The fact the Browns finished just 7-5 in 1959 certainly didn't set well with Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Paul Brown.
After all, it was his second-worst record with the Browns to that time. And it was good only for a second-place tie in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Eagles, a full three games behind the champion New York Giants.
But when Brown looked at the season more closely, he no doubt quickly realized things could have turned out better -- much, much better -- for the Browns had they just been able to win some of those games.
For instance, the Browns lost 10-6 to the Giants in Week 3 and then, in back-to-back games near the end of the year, dropped 21-20 decisions to both the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers.
Three defeats by just six points. Ouch.
And those last two defeats were season-wreckers. The Browns entered those games in good shape, owning a five-game winning streak and a 6-2 mark after starting just 1-2.
The Browns were an offensive juggernaut in the last four of those five victories. Following a 17-7 win over the Cardinals, who were in their last year in Chicago before moving to St. Louis, the Browns beat the Washington Redskins 34-7, the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts (who would win it again in 1959) 38-31, the Eagles 28-7 and the Redskins again 31-17.
The two one-point losses to the Steelers -- who swept the season series from Cleveland for the first time after beating them 17-7 in the opener -- and the 49ers staggered the Browns, but then, in the next-to-last game of the year, the arch rival Giants delivered the knockout blow by recording their most lopsided victory ever over the Browns, 48-7.
It had been the Giants who, in 1958, denied the Browns a second straight trip to the NFL Championship Game by defeating them three times -- twice during the regular season to force a tie a first place, and then again in a special conference playoff game.
Only a 28-21 season-ending win over the Eagles kept the 1959 Browns from finishing with a .500 record (6-6).
Here's something noteworthy: For the 10th consecutive season, the Browns outscored their foes by a wide margin in the first quarter -- in this case, 65-17.
Those quick starts were no doubt made possible by the fact the Browns' strong legacy preceded them. Knowing it was the Browns they were playing, teams would be tentative and a little awe-struck at the beginning of the game, and Brown's clubs took full advantage by getting out to big leads.
Jim Brown was Jim Brown. The Hall of Fame running back rushed for 1,329 yards, leading the league for the third straight year, and 14 touchdowns.
But the biggest thing to come out of the season for the Browns was the emergence of Milt Plum as a solid quarterback. The Browns had been looking for a replacement for Otto Graham ever since the Hall of Famer retired - for the second time - following the 1955 season. They finally found him when Plum, a second-round draft pick in 1957, threw for 14 TDs with just six interceptions.
But in the end, it was simply the second in what would turn out to be a string of six straight seasons in which the Browns had decent to very good teams but never made the playoffs.
|9/26||L 7-17||at Pittsburgh Steelers||33,844|
|10/4||W 34-7||at Chicago Cardinals||19,935|
|10/11||L 6-10||New York Giants||65,534|
|10/18||W 17-7||Chicago Cardinals||46,422|
|10/25||W 34-7||Washington Redskins||42,732|
|11/1||W 38-31||at Baltimore Colts||57,557|
|11/8||W 28-7||Philadelphia Eagles||58,275|
|11/15||W 31-17||at Washington Redskins||32,266|
|11/22||L 20-21||Pittsburgh Steelers||68,563|
|11/29||L 20-21||San Francisco 49ers||56,854|
|12/6||L 4-48||at New York Giants||68,436|
|12/13||W 28-21||at Philadelphia Eagles||45,952|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||234||205|
|Total Net Yards||4,015||3,764|
|Avg. Per Game||334.6||313.7|
|Avg. Per Play||5.5||5.5|
|Net Yards Rushing||2,149||1,422|
|Avg. Per Game||179.1||118.5|
|Net Yards Passing||1,866||2,342|
|Avg. Per Game||155.5||195.2|
|Net Punting Avg.||50/36.3||50/38.2|
'When he figures it out, I don’t think he knows how good he can be'
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