The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in Cleveland, Ohio. Named after original coach and co-founder Paul Brown, they compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) North division.
The history of the Cleveland Browns American football team began in 1944 when taxi-cab magnate Arthur B. "Mickey" McBride secured a Cleveland franchise in the newly formed All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Paul Brown was the team's namesake and first coach. The Browns began play in 1946 in the AAFC. The Browns won each of the league's four championship games before the league dissolved in 1949. The team then moved to the more established National Football League (NFL), where it continued to dominate. Between 1950 and 1955, Cleveland reached the NFL championship game every year, winning three times.
McBride and his partners sold the team to a group of Cleveland businessmen in 1953 for a then-unheard-of $600,000. Eight years later, the team was sold again, this time to a group led by New York advertising executive Art Modell. Modell fired Brown before the 1963 season, but the team continued to win behind running back Jim Brown. The Browns won the championship in 1964 and reached the title game the following season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.
The Cleveland Browns were the favorite team of Elvis Presley. This was because his friend Gene Hickerson - with whom he had played football in their common youth in Memphis - was contracted by the Browns in 1957 and played there during his entire career until 1973. Also defender Bobby Franklin, who had played from 1960 to 1966 for the Browns, was a friend of Presley. WWE Hall of Fame wrestler and commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler - though he has spent most of his life in Memphis - spent part of his childhood in the Cleveland area and is a fan of the Browns. Fellow WWE wrestlers The Miz and Dolph Ziggler (both Cleveland natives) are also fans. Another fan of the team is baseball legend Hank Aaron. Other famous Browns fans include LeBron James, Arsenio Hall, Drew Carey, Patricia Heaton (her father, Chuck Heaton, was a sportswriter for The Plain Dealer, which covered the Browns and wrote two books about the team), Terri Garr, Martin Mull, Condoleezza Rice, Five-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic, Valerie Bertinelli (her husband is from the Northeast Ohio area, and she starred in Hot in Cleveland), Machine Gun Kelly, Paul Adelstein, Iron Chef Michael Symon, C. J. McCollum, and Brad Paisley.
Secondary numerals (called "TV numbers") first appeared on the jersey sleeves in 1961. Over the years, there have been minor revisions to the sleeve stripes, the first occurring in 1968 (brown jerseys worn in early season) and 1969 (white and brown jerseys) when stripes began to be silk screened onto the sleeves and separated from each other to prevent color bleeding. However, the basic five-stripe sequence has remained intact (with the exception of the 1984 season). A recent revision was the addition of the initials "AL" to honor team owner Al Lerner who died in 2002; this was removed in 2013 upon Jimmy Haslam assuming ownership of the team.
The Browns are the only National Football League team without a helmet logo. The logoless helmet serves as the Browns' official logo. The organization has used several promotional logos throughout the years; players' numbers were painted on the helmets from the 1957 to 1960; and an unused "CB" logo was created in 1965, But for much of their history, the Browns' helmets have been an unadorned burnt orange color with a top stripe of dark brown (officially called "seal brown") divided by a white stripe.
When the AFL and NFL merged before the 1970 season, Cleveland became part of the new American Football Conference (AFC). While the Browns made it back to the playoffs in 1971 and 1972, they fell into mediocrity through the mid-1970s. A revival of sorts took place in 1979 and 1980, when quarterback Brian Sipe engineered a series of last-minute wins and the Browns came to be called the "Kardiac Kids". Under Sipe, however, the Browns did not make it past the first round of the playoffs. Quarterback Bernie Kosar, who the Browns drafted in 1985, led the team to three AFC Championship games in the late 1980s but lost each time to the Denver Broncos. In 1995, Modell announced he was relocating the Browns to Baltimore, sowing a mix of outrage and bitterness among Cleveland's dedicated fan base. Negotiations and legal battles led to an agreement where Modell was allowed to move the team, but Cleveland kept the Browns' name, colors and history.
Perhaps the most visible Browns fans are those that can be found in the Dawg Pound. Originally the name for the bleacher section located in the open (east) end of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the current incarnation is likewise located in the east end of FirstEnergy Stadium and still features hundreds of orange and brown clad fans sporting various canine-related paraphernalia. The fans adopted that name in 1984 after members of the Browns defense used it to describe the team's defense.
Other than the helmet, the uniform was completely redesigned for the 1984 season. New striping patterns appeared on the white jerseys, brown jerseys and pants. Solid brown socks were worn with brown jerseys and solid orange socks were worn with white jerseys. Brown numerals on the white jerseys were outlined in orange. White numerals on the brown jerseys were double outlined in brown and orange. (Orange numerals double outlined in brown and white appeared briefly on the brown jerseys in one pre-season game. ) However, this particular uniform set was not popular with the fans, and in 1985 the uniform was returned to a look similar to the original design. It remained that way until 1995.
The Bills rivalry had its roots back to the days of the AAFC, when there was a team from Buffalo with the same name in that league. The Browns and AAFC Bills played six games, including a league championship game, before the Browns were selected to merge into the NFL and the Bills left out. After the current incarnation of the Bills joined the NFL, the Browns and Bills have played each other from time to time. Though the Browns and Bills are in different AFC divisions, a mellow rivalry defined by mutual respect has since developed between the teams due to the similarities between Buffalo and Cleveland and shared misfortune between the teams. Despite this "rivalry" being known for ugly games, such as an 8-0 Browns win played in a blizzard in 2007 and a 6-3 Browns win in 2009 in which Browns quarterback Derek Anderson only completed 2 of 17 passes, there have been some competitive moments between the Bills and Browns as well, such as a playoff game in 1990 and two games with playoff-implications in 2007 and 2014.
The Steelers currently hold a 75–58–1 lead. The Browns and Steelers met in the playoffs in 1994 and 2002, with the Steelers winning both meetings. Though the rivalry has cooled in Pittsburgh due to the Modell move as well as the Browns' poor play since 1999, the Steelers still remain the top rival for Cleveland.
After three years of suspension while Cleveland Stadium was demolished and FirstEnergy Stadium built on its site, the Browns started play again in 1999 under new owner Al Lerner. The Browns struggled throughout the 2000s and 2010s, posting a record of 95–224–1 (.298) since their 1999 return. The Browns have only posted two winning seasons and one playoff appearance (2002) since returning to the NFL. The team's struggles have been magnified since 2012, when the Lerner family sold the team to businessman Jimmy Haslam. In six seasons under the Haslam ownership, the Browns went through four head coaches and four general managers, none of whom had found success. In 2016 and 2017 under head coach Hue Jackson, the Browns went 1–31 (.031) (including a winless 0–16 season in 2017), the worst two-year stretch in NFL history, and received the number one overall draft pick in both of those years.
In 1999, the expansion Browns adopted the traditional design with two exceptions: first, the TV numbers, previously on the sleeves, were moved to the shoulders; and second, the orange-brown-orange pants stripes were significantly widened.
Often called the "Turnpike Rivalry", the Browns' biggest rival has long been the Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Browns owner Art Modell scheduled home games against the Steelers on Saturday nights from 1964 to 1970 to help fuel the rivalry. The rivalry has also been fueled by the proximity of the two teams, number of championships both teams have won, players and personnel having played and/or coached for both sides, and personal bitterness. The teams have played twice annually since 1950, making it the oldest rivalry in the AFC and the fifth-oldest rivalry in the NFL. Though the Browns dominated this rivalry early in the series (winning the first eight meetings and posting a 31–9 record in the 1950s and 1960s), the Steelers went 15–5 in the 1970s and 34–6–1 since the Browns returned to the league in 1999. The Steelers have been particularly dominant in Pittsburgh, posting a 42–6 record when hosting the Browns since 1970, including winning streaks of 16 (1970–85) and 15 games (2004-present).
Originally conceived due to the personal animosity between Paul Brown and Art Modell, the "Battle of Ohio" between the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals has been fueled by the sociocultural differences between Cincinnati and Cleveland, a shared history between the two teams, and similar team colors, as Brown used the exact shade of orange for the Bengals that he used for the Browns. (Though this has changed since then, as the Bengals now use a brighter shade of orange.) Modell, in fact, moved the Browns to the AFC after the AFL–NFL merger in order to have a rivalry with the Bengals. The rivalry has also produced two of the eight highest-scoring games in NFL history. Cincinnati has the all-time edge 50–41. While the Bengals have a 26–14 edge since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the Browns-Bengals series has been more competitive than the Browns' series with their other division rivals.
The team's biggest rival in the AAFC was the San Francisco 49ers, though this has cooled and in some cases turned into a friendly relationship, as the Browns now play in AFC and the 49ers play in the NFC. Additionally, many 49ers personnel helped the Browns relaunch in 1999 as well as former team President Mike Holmgren having started his NFL career in San Francisco. Also, 49ers owners John York and Denise DeBartolo York reside in Youngstown, 60 miles southeast of Cleveland. Former long-time veteran placekicker and fan favorite, Phil Dawson, signed with the 49ers in 2014, along with backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
Created as a result of the Browns' relocation to Baltimore, the rivalry between the Browns and Baltimore Ravens was more directed at Art Modell than the team itself, and is simply considered a divisional game in Baltimore. This matchup is more bitter for Cleveland than the others due to the fact that the draft picks for 1995 to 1998 resulted in the rosters that won the Super Bowl for the Ravens in 2000. Had the Browns stayed in Cleveland, these teams (drafted by general manager Ozzie Newsome) might have given the Browns the title after a 35-year drought. This bitterness was compounded when the Ravens won their second Super Bowl in 2012. The Ravens lead the overall series 30–10. The two teams have not met in the playoffs.
Experimentation with the uniform design began in 2002. An alternate orange jersey was introduced that season as the NFL encouraged teams to adopt a third jersey, and a major design change was made when solid brown socks appeared for the first time since 1984 and were used with white, brown and orange jerseys. Other than 1984, striped socks (matching the jersey stripes) had been a signature design element in the team's traditional uniform. The white striped socks appeared occasionally with the white jerseys in 2003–2005 and 2007.
Experimentation continued in 2003 and 2004 when the traditional orange-brown-orange stripes on the white pants were replaced by two variations of a brown-orange-brown sequence, one in which the stripes were joined (worn with white jerseys) and the other in which they were separated by white (worn with brown jerseys). The joined sequence was used exclusively with both jerseys in 2005. In 2006, the traditional orange-brown-orange sequence returned.
Orange pants with a brown-white-brown stripe sequence were worn from 1975 to 1983 and become symbolic of the "Kardiac Kids" era. The orange pants were worn again occasionally in 2003 and 2004.
The Browns in-house production team won a pair of Lower Great Lakes Emmy Awards in 2005. One was for a primetime special honoring the 1964 NFL Championship team (The 1964 Championship Show) and one was for a commercial spot (The Paperboy).
Additionally in 2006, the team reverted to an older uniform style, featuring gray face masks; the original stripe pattern on the brown jersey sleeves (The white jersey has had that sleeve stripe pattern on a consistent basis since the 1985 season.) and the older, darker shade of brown.
The Browns wore brown pants for the first time in team history on August 18, 2008, preseason game against the New York Giants. The pants contain no stripes or markings. The team had the brown pants created as an option for their away uniform when they integrated the gray facemask in 2006. They were not worn again until the Browns "family" scrimmage on August 9, 2009 with white-striped socks. The Browns have continued to wear the brown pants throughout the 2009 season. Browns quarterback Brady Quinn supported the team's move to wearing the brown pants full-time, claiming that the striped pattern on the white pants "prohibit[ed] mobility". However, the fans generally did not like the brown pants, and after being used for only one season, the team returned to their white shirt-on-white pants in 2010. Coach Eric Mangini told The Plain Dealer the Browns won't use the brown pants anymore. "It wasn't very well-received," Mangini said. "I hope we can get to the point where we can wear fruit on our heads and people wouldn't notice." At the time, the brown pants weren't officially dropped by the team, but simply not used.
WEWS-TV (TV channel 5) serves as the broadcast TV home of the Browns, airing year-round team programming as well as non-network preseason games. Jay Crawford serves as play-by-play announcer, former Browns quarterback Tim Couch serves as color analyst, and former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and Dustin Fox serve as sideline analysts. SportsTime Ohio (STO) is the cable outlet for the team, airing various Browns related programming during the season, STO had previously served as the team's cable outlet from its founding in 2006 until 2014.
Beginning in 2010, the Browns established a Ring of Honor, honoring the greats from the past by having their names displayed around the upper deck of FirstEnergy Stadium. The inaugural class in the Browns Ring of Honor was unveiled during the home opener on September 19, 2010, and featured the 16 Hall of Famers listed above who went into the Hall of Fame as Browns. In 2018, Joe Thomas was entered into the Ring of Honor with the number 10,363 - commemorating his NFL record of consecutive snaps played on offense. In 2019, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews was entered into the Ring of Honor.
The Browns brought back the brown pants in their home game against the Buffalo Bills on October 3, 2013 on Thursday Night Football, pairing them with the brown jerseys. It marked the first time the team wore an all-brown combination in team history.
On February 24, 2015, the team unveiled its new logos and word marks, the only differences being minor color changes to the helmet with the helmet design remaining largely as is.
On April 14, 2015, the Cleveland Browns unveiled their new uniform combinations, consisting of the team's colors of orange, brown and white.
The Browns brought back the all-brown look for the NFL Color Rush program in 2016, minus the white elements. In 2018 the uniform was worn at home three times. For the 2019 season, the Browns promoted the Color Rush uniform to their primary home uniform and will wear it for six home games as well as any away game in which the home team chooses to wear white (although for the Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Rams, the Browns wore all-orange socks instead of brown. For the two remaining home games, the browns will wear their previous brown home uniforms as alternate uniforms.
WKNR (850 AM), WKRK-FM (92.3 FM), and WNCX (98.5 FM) serve as co-flagship stations for the Cleveland Browns Radio Network. Play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan calls games on-site alongside color analyst Doug Dieken, a former Browns left tackle, and sideline reporter Nathan Zegura - who made news when he had to serve an eight-game suspension due to arguing with officials during a game in 2018. WKRK-FM personality Ken Carman and WKNR personalities Tony Rizzo & Je'Rod Cherry host the network pregame show, while WKRK-FM personalities Jeff Phelps and Dustin Fox host the network postgame show. WLFM-LP (87.7 FM) serves as the Spanish-language outlet for the team.
Roster updated October 23, 2019Depth chart • Transactions 53 active, 8 inactive, 11 practice squad