Great Football Teams: The 1946–1955 Cleveland Browns

By Howie Long, John Czarnecki

From 1946 through 1955, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns accomplished what has never been matched in any ten-year span of professional football: The Browns played in ten straight championship games and won seven. Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown, who had an eye for talent, preparation, and strategy, built this juggernaut.

Now, some old-timers may disparage this team’s overall success because four of those championships came in the now-defunct All-America Football Conference (AAFC), which some NFL people believe was an inferior league. But in their first season in the NFL, the Browns won 10 of 12 regular-season games and beat the Los Angeles Rams in their first NFL championship game.

The Browns won all four AAFC championship games by an average of 18 points, and in their last 45 AAFC regular-season games, they had a 40–2–3 record. Cleveland’s dominance continued in the NFL, where they won six consecutive conference titles and three NFL championships. Cleveland crushed the Detroit Lions by 46 points in the 1954 title game and the Rams by 24 points in the 1955 championship. In this ten-year period, the Cleveland Browns won more than 83 percent of their games.

Besides having the game’s most innovative coach in Paul Brown, the Browns had four Hall of Fame offensive linemen (Frank Gatski, Mike McCormack, Bill Willis, and Lou Groza) and one of the game’s finest all-around quarterbacks — Otto Graham. Groza was also a placekicker, scoring 1,608 points in 21 seasons, and was named Player of the Year in 1954. The Browns were loaded on offense with Graham directing the show. Marion Motley, another Hall of Famer, was a devastating runner and blocker. In fact, he was one of the best fullbacks until Larry Csonka came along and played for the Miami Dolphins. Dub Jones, Mac Speedie, and Dante Lavelli may have been the finest collection of receivers ever on one team. The Cleveland Browns had everything!