Even before the Browns edged the San Francisco 49ers, 13-10, on Dec. 15, 1962 at Kezar Stadium, they were already well aware that it would be their last game of the season.
With a 6-6-1 record heading into the contest, they had already been eliminated from the Eastern Conference race.
But neither the Browns -- nor anyone else, for that matter -- had any idea that this would also be the last game that Paul Brown would serve as their head coach.
A little less than a month later came the stunning news that Brown, the man for whom the team is named and one of the most iconic figures in football history, had been dismissed.
Known as “The Father of Modern Football” for all the innovations he brought to the game, and now a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Brown had guided the Browns for 17 seasons, taking them to 10 straight league championship games -- with seven titles -- in their first 10 years of existence from 1946-55. His clubs played for a league title 11 times overall, suffered just one losing season (5-7 in 1956) and posted an overall mark of 167-53-8 for a .750 winning percentage.
That staggering record breaks down this way:
*52-4-3 (.907) overall in the All-America Football Conference from 1946-49, winning all four league championships.
*47-4-3 (.898) in the regular season in the AAFC.
*5-0 (1.000) in the AAFC playoffs.
*115-49-5 (.695) overall in 13 seasons in the NFL from 1950-62, winning three league championships in 1950, ’54 and ’55, and playing for four other league titles in 1951, ’52, ’53 and ’57.
*111-44-5 (.709) in the regular season in the NFL.
*4-5 (.444) in the NFL playoffs.
*158-48-8 (.757) in the regular season in the AAFC and NFL combined.
*9-5 (.643) in the playoffs in the AAFC and NFL combined.
Brown was already a coaching legend by the time he got to the Browns. A native of Norwalk, Ohio, who played quarterback at Massillon (Ohio) High School and then Miami of Ohio, he took over as head coach at Massillon in 1932 and in a nine-year career that lasted through 1940, his teams went 80-8-2, won 35 games in a row at one point and captured six state championships and four mythical national crowns.
Brown went to Ohio State in 1941 and guided the Buckeyes to their first national championship a year later.
It seems fitting that Brown’s last game as coach of the Browns would be against the 49ers, who were Cleveland’s biggest rivals in the AAFC before both teams moved, along with the original Baltimore Colts, to the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC disbanded.
In that finale against the 49ers (6-8), Jim Brown had five- and 12-yard touchdown runs. He rushed 22 times for 135 yards overall, but fell just four yards short of having his fifth straight 1,000-yard season. He also led the team with three receptions for 56 yards.
But as it turned out, Jim Brown’s coach was the real story.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.