All-Time Teams: Cleveland Browns



Introduction

In my endless research of all things football and through my passion for the history of the NFL, I have decided to try and compile an All-Time Team for all 32 current NFL franchises. By All-Time Team I mean a starting roster compiled of the very best players to ever put on each franchise’s jersey. I will be starting in alphabetical order by current franchise location, so Arizona Cardinals all the way to The Washington Football Team, with the goal of releasing one to two All-Time teams a week for the duration of the current NFL season. This is meant to be fun and cause some debate and is based on my opinion after all my research and deep dives into each franchise’s history. Of course, not everyone will agree with who I chose, and I’d love to hear from anyone who agrees or disagrees, but first, let’s lay out some ground rules for how I came up with each team.


1. Each team roster will consist of the following:

Offense - 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 OT, 2 OG, 1 C

Defense - 2 DE, 2 DT, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S

Special Teams - 1 K, 1 P, 1 Returner

Coach - 1 Head Coach


2. I only considered an individual’s stats and contributions with each specific franchise. For example, Peyton Manning’s years with the Broncos were not considered when deciding on the starting QB of the Colts All-Time Team. As a result, the stats and awards listed with each individual player are only those that were achieved with that specific franchise.


3. A player cannot represent two teams as the starter. Players who spent time with more than one team were considered for the franchise they spent the most time with or had the most impact on. This rule led to some interesting scenarios that I will discuss in detail with each specific article to try and clear up any confusion.


4. A player’s stats and impact were considered in context with their era. This won’t simply be a listing of who passed or ran for the most yards in franchise history.


5. All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference and through the 2021 season. I will also be counting sacks from 1960, though the NFL doesn't officially count sacks until 1982.


6. Players in the "Honorable Mentions" section are ordered by year. It's not an indication of where I believe they rank in franchise history.


Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!


Cleveland Browns All-Time Team


Franchise Information

First Season: 1946

Record: 541-518-14 (51.09 W-L%)

Playoff Record: 17-21

Super Bowls Won: 0

Pre-Super Bowl Championships Won: 4 (1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964) (Lost in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1957 and 1965)

AAFC Championships Won: 4 (1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949)

Passing Leader: Brian Sipe 1,944/3,439 | 23,713 Yds | 154 TD

Rushing Leader: Jim Brown 2,359 Att | 12,312 Yds | 106 TD

Receiving Leader: Ozzie Newsome 662 Rec | 7,980 Yds | 47 TD

Sack Leader: Bill Glass 77.5 Sk

Interception Leader: Thom Darden 45 Int

Scoring Leader: Lou Groza 1,608 Points

Winningest Coach: Paul Brown 158-48-8


QB: Otto Graham (1946-1955)

Record: 104-17-4 | 55.8 Cmp% | 23,584 Yds | 174 TD | 135 Int | 882 Rush Yds | 44 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp 1949 and 1952 (161, 181) | Led League in Cmp% 1947, 1953, 1954 and 1955 (60.6, 64.7, 59.2, 53) | Led League in Yds 1947, 1948, 1949, 1952 and 1953 (2,753, 2,713, 2,785, 2,816, 2,722) | Led League in TD 1946, 1947 and 1952 (17, 25, 20) | Led League in Yds/G 1947, 1948, 1949, 1952 and 1953 (196.6, 193.8, 232.1, 234.7, 226.8) | Led League in QB Rating 1946, 1947, 1949, 1953, and 1955 (112.1, 109.2, 97.5, 99.7, 94) | Led League in Yds/A 1947, 1949, 1953 and 1955 (10.2, 9.8, 10.6, 9.3) 5x Pro-Bowl (50, 51, 52, 53, 54) | 7x All-Pro (47, 48, 49, 51, 53, 54, 55) | 1951, 1953 and 1955 MVP | 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 AAFC Champion | 1950, 1954 and 1955 NFL Champion | 1951, 1952 and 1953 NFL Championship Appearance| Hall of Fame All-1950s Team | Hall of Fame Class 1965


Otto Graham is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play. He was Tom Brady before Tom Brady was even born. Graham played in only 10 seasons, but he led the Cleveland Browns to the championship game in all 10 of them. The Browns and Graham spent their first four seasons in a separate league, the AAFC, winning the championship every year from 1946-1949. This league was supposedly weaker than the NFL, so when the Browns moved to the NFL in 1950, they weren't expected to be as dominant. Graham proved the NFL world wrong when the Browns won the NFL championship in 1950 and again in 1954 and 1955. He led the league in completions twice, completion percentage four times, passing yards five times, touchdowns three times, yards per game five times, quarterback rating five times and yards per attempt four times. Graham was also named the NFL MVP three different times, named to the Pro-Bowl five times and the All-Pro Team seven times. He was also named to the Hall of Fame All-1950s Team and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965. Graham is easily one of the best quarterbacks to ever play.


Honorable Mentions

  1. Tommy O’Connell (1956-1957) | Record: 10-3-1 | 51 Cmp% | 1,780 Yds | 13 TD | 16 Int | 3 Rush TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (57) | 1957 NFL Championship Appearance

  2. Milt Plum (1957-1961) | Record: 33-16-2 | 57.9 Cmp% | 8,194 Yds | 66 TD | 39 Int | 204 Rush Yds | 8 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp% 1959, 1960 and 1961 (58.6, 60.4, 58.6) | Led League in QB Rating 1960 (110.4) | Led League in Yds/A 1960 (9.2) | 2x Pro-Bowl (60, 61)

  3. Frank Ryan (1962-1968) | Record: 52-22-2 | 51.7 Cmp% | 13,361 Yds | 134 TD | 88 Int | 1,032 Rush Yds | 4 Rush TD | Led League in TD 1964 and 1966 (25, 29) | 3x Pro-Bowl (64, 65, 66) | 1964 NFL Champion | 1965 NFL Championship Appearance

  4. Bill Nelsen (1968-1972) | Record: 34-16-1 | 52.4 Cmp% | 9,725 Yds | 71 TD | 71 Int | 1 Rush TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (69)

  5. Brian Sipe (1974-1983) | Record: 57-55 | 56.5 Cmp% | 23,713 Yds | 154 TD | 149 Int | 762 Rush Yds | 11 Rush TD | Led League in TD 1979 (28) | Led League in QB Rating 1980 (91.4) | 1x Pro-Bowl (80) | 1x All-Pro (80) | 1980 MVP

  6. Bernie Kosar (1985-1993) | Record: 53-51-1 | 58.8 Cmp% | 21,904 Yds | 116 TD | 81 Int | 216 Rush Yds | 4 Rush TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (87)


RB: Jim Brown (1957-1965)

5.2 Yds/A | 12,312 Yds | 106 TD | 262 Rec | 2,499 Rec Yds | 20 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965 (942, 1,527, 1,329, 1,257, 1,408, 1,863, 1,446, 1,544) | Led League in TD 1957, 1958, 1959, 1963 and 1965 (9, 17, 14, 12, 17) | Led League in Yds/A 1963 and 1964 (6.4, 5.2) | Led League in Yds/G 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965 (78.5, 127.3, 110.8, 104.8, 100.6, 133.1, 103.3, 110.3) | Led League in YScm 1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965 (1,665, 1,519, 1,867, 2,131, 1,786, 1,872) | Led League in RRTD 1957, 1958, 1959, 1963 and 1965 (10, 18, 14, 15, 21) | 9x Pro-Bowl (57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65) | 8x All-Pro (57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65) | 1957, 1958 and 1964 MVP | 1957 Offensive Rookie of the Year | 1963 Bert Bell | Hall of Fame All-1960s Team | Hall of Fame Class 1971


First at running back is a no brainer, Jim Brown. He is maybe the greatest running back ever, or better yet, maybe the greatest football player ever. Brown led the league in rushing in all but one of his seasons. He led the league in touchdowns five times, yards per attempt two times, yards per game eight times, yards from scrimmage six times and rushing and receiving touchdowns five times. Brown was way ahead of his time and maybe the most dominant player in NFL history. He was named to the Pro-Bowl in all nine of his seasons and to the All-Pro Team in eight of them. He was the NFL MVP in three different seasons, the 1957 Offensive Rookie of the Year and named to the Hall of Fame All-1960s Team. Four different times Brown led the league in yards, touchdowns, yards per game, yards from scrimmage and rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same season. Brown is outside of literally no one's top two running backs of all time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.


RB: Leroy Kelly (1964-1973)

4.2 Yds/A | 7,274 Yds | 74 TD | 190 Rec | 2,281 Rec Yds | 13 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1967 and 1968 (1,205, 1,239) | Led League in TD 1966, 1967, and 1968 (15, 11, 16) | Led League in Yds/A 1966 and 1967 (5.5, 5.1) | Led League in Yds/G 1967 (86.1) | Led League in YScm 1967 and 1968 (1,487, 1,536) | Led League in RRTD 1966 and 1968 (16, 20) | 6x Pro-Bowl (66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71) | 3x All-Pro (66, 67, 68) | 1968 Bert Bell | Hall of Fame All-1960s Team | Hall of Fame Class 1994


I went back and forth between Marion Motley and Leroy Kelly for this position. I decided to go with Kelly. Kelly was Jim Browns successor and did a great job at filling in for the GOAT. He led the league in yards twice, touchdowns three times, yards per attempt twice, yards per game once, yards from scrimmage twice and rushing and receiving touchdowns twice as well. He was voted to six straight Pro-Bowls from 1966-1971 and three straight All-Pros from 1966-1968. Kelly had more overall production, especially through the air so he gets the nod. He was named to the Hall of Fame All-1960s Team and inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1994.


Honorable Mentions

  1. Marion Motley (1946-1953) | 5.7 Yds/A | 4,712 Yds | 31 TD | 85 Rec | 1,107 Rec Yds | 7 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1948 and 1950 (964, 810) | Led League in Yds/A 1950 (5.8) | Led League in Yds/G 1948 (68.9) | 1x Pro-Bowl (50) | 2x All-Pro (48, 50) | Hall of Fame All-1940s Team | Hall of Fame Class 1968

  2. Dubb Jones (1948-1955) | 4.2 Yds/A | 1,910 Yds | 20 TD | 171 Rec | 2,874 Rec Yds | 20 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (51, 52) | 1x All-Pro (51)

  3. Bobby Mitchell (1958-1961) | 5.4 Yds/A | 2,297 Yds | 16 TD | 128 Rec | 1,462 Rec Yds | 16 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (60) | Hall of Fame Class 1983

  4. Ernie Green (1962-1968) | 4.8 Yds/A | 3,204 Yds | 15 TD | 195 Rec | 2,036 Rec Yds | 20 Rec TD | Led League in Yds/Tch 1963 (7.2) | 2x Pro-Bowl (66, 67)

  5. Greg Pruitt (1973-1981) | 4.7 Yds/A | 5,496 Yds | 25 TD | 323 Rec | 3,022 Rec Yds | 17 Rec TD | 4x Pro-Bowl (73, 74, 76, 77)

  6. Mike Pruitt (1976-1984) | 4.1 Yds/A | 6,540 Yds | 47 TD | 255 Rec | 1,761 Rec Yds | 5 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (79, 80)

  7. Earnest Byner (1984-1988, 1994-1995) | 3.9 Yds/A | 3,364 Yds | 27 TD | 276 Rec | 2,630 Rec Yds | 10 Rec TD

  8. Kevin Mack (1985-1993) | 4.0 Yds/A | 5,123 Yds | 46 TD | 197 Rec | 1,602 Rec Yds | 8 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (85, 87)

  9. Eric Metcalf (1989-1994) | 3.8 Yds/A | 2,229 Yds | 11 TD | 297 Rec | 2,732 Rec Yds | 15 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (93, 94) | 1x All-Pro (93)

  10. Leroy Hoard (1990-1995) | 4.0 Yds/A | 2,036 Yds | 10 TD | 177 Rec | 1,849 Rec Yds | 14 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (94)

  11. Nick Chubb (2018-Present) | 5.3 Yds/A | 4,816 Yds | 36 TD | 92 Rec | 751 Rec Yds | 3 Rec TD | 3x Pro-Bowl (19, 20, 21)


WR: Dante Lavelli (1946-1956)

386 Rec | 6,488 Yds | 62 TD | Led League in Rec 1946 (40) | Led League in Yds 1946 (843) | Led League in Yds/R 1946 (21.1) | Led League in Yds/G 1946 (60.2) | 3x Pro-Bowl (51, 53, 54) | Hall of Fame All-1940s Team | Hall of Fame Class 1975


Otto Graham's number one target, Dante Lavelli, is the first wide receiver for the All-Time Browns. Lavelli led the league in receptions, yards, yards per game and yards per reception in 1946. He was also named to three Pro-Bowls and the Hall of Fame All-1940s Team. His 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns are both second all-time in Browns history. Lavelli was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.


WR: Mac Speedie (1946-1952)

349 Rec | 5,602 Yds | 33 TD | Led League in Rec 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1952 (67, 58, 62, 62) | Led League in Yds 1947 and 1949 (1,146, 1,028) | Led League in Yds/G 1947 and 1949 (81.9, 85.7) | 2x Pro-Bowl (50, 52) | 3x All-Pro (47, 48, 49) | Hall of Fame All-1940s Team | Hall of Fame Class 2020


The second wide receiver is another Hall of Famer, Mac Speedie. Speedie had to wait all the way until 2020 to finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He led the league in receptions four different times and also led the league in yards twice. Speedie made two Pro-Bowls and three All-Pro Teams. He arguably had a better career than Dante Lavelli, so the only explanation I can give for him having to wait so long to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is that he only played seven seasons.


WR: Gary Collins (1962-1971)

331 Rec | 5,299 Yds | 70 TD | Led League in TD 1963 (13) | 2x Pro-Bowl (65, 66) | Hall of Fame All-1960s


This spot might surprise people because I went with Gary Collins over Paul Warfield but hear me out. Collins spent two more seasons with the Browns than Warfield, caught more passes for more yards and almost 20 more touchdowns. They both led the league in touchdowns once with the Browns and Warfield was named to one more Pro-Bowl, but Collins was named to the Hall of Fame All-1960s Team. Maybe the main determining factor in my decision was that Warfield actually spent more impactful years with the Dolphins, which I will go through in more detail during their All-Time Team's article. Collins's 70 touchdowns are still the franchise record, even after 50 years.