To continue our celebration of the franchise's 75th anniversary, we're launching "Browns Countdown: Top 75 Moments" presented by Bridgestone. Over the next month, through videos, articles and more, we'll be highlighting the top 75 moments in Browns history. Our video tributes, which will be available at ClevelandBrowns.com, the Browns' mobile app and the Browns' official YouTube Channel, will dive deep into the top 20 while our articles will put the spotlight on a number of different moments that are sprinkled throughout the top 75.
We're moving down to No. 22, which highlights the franchise's four years of dominance in the AAFC.
When the Cleveland Browns football franchise was created in 1946 for the first season of the All-America Football Conference, they were instantly one of the best teams in the world.
Otto Graham, the sure-armed and speedy quarterback from Waukegan, Illinois, was the team's leader. Marion Motley and Bill Willis, two players who became trailblazers for Black football players, were poised to make an immediate impact. Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie became the top receiving targets for Graham. Frank Gatski was the pesky leader of the secondary and Lou Groza, one of the best early kickers in football history, was saddled on special teams.
Oh, and the coach was Paul Brown, whom the team was named after. He was on the verge of creating one of football's greatest dynasties.
All eight of those people became Hall of Famers, and all of them played on the same Cleveland team that needed little time to develop and become one of the best in football history.
From 1946 through 1949, the Browns won all four of the AAFC championships and amassed a staggering 47-4-3 record, which stands as one of the best runs a franchise has ever had in the history of pro football. The era also included a 29-game streak without a loss, which is the longest non-losing streak in pro football history, and an undefeated season in 1948, two years before the Browns merged into the NFL.
A new standard of football excellence had been set, and so was the stage for the Browns' thunderous arrival to the NFL. Cleveland, as well as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, merged into the league in 1950. Many around the NFL expected the Browns and their AAFC counterparts to wilt under what they believed was stiffer competition, but those beliefs were eliminated when the Browns won the 1950 NFL Championship, their fifth consecutive league championship.
Following the 1950 season, NFL commissioner Bert Bell called the Browns "the greatest team to ever play the game."
Perhaps that was a realization that only came once the Browns proved themselves in the NFL, but the early Browns always believed they were the best.
And as the history of pro football continued to be written, it became more and more clear: The Browns of the AAFC will always be remembered as one of the best teams ever.
Earlier this year, the Browns commissioned a panel of historians, alumni and journalists to rank the top 75 moments in Browns history. The group met multiple times to discuss the moments and each member submitted their own final rankings, which were averaged against each other to create the ultimate list.
Building the Top 75 from the bottom up
22. Browns dominate AAFC from 1946-1949, winning every championship in all four years of the league's existence.
23. Browns draft Bernie Kosar in 1985 supplemental draft.
24. Dub Jones ties an NFL record by scoring six touchdowns in a single game on Nov. 25, 1951 in a 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears.
25. Browns defeat the defending NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles 13-7 without throwing a single pass on Dec. 3, 1950.
26. Jim Brown wins 1958 NFL MVP.
27. Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack become the third running back duo to reach 1,000 yards on Dec. 22, 1985.
28. Lou Groza, the last of the original Cleveland Browns, retires in 1968. 9xProBowler, scored 1,349 points.
29. Browns defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 37-7 on Oct. 20, 1963 as Jim Brown becomes all-time NFL leading rusher, breaking the previous record of 8,378 rushing yards held by future Hall of Famer Joe Perry.
30. Browns play last game in Municipal Stadium in a 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 17, 1995.
31. The Browns and Steelers are placed in a new AFC Central division along with the Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals in 1970 to become part of the new American Football Conference (AFC).
32. Browns unleash a powerful new starting backfield of future Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell in a 45-12 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 5, 1958. Brown rushes for 129 yards.
33. Browns play first regular season game against the Miami Seahawks on Sept 6, 1946. Browns win 44-0.
34. Browns defeat the Indianapolis Colts 38-21 in the 1987 Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 9, 1988
35. Bernie Kosar debuts for the Browns after starter Gary Danielson is injured in a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Oct. 6, 1985.
36. The Browns defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-7 on Oct. 29, 1950, in their first matchup in Cleveland. Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and set a then-NFL record for highest rushing average in a single game (17.09).
37. Jim Brown breaks Don Hutson's NFL record for most touchdowns (105) in a 35-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 3, 1965.
38. Browns defeat the Paul Brown-led Cincinnati Bengals in their first meeting on Oct 11, 1970. Browns won 30-27.
39. Browns draft Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews in 1978 draft.
40. Jim Brown and other Browns and athletes across sports meet in the Cleveland Summit to support Muhammed Ali's refusal to participate in the United States Military Draft on June 4, 1967.
41. Browns defeat the Buffalo Bills 34-30 in the 1989 Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 6, 1990. Clay Matthews intercepts future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's pass at the goal line with nine seconds remaining.
42. Joe Thomas reaches 10,000 consecutive snaps on Sept. 17, 2017, against the Baltimore Ravens. He amassed 10,363 before retiring after the 2017 season.
43. In what would ultimately be his final regular season game of his career, Jim Brown breaks Lenny Moore's NFL record (20) for most touchdowns in a single season on Dec. 19, 1965.
44. Browns break 19-game winless streak with 21-17 victory, led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield over the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 20, 2018.
45. Kevin Stefanski named NFL Coach of the Year as first-year head coach, becoming the second coach in franchise history to receive the honor.
46. Browns defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-0 in the 1989 season opener on Sept. 10 the most lopsided result in the 79-game series between the teams at that time.
47. Browns defeat New Orleans Saints 21-16 with miracle "Hail Mary" on Oct. 31, 1999, for the team's first win as an expansion team.
48. Browns hire Romeo Crennel, their first African-American coach, in 2005.
49. Browns orchestrate the greatest road comeback (25 points) in NFL history in a 29-28 victory against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 5, 2014
50. Brian Sipe breaks the Cleveland Browns franchise passing record held previously by Otto Graham (401) by throwing for 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win over the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 25, 1981.
51. Browns defeat the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 29, 2002, to clinch playoff berth. William Green broke off a 64-yard run to seal the game away.
52. Baker Mayfield breaks NFL rookie record for most passing touchdowns in as single season (27) on Dec. 30, 2018
53. Jerome Harrison breaks Jim Brown's single game franchise rushing record on Dec. 20, 2009 with 286 yards rushing in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. In the same game Josh Cribbs becomes the second player in NFL history to have two 100-yard kickoff returns in the same game.
54. Browns defeat Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-22, on Jan. 3, 2021, to end NFL's longest playoff drought of 18 years.
55. Browns avenge their first championship game loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1951 by crushing the Rams in a rematch 37-7 on Oct. 7, 1952.
56. Cleveland Browns draft Joe Thomas on April 28, 2007.
57. Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham is elbowed in the face by a Detroit Lions defender in the first half, and after receiving 15 stitches and a lucite face mask, he comes back in the second half to defeat the Lions, 23-21, on Nov. 15, 1953. Graham's injury helped kickstart the widespread use of facemasks in the NFL.
59. In the first meeting of Jim Brown vs. Johnny Unitas, the Cleveland Browns prevail in a 38-31 shootout against the Baltimore Colts on Nov. 1, 1959. The game also pits Weeb Ewbank against his mentor Paul Brown. Brown rushed for 178 yards and scored five touchdowns while Unitas threw for 397 yards in defeat.
60. Browns clinch a wildcard playoff berth on Dec. 18, 1988, behind backup quarterback Don Strock, who threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Oilers
61. Blanton Collier replaces Paul Brown as head coach. Collier coached the Browns when they won the 1964 championship.
62. Paul Brown debuts first radio helmet 1956 with QB George Ratterman.
63. Josh Gordon becomes first wide receiver in NFL history with back-to-back 200-yard games on Dec. 1, 2013.
64. Nick Chubb breaks the Browns franchise record for longest run by scoring a 92-yard touchdown Nov. 11, 2018, in a 28-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The previous record was held by Bobby Mitchell.
65. Phil Dawson retires from the NFL as a Cleveland Brown. Dawson signed with the Browns in 1999 and kicked for the Browns for 14 years.
66. Browns defeat the Baltimore Ravens for the first time on Oct. 21, 2001.
67. Bobby Mitchell rushes for 232 yards on 14 carries for an incredible 16.6-yard average in a Cleveland Browns 31-17 win against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 15, 1959.
68. Browns' fans create numerous music ballads that are played on Cleveland radio to celebrate the teams resurgence in the late 1980s. Songs include "Oh Bernie Bernie," "Super Bowl Browns" and "Born and Raised on the Browns."
69. Browns defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 21-20, on Dec. 8, 2002 with a 50-yard Hail Mary from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan with no time left. Couch becomes the only quarterback to have two game-winning passes of 50 yards or more with no time left on the clock.
70. Browns defeat the Buffalo Bills 8-0 in a blizzard and clinch a winning record on Dec. 16, 2007. Phil Dawson kicks two field goals and the Browns record a safety.
71. Browns draft Baker Mayfield 1st overall in 2018.
72. Browns clinch an Eastern Conference title by crushing the New York Giants 52-20 on Dec. 12, 1964.
73. Browns move into first place of the AFC Central Division after defeating the Houston Oilers on Dec. 15, 1985. The Browns would go on to win the AFC Central for the first time since 1980
74. Jeff Garcia and Andre Davis combine to tie the NFL record for the longest pass in NFL history of 99 yards in a Cleveland Browns 34-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 17, 2004.
75. Hanford Dixon intercepts Terry Bradshaw three times in 1982 Browns win over Steelers.