We need sports more than ever, even while social distancing. We don’t have live Cleveland Browns football, but we do have five great games from the 1960s.
If you have been following Dawg Pound Daily’s best games series, you have already had the opportunity to watch games on video from the post-1999 era Cleveland Browns, as well as the earliest videos from the 1940s and 1950s. This installment covers the 1960s.
For whatever reason there are not a lot of videos about the 1958 thru 1963 seasons, so this series will start with 1964, with some additional links to videos with Jim Brown highlights. In particular, I tried to come up with footage of the 1961 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in which Brown tied his own single-game record of 237 yards.
These videos probably exist in the NFL vaults and could surface on NFL Network, but for now the best footage in the public domain starts with the 1964 championship season, including edited versions of the “Game of the Week,” which was televised every Sunday.
To set the scene for 1964, Art Modell had fired Paul Brown (too old-fashioned for the young genius) in 1963. Blanton Collier, who had been with the Browns since the inception of the team, became the new head coach. Former sportswriter Harold Sauerbrei became the new general manager. But the truth is Modell fancied himself a genius and acted as his own general manager and made his own trades.
Jim Brown was the true superstar, but ridiculously, 10 of the 11 starters on offense would have at least one Pro Bowl on their resume at some point in their careers. Right tackle Monte Clark was the only starter who never made it to the Pro Bowl. They were anchored by future Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson and tackle Dick Schafrath, who is also deserving of the Hall. John Wooten was the left guard and John Morrow was the center.
Gary Collins was a talented possession receiver and Paul Warfield was a future Hall of Famer, though regarded as trade bait by Browns owner Art Modell. Warfield’s best years would come in Miami. Johnny Brewer was the tight end, though later would reemerge as a Pro Bowl linebacker.
The Browns also had a rookie named Clifton McNeil, who would be traded by the Browns genius owner four years later for a draft pick. McNeil would become first string All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers. How can a team have an All-Pro talent on the roster for four years and not realize he can play?
The quarterback was Frank Ryan, a mathematical genius who was a PhD student in mathematics at Rice University in the offseason. He would complete his degree the next year and eventually teach at Case Western Reserve University while playing quarterback for the Browns.
On defense, stars included veteran “Little Mo” Dick Modzelewski (younger brother of “Big Mo” Ed Modzelewski, who played fullback and had lost his job to Jim Brown; Little Mo later would join the coaching staff and served as defensive coordinator under Forrest Gregg). Little Mo had a resurgent season that led to a Pro Bowl that year. He was joined in the Pro Bowl by linebacker Jim Houston and defensive end Bill Glass.
Veteran left defensive end Paul Wiggin and linebacker Galen Fiss had been to Pro Bowl’s earlier in their careers, but were still excellent players. Lineman Jim Kanicki never made it to a Pro Bowl, but was selected as one of the top-100 all-time Browns players by Cleveland.com in 2012. Vince Costello was the middle linebacker and Larry Benz, Walter Beech and Bobby Franklin rounded out the secondary.
Lou Groza was no longer able to play tackle, but was still the Browns’ kicker. That makes five future Hall of Famers (Brown, Warfield, HIckerson, Kelly, Groza), and 17 players with at least one Pro Bowl on their record.
You know what? That was a very talented team.