This Day in Browns History: Mar. 20

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 20, 2012 – 7:27 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The Browns already had one former Ohio State head coach on their staff in their own head coach, Paul Brown, but they added another when they hired Paul Bixler as an assistant coach on March 20, 1954.

Brown had hired Bixler as an assistant with the Buckeyes in 1941 and offered him a job with the Browns when he was hired in 1945, the year before the club took the field for the first time. Bixler declined and stayed at Ohio State, becoming head coach there in 1946. He held the job for just that one season before going to Colgate and beginning a five-year tenure as head coach.

He then moved on to Penn and served as an assistant in 1952 and ’53.

Bixler worked with the Browns for nine seasons, through 1962, leaving when Brown was dismissed. During that time, Cleveland won two NFL titles and played in three league champion games.

Bixler had strong Ohio ties. He was a native of Louisville, just east of Canton, and remained in Stark County to play his college football at Mount Union as a guard and fullback. He coached at Canton McKinley High School and then the University of Akron, where he served as an assistant in football and the head men’s basketball coach.

He left Akron and did his first stint at Colgate as a football assistant and the head coach in men’s basketball before going to Ohio State and working under Brown.

Also on this date, March 20, in Browns history, Eppie Barney was born in 1944 in Birmingham, Ala. He moved with his family to Cleveland and ended up graduating from Collinwood High School. He went on to Iowa State as a wide receiver and was a third-round choice of the Browns in the 1967 NFL Draft.

A cousin of Detroit Lions Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney, he played two seasons with the Browns, catching 19 passes for one touchdown, and then retired.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 18

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 18, 2012 – 4:13 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Long before it became a rule of thumb, Browns coach Paul Brown knew that for a team to be successful, it had to be strong up the middle.

And so it built his first team in 1946 in that manner.

His middle guard was Bill Willis, who went on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His quarterback was Otto Graham, also in the Hall of Fame.

His fullback was Marion Motley, who is in the Hall as well.

And his center was yet another Hall of Famer in Frank Gatski, who was born March 18, 1922 in Farmington, West Virginia.

Gatski, a product of Marshall, became a part-time starter in 1947 and took over the job full-time the following year. In the nine seasons (1947-55) that Gatski and Graham were on the field together, the Browns played in nine league championship games and won six crowns. The Browns also captured the All-America Football Conference championship during Gatski’s rookie season of 1946.

When Graham retired after the 1955 season, Gatski stayed with the Browns for one more year and then finished his career in 1957 as a champion once again, this time with the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

Also on this date, March 18, in Browns history, Andre Rison was born in 1967 in Flint, Mich.

After starring as a wide receiver at Michigan State, Rison was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft by Indianapolis Colts. He played with them for just that one season, then went to the Atlanta Falcons for the next five years, during which time he became one of the most productive pass catchers in the game.

The Browns signed him to a $17 million free-agent contract in 1995, believing he was the missing link in the team making it to the Super Bowl for the first time. Rison finished third on the club with 47 receptions for three touchdowns that year, but the Browns struggled to a 5-11 record in their last season in Cleveland before the original franchise moved to Baltimore.

Rison went on to play five more years in the NFL, splitting 1996 between the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars, spending 1997-99 with the Kansas City Chiefs and finishing with the Oakland Raiders in 2000.

He has 743 career receptions for 10,205 yards and 84 touchdowns.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 15 and 16

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 15, 2012 – 3:30 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

It is nearly impossible to separate Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews.

Let’s start with the fact the two former Browns greats were born only a day apart in March 1956, Matthews on the 15th in Palo Alto, Calif., and Newsome on the 16th in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Then they were both selected by the Browns in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft, Matthews at No. 12 overall out of USC and Newsome at No. 23 out of Alabama. It turned out to be one of the best drafts in Browns history.

They were starters from the moment they arrived in Cleveland and remained so throughout long careers with the Browns, Newsome at tight end after being converted from wide receiver, where he played with the Crimson Tide, and Matthews at outside linebacker.

Both were among the best players the Browns have ever had.

Newsome, who played 13 years, through 1990, made the Pro Bowl three times, is the team’s career leader in receptions — by a wide margin — with 662, is tied for the club record with 89 receptions in a season (done twice) and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, the same weekend the expansion Browns made their debut by playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

He retired at the end of the 1990 season, and went into scouting and personnel work with the Browns.

Matthews was chosen for the Pro Bowl four times in a Cleveland career that lasted 1993. His 16 consecutive seasons played are a club record, and rank second for overall seasons played. He is also tops the Browns with 232 games played.

In addition, he is the club’s all-time leader in sacks with 76.5 and sack yardage (568), and his 12 sacks in 1984 are tied for fifth-most in Browns history.

Following his time with the Browns, Matthews played three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, retiring after the 1996 season.

Matthews has long been mentioned as a Hall of Fame candidate, and in voting for the class of 2012, he made the list of 26 semifinalists for the first time. His brother, Bruce, a former offensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers, is already in the Hall. His father, Clay Matthews, was a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s, and his two sons, Clay III (Green Bay Packers) and Casey (Philadelphia Eagles), currently play linebacker in the NFL.

Also on these two mid-March dates in Browns history:

*16 — In 1953, HOF middle guard Bill Willis retired from the Browns to become assistant commissioner of the Cleveland Recreation Department. From Columbus (Ohio) East High School, he played on Ohio State’s first national championship team in 1942. His coach with the Buckeyes, Paul Brown, also served as the first coach of the Browns, and Willis ended up playing for him from the team’s inception in 1946.

*15 — In 1969, Louis Riddick was born in Quakertown, Pa. A Pitt product, the safety was drafted in the ninth round in 1991 by the San Francisco 49ers but never played with them. He started his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 and then spent from 1993-95 with the Browns. He finished his career by going back to the Falcons for the 1996 season and to the Oakland Raiders for ’98.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 14

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 14, 2012 – 4:39 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Coach Bill Belichick has always liked big, tall tight ends who can block.

That goes back to his days with the Browns from 1991-95.

One such player he had during that time was Thomas McLemore – all 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds of him.

Born March 14, 1970 in Shreveport, La., he played at Southern and was a second-round choice of Detroit in the 1992 NFL Draft. He played his rookie season with the Lions and then spent the next two years in Cleveland.

He finished his career in 1995 with the Indianapolis Colts.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 13

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 13, 2012 – 4:08 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The Browns were at the center of attention in the NFL on March 13, 1960.

They traded one center for another, sending Art Hunter to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for John Morrow.

Hunter had done a fine job for the Browns the previous four seasons, having played in his first Pro Bowl just two months earlier. But while Hunter, who was born in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and played at Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent High School, and Morrow were only three days apart in age, Morrow had a few less miles on his body.

Morrow had been in the NFL only since 1956 after being taken in the 28th round of the NFL Draft that year. Hunter started his career in 1954 after being a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers that year, and then sat out the following year before going to Cleveland in 1956.

Morrow stayed with the Browns for seven seasons, holding down the starting job exclusively for the first six years before sharing it with East Palestine, Ohio native Fred Hoaglin in 1966, after which he retired.

The Michigan product made the Pro Bowl twice, following the 1961 and ’63 seasons, and anchored the offensive line in 1964 as the Browns won the NFL title.

Also on this date, March 13, in Browns history, wide receiver Rich Kreitling (1936, in Chicago) and linebacker Jock Jones (1968, in Ashland, Va.) were born.

Both players were drafted by the Browns, Kreitling in the first round in 1959 out of Illinois and Jones in the eighth round in 1990 from Virginia Tech.

After not catching any passes as a rookie, Kreitling gradually developed into a go-to receiver, having 16 receptions for 316 yards (a 19.6 yards-per-catch average) and three touchdowns in 1960, 21 receptions for three scores in ’61 and 44 receptions (second on the team) for a club-best 659 yards and three touchdowns in ’62.

He added 22 catches for six touchdowns, second on the club, in 1963, giving him 103 receptions for 1,590 yards (15.4) and 15 scores in his Browns career.

Kreitling finished his six-year stay in the NFL by spending 1964 with the defending league champion Chicago Bears.

Jones played with the Browns in 1990 and then split time between Cleveland and Phoenix the following year. He remained with the Cardinals through 1993 before retiring.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 12

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 12, 2012 – 3:23 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The most miraculous, unbelievable offensive play in Browns history?

There are plenty of candidates, for, after all, this is a team with eight offensive skill players — including four running backs — enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Because of that, then, it’s difficult to determine just what play would be the recipient of such a distinction.

But a play that merits strong consideration was responsible for a 21-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 25, 1973 before 67,773 rain-drenched fans at Cleveland Stadium.

Rookie running back Greg Pruitt, who would go on to perform a lot of feats that wowed people in his nine seasons with the Browns, had his most memorable play with the team that day, and one of the most important.

Trailing, 16-14, late in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-nine situation from the Cleveland 40 after two runs into the middle of the line that netted a combined total of just one yard, the Browns needed to do something special if they were to win the game.

Quarterback Mike Phipps went back to pass and was immediately flushed out of the pocket by a fierce rush. Deftly avoiding several Steelers as he rolled right looking for a receiver, he finally spotted Pruitt standing all alone on the numbers just past midfield.

He threw a bullseye to Pruitt, who, upon catching the ball, made a jab step to his left, toward the Pittsburgh bench, then looped back toward the other side of the field to give him room and time to pick up blockers.

Along the way, Pruitt used his quick feet, moves and speed to dodge first one Steeler, then another. On and on it went with defenders grasping at nothing but air as Pruitt bobbed and weaved his way down the muddy field, making the action look much more like something from a cartoon than an NFL game.

Finally, Pruitt was dragged down from behind at the Pittsburgh 18, completing a 42-yard play that you really had to see to believe. Words do not do it justice.

Two plays later, Pruitt swept left end for the game-winning 19-yard touchdown run, and his second score of the game.

Appropriately, the key block on the touchdown was made by Pro Football Hall of Famer Gene Hickerson, who was in the last of his 16 seasons with the Browns dating back to 1958. Hickerson pulled left, getting ahead of Pruitt to pave the way, and just as linebacker Andy Russell, who had shot a gap to get into the backfield, was reaching for Pruitt, Hickerson took his feet out from under him. Pruitt then easily danced into the end zone from there.

It was the last of three straight wins that year for the Browns, who, by improving to 7-3-1, climbed to within a half-game of the AFC Central-leading Steelers (8-3). Pittsburgh suffered the second of what would be three losses in a row.

In addition, it marked the ninth straight time dating back to 1965 that the Browns had defeated the Steelers at Cleveland.

The game was tied, 7-7, after the first quarter, the Steelers scoring first on wide receiver Ron Shanklin’s nine-yard TD pass from “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam and then the Browns answering with Phipps’ 15-yard pass to Pruitt on a quick slant pattern.

Roy Gerela’s 24-yard second-quarter field goal helped Pittsburgh close its deficit to 14-10 at halftime.

A 14-yard Gerela field goal in the third quarter, and a 20-yarder to start the fourth quarter, put the Steelers back on top, 16-14.

That set the stage for Pruitt — and Phipps — to pull off their heroics.

Pruitt had two receptions overall in the game for 57 yards, while Ken Brown caught a 46-yard pass and Leroy Kelly grabbed a 36-yarder as Phipps went almost exclusively to his running backs.

Pruitt had 31 yards on five rushes and Phipps picked up 24 yards on six scrambles.

Cornerback Clarence Scott had Cleveland’s lone interception.

After the game, fans poured onto the field and mobbed their new hero, Pruitt. He finally freed himself and made a mad dash for the safety of the baseball dugout, then raced up the runway and into the locker room to await the cheers of his teammates.

But he had mistakenly gone into the locker room of the Steelers, who were in no mood for cheering anybody, particularly Pruitt.

By the time the fans on the field had dispersed, allowing Pruitt to walk back across the baseball infield, through the other dugout and into the Browns’ locker room, only a few people – players and coaches – remained. The media people had all given up waiting on him and left.

So Greg Pruitt would have to wait until the next day to truly bask in the glow of what he had done.

He would have plenty of chances to do that over the years, but never after a play quite like the shake-your-head-in-wonder thriller he pulled off that day.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 11

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 11, 2012 – 5:27 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

In Browns history, March 11 has marked both a beginning — actually two beginnings — and an end.

On this date in 1954, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham signed what was supposed to have been his “final” contract for one year at a salary of the then-princely sum of $20,000.

Graham — who had been with the Browns since their inception in 1946, leading them to eight league championship games in as many years, with five titles — was set to retire at the end of the 1954 season. And after the Browns walloped the Detroit Lions, 56-10, in the NFL Championship Game that year, he did retire … but only temporarily.

Before he entered retirement, Graham had told coach Paul Brown to give him a call if the Browns got into trouble at quarterback in 1955. And when things didn’t work out in training camp and the preseason, Brown did indeed reach out to Graham. He agreed to return for a 10th season and quarterbacked the club to another title with a 38-14 over the Los Angeles Rams, after which he retired again — this time for good.

The beginnings? It was the very beginning for Don King – the former Browns defensive tackle who played for Brown and with Graham in that 1954 season, not the boxing promoter from Cleveland. King, a Kentucky product who started his NFL career by playing eight games with the Browns that year, was born March 11, 1929 in McBee, S.C.

King split time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers in 1956, and then didn’t play again until 1960 with the Denver Broncos in the first season of the AFL.

It was also the very beginning for Ralph Tamm, who was born March 11, 1966 in Philadelphia. Tamm spent his first NFL season with the Browns in 1990 and was their starting left guard. In 1991, he played briefly with Cleveland and also with the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals.

Tamm was with the San Francisco 49ers from 1992-94, the Denver Broncos in 1995 and ’96, and with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1997-99 before retiring.

From West Chester, he had originally been a ninth-round choice of the New York Jets in the 1988 NFL Draft but never played for them.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 9

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 9, 2012 – 6:56 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Quarterback Don Horn, who was born March 9, 1945 in South Gate, Calif., played for the Browns in 1973 as the backup to Mike Phipps on a team that finished with a 7-5-2 record.

He had been a first-round choice in the NFL Draft, and six years later, he found his way to Cleveland. In 1974, Horn joined the San Diego Chargers to complete his eight-year career.

Horn — who finished his college career at San Diego State, where he had been a teammate of Phipps — was drafted No. 1 by the Green Bay Packers in coach Vince Lombardi’s final year of 1967. He stayed with the team for four seasons, and in 1969 led the NFL by averaging 8.96 yards per passing attempt. In his first three years there, he threw for 14 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

With the Browns, he attempted only eight passes.

Another former Brown, linebacker/defensive back Ricky Jones, was also born March 9, in 1955 in Birmingham, Ala. A Tuskegee product, he signed with Cleveland as an undrafted rookie in 1977 and played through ’79, appearing in 34 games.

Jones then finished his career by playing with the Colts in their final four seasons in Baltimore.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 8

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 8, 2012 – 3:40 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Johnny Brewer was a special player for the Browns in several different ways.

Brewer, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian who was born in Vicksburg, Miss., on March 8, 1937 (a day after one of his teammates in Cleveland, linebacker Stan Sczurek), played at Mississippi and then was taken in the fourth round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Browns.

Despite sharing the starting job with Leon Clarke, he made an impact in 1962 in his second season with the Browns, catching 22 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Those were impressive numbers for that time, because tight ends were mostly used as blockers.

When Blanton Collier took over as coach in 1963, Brewer took over as the starter and increased his statistics, finishing second on the team with 29 receptions for 454 yards. His 15.7 yards-per-catch average was 2.5 yards better than the year before.

Back to sharing the position in 1964 with Tom Hutchinson, the team’s first-round draft pick the previous year, Brewer had another good season with 25 catches for 338 yards and three scores as the Browns won their first NFL championship in nine years.

In 1966, with the Browns using their first-round draft pick to select tight end Milt Morin, and with the fact linebacker Galen Fiss was nearing the end of his fine career, Brewer was asked to do something that no member of the club had done in a decade – that is, move to the other side of the ball. Collier approached him about switching to linebacker, and Brewer, being a good team player, agreed to do so even though he had caught 89 passes for 1,256 yards (14.1) and six touchdowns in four years.

It worked out well for everybody involved. Morin became an outstanding tight end over the next 10 years, and Brewer made important contributions on defense in his last two seasons in Cleveland.

He was the full-time starter at right linebacker in 1966, and shared the spot the following year with rookie Billy Andrews, who would be the hero of the first Monday Night Football game in 1970.

Brewer had an interception in 1966 and collected two in ’67, including one he returned 70 yards for a touchdown in a 42-37 victory over the Washington Redskins as the Browns, following a one-year absence, went 9-5 and returned to the playoffs by winning the title in the first year of the Eastern Conference’s Century Division.

Brewer played three more years at linebacker for the New Orleans Saints before retiring after the 1970 season.

He had had a memorable career as an NFL champion, a two-way player and one of the first pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.

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.


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This Day in Browns History: Mar. 6

Posted by Matt Florjancic on March 6, 2012 – 3:39 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Three of the 15 Browns players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame also spent significant portions of their careers with other clubs.

Two of them are Paul Warfield and Bobby Mitchell.

The other is guard Joe DeLamielleure, who was born March 5, 1951 in Detroit.

Taken in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft out of Michigan State by Buffalo, he played seven seasons with the Bills and was a key part of their famed “Electric Company” offensive line that blocked for Hall-of-Fame running back O.J. Simpson.

He went to another great line when he was traded to the Browns in 1980, helping the Kardiac Kids finish 11-5 and win their first AFC Central title in eight years. Although quarterback Brian Sipe attempted 554 passes, he was sacked only 23 times.

That year, DeLamielleure became the first NFL player to have locked for a 2,000-yard rusher (Simpson) and a 4,000-yard passer in Sipe, who had a club-record 4,132 yards.

He remained in Cleveland for five seasons, then returned to Buffalo in 1985 to finish his 13-year career.

Other former Browns born on March 5 include quarterback Jerry Rhome (1942 in Dallas) and running back Vegas Ferguson (1957 in Richmond, Ind.).

Rhome was a 13th-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 out of Tulsa and remained with them for four years before going to the Browns in 1969 and serving as a backup to Bill Nelsen and also the holder for kicker Don Cockroft. He played the next two seasons with Cleveland’s division rivals, the Houston Oilers, and the Los Angeles Rams before retiring.

Ferguson, a Notre Dame product, was drafted in the first round in 1980 by the New England Patriots and spent three years with them. He then played briefly for both the Browns and Oilers in 1983 before retiring.

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.


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