1964 NFL Champion Cleveland Browns: Gary Collins Surprise MVP

 

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

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown gaining yardage as Lenny Lyles closes in. (Tony Tomsic via AP)

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.

The Ed Thorpe NFL Championship Trophy for 1965. No one knows where the one all the teams held is.

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.

Gary Collins snares one of his three TD receptions in the '64 NFL Title Game.

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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On This Date In 1994: Jerry Rice Eclipses Jim Brown’s Touchdown Record

On this date 18 years ago, Jerry Rice scored this touchdown against the Raiders. It was his 127th touchdown to break the record of legendary running back Jim Brown.

On the first Monday Night Game of the 1994 season, there was an outside chance Jerry Rice could break Jim Brown’s touchdown record of 126. He entered the season with 124 and was in the prime of his career. The San Francisco 49ers were retooling their team to take down their arch nemesis in the Dallas Cowboys who bested them in the last two NFC Championships. At this time fellow Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin was starting to move into the “best receiver in the NFL” talk as well. All of this kept an already certain Hall of Famer Jerry Rice motivated.

In came the Los Angeles Raiders who had been a playoff team the year before. They had a defense that ranked 9th overall in 1993, and fifth against the pass. To bolster their defensive secondary they signed free agent CB Albert Lewis formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders had just lost Howie Long to retirement yet thought this game would show they were still among the league’s elite. Surely with a young Terry McDaniel and Albert Lewis manning the corners they would stop Rice in the season opener…right??

In what was a microcosm of the 1994 season, the 49ers slaughtered the Raiders 44-14 on national television. This was the great 49er team that signed Deion Sanders, who went on to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and multiple free agents from the 1993 Pro Bowl. They would coast to a fifth Super Bowl trophy four months later.

Looking back at how great that team was with Sanders, Ricky Jackson, Richard Dent, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame now was the greatest of the 1990s. In fact it was one of the best in history and the man who led by example on this day 18 years ago became the all time touchdown record holder. His record of 208 touchdowns will never be broken.

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1964 NFL Champion Cleveland Browns

64 Bowns ringDid 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

Jim Brown about to collide with Lenny Lyles during the '64 NFL Title Game.

Jim Brown about to collide with Lenny Lyles during the ’64 NFL Title Game.

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. A uniquely forgotten team amidst the slew of Green Bay Packers championship teams throughout the decade.

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. They were coached 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 of the Browns to Baltimore when Art Modell moved them there following the 1995 season.

Gary Collins snares one of his three TD receptions in the '64 NFL Title Game.

Gary Collins snares one of his three TD receptions in the ’64 NFL Title Game.

However in 1964 they were league champions and went on to defend that title in 1965 against Green Bay Packers. 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. It started in Ohio….NOT in San Francisco. Know your history kids… Class dismissed