Who is the best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 56?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 56 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 56: Chip Banks.
Chip Banks was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the third overall pick of the 1982 NFL draft out of the University of Southern California. An immensely physically talented linebacker, with elite playmaking traits, Banks had the highest ceiling of any defensive player selected in the 1982 draft. The only questions that surrounded Banks came from off the field.
Banks was a direct product of the Lawrence Taylor effect. Taylor had entered the league the previous year and completely changed the way the position of outside linebacker was viewed. After Taylor’s impact as a rookie, every team was looking for the next L.T.
Banks was the Browns’ attempt at landing the next Taylor. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds, Banks fit the athletic profile to be one of the next great NFL linebackers. Banks even donned the same number as L.T.
In his rookie season, Banks looked to be every bit of the impact player he was drafted to be. During the strike-shortened 1982 season, Banks registered five and a half sacks. Banks, along with fellow rookie linebacker Tom Cousineau, was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. In addition, Banks won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Banks followed up his stellar rookie season by being one of the most disruptive forces in all of the NFL. Defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer used Banks as a wildcard, moving the talented second-year player all over the field to wreak as much havoc as possible. Banks turned in a phenomenal sophomore campaign, earning first-team All-Pro and getting a second trip to the Pro Bowl.
His third year in Cleveland was his most unproductive, but it was his constant friction with coaches and the front office off the field that had the Browns worried. In the leadup to the 1985 season, Banks staged a brief holdout during training camp. However, when the season came, he was his usual game wrecking self. Banks tallied 11 sacks in the 1985 season and once again earned a trip to Honolulu.
Unfortunately, the 1986 season would be Banks last in a Browns uniform. His play, as was always the case, was not the issue. In addition to distancing himself from teammates, Banks once again butted heads with management and held out for a month in the preseason. The coaches and front office decided to move on from Banks and after another Pro Bowl season in 1986 and shipped the talented malcontent to San Diego.
Although Banks did not have a lengthy career as a member of the Browns, he is undoubtedly one of the most talented defenders the franchise has ever had. During his five seasons, he made the Pro Bowl four times, and his 27.5 sacks rank eighth all-time in team history.
All things considered, even though it did not work out in the long term, Banks is still the best player to wear number 54 for the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable Mention: John Morrow.