The Cleveland Browns were a powerhouse franchise in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and later the 1980s -- far removed from the negative connotation that the franchise name takes on today. The Browns won eight league championships and several of the names found on those teams are also found on our all-time roster below.
Few active players were selected to the all-time roster, but that has to do with several Hall of Fame talents keeping them off the list. More than half of the offensive representatives were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The running back and offensive line groups were particularly difficult to narrow down.
The head coach of the team is none other than Paul Brown. The Ohio native was successful during his coaching career, but his contributions to the game extend far beyond his days. He is credited as the first coach to scout opponents and hire a full-time assistant coaching staff. Brown brought a militaristic approach to the sport and was integral in desegregating football. He was a no-brainer inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
* denotes players that are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 17 Hall of Famers made the final roster.
Jim Ray Smith
|RT||Mike McCormack*||Cody Risien|
Quarterback: The first two spots were easy to fill with Graham and Sipe. The former is a Hall of Fame quarterback who has been recognized as a top five quarterback of all-time by NFL.com. Graham was rated ahead of the likes of Drew Brees, Dan Marino and John Elway. Over the course of his career, the Illinois native won three NFL championships and was named to six All-Pro teams. He threw for 13,499 yards and 174 touchdowns during a time that featured run heavy offenses. His story is one of the more interesting tales in league history. He signed up for service in the U.S. Coast Guard following the attack on Pearl Harbor. His training carried him around the country, including a stop in North Carolina, where he played for legendary coach Bear Bryant.
Sipe played for legendary coach Don Coryell, who pioneered the Air Coryell system, at San Diego State. The two-time All-Pro was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1980. His vaunted passing attack led to 23,713 career passing yards and 154 passing touchdowns. Cleveland selected him with pick No. 330 overall in the 1972 NFL Draft. Fittingly, 330 is one of the Cleveland area codes.
The third and final spot was a bit more contested. Frank Ryan was a worthwhile consideration, but Kosar's commitment to northeast Ohio made him one of the most beloved players in team history. He was coveted by many teams but made it clear that it was his intention to play for his hometown Browns. The Youngstown native would go on to win a Super Bowl, but as a backup with the Cowboys. Kosar was selected to two Pro Bowls en route to 23,301 career passing yards and 124 passing touchdowns.
Running back and fullback: The running back and fullback positions were incredibly difficult to settle upon. The group chosen is incredibly talented but had to be limited to five. Ernie Green, Kevin Mack, Mike Pruitt and Earnest Byner were all bypassed in support of those chosen.
Brown is arguably the best runner ever. He was physically imposing and ground down his opponent's will through the course of each game. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee went to nine Pro Bowls and helped bring a championship to Cleveland. He compiled 12,312 rushing yards, 2,499 receiving yards, 106 rushing touchdowns and 20 receiving touchdowns. His influence was felt in social justice and entertainment as well. The New York native remains a present and recognizable figure within the Browns organization.
Motley was an NFL champion with Cleveland in 1950. The Canton McKinley graduate finished his career having recorded 4,720 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns. He has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kelly, an NFL champion, was a five-time All-Pro and led the NFL in rushing yards twice. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee accumulated 7,274 rushing yards and a total of 74 touchdowns. His career began in the same backfield as Brown and Green. Mitchell went to four Pro Bowls over the course of his career. He was a versatile offensive piece totaling 7,955 receiving yards, 2,735 rushing yards, 65 receiving touchdowns, 18 rushing touchdowns and eight return touchdowns. The Arkansas native would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pruitt was a Super Bowl champion with the Los Angeles Raiders. He went to five Pro Bowls and is the reason that tearaway jerseys became illegal.
Wide receiver: Speedie, Lavelli and Warfield were easy selections as Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees. The inclusion of Metcalf and Cribbs had more to do with their production and talent in the return game. The final spot was given to Renfro. During his 12 season career, played exclusively with the Browns, and went to three Pro Bowls. He caught 281 passes for 5,508 yards and accumulated 54 total touchdowns.
Reggie Rucker, Webster Slaughter, Brian Brennan and Dave Logan were some of the notable names cut in the days leading to the start of the regular season.
Tight end: "The Wizard of Oz" is a member of the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. Newsome recorded 662 receptions for 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns before going on to become a top executive for the Browns and rival Ravens. Morin was the other tight end selected. He went to two Pro Bowls during 10 seasons.
The controversial decision to keep just two tight ends was made out of good conscience. Rather than forcing Kellen Winslow Jr. onto the roster, the decision was made to keep an extra running back.
Offensive line: The offensive line is loaded with talent. Thomas would be a slam dunk starter at left tackle for most franchises but Schafrath demands respect as well. He went to seven Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team All-Pro. Dieken remains a staple within the organization. He also went to one Pro Bowl in his career.
DeLamielleure was twice named an All-Pro during his five seasons with Cleveland. He also spent two stints with the Bills. Gatski was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. After serving time in the U.S. Army, he won four AAFC championships and four NFL championships with the powerhouse. He was a four-time first-team All-Pro. DeLeone was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Hickerson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, went to six Pro Bowls and was a seven-time All-Pro. He was also a member of the 1964 NFL championship team. Smith went to five Pro Bowls with Cleveland in addition to being a five-time All-Pro.
McCormack went to six Pro Bowls and was a nine-time All-Pro. He won two NFL championships with Cleveland and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Risien went to two Pro Bowls and was a second-team All-Pro.
Michael Dean Perry
|RCB||Frank Minnifield||Joe Haden|
|S||Eric Turner||Tommy James|
Defensive line: Ford paired individual and team accomplishments. He won three NFL championships in addition to going to four Pro Bowls and being named to four All-Pro teams. Wiggin was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and an NFL champion. He went on to a productive coaching career as well. Glass went to four Pro Bowls during his own career. Garrett has the chance to surpass all of them in time. In fact, it would be a surprise if he did not.
The interior defensive line was loaded with talent. Willis is a member of the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. He was an NFL champion and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. The "NFL champion" title is prevalent through this roster because the Browns were a powerhouse at one point in league history. The problem is that they have been incompetent as an organization since their return in 1999, which is why the modern era is poorly represented on this list.
Perry was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro. Sherk went to four Pro Bowls and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976. Johnson also went to three Pro Bowls.
Linebacker: Matthews and Houston were obvious choices on the edge. Between them, they have a combined eight Pro Bowls. Houston was a member of the 1964 NFL championship team as well as a state champion at Massillon Washington High School and a national champion at Ohio State. Hall and Banks were the reserves on the edge. Banks was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and all came in his five seasons with the Browns. He ended his career with the Chargers and later the Colts.
Johnson was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He amassed 14.5 sacks and 13 interceptions throughout his career. Jackson was one of the more recent inclusions on this list. The undersized linebacker out of Maryland played eight seasons with Cleveland but did not make his first Pro Bowl until his first season with the Colts.
Cornerback: Dixon and Minnifield were easy choices because they embody the Dawg Pound. They helped mold the fan base and franchise into what it is today. Both were Pro Bowl caliber players are often considered underappreciated nationally by those who have seen them play. Dixon made three Pro Bowls appearances and was a two-time All-Pro. Minnifield was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. They amassed 46 career interceptions between them.
The pool of candidates gets a bit more shallow from there. Some Browns fans may harbor ill will towards Haden for joining the rival Steelers after being a devout member of the organization since they made him the No. 7 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. Haden's release was hardly his choice, and he remains one of the most productive players since the team's return. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has 27 career interceptions.
Lahr ranks second among franchise leaders in interceptions (44). He trails only one man who will appear later on this list. The Pennsylvania native went to one Pro Bowl and was a three-time NFL champion. Parrish recorded 31 interceptions and four touchdowns in his career. The two-time Pro Bowl selection was a member of the 1964 championship team.
Safety: Darden is the franchise leader in interceptions (45). He led the entire league in interceptions in 1978, which was the same year that he went to his only Pro Bowl and one of three years in which he was named an All-Pro. Turner spent five seasons in Cleveland before completing his career with the Ravens and Raiders. The two-time Pro Bowl selection led the NFL in interceptions in 1994. The former All-Pro tallied 30 interceptions during his career.
Fichtner was another member of that 1964 NFL championship team. He recorded 27 interceptions during his career. James played eight seasons with the Browns. During that time, he won two AAFC championships and three NFL championships. His lone Pro Bowl selection came in 1953. His career ended with 34 interceptions.
Versatility is the name of the game for a lot of these selections. Groza was nicknamed "The Toe" for his kicking style but he doubled as an offensive tackle. Fortunately, this roster will likely never need him to play along the offensive line. It just so happens to be one of the deepest spots on the team. The Ohio native was a four-time NFL champion and was named to nine Pro Bowls. He earned the title of the NFL's "Most Valuable Player" in 1954. The kicker position has always held a special place close to the heart of every Browns fan. It was difficult to leave off notable names like Don Cockroft, Phil Dawson and Matt Stover.
Collins also played wide receiver. In fact, he led the league in receiving touchdowns during the 1963 season. The NFL champion was a three-time All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Pontbriand was a long tenured player in northeast Ohio, which validates his presence on this list.
Metcalf and Cribbs were also mentioned at wide receiver. Those two are responsible for some of the most exhilarating moments in franchise history. Sadly, Cribbs' kickoff returns were often the reason Cleveland was able to hang around in several games since the 1999 return.
In June, CBS Sports dove into the Browns' "Franchise Five," honoring one former coach, a quarterback and three other position players as the best in franchise history.