Paul Brown: visionary, innovator, nutjob

Paul Brown on the scoreboard in Cleveland.

It’s 18 years after he originally said it (sorry, I was busy that day), but a quote from Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown in an article in the Detroit News1Sorry, the link is dead. caught my eye today. In reference to his 1948 Cleveland team that went 15-0 and won the All-America Football Conference title, Brown said:

“Even greater than the 1950 NFL championship squad and probably the greatest pro football team up to that time. Since we didn’t play in the NFL, it didn’t count. I know this, though — the Browns, 49ers and Yankees were better than any NFL team, and we beat those other teams twice.”

The 1948 AAFC New York Yankees.

Were better than any NFL team.

Mmmmmm-kay, Paul.

They went 6-8. In the AAFC. Finished third in their division, behind the (original) Baltimore Colts. Gave up more points than they allowed. Were led by the immortal Orban “Spec” Sanders.

They were better than anything the NFL had to offer in 1948? Better than the 11-1 Chicago Cardinals and their “Million Dollar Backfield2The term was used for the Cardinals’ quartet of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg and Charley Trippi years before it was applied to the 49ers’ YA Tittle, John Henry Johnson, Joe “The Jet” Perry and Hugh “The King” McElhenny.?”

Better than the 9-2-1 Eagles, who beat the Cardinals in the NFL title game and who featured Steve Van Buren, among others?

Look, I’m on record as saying the 1948 Browns are overlooked (hopefully some folks learned of them during the Patriots’ attempt at a perfect season). It wasn’t the NFL, but they were a hell of a team, thanks in large part to Brown being about two decades ahead of the rest of his competitors in terms of scouting, preparation and coaching methods. They were chock-full of great players. Just say you went 15-0, did it in solid fashion and let history be the judge.

Brown’s long gone now (he died in 1991) and was in his 80s when his autobiography (from whence the quote came) was written, so the memory may have been playing tricks on him.

Why Jerry Green felt the need to write this story when he did (two weeks after the Super Bowl) is beyond me, as is why he thinks the ’48 Browns were the best ever, but to each their own.

But those who fail to study history are doomed to misinterpret it.

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch