The Pro Football Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize the great talents that have represented the league since its creation. While important to the memory of the NFL, those players are even more important to the fans and memories of each franchise.

CBS Sports is venturing down the difficult path of dwindling the best players from each NFL team down to a Franchise Five: one head coach, one quarterback and three players of any non-quarterback position. To gather some additional perspective on the Cleveland Browns, founder and owner of The Orange and Brown Report (within the 247Sports network) Barry McBride was consulted. The Orange and Brown Report has been a staple in the Cleveland market for decades. 

Coach Paul Brown

Tenure: 1946-62

  • Four-time AAFC champion
  • Three-time NFL champion
  • Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year (1970)
  • Three-time Sports News Coach of the Year (1949, 1951, 1953)

Brown was successful during his coaching career, but his contributions to the game extend far beyond his days. The Ohio native is credited as the first coach to scout opponents and hire a full-time assistant coaching staff. He brought a militaristic approach to the sport and was integral in desegregating football. 

"Paul Brown was so vital to the birth of the Cleveland Browns that the team was named after him. Beyond coaching the Browns to multiple NFL and AAFC championships, Brown is inarguably the most innovative NFL coach in history, even inventing the facemask, practice squad, draw play, and much more," McBride said.  

Brown compiled a 158-48-8 record as head coach in Cleveland. His impact on the game led to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 1967. After a fallout with new owner Art Modell, Brown left the Browns and began a new franchise in Cincinnati. His son, Mike Brown, is now the owner of the Bengals

QB Otto Graham

Tenure: 1946-55

  • Three-time NFL champion
  • Five-time Pro Bowl selection
  • Four-time first-team All-Pro
  • Two-time second-team All-Pro
  • Three-time NFL MVP (1951, 1953,1955)

Graham was 57-13-1 as quarterback of the Browns, and the three-time NFL MVP award winner is in elite company. Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the only players to be named Player of the Year three times by Sporting News. The Illinois native was also recognized on the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time team. 

"While Tom Brady is talked about as the ultimate winning quarterback, he has a hard time matching up with Graham, who led his team to the championship every year he played, winning seven times. A three-time league NFL MVP, Graham led the Browns to 57 wins against just thirteen losses while dominating the team's early years in the NFL," said McBride. 

The quarterback was able to accomplish all of this despite enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. According to Andy Piascik in "The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns," Graham earned $25,000 in 1955, which made him the NFL's highest-paid player at the time. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. The College Football Hall of Fame has also welcomed him.   


OL/DL/K Lou Groza

Tenure: 1946-59, 1961-67

  • Four-time NFL champion
  • Nine-time Pro Bowl selection
  • Four-time first-team All-Pro
  • Two-time second-team All-Pro
  • NFL MVP (1954)

The Browns are a proud and historic franchise, but most fans will not remember when they were competitive. Four out of our five played pre-1970. Nonetheless, Cleveland is steeped in tradition, and the respect runs deep as evidenced by their delegation on the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Nicknamed "The Toe," Groza made an impact at a variety of positions. He was a kicker as well as an offensive tackle and defensive tackle. The Ohio native was noted for his kicking style, which called for a squared-off boot and a straight line approach kicking it with the tip of his foot. 

Groza was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and resides in the Browns Ring of Honor to this day. He was a member of the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. 

RB Jim Brown (1957-65)

Tenure: 1957-65

  • NFL champion
  • Nine-time Pro Bowl selection
  • Eight-time first-team All-Pro
  • Second-team All-Pro
  • Three-time Associated Press NFL MVP (1957, 1958, 1965)
  • NFL Rookie of the Year (1957)

Brown is arguably the best player ever at his position. The Syracuse product led the NFL in rushing eight times between 1957-65, twice as many as the NFL's leading career rusher Emmitt Smith, as well as O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders. In addition to his success on the field, he was a film star and a social justice leader. In his rookie season, Brown recorded 237 rushing yards against the Rams, a single-game record that stood for 14 years. In each of his nine seasons, he was selected to the Pro Bowl. 

Any conversation regarding the league's best all-time rushers must include Brown. He was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the College Football Hall of Fame. 

OT Joe Thomas (2007-2017)

Tenure: 2007-17

  • Ten-time Pro Bowl selection
  • Seven-time first-team All-Pro 
  • Two-time second-team All-Pro
  • Most consecutive snaps played in NFL history (10,363)

Thomas is beloved in Cleveland. He epitomized the area as a hard-working, tough individual. His success overlapped with the franchise's most futile years, yet his loyalty never wavered. The Wisconsin grad was on pace to earn his 11th Pro Bowl appearance in 11 seasons before an injury ended his season and consequently his career. When the doors to Canton first open for him, he will be ushered in on the ballot. 

"Don't let the quality of the teams around him besmirch the future Hall-of-Fame tackle's legacy. Thomas was the epitome of durability during his 11 years playing for the Browns, and his record of 10,363 consecutive snaps is unheard of in the modern NFL. The quality of those snaps is beyond dispute: Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl 10 straight times while anchoring the line during a dismal era," McBride concluded.