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Relocated NFL Teams: The Cleveland Browns

Before the Cleveland Browns who play in the NFL today was formed in 1999, there had been a team by the same name that existed from 1946 to 1995. The team played their home games at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

The Cleveland Browns began in 1945 as a charter franchise for the newly formed All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Following a fans contest promising a $1000 war time bond for the winner, the name “Panthers” was originally picked for the team. However due to a potential naming rights court tussle with an earlier team named the Cleveland Panthers, the name was dropped. The name Browns was then picked as a short form of boxer Joe Louis’ nickname, although it is widely believed that it was a tribute to their coach, Paul Brown.

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The team was very successful especially during their early years in competition. The Browns hit the ground running, winning every single AAFC Championship between 1946 and 1949. That run included a 14-0 1948 season that was part of an 18 game winning streak that was then a record in professional football. Due to the perceived gulf in quality between the NFL and the AAFC, the Browns’ dominant displays were despised by NFL teams. That was however settled when the Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and immediately won the NFL title at their very first attempt. They would then win further NFL Championships in 1954, 1955 and 1964 but they went into a lull during the Super Bowl era starting 1966. They failed to make it to a single Super Bowl. In total they won4 AAFC championships, 4 NFL Championships, 18 Division titles and made it to the playoffs 24 times.

The Cleveland Brown’s “Dawg Pound” was one of the most celebrated fan clubs n the NFL. Cleveland fans came to Brown games with dog masks, barking and howling, and throwing dog biscuits and other objects at players of rival teams. The habit of barking caught on to the stands from the players during training camp giving rise to the name Dawg pound. The notoriety and rowdiness of the Dawg Pound was reinforced during a game in 1989 versus the Denver Broncos which saw rocks, batteries and other objects thrown at Broncos players. This prompted the referee to switch the teams’ sides taking the action away from the east end where members of the Dawg Pound sat. This had a direct influence on the game results as it put the wind at the Browns back helping a late game winning Matt Bahr field goal to clear the crossbar. The Cleveland Browns reincarnation resuscitated and trademarked the pound, naming the east end of the FirstEnergy Stadium the Dawg Pound.

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Why Did The Cleveland Browns Relocate?

The relocation of the Browns to Baltimore was a highly controversial and unpopular move. Post -1966, the Browns found it hard to replicate the success of previous years. They registered mixed results, missing out on the playoffs a number of times. However, the maintained a loyal following with games at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium selling out consistently. Art Modell, who had acquired the team in 1961, had negotiated a deal with Cleveland City that saw him keep all the income from the Cleveland stadium and pay just $200,000 in rent. This left him with a substantial profit given that he also charged MLB team Cleveland Indians to use the stadium. However in 1990, the Indians got their own stadium, denying Modell of the huge cash flow they had generated for him. Modell demanded a $175 million tax funded upgrade to the now aging Cleveland Stadium but his request was denied. In November 1995, Modell announced that he would be moving the Browns to Baltimore, having agreed a deal with the Maryland city for a first class stadium. There was widespread protest to the move by Cleveland fans and an injunction was filed to stop the franchise from leaving. Eventually a compromise was reached that would see the move go ahead but Cleveland would retain the Browns team name and history. Modell’s team was renamed Baltimore Ravens. Cleveland did not have to wait long for the return of NFL football as they were granted a new franchise in 1999. The new team was named Cleveland Browns and inherited the team history left behind by Modell’s team.

Who Were Some Notable Cleveland Browns Players?

Jim Brown FB 1957-1965
Otto Graham QB 1946-1955
Mac Speedie 1946-1952
Doug Atkins DE 1953-1954
Ozzie Newsome TE 1978-1990
Gene Hickerson G 1958-1973
Bill Willis G 1946-1953
Warren Lahr 1949-1959
John Wooten 1959-1967
Frank Gatski C 1946-1956
Leroy Kelly RB 1964-1973
Marion Motley FB 1946-1953
Mike McCormick T 1954-1962
Dante Lavelli E 1946-1956
Lou Groza PK 1946-59, 61-67

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