Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 40
Who is the best player to wear number 40 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 40 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 40: Erich Barnes.
Erich Barnes was originally selected by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft out of the University of Purdue. While at the University of Purdue, Barnes, who was Indiana native, was a standout running back and wide receiver. Barnes was later inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1986, as well as the University of Purdue Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
Barnes spent three years playing in the defensive backfield for the Bears, including a Pro Bowl year in 1959, before being traded to the New York Giants. The talented defensive back was moved to cornerback by the Giants coaching staff and the turnovers began to flow. Barnes played in New York for four seasons and racked up 18 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl every year of his Giants career as well as being named a first-team All-Pro in 1961.
After the 1964 season, Barnes was traded to the Cleveland Browns — which happened to be his favorite team while growing up in Elkhart, Indiana. Barnes spent the majority of his first season in Cleveland backing up veteran right cornerback Walter Beach. In 1966, Barnes was placed at left cornerback, the position he played in New York, and once again the turnovers began to flow. For five seasons, from 1966 through 1970, Barnes started every game that he appeared in at left cornerback.
Over the course of his time in Cleveland, Barnes picked off 17 passes and returned three interceptions for touchdowns. Barnes’ 414 interception return yards are the sixth-most in team history and his three interceptions returned for touchdowns rank at third in team history. In 1968, Barnes was named to his final Pro Bowl and his only as a member of the Browns.
The rangy cornerback, who was listed at 6-foot-2, will also be remembered for swatting away an Eagles field goal attempt right at the goalposts and knocking it back into the field of play. Unfortunately, for Barnes and the Browns, the play cost Cleveland four points as the Eagles would end up with a first and goal and score two plays later. The Browns would go on to win the 1969 season opener, so Barnes’ supremely athletic but unlucky play does not live on in infamy.
Erich Barnes, who was inducted into the Browns Legends Program in 2018, is the best player to ever wear number 40 for the Cleveland Browns.