete and prolific offenses in the game.

The Browns had scored 415 points, a record for the club in NFL play, in Warfield’s rookie season of 1964, 403 (second-best) in ’66, 394 (fourth) in ’68, and 351 in ’69.

But quarterback Bill Nelsen, whose arrival in 1968 in a trade from Pittsburgh really helped to jump-start an offense that had struggled at the start of that season, had bad knees. So the Browns knew they had to find a replacement – and quickly – if they wanted to make more runs at the Super Bowl, which they had done in both 1968 and ’69 by getting to the NFL Championship Game.

However, it was not going to be easy or painless.

The Browns liked Phipps, and also the fact Purdue had a long history of producing star quarterbacks, such as one-time Brown Len Dawson, a Hall of Famer. They also knew other teams liked him, and that to have a chance to get him, they would need to be at the top part of the draft.

Having Miami’s No. 3 overall pick would afford them that opportunity.

The Dolphins believed they already had their quarterback in young Bob Griese, who had preceded Phipps at Purdue and was heading into his fourth season with the club. But they had to find some receivers for him, and having Warfield figured to do plenty to help on that count.

As such, the Dolphins, under new coach Don Shula, a Painesville (Ohio) Harvey High School and John Carroll University product who had played defensive back for the Browns in 1951, insisted that Warfield be included in any deal.

After hedging and hedging for the longest time— so long, in fact, that the Dolphins finally demanded an answer from him as the draft quickly approached — Browns owner Art Modell finally and grudgingly agreed to make the trade.

Phipps spent an up-and-down seven seasons with the Browns, the highlight coming in 1972 when he stepped in as the starter and invigorated the offense, helping lead them to a 10-4 record, the AFC’s lone wild-card playoff berth and nearly an upset victory over Warfield and the Dolphins in the divisional round.

And then in 1976, just as if it appeared he might be coming into his own, Phipps suffered a separated shoulder in the season opener against coach Lou Holtz’s New York Jets. That was the end of his time in Cleveland, as he was traded to the Chicago Bears the following year.

Just as he had done with the Browns, Warfield starred with the Dolphins, helping lead them to three consecutive Super Bowls, the last two of which they won.

Warfield jumped to the World Football League following the 1974 season but was re-signed by the Browns in 1976 after the league folded. Ironically, he and Phipps were on the Cleveland roster together that season.

*

This date, Jan. 25, has also been big in Browns history for kickers through the years. Hall of Fame Lou Groza was born on it in 1924, and Jeff Gossett was born on it in 1957.

Groza, the first great kicker in the game’s history, played for Martins Ferry (Ohio) High School and then briefly for Paul Brown at Ohio State before serving in World War II. When the war ended, Brown signed Groza for the new Cleveland franchise he would begin coaching in the All-America Football Conference in 1946.

Groza played for the Browns longer than anyone in history, 21 seasons, retiring for good following the 1967 campaign. He kicked the game-winning field goal as the Browns defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 30-28, to win the NFL title in 1950 in their first year in the league, and booted two field goals in the team’s 27-0 upset victory over the Baltimore Colts to claim the 1964 NFL crown.

Groza also was a standout left tackle for the first 14 years of his career (1946-59).

Born in Charleston, Ill., Gossett punted for the Browns for three full seasons (1983-86) and part of ’87, averaging 40.7 yards per kick.

In addition, he was the holder when Mark Moseley kicked a 22-yard field late in the fourth quarter to tie the 1986 AFC divisional playoff game against the New York Jets, and also when Moseley connected on a 27-yarder early in the second overtime to win it, 23-20.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 24

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 24, 2012 – 7:49 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

It was historic.

The completion of the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 changed everything about pro football, including the Pro Bowl.

Rather than the Eastern and Western conferences of the NFL squaring off in the Pro Bowl (which had basically been the case since following the 1950 season), the best from the AFC would meet the best from the NFC.

The first game in that format was played Jan. 24, 1971, and three members of the Browns – running back Leroy Kelly and guard Gene Hickerson, both Pro Football Hall of Famers, and linebacker Jim Houston from Massillon (Ohio) High School and Ohio State – played for the AFC in its 27-6 loss to the NFC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Also on this date, Jan. 24, two future Browns were born in running back/wide receiver Preston Carpenter (in 1934 in Hayti, Mo.) and right tackle Monte Clark (1937 in Fillmore, Cal.).

Carpenter, a first-round pick of the Browns in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Arkansas, played for the team for four years (1956-59), rushing for 848 yards and catching 96 passes for 1,368 yards, averaging 14.3 yards per reception.

He spent 12 seasons overall in the NFL, also playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, and Miami Dolphins.

Clark was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1959 and played three years with them and then a season with the Dallas Cowboys before coming to the Browns in 1963. He took over as the starter at right tackle in the NFL championship year of 1964 and stayed there until retiring following the 1969 season, during which time he was one of the better players at that position in the league.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 23

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 24, 2012 – 7:06 am

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

The Browns were both looking ahead, and behind, on Jan. 23, 1950.

It was on that day that quarterback Otto Graham was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-America Football Conference for 1949, the league’s final year of existence. He was presented the award at the Cleveland Touchdown Club meeting at the Cleveland Athletic Club.

The 1949 Browns won their fourth AAFC championship, all with Graham at quarterback. He completed 161-of-285 passes (56.5 percent) for 2,785 yards and 19 touchdowns with 10 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 97.5. He also rushed for 107 yards and four touchdowns as the Browns finished 9-1-2 to win the Western Division crown, then defeated the Buffalo Bills, 31-21, in a first-round playoff game and the San Francisco 49ers, 21-7, in the league title contest.

The Browns, 49ers and Baltimore Colts were the AAFC teams being absorbed into the NFL, and the league announced on Jan. 23, that Cleveland would be placed into the American Conference for the 1950 season, while San Francisco and Baltimore would go to the National Conference.

As such, the Browns would be in the same conference with the defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins.

*

Also on this date, Jan. 23, in 1972, Browns tight end Milt Morin caught a touchdown pass from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson, a former Brown, to ice the AFC’s 26-13 win over the NFC in the Pro Bowl at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

*

Finally, on this date in 1968, Eric Metcalf was born in Seattle. A Cleveland Browns Legend, the running back was taken by the team with its first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.

Metcalf, who made the Pro Bowl twice during his six seasons (1989-94) with the Browns, is the 11th-leading career rusher in club history with 2,229 yards. He is also eighth all-time with 297 receptions.

However, Metcalf, the son of former NFL running back Terry Metcalf, is probably better known for the fact he is one of the best returners in NFL history. With the Browns, he had five punt return touchdowns and two on kickoffs. He added five more punt return scores over the rest of his seven-year NFL career for a total of 10.

Overall with the Browns, he scored 33 touchdowns and had 55 in his NFL career.


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This Day in Browns History: Jan. 22

Posted by Matt Florjancic on January 22, 2012 – 10:11 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History.  If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays.  Call to learn more.

The Browns hired a new coach in Forrest Gregg on Jan. 22, 1975.

But he was hardly a new face, and the method by which they found him was extremely familiar, too.

Gregg had been the team’s offensive line coach on Nick Skorich’s staff in 1974. As such, his hiring continued the tradition of former Browns owner Art Modell  promoting from within for the job.

Blanton Collier, who was Modell’s first hire as coach in 1963 when he replaced founding coach Paul Brown, had returned to the team as an assistant in 1962 after having also been on Brown’s first eight staffs from 1946-53.

Collier’s successor in 1971 was Skorich, who had been on the Cleveland staff from 1964-70.

Gregg, just the fourth coach in the Browns’ first 30 seasons of existence, inherited a team whose players had seemingly gotten old all at the same time, causing a 4-10 finish in 1974, the worst in franchise history to that point. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle had played for great franchises – the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys – and great coaches in Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, so he knew what it took to build a winner.

Gregg’s first order of business was to improve the team’s rushing attack and make the club more physical on both sides of the ball. His 1975 team got off to a rocky start, losing its first nine games, then, with the running game beginning to click and the physicality of the players starting to make a difference, things came together down the stretch, with the Browns winning three of their last five to finish 3-11.

The Browns struggled out of the gate in 1976 as well, going 1-4, then they really got going, winning eight of nine, their best stretch since 1968, on the way to finishing 9-5. That was their best record since 1972 and nearly got them into the AFC playoffs.

The team’s five-win improvement over 1974 earned Gregg the AFC Coach of the Year award.

Things looked even brighter at the halfway point of the 1977 season, when the Browns, in scoring their most points since 1968, routed the Kansas City Chiefs, 44-7, and moved into first place in the AFC Central with a 5-2 record.

But they couldn’t sustain it, especially offensively as they began to really struggle to score points. They lost their next two games to rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by a combined total of just seven points, easily defeated the New York Giants and then dropped their final four games to finish 6-8.

Five of those last six defeats came by a combined total of only 21 points.

Gregg didn’t make it to the finale, a 20-19 loss to the second-year Seattle Seahawks. He was fired the previous week following a 19-15 home loss to the Houston Oilers, giving him an 18-23 final overall record with the Browns in roughly three seasons.

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Also on this date, Jan. 22, in 1953, the Browns selected five notable players in the 1953 NFL Draft in Tennessee defensive tackle Doug Atkins (first round), Pittsburgh running back Billy Reynolds (second round), Washington State center/linebacker Don Steinbrunner (sixth round), Kansas linebacker Galen Fiss (13th round) and Dayton tackle Chuck Noll (20th round).

Atkins, one of the biggest players in team history to that time at 6-foot-8 and 257 pounds, played just the 1953 and ’54 seasons with Cleveland before going on to spend 15 more years with the Chicago Bears and three with the New Orleans Saints on the way to being enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Reynolds played in the NFL Championship Game in each of his three seasons with the Browns (1953-54, 1957). He rushed for 550 yards and three touchdowns in his career, along with averaging 10.4 yards on 20 pass receptions, 25.6 yards on 25 kickoff returns and 5.4 yards on 67 punt returns.

Steinbrunner was a defensive end for the Browns in 1953, which turned out to be his only year in pro football. But his significance in the history of the team and the game is that he was the first man – and one of only two men — who played in the NFL and went on to die while serving in the Vietnam War. A member of the U.S. Air Force, Steinbrunner, then 35, was killed when his plane was shot down over South Vietnam on July 20, 1967.

Almost three years later to the day, on July 21, 1970, guard Bob Kalsu, who had played a year with the Buffalo Bills in 1968, was killed when his unit came under heavy fire.

Fiss had a great career with the Browns, playing 11 years (1956-66) and being selected twice to the Pro Bowl. He made the defensive play of the day – maybe even the overall play of the day – in the 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game when he tackled Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore on a screen pass in the first half, preventing a certain touchdown.

Noll, from Cleveland Benedictine High School, played with the Browns for seven seasons (153-59) as both a messenger guard and linebacker before becoming a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Finally, on Jan. 22, 1958, running back Charles White was born in Los Angeles. After being awarded the Heisman Trophy following his senior season at USC, he was taken by the Browns in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft.

He played four years for Cleveland (1980-82, 1984), rushing for 942 yards and nine TDs, including five as a rookie, and catching 83 passes for 684 yards and a score. He went on to the Los Angeles Rams and in 1987 led the NFL in rushing yards (1,374) and rushing TDs (11).


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