Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Paul Brown selected to NFL’s Top 100 team

Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

The rich history of the Cleveland Browns has been showcased by the NFL, with two former players and Paul Brown being named to the NFL’s All-Time team.

Former Cleveland Browns Jim Brown, Marion Motley and head coach Paul Brown have been announced as members of the the National Football League All-Time Team, which is chosen by a blue ribbon panel in honor of the 100th year of NFL football.

100 players are being announced on a series of specials on NFL Network every Friday night at 8 p.m. through Dec. 27. The shows are hosted by Rich Eisen, Cris Collinsworth and Bill Belichick. The first group included the running backs and two of the coaches, with Jim Brown being the first player announced.

The accomplishments of Brown are legendary. At a time when the running back was the offensive focal point, Brown led the NFL in every major category. He made the Pro Bowl every year he played. He was All-Pro every year but 1962. That was the only year he did not lead the NFL in rushing yards (he still had 996 yards, which was the fourth-most that year). He never missed a start in his NFL career.

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More than anything else, just watch the videos and see the defenders trying to tackle Brown. Cris Collinsworth compares it to “a dad playing in the backyard with his kids and the kids are wrapped around his legs and he’s sort of dragging them and doesn’t want to hurt the poor little kids…” That is a funny comparison but it is true.

Flat out, many reviewers, including this one, judge Jim Brown to be the GOAT. Jerry Rice was probably the player who was greatest the longest. But nobody, nobody, NOBODY had a career like Jim Brown, who was the dominant player in the NFL all the time that he played.

Many in the young generation have never heard of Marion Motley, which is tragic. Before Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, Marion Motley and defensive lineman Bill Willis integrated pro football for the Browns and the All-American Football Conference in 1946.

That same season, the Los Angeles Rams (who had been the NFL Champion Cleveland Rams in 1945, incidentally) also signed two black players, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. Washington had played for UCLA in the same backfield with….Jackie Robinson, who was also a pretty good baseball player. Those four deserve great credit for integrating pro football. Perhaps they are not as well-known as Robinson because there were four of them integrating pro football in the same season.

Motley was an inch shorter than Brown, but listed exactly the same weight at 232 lbs. ln his eight years in the AAFC and NFL, Motley rushed for 4,720 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry, which is still an all-time record for running backs. His running style is perhaps comparable to  Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers or Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Very big for his day, Motley did not attempt to fool the defenders. He just ran over and through them. Motley was also a two-way player, playing linebacker especially in short yardage situations.

Their coach, of course, was Paul Brown. Brown led the Browns to four-straight AAFC titles, three NFL Championships, and was in the title game ten-straight years. After five years out of the game, in 1968 he started the Cincinnati Bengals as an expansion team and took them to the playoffs three times. After retiring as coach, his teams made it to the Super Bowl twice. In all, his team made the playoffs 17 times in 24 years.

Brown’s coaching tree is enormous and encompasses much of the current NFL: Don Shula, Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick among others.

Belichick was on the awards show and also was selected to the team. It’s worth pointing out that Belichick started his career with the Browns, although his achievements with the Patriots were slightly more noteworthy. Truthfully, a case can be made that he made some mistakes with the Browns that he was able to handle better with the Patriots. One of the worst mistakes was alienating the fan base by the way he replaced Bernie Kosar with Vinny Testaverde. Belichick is still surly, but has just a bit more now than he did as a young coach in Cleveland. But he won a playoff game with the Browns, which is more than anyone hired since can say.

Both Brown and Belichick were fired by Art Modell. Last time your humble correspondent wrote that in print, several people took issue with that statement, pointing out that Belichick’s contract had run out so technically he was not fired. This reviewer frankly does not understand the distinction except as legalistic hair splitting. Let us just say that Modell did not see fit to retain the two greatest coaches in NFL history, which is a record that will never be broken.

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However, rather than focus on that untidy fact, the main news item is that Jim Brown and Marion Motley are rightly judged as two of the top players in history. There will no doubt be other Browns named to the team in future weeks.