History

History: 1961


Team Photo

The 1961 Browns didn't finish what they started, and therein lies the reason for them missing the playoffs.

They ended a respectable 8-5-1, but failed to qualify for the postseason after faltering down the stretch in what turned out to be the next-to-last year for Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Brown as their head coach.

The Browns seemed to be in good shape, standing 7-3 as they entered their final four contests. They had won two in a row and four of their last five.

The last game had been their most impressive of the season, as they had blasted the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 45-24.

In the other three contests during that mid-season run, they edged the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-28, beat the St. Louis Cardinals 21-10 and dropped the rematch with the Steelers 17-13. That loss would turn out to be a killer, for the Steelers finished just 6-8.

Their other three victories on the year were over St. Louis 20-17, the second-year Dallas Cowboys 25-7 and the Washington Redskins 31-7.

Their remaining two losses were to the Eagles in the opener 27-20, and to Green Bay 49-17. More on the Packers game later.

The first -- and most pivotal -- game in that season-ending stretch came against the arch rival New York Giants. But before a season-high crowd of 80,455 at Municipal Stadium, the Browns fell by a resounding 37-21, thus setting the tone for what would follow in the three remaining games -- all on the road.

The Browns crushed the Cowboys 38-17 the following week, but their joy was short-lived, for they were then edged by the Chicago Bears 17-14, knocking them out of the Eastern Conference race.

A season-ending 7-7 tie with the Giants at Yankee Stadium couldn't save the Browns. After going a disappointing 1-2-1 in those final four games, they finished third, two games behind the 10-3-1 Giants and 1½ games behind the 10-4 Eagles.

Philadelphia, incidentally, was in its first year under head coach Nick Skorich, who, a decade later, would begin a four-year stint in that same role with the Browns.

Defensively, cornerback Bernie Parrish led the way for Cleveland with seven interceptions, two more than fellow corner Jim Shofner.

The Browns offense was paced, of course, by Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. He rushed for 1,408 yards to lead the NFL for the fifth time in as many years in the league, and was No. 2 on the team in receptions with 46.

Quarterback Milt Plum had his third straight good year, throwing for 18 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions for a 90.3 passing rating. His best downfield threat was wide receiver Ray Renfro, who topped the team in receptions (48), yards receiving (834) and scoring catches (six).

This was the last Browns season for Hall of Fame running back Bobby Mitchell. He rushed for 548 yards, caught 32 passes, and averaged 11.7 on punt returns and 26.8 on kickoff returns, scoring at least one TD in each of those four areas.

He was truly an all-around star and would be dearly missed after he was traded to the Redskins in the ensuing offseason to get the rights to rookie running back Ernie Davis, who contacted leukemia and died before ever playing a down.

But why was someone as talented as Mitchell traded in the first place? The answer can be traced back to that 32-point loss to the Packers.

Paul Brown was greatly impressed with the way the Packers' big backfield of Hall of Famers Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung ran over the Browns -- literally and figuratively -- and decided to try to do the same thing with his team. In Jim Brown and Mitchell, Paul Brown had one big back and a scatback. The coach thought if he could get Davis, the Heisman Trophy winner who had broken all of Jim Brown's records at Syracuse, and pair him with Brown, he'd have the two big, talented backs he was after.

It was a good idea that, because of the unforeseen illness that took down Davis, never had a chance to come to fruition.

Steve King,
Staff Writer


YEAR RESULTS
Preseason Results
National Football League: 3-2
at Detroit Lions (25,602) 7-35
at San Francisco 49ers (38,759) 27-24
at Los Angeles Rams (40,086) 34-17
Pittsburgh Steelers at Akron (27,758) 38-6
Detroit Lions (41,374) 17-35
 
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 8 5 1 .615 0 0 0 .000 8 5 1 .615
 
 

Date Result Opponent Att.
9/17 L 20-27 at Philadelphia Eagles 60,671
9/24 W 20-17 St. Louis Cardinals 50,443
10/1 W 25-7 Dallas Cowboys 43,638
10/8 W 31-7 Washington Redskins 46,186
10/15 L 17-49 Green Bay Packers 75,042
10/22 W 30-28 at Pittsburgh Steelers 29,266
10/29 W 21-10 at St. Louis Cardinals 26,696
11/5 L 13-17 Pittsburgh Steelers 62,723
11/12 W 17-6 at Washington Redskins 28,975
11/19 W 45-24 Philadelphia Eagles 68,399
11/26 L 21-37 New York Giants 80,455
12/3 W 38-17 at Dallas Cowboys 23,500
12/10 L 14-17 at Chicago Bears 38,717
12/17 T 7-7 at New York Giants 61,084

Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 91 78 43 107 0 --- 319
Opponents 41 62 57 110 0 --- 270

Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 246 243
Rushing 116 87
Passing 120 146
Penalty 10 10
Total Net Yards 4,537 4,131
Avg. Per Game 324.1 295.1
Total Plays 796 769
Avg. Per Play 5.7 5.4
Net Yards Rushing 2,163 1,605
Avg. Per Game 154.5 114.6
Total Rushes 476 411
Net Yards Passing 2,374 2,526
Avg. Per Game 169.6 180.4
Sacked/Yards Lost 0/164 0/305
Gross Yards 2,538 2,831
Attempts/Completions 320/185 358/200
Completion Pct. 57.80% 55.90%
Had Intercepted 13 20
Punts/Avg. 53/43.3 54/42.9
Net Punting Avg. 53/39.3 54/37.6
Penalties/Yards Lost 47/455 38/367
Fumbles/Ball Lost 28/20 23/18
Touchdowns 39 34
Rushing 15 16
Passing 20 16
Returns 4 2

Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Groza, Lou 0 0 0 0 37/38 0 0 16/23 0 85
Mitchell, Bobby 5 3 2 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 60
Brown, Jim 8 2 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 60
Renfro, Ray 0 6 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 36
Kreitling, Rich 0 3 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 18
Browns 15 20 2 2 37/39 0 0 16/23 0 319
Opponents 16 16 2 0 33/34 0 0 11/29 0 270

Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Browns 476 2,163 4.5 56t 15
Opponents 411 1,605 3.9 47 16
Brown, Jim 305 1,408 4.6 38 8
Mitchell, Bobby 101 548 5.4 56t 5
Watkins, Tom 43 209 4.9 21 0
Plum, Milt 24 -17 -0.7 14 1
Franklin, Bobby 1 12 12 12t 1

Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Renfro, Ray 48 834 17.4 57 6
Brown, Jim 46 459 10 77t 2
Mitchell, Bobby 32 368 11.5 52t 3
Kreitling, Rich 21 229 10.9 19 3
Nagler, Gern 19 241 12.7 21t 1
Browns 185 2,538 13.7 77t 20
Opponents 200 2,831 14.2 88t 16

Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Parrish, Bernie 7 40 5.7 15 0
Shofner, Jim 5 8 1.6 5 0
Fleming, Don 3 62 20.7 41 0
Franklin, Bobby 2 20 10 20 0
Michaels, Walt 2 17 8.5 15 0
Browns 20 160 8 41 0
Opponents 13 302 23.2 50 1

Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Baker, Sam 53 2,296 43.3 0 5 62 0
Browns 53 2,296 43.3 0 5 62 0
Opponents 54 2,314 42.9 0 5 68 0

Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Mitchell, Bobby 14 2 164 11.7 64t 1
Shofner, Jim 14 6 119 8.5 21 0
Browns 28 8 283 10.1 64t 1
Opponents 27 9 213 7.9 47 0

Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Mitchell, Bobby 16 428 26.8 91t 1
Powell, Preston 16 321 20.1 36 0
Watkins, Tom 9 226 25.1 47 0
Baker, Sam 3 57 19 25 0
Brown, Jim 2 50 25 26 0
Browns 50 1,115 22.3 91t 1
Opponents 56 1,465 26.2 105t 1

Field Goals 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot

Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD Td% Int Int% LG Tkld Rating
Plum, Milt 302 177 2,416 58.6 8 18 6 10 3.3 77t 0/145 90.3
Dawson, Len 15 7 85 46.7 5.67 1 6.7 3 20 17t 0/19 47.2
Brown, Jim 3 1 37 33.3 12.33 1 33.3 0 0 37t 0/0 120.8
Browns 320 185 2,538 57.8 7.93 20 6.3 13 4.1 77t 0/164 87.2
Opponents 358 200 2,831 55.9 7.91 16 4.5 20 5.6 88t 0/305 73.2