Cleveland Browns: Ranking the most important players since 1999
Under most circumstances, a player’s importance to a franchise is not an objective matter. However, it can be argued that some players definitely had more of an impact than others. These are the most important Browns players since 1999.
The Cleveland Browns, in the words of our own Mitch Zoloty, “might be the weirdest [franchise] in the NFL.” Mired in abysmal football for nearly two decades, the Browns have become something of a guinea pig of the league on a few fronts.
First off, the Browns seem to be a test subject for what happens when you drive a sports fanbase insane. Browns fans, although their team has been in the mediocre to historically bad range for 20 years, keep coming back.
Secondly, the Browns are an exercise on the importance of players on an irrelevant team. For as much noise as they’ve been making lately, the Browns have been largely a footnote of the NFL for years now.
As one of the league’s classic franchises, many remember the Browns because, well, they’ve just been there for so long. Outside of the four years during which Cleveland did not have a football team, the name “Browns” has been a part of the sport’s history since the 1940s.
Outside of that, though, the Browns are remembered in one of two ways. Either people forget about them until they are mentioned, or they are simply remembered for consistently being one of the league’s worst teams, while other basement-dwellers always get better.
But, for as seemingly unimportant as the Browns are, their players tell a much different story. For better or worse, many of those on the “New Browns” have etched their name in NFL history. This list is for them. These are the most important players in Browns franchise history (since 1999).
In this list, we’ll be looking for three criteria. One, did the player himself have a lasting impact on the franchise? Two, did his play have a lasting impact on the franchise? And three, how much would the course of Browns and NFL history change if not for this player? Let’s begin.