Did you know that the NFL had a rotating trophy in the years before the Super Bowl? How do we know this? Well in 1995 when it was determined that Cleveland was to keep the Browns team colors, records, etc., there was no championship trophy for 1964. In fact, in more ways than one, they left it in Green Bay following a loss in the 1965 NFL Championship Game. Following the 1965 season we started the Super Bowl series where teams kept a trophy to commemorate the accomplishment…but there were rings.
Yet the year before the Cleveland Browns hosted the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Title Game. With the Baltimore Colts defense keying on Jim Brown, Frank Ryan hit surprise MVP Gary Collins #86 with 3 TD passes in a 27-0 upset. Collins 3TD receptions in a title game went unmatched until Jerry Rice had 3 in Super Bowl XXIV some 26 years later. OK that isn’t entirely true since today they use the NFC Championship Game as an equivalent to the old NFL Championship Game we have to include Preston Pearson’s 3TDs in the 1975 NFC Championship Game when Dallas beat the Rams 37-7….yet I digress
This was the last championship won by the lake. So yes Jim Brown did play for an NFL Champion during his career. The team was quarterbacked by Frank Ryan who went on to be a college professor and designed the first electronic voting system for either US Congress or the House of Representatives…the memory escapes me. He threw for, then a career best, 25TDs as he completed 174 of 344 for 2,404 yards. On a par with what Norm Van Brocklin and Bart Starr had thrown for in 1960-62 winning championships. In fact, aside from Earl Morrall’s 26TDs in 1968, this was the most for an NFL Champion QB during the 1960’s.
A uniquely forgotten team amidst the slew of Green Bay Packers championship teams throughout the decade.
Brown as he had in 8 of his 9 seasons led the league in rushing with 1,446 yards and 7 scores. His punishing runs were the bludgeoning focal point of the Cleveland offense. No one knew he was just a season away from retiring as the NFL’s all time leading rusher with 12,312 yards.
However the 3 time MVP had some help as #1 draft pick Paul Warfield turned in a rookie season for the ages. In what would be a Hall of Fame career, Warfield hauled in 52 passes for a team record 920 yards and 9 scores. He was the deep threat the team had been missing since Dante Lavelli. With Collins coming off of a 1963 where he had a team record 13 TD receptions, teams were in a quandry. Teams keyed on Brown and tried to slow #86 but the addition of Warfield made Cleveland’s offense lethal.
Collins played on through the 1971 season yet it was this performance that was the highlight of his career. Yet take a look at his stats vs a few contemporaries:
- Max McGee– 345 rec. 6,346 yards 50 TDs *1 Pro Bowl
- Gary Collins – 331 rec. 5,299 yards 70 TDs *2 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros
- Del Shofner – 349 rec. 6,470 yards 51 TD *5 Pro Bowls **5 All Pros
- Raymond Berry – 631 rec. 9,275 yards 68 TDs *6 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros
Does he deserve Hall of Fame consideration??
Ironically, the team that bears the name of Paul Brown, won this championship without him. In a power struggle he was removed by new majority owner Art Modell and replaced by Blanton Collier. More irony can be found in the fact that in Cleveland 4 years later, the Colts got revenge shutting out the Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game on their way to Super Bowl III. Then the obvious irony of losing not only their last NFL Championship appearance to Baltimore, but then lost their original incarnation as a franchise to Baltimore when Art Modell moved them there following the 1995 season.
However in 1964 they were league champions and went on to defend that title in 1965 against Green Bay at Lambeau. This was also the team of the 1950s and is the only team in league history to win an NFL title in their first year in the league.
Further food for thought: What was first IRRESPONSIBLY taught to the masses as the “West Coast Offense” was the 1950s playbook of Paul Brown’s from Cleveland and taught to Bill Walsh in Cincinnati. In fact the most famous play in “west coast offense” history, the pass to Dwight Clark from Joe Montana in the ’81 NFC Championship Game, was an old Cleveland Brown play called Q-8 option and NOT sprint right option.
Think not?? Guess what the audible is in the West Coast Offense at the line of scrimmage to “Sprint Right Option?? A hand signal which is short hand for Q-8!! It started in Ohio….NOT in San Francisco. Know your history kids… Class dismissed
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