Cleveland Browns Magnificent Seven: Best players from the 20th century
Jim Brown is only the greatest player to ever play Pro Football. Amazingly, he played nine years in the NFL and went to the Pro Bowl nine times. He was an eight-time first-team All-Pro selection. He led the NFL in rushing eight times.
The only year he did not was 1962, which was a sub-par year for the Browns offensively, and so Jim Taylor of Green Bay led the NFL in rushing yards instead of Brown. The next year, however, Brown rushed for an incredible 1,863 yards on the ground which was the NFL season record at the time (remember, this was in a 14 game season back then). Brown also gained 232 yards versus the Rams in 1957, which was the single-game rushing record at the time.
While at college in Syracuse, Brown also played defensive back at times. In addition, he ran track, was the second leading scorer on the basketball team and was elected to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
His stats are crazy, considering especially that the NFL was more of a defensive game in those years. Brown was totally dominant, with his chief rivals being the tandem of Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung in Green Bay. However, the Browns were by far the best running team in the NFL.
In the Jim Brown years teams like the Baltimore Colts and Green Bay Packers were probably a bit better on defense and also could throw the ball a little better with Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, but the Browns made it to the NFL Championship three times with Brown in the backfield, and probably should have made it in 1960, when they outpointed the Philadelphia Eagles and gave up fewer points than the Eagles but managed to lose some close games.
At the time he retired he held virtually every record possible for a running back to achieve.
More than that, if you look at his highlight reels, the defenses always converge on him, but Brown emerges from the pile-up carrying two or three defenders with him for extra yardage. That is the part that seems absolutely beyond normal human capability.
Brown was one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, but he was also huge for his day at 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds. He also had the advantage of operating behind an offensive line with star players like Dick Schafrath, Mike McCormack and Gene Hickerson. Frankly, the Cleveland Browns were not the most complete team in those years, but they were unstoppable on the ground.
Brown retired at the peak of his game after the Browns were defeated by the Packers in the title game in 1965 and went on to star in several movies in Hollywood. Check out The Dirty Dozen some time. And maybe watch a lacrosse game the next time it comes up on your favorite sports channel.