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Paul Brown

The Brown System Finds An Adversary

Brown developed an incredibly complex offensive system. Contrary to closed lineups previously used,

Paul Brown

Brown opened up the field, spreading his receivers and utilizing the whole field. And he ran his team with precision, so much so that he needed assistants in his chain of command. One such assistant, Fritz Heisler, said, "He reminds me of a surgeon. He's impersonal, analytical, always studying and icy cold in doing his job. He's a perfectionist in every detail."

Paul Brown would not suffer a losing season until 1956, but the poor record gave him the pick he'd wanted in the draft. He took Syracuse fullback Jim Brown. One more "Brown" into the mix, however, upset the balance. In drafting Jim Brown, Coach Brown had gotten hold of a man who refused to take many orders, which in turn opened up the controversy that would ultimately cost Paul Brown his job in Cleveland.

In 1961 a flashy advertising executive named Art Modell bought the Cleveland Browns for $4 million. Modell loved Jim Brown's play, and envisioned Brown as a marketable commodity. But this was directly against Paul Brown's wishes, who wanted the ship he ran kept tight. Football players were football players. Modell, however, got Jim Brown a radio show and a newspaper column in an attempt to increase his visibility.

Legends By the Lake

Among Brown's greatest gifts was his uncanny ability to evaluate talent and to find it in unlikely places. "It isn't necessary to have been a star in college," Brown said of prospective players. "Stars are often figments of sportswriters' imaginations." Instead, Brown went after men who would fit into the disciplined system he ran. "I want high-grade, intelligent men," he said, "I want them strong and lean. There's no place on my team for big Butch, who talks hard and drinks hard. I pick my men for attitude. I want fellows who like to win-nobody phlegmatic."

Source: Mark Bechtel, Sports Illustrated, September 1, 1999, p. 4.

The battering of horns hit a fever pitch in 1962, when Paul Brown, who prior to Modell's tenure as owner always conducted the trades himself, traded, without Modell's permission, future Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell away to the Washington Redskins. In the trade, Brown picked up Ernie Davis, whom Brown wanted to put in his backfield for an unstoppable two back combination. Yet in an unfortunate circumstance, Davis was soon diagnosed with leukemia, and he would die before ever playing a game with the Browns. Modell, who liked Davis, was nonetheless angered over being left out of the decision-making process, and when, in 1962, the Browns finished the season only one game over .500, Modell fired Paul Brown.

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