The Browns of the late 1950s into the '60s were consistently good.
Just not quite good enough.
For the third straight year, the Browns finished in second place in the Eastern Conference in 1960 and failed to earn a trip to the NFL Championship Game.
All they got instead was a trip to the first Playoff Bowl in Miami, matching the second-place teams in each conference. There they lost 17-16 to their old nemesis from the 1950s, the Detroit Lions.
The Browns were 8-3-1 in 1960, just behind the surprising Philadelphia Eagles, who finished 10-2 and captured their first league title since 1949 with a 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers.
The Browns split with the Eagles in the first four games of the season, handling them with ease in the opener 41-24 and then being edged by them 31-29 in Week 4. That was the Browns' only defeat in their first five games.
They finished the season with a rush, too, winning their final three contests, including a 48-34 decision in the finale over the two-time defending Eastern champion New York Giants. It was Cleveland's first road victory over the Giants since 1957.
But it wasn't enough to catch the Eagles, because the Browns blew their chances after going 1-2-1 in a four-game stretch in the middle of the year.
They fell 14-10 to a mediocre (5-6-1) Pittsburgh Steelers team, and then, the next week, had to settle for a 17-17 tie with an average (6-5-1) Cardinals club in its first season in St. Louis after moving from Chicago.
The Browns had plenty of offense in 1960. Led by Milt Plum, who had a club-record 110.4 quarterback rating and won the NFL's passing title with 21 touchdown throws and just five interceptions, league rushing leader Jim Brown (1,257 yards), and all-purpose star Bobby Mitchell (506 rushing yards and five TDs, and a team-leading 45 receptions), the Browns scored 41 points or more on four occasions.
There was also Gern Nagler, a wide receiver most Browns fans have never heard of. He was second on the team in catches with 36 (good for three TDs) and led in receiving yards with 616. It was that kind of year, when everyone on offense contributed.
In addition to the season-opening win over the Eagles and the season finale against the Giants, they thrashed the expansion Dallas Cowboys 48-7 and blasted the Chicago Bears 42-0 for their first shutout since 1957.
On the year, the Browns outscored their foes 150-60 in the second quarter alone and scored 362 points overall, averaging a whopping 30.1 per contest.
This marked the first season since their inception in 1946 that the Browns had played without place kicker Lou Groza. He had retired -- but for only a season. He would return in 1961.
The name of his replacement for that 1960 season is a great Browns trivia question. It was Sam Baker, who went on to kick for the Eagles. He hit 12-of-20 field-goal tries in 1960.
Defensively, the Browns had a ton of interceptions - 31, to be exact. Safety Bobby Franklin and cornerback Jim Shofner, who would later be an assistant coach with the Browns and an interim head coach, each had eight. Franklin returned two of his picks for TDs.
In fact, the Browns had -- get this -- six interception returns for scores. Even defensive tackle Bob Gain, a big man at the time at 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, got in on the action with the only interception return for a TD in his 12-year career.
In the end, though, it was a disappointing year for Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown and his club. The Browns missed the playoffs for the third straight season, the longest such dry spell in club history to that point.
|9/25||W 41-24||at Philadelphia Eagles||56,303|
|10/2||W 28-20||Pittsburgh Steelers||67,692|
|10/16||W 48-7||at Dallas Cowboys||28,500|
|10/23||L 29-31||Philadelphia Eagles||64,850|
|10/30||W 31-10||at Washington Redskins||32,086|
|11/6||L 13-17||New York Giants||82,872|
|11/13||W 28-27||St. Louis Cardinals||49,192|
|11/20||L 10-14||at Pittsburgh Steelers||35,215|
|11/27||T 17-17||at St. Louis Cardinals||26,146|
|12/4||W 27-16||Washington Redskins||35,211|
|12/11||W 42-0||Chicago Bears||38,155|
|12/15||W 48-34||at New York Giants||56,517|
|1/7||L 16-17||Detroit Lions (at Miami)||34,981|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||219||208|
|Total Net Yards||3,974||3,806|
|Avg. Per Game||331.2||317.2|
|Avg. Per Play||6.1||5.3|
|Net Yards Rushing||1,930||1,643|
|Avg. Per Game||160.8||136.9|
|Net Yards Passing||2,044||2,163|
|Avg. Per Game||170.3||180.3|
|Net Punting Avg.||55/38.7||46/40.5|
Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every Wednesday
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