The Cleveland Browns are next in my “Top 5 Greatest of All Time” franchise players list. The Browns for the most part of the last 30 years have been the laughing stock of the NFL and up until here recently have been absent of the playoffs and a playoff win. This season the Browns turned that around and even won a playoff game knocking out arch rival the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns even without the success, have had a ton of great players over the years and I am going to give you my top 5. You all know the drill by now so lets get it going.
Gene Hickerson, Guard (1958-1973)
Known as one of the most intimidating players of his era, Hickerson played guard in Cleveland for all 16 of his NFL seasons and at his peak from 1965-1970, Hickerson was a Pro Bowler every year and earned three first-team All-Pro honors. When Gene retired in 1973 he had blocked for the league’s number one and number four all-time leading rushers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Paul Warfield, Wide Receiver (1964-1969, 1976-1977)
Paul Warfield, in my opinion, is the greatest wide receiver to ever wear a Cleveland Browns uniform. When he joined the Browns Warfield immediately stepped in and impacted the team, leading them in all receiving categories with 52 catches, 920 yards and nine touchdowns. He is currently ranked sixth in yardage and third in receiving touchdowns on the Browns’ franchise list, but would probably lead all their categories had he not left for Miami for five seasons. Warfield was named to the 1970s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Clay Matthews, Linebacker/Defensive End (1978-1993)
Clay Matthews was a dominant linebacker in his 16 season with the Cleveland Browns. He was a force whether it be tackling, pass-rushing or in coverage. That kind of versatility in rare to find in linebackers. Matthews had over 100 tackles in a season eight times and currently leads the Browns franchise in career tackles while also accumulating 14 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and 62 sacks in his Browns career. Clay was also a four-time Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro selection.
5.) Ozzie Newsome, Tight End (1978-1990)
Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Newsome is one of the best tight ends to ever step onto a football field. When Newsome entered the league he was told that he could be a good wide receiver or a great tight end and he would go on to revolutionize the game, becoming one of the best pass-catchers in the league and being completely unguardable. He was too fast for linebackers to keep up with and to big for corners to be physical with which made him the ultimate mismatch. During his time in the NFL, Newsome also had more receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns than Kellen Winslow and was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
4.) Lou Groza, Kicker/Offensive Tackle (1946-1967)
Lou Groza, otherwise known as “The Toe” was an All-Pro at both tackle and kicker over his insane 21 years with the Cleveland Browns. When Groza retired in 1967 he was the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and most accurate field-goal kicker. Along with being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974, Lou made the Pro Bowl every year from 1950-1958 also earning four All-Pro nods as well. He is still the Cleveland Browns all-time leading scorer with 1,608 points.
3.) Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle (2007-2017)
Joe Thomas is unquestionably the greatest lineman in the history of the Cleveland Browns and arguably one of the best left tackles to ever put on shoulder pads. During his career, he never missed a single snap, playing 10,363 snaps in a row before an injury ended his career in 2017. He is believed to be the only player in NFL history ever to have over 10,000 consecutive snaps, which is an absolutely amazing feat. Thomas also only allowed 30 sacks during his 10-year career, an astounding four-thousandths of a percent of his total 6,680 pass-blocking plays. He is one of five players ever to start their career with 10 straight Pro Bowl appearances, and only Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald made the Pro Bowl as many times as Thomas from 2007-2017.
2.) Otto Graham, Quarterback (1946-1955)
A five time Pro Bowler, seven time first-team All-Pro, three time MVP, five time passing yards leader, three time NFL champion are just a few of the many impressive accolades that Cleveland Browns legendary quarterback Otto Graham achieved in his Hall of Fame career. Graham dominated the All-American Football Conference in his time going to 10 total championship games in his ten year career and winning seven of them. He was an unstoppable force who was unrivaled in dominance in the late 1940s and early ’50s. The dynasty of the Cleveland Browns, and the majority of their history of success is directly connected to Graham’s quarterback play and was rewarded with a spot on the 1950s All-Decade team and an induction into the Hall of Fame in 1965.
1.) Jim Brown, Running Back (1957-1965)
Retiring in 1965, Jim Brown was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and still holds the league record for average yards per game at 104.3. Still to this day he is the only running back to average over 100 yards per game on the ground. In his nine seasons Brown was a first-team All-Pro in eight of them, making the Pro Bowl every single year. Brown won eight rushing titles and led the league in rushing touchdowns five times. He won the MVP award three times and won an NFL Championship in 1964 as well as being selected to the 1960s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. Brown is regarded by many to be the best running back in the history of the NFL.
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