Five Near Misses for a Cleveland Browns Super Bowl
The new Browns have not gotten very close to the Super Bowl, but Tim Couch did lead them to the playoffs, yielding to Kelly Holcomb due to injury. The played the Steelers and Holcomb was fantastic, throwing for over 400 yards, but the Steelers came back in the fourth quarter to win, 36-33.
Truth to tell, he just got sacked too often due to an inexperienced offensive line and his body gave out. If you want to call him a bust for being injured, fine. But he led the Browns to the playoffs in his fourth year, which is an amazing feat. What exactly do people think he should have done to not be considered a bust?
Other Browns teams made it to the NFL Championship in the 1968 and 1969 seasons, prior to the AFL/NFL merger. Oddly, both the 1968 Colts and 1969 Vikings were thought to have historically great defenses. The Colts steamrollered the Browns 34-0 and the Vikings did about the same, 24-7. Both teams were upset in the Super Bowl, with Joe Namath and the Jets beating Baltimore 16-7, and the Kansas City Chiefs taking the Vikes behind the tool shed and beating them into submission 23-7. So much for those historically great NFL teams.
The Browns also had a chance for another NFL Championship in the last year of the pre-Super Bowl era, in the 1965 season. Back then, home-field alternated back and forth between the East and West divisions, and thus home-field advantage went to the Packers even though the Browns had the best record in the NFL at 11-3, while the Packers were 10-3-1. Thus championship game was a frigid affair played at Lambeau Field.
Even though the temperature was below freezing, the field was not yet frozen, so it wasn’t so much “frozen tundra” as cold, wet and muddy. The Browns were behind by 10 points to the Packers in the fourth quarter, when Leroy Kelly returned a kickoff and broke free in the open field with only the kicker to beat.
Kelly may not have realized he was facing kicker Don Chandler, but in any case, he slowed down to put a move on him rather than running through him, and Chandler was able to hang on until Packer reinforcements arrived. Had he scored, the Browns had Jim Brown, Frank Ryan, Paul Warfield, and Gary Collins and definitely had a legitimate shot at another score which would have given them their second consecutive NFL Championship.
That Browns/Packers rivalry is not talked about much these days, but it was awesome in the 1960s. Both were hard-hitting, highly disciplined, no-nonsense cold-weather football teams with fanatical fan bases.
Both teams played very hard, with very little that could be considered unsportsmanlike or dirty play. They both knew how good they were, and yet they had the greatest of respect for one another.
That was also Jim Brown’s last game.