Reflection on Paul Brown: the first Cleveland Brown

The timeless impact of Paul Brown on the NFL

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Paul Brown is an extremely important figure in the history of football. He was a very successful coach, a team founder, and an executive. His innovations helped shape the standards about how to approach the sport. Several of his contributions are still present in the modern game and the NFL would not be what it is today if it weren’t for Brown. He is in the NFL Hall of Fame as well as the Ring of Honor for two different teams. Let’s take a look back at the legendary career of Paul Brown.

Founder and Owner

The Cleveland Browns are actually named after Paul Brown. That is because he was a co-founder of the team, part-owner, and also their first head coach. The Browns joined the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946 before eventually joining the National Football League (NFL) in 1950. The team was extremely successful in the four-year run in the AAFC, winning the championship all four years.

More than twenty years after helping to found the Browns, he assisted in forming the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. He coached the team from 1968 to 1975 and then was an executive until he passed away in 1991. His importance to both the Browns and the Bengals will never be forgotten. Deservedly so, he is in the Ring of Honor for both organizations.

Coaching Accomplishments

As a coach, Paul Brown was a winner. He absolutely dominated the AAFL in all four years that he coached the Browns. He won the championship in all four seasons and even went undefeated in the 1948 season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are still the only other team to ever accomplish an undefeated season. The Browns dominated the AAFL so much so that the league folded after the 1949 season. This is when the Browns joined the NFL to see if they could continue their winning ways.

They did exactly that in their NFL debut when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, who were actually the defending champions at the time. The Browns would go on to win the NFL Championship in 1950 which was their very first year in the league. They would follow that up with two more championships a few years later in 1954 and 1955. Brown put together an excellent coaching career in the NFL and won more than 66 percent of his games.

Coaching Tree

Five assistants that coached under Brown went on to have a ton of success as head coaches. Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Weeb Ewbank, and Blanton Collier combined for a total of 13 championships as head coaches including 10 Super Bowl victories. Walsh and Shula are widely considered two of the greatest coaches of all time and some would even rank them at the very top of that list. The impact of Brown on his assistants is very clear due to their overall combined success.

Innovations

Many of the concepts that Paul Brown came up with were revolutionary at the time and are still used today in the modern NFL. He was the first-ever head coach to hire a full-time staff of assistant coaches. He started the concept of using previous game films to study upcoming opponents as well as using a practice squad. He was also the first coach to test players on the roster about their playbook memorization. He invented the draw play concept and designed the modern face masks for helmets. All of these contributions are still present in the game today. Most importantly, he played a major role in breaking the color barrier in the NFL. His impact will never be forgotten in football history.

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