When you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, you never take anything for granted. And you don’t take the nation’s insults personally, because the rest of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to walk in your Cleveland shoes. They don’t know what it is like to be you, to have the NFL odds stacked against you so often.
Mistake on the Lake? Shut up and shove off.
Believeland? I like that so much better. Always have.
In June 1944, the idea that eventually became the Cleveland Browns was hatched. World War II was turning a corner for the United States, Cleveland was one of those muscle-bound manufacturing monsters that helped in the war cause … and the city had a ton of pride. In the 1940s and 1950s? Nobody joked about Cleveland. The country needed Cleveland.
The Cuyahoga River was a healthy, critical artery of America. And about the same time? All of a sudden? The Cleveland Indians baseball club wasn’t the only big game in town. The first football team was fielded in 1946 and named after its first coach and general manager, Paul Brown.
The championships came quickly in the 1940s and 1950s, first as an AAFC club and later in the NFL when the Browns transitioned over. The Browns pummeled the competition. The success set a tone that was hard to live up to in later years. Jim Brown, a future NFL Hall of Famer and outspoken leader in the African-American community, was the first big star.
There have been many big moments in the history of the Cleveland Browns, and as they head into this weekend’s matchup with the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs, one the NFL betting lines have obviously taken note of, here’s a look at what some of those moments were/are:
Those Key Cleveland Moments
1948 — This was the year the Browns won the old AAFC Championship (yes, not the NFL) and the Cleveland Indians also won the World Series. It was a good year in Cleveland. And for the record? My grandparents — who were both born in Cleveland — married that year … in Cleveland. And true to Cleveland form? The extended family (and I) have been to many family weddings in that same church since then. That’s how Cleveland rolls if you know anything about it.
So maybe I’m a bit biased. The Browns outscored opponents 389-190 and beat teams like the Bills, the Colts and the 49ers on the way to a 15-0-0 season (including the AAFC championship win over the Bills).
1964 — Probably the greatest season for the club with the greatest Cleveland Brown of all-time, Jim Brown, leading the way. The team won the NFL championship (it’s last one), just a few years short of the Super Bowl cranking up.
The team went 10-3-1 in the regular season, scoring 29.6 points per game. On Dec. 27, the Browns beat the Colts for the NFL Championship, shutting them out 27-0 for the team’s 11th and final win of the year.
1986 — Don’t give me all that cynical “The Drive” crap. The 1986 Browns were damned good, won 12 regular-season games (their best in their NFL history), won their division, and made the town proud.
Yes, John Elway was John Elway on “The Drive”, but the Browns weren’t the only ones to deal with that during Elway’s career, we just didn’t know that at the time (I was 11 years old and watched every minute). Five key regulation wins came that year by three points, with another three via overtime. This team was full of winners, and even the NFL betting lines liked this team.
1994 — Don’t ever forget that the Cleveland Browns were smart enough to hire Bill Belichick first (sorry Bob Kraft). He didn’t have tons of success in Cleveland, but Belichick did lead the team to the playoffs in 1994 and it went 11-5 in the regular season.
The Browns led the league in scoring defense (12.8 per game, tops among 28 teams) … and they beat (cough cough) the New England Patriots in the AFC Wild Card round. It ended though when they had to go to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers for the third time during the 1994 season. Out of five regular-season losses and one postseason loss, the dreaded rival Steelers were responsible for three.
1999 — After Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore to become the Ravens — leaving the city of Cleveland without a team in 1996, 1997 and 1998 — the franchise was reborn. And yes, when it restarted? It got kicked in the teeth — 14 times, to be exact.
But on Halloween night, 1999, the new franchise won its first game in four years when it beat the New Orleans Saints. Without this team? Baker Mayfield and today’s Browns wouldn’t be lucky enough to be building possibly the next great Browns era.
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered the FCS for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.