Doug Dieken, who starred on the field for 14 seasons before making a seamless transition to the radio booth, is calling it a career after a combined 50 years with the Cleveland Browns organization.
Dieken, 72, will finish out the 2021 season alongside his play-by-play partner and dear friend, Jim Donovan, who has shared the booth with Dieken since the franchise's return in 1999.
"It's been a great ride" Dieken said. "I want to thank the Browns' fans for accepting me first as a player and then as a broadcaster. I've had the most fantastic teammates on the field, in the radio booth, and in the community to make the last 50 years fun. We didn't get the wins we all hoped for, but I feel like I'm leaving a winner because of my association with the organization and the great fans who listen to our broadcasts."
The Browns will honor Dieken during Sunday's regular season finale against the Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"It's hard to think of a Cleveland Browns game without Doug Dieken being a part of it, and it'll be very difficult for me to look to my right and not see him there," Donovan said. "For 23 years, it's been amazing having him alongside to call games on the Browns radio network. He was a great player, and he's a Browns legend, and he's a great broadcaster that fits so well with what the Cleveland Browns are all about. He's connected with their fans, and it's going to be a big adjustment for all of us come next season when he's not there."
Ever since Dieken joined the Browns in 1971 as a sixth-round pick out of the University of Illinois, Dieken has been the one constant for a franchise that has undergone multiple ownership changes and weathered a three-year hiatus between its move to Baltimore in 1995 and its return as an expansion franchise in 1999. Dieken's had a front seat for 50 of the team's 75 years, first from the line of scrimmage at left tackle — where he played in 203 consecutive games over 14 seasons — and then a few floors up in the press box, where he called games from Cleveland Municipal Stadium, FirstEnergy Stadium and every other stadium across the NFL since 1985.
"Doug Dieken has been a great representative of the Cleveland Browns for more than 50 years, and all he's done for our organization is greatly appreciated," said Dee and Jimmy Haslam. "To have a career as he did on the field with the record number of consecutive games played and then become the steady and consistent voice he has been in the radio booth is genuinely remarkable. Doug has that uncanny ability to connect with people. He did it on the field and in the locker room with his teammates, he's done it in the community with the people of Northeast Ohio, and he did it so well on the airwaves with Browns fans. Doug is the consummate professional. He is the Cleveland Browns, and his legacy will not be forgotten."
Dieken, who played tight end in college, came to Cleveland in 1971 and was promptly told he'd be making a switch to left tackle. Dieken worked behind and eventually took over for seven-time Pro Bowler Dick Schafrath during the second half of his rookie season to become just the third left tackle in the franchise's history.
Dieken battled through numerous bumps, bruises, broken bones, torn ligaments and other painful ailments to ensure there wouldn't be a fourth left tackle until he called it a career following the 1984 season. Dieken never missed a game from 1971-1984 and started 194 consecutive games in the process — an NFL record to this day for offensive tackles. An integral member of the unforgettable Kardiac Kids teams, Dieken earned Pro Bowl honors in 1980. In 1983, Dieken was selected by his peers in the NFL Players Association for the Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award for his efforts on behalf of his teammates and community.
"He's the only left tackle I ever knew," said former Browns QB Brian Sipe, the NFL's MVP in 1980 who played behind Dieken from 1974-83. "He won that job before I got there, and he was there when I left. He was dependable. That's the thing about Doug. I never had to think twice about what was happening on that left edge. He just got the job done. He was a fierce competitor. We kidded him a lot. He relished the fact that there were always arguments on the field because of his holding, which I personally was grateful for. He was proud of it. It's a testament to his effectiveness. He just frustrated people, and that's how good he was."
Dieken didn't miss a single game in his transition from the field to the radio booth. He filled the shoes of longtime Browns broadcaster Gib Shanley and was paired with a rotating play-by-play team of Nev Chandler and Jim Mueller for the 1985 season. Chandler took over the play-by-play role full-time in 1986, and he and Dieken called games together until 1993, when Chandler, who died of cancer one year later, needed to step away from the booth. Dieken and Casey Coleman called games together for the franchise's final two seasons before its move to Baltimore following the 1995 season.
Dieken dedicated his life to the Browns even during the team's three seasons away from the field, serving as an ambassador for the Cleveland Browns Trust, which worked to ensure the team's history would be preserved and respected during the transition years. With the team set to return in 1999, Dieken reapplied for his position and reclaimed it with Donovan as his new play-by-play partner.
"We really always approached it like we were two friends sitting together with seats beside each other, and we were going to watch the game and talk back and forth. It really worked," Donovan said. "We both understood what our strengths were. I wasn't going to analyze the game. I wasn't going to be the football guy, and he wasn't going to be the play-by-play guy. We understood that we each had our own territory and weren't going to invade the other guy's territory. We respected the jobs that each one of us had to do. I think that started from the very first time we did it and it really remained that way. It never changed because it worked so well."
In his 34 seasons as the Browns' radio color analyst, Dieken missed just two games. He's also been a fixture inside the locker room and on the field for the team's practices at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, providing mentorship and plenty of stories for the team's current players.
"Doug Dieken has been such an integral part of the Cleveland Browns organization, back from when he was a player to when he moved into the role of a media member and being the color broadcasting guy for all those years," said former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who wore the same No. 73 as Dieken did during his playing days. "He's exactly the type of person you want representing the Cleveland Browns organization because he does everything right when he was a player, and he did everything right when he was in media. He was such a joy to work with, and he was such a joy to listen to now that I get to sit at home and listen to the Browns on the radio when I'm watching on TV."
A pillar in the Cleveland community, Dieken has made and continues to serve as an exemplary representative of the Cleveland Browns, whether it be through his innumerable public appearances, speaking engagements and charitable endeavors with Special Olympics, an organization with which he's worked closely and helped raise more than $250,000 since his playing days.
"Doug has always had a bigger-than-life presence in the Cleveland community." Sipe said. "It wasn't just because he had a great playing career, which would qualify him in one sense, but he was just so plugged into the community in so many philanthropic ways. He was a give-back guy. I always remember him on our days off participating in some activity that built our community and touched people's lives. I don't want to say we took that for granted, but that was just Doug. He's had that platform now, because of his broadcasting career, to do that for an extended period of time. I have no doubt that he's near and dear to many people's hearts in the city of Cleveland."
The organization will embark on a search to fill Dieken's seat next to Donovan during the offseason.