The Cleveland Browns were born in 1944 when Cleveland businessman Arthur B. McBride acquired a franchise in the new All-America Football Conference that would begin play in 1946. Upon acquiring the team, McBride hired Paul Brown, a very successful coach in high schools, colleges, and the service spheres.
The AAFC teams largely matched the quality of the NFL’s, but the Cleveland Browns stood head and shoulders above the rest during the first ten years of post-World War II pro football. With Otto Graham at QB, Marion Motley at Fullback and Lou Groza as a tackle and kicker, their 52-4-3 record saw them sweep all four league championships. The overwhelming dominance of the Browns caused many to believe that this was an important factor behind why the AAFC ultimately folded in 1949.
The AAFC-NFL settlement included the Browns, 49ers and Colts entering the NFL. Many skeptics thought Cleveland would not fare well against already established teams; however, they began their 1950 season with a commanding 35-10 win against reigning champs Philadelphia Eagles. This triumph signaled the beginning of an impressive track record: they won the Eastern Conference every year from 1950 to 1955, and were crowned NFL champions in 1950, 1954 and 1955.
Browns fans will see this in their nightmares tonight pic.twitter.com/7H9bN75Qw9
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 19, 2023
As a result of the great running back from Syracuse, Jim Brown, joining the Browns in 1957, the Browns won another divisional title. Brown rushed for 12,312 yards in his nine-season career, a record that stood for more than 20 years.
Following the 1962 season, Brown was replaced by Blanton Collier, a former assistant. Collier led the Browns to their last NFL championship in 1964, when they defeated the Baltimore Colts 27-0.
In their first 40 years in the NFL, the Browns reached the post-season 22 times. In addition to their four NFL championships between 1950 and 1964, the team won 11 NFL American/Eastern Conference championships, three NFL Century Division titles, and two AFC Central Division championships between 1971 and 1989.
In 1961, Arthur B. Modell purchased the Browns for a then-unheard-of price of $4 million. He was recognized as one of the NFL’s more progressive leaders from the start. The Cleveland franchise was transferred to Baltimore in 1995, and Modell stunned the pro football world when he announced it would begin playing in 1996.
Enthusiastic Browns fans and Cleveland city officials joined forces to prevent the team from relocating. The NFL reacted quickly and, in conjunction with city officials, devised an unprecedented plan that ensured the return of pro football to Cleveland before 1999. Additionally, Art Modell accepted to give up the “Browns” name, colors and heritage to the new proprietor of the halted franchise.