They really were not always this bad: the 1949 Cleveland Browns

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The 1949 Cleveland Browns would go 11-1-2, beating the San Francisco 49’ers to win the AAFC Championship. Winning in the AAFC was not new–1949 marked the 4th year in a row Cleveland won the AAFC Championship game.  The Browns were absorbed into the NFL for the 1950 season, and despite the talent on the roster were considered the best team in a second rate league–and would be no match more the more seasoned, talented NFL teams.  The players who signed this Government Post Card (GPC) would be the foundation of a team that would prove those people wrong:  Cleveland would go on to win the NFL Championship in 1950 with a 10-2 record.  They would go to the playoffs every season from 1950-1955, winning two more NFL Championships in 1954 and 1955. 

Otto Graham, QB:  Elected to the Hall of Game in 1965.  Won four AAFC Championships, and three NFL Championships.  Five time Pro-Bowler and Pro-Bowl MVP in 1950.  Named to the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, and also elected to the College Football HOF.  Browns retired his #14.  Would retire with a QB rating of 86.6.

Lou Saban, LB:  Two time All-Pro, and part of four AAFC Browns Championships.  Would make a biggest impact as a head coach in the NFL, coaching the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos at the Pro level, and 17 other teams at the high school, college and independant league level.  Two time AFL Champion–1964 and 1965–and winning “Coach of the Year” in both seasons.  Would retire with an NFL record of 39-42-3.  Current coaches who are influenced by Lou Saban–via his “coaching tree”–include Mike Tomlin, Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy.

Lin Houston, Guard:  Part of four Browns AAFC Champions, and one NFL Championship.  He was small–only 6 feet tall–but his technical savy on the front line allowed him to dominate defensive linemen and provide stability to an already excellent OL. During his 8 season run with the Browns they would go 87-12-3.

Dante Lavelli, End:  Elected to the Hall of Game in 1975.   Drafted into the army in 1943, part of the 28th Infantry Division.  Landed on Omaha Beach during the Invasion of Normandy, Fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was at the Siege of Bastonge.  His unit was in the thick of each battle, and his division suffered a 20% casualty rate.  As a football player:  Four AAFC Championships, three NFL Championships.  Three time Pro-Bowler and elected to the NFL 1940’s All-Decade team and the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time team.  He and Otto Graham were one of the most dominant pairings in football history.

Marion Motley, FB/LB:  Elected to the Hall of Game in 1968.  Motley was one of the first truly dominant black players in football history, and was stuck playing in an era were racism was still rampant and many NFL teams still refused to sign colored players.  Their loss.  Part of four Browns AAFC Champions, and one NFL Championship. Was the NFL rushing champ in 1950 and elected to his only Pro-Bowl.  Elected to the NFL 1940’s All-Decade team and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time team.  Retired with 4,720 rushing yards, averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Dub Jones, halfback:  Would play 10 seasons, winning three NFL and two AAFC Championships.  Two time Pro-Bowler.  In the Louisiana Sports Hall of fame.Would retire with 41 TD, 2,210 rushing and 2,874 receiving yards.  Shares the record for most TD in a game, with six.  As a coach was a huge part of the early 60’s Browns teams, acting as the offensive coordinator and backfield coach.

Tommy Thompson, LB:  Browns team captain in 1952 and 1953.  After a great college career would join Cleveland in 1949, winning an AAFC and NFL Championship over the next two seasons.  In both the William & Mary and Virginia Sports HOF.

Lou Groza, K/OT:  Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.  Probably one of the great players in football history.  Nine time Pro-Bowler, four time First Team All-Pro, five time field goal leader, four AAFC and four NFL Championships.  1950’s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.  Just awesome in every single way.

Chubby Grigg, OT/DT:  Would win two AAFC and one NFL Championship.  Murdered son in 1976, served five years probation.  Great name though!  

Lou Rymkus, OT, DT:  Four AAFC and one NFL Championship.  Four time Pro-Bowl selection.  Would play from 1943 to 1951, and Paul Brown called him the “…best pass protector he had ever seen.”  Would coach from 1952-1970, winning an American Football League Championship in 1960 and Super Bowl in 1970.

Mac Speedie, TE:  Would play with the Browns from 1946 to 1952, and get elected to two Pro-Bowls, six First Team All-Pros.  Would be the league reception leader four times, two time receiving yards leader, and be selected to the NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team.  Drama with Paul Brown is the only thing stopping him from election to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Cliff Lewis, QB/DB:  Shared QB duties with Otto Graham until Graham solidified his hold on the position.  Switched to defensive back, and never slowed down:  four AAFC and one NFL Championship, voted to the Greater Cleveland HOF.

Eddie Ulinski, OG/DL:  Was with the Browns as a player, coach or team staff from 1946 until 1984. Four AAFC Championships.  Would retire in 1949, but would be on the coaching staff of four more Cleveland NFL Championships.

Score
Week Day Date Rec Opp Tm Opp
2 Mon September 5 T 0-0-1 @ Buffalo Bills 28 28
2 Sun September 11 W 1-0-1 Baltimore Colts 21 0
3 Sun September 18 W 2-0-1 New York Yankees 14 3
5 Sun September 25 W 3-0-1 @ Baltimore Colts 28 20
5 Sun October 2 W 4-0-1 Los Angeles Dons 42 7
6 Sun October 9 L 4-1-1 @ San Francisco 49ers 28 56
7 Fri October 14 W 5-1-1 @ Los Angeles Dons 61 14
8 Sun October 30 W 6-1-1 San Francisco 49ers 30 28
9 Sun November 6 W 7-1-1 Chicago Hornets 35 2
10 Sun November 13 T 7-1-2 Buffalo Bills 7 7
10 Sun November 20 W 8-1-2 @ New York Yankees 31 0
12 Thu November 24 W 9-1-2 Chicago Hornets 14 6
Playoffs
Division Sun December 4 W 10-1-2 Buffalo Bills 31 21
Championship Sun December 11 W 11-1-2 San Francisco 49ers 21 7
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.
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