Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 21
The Cleveland Browns nest No. 21 was a dynamic playmaker
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 21 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 21: Eric Metcalf.
Eric Metcalf was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1989 NFL draft out of the University of Texas. The Browns used the 13th overall pick on the uber-athletic offensive weapon. While at the University of Texas, Metcalf led the Longhorns in multi-purpose yards for four-years straight. The son of a former NFL playmaker, Terry Metcalf, he appeared to be destined for great things himself.
When Metcalf arrived in Cleveland, it was unknown where the Browns would choose to use the multi-talented playmaker. Due to Kevin Mack’s legal situation, that saw the returning starting running back facing drug charges and a four-game suspension, Metcalf was tabbed as the feature back in the Browns offense.
In week three of his rookie season, Metcalf had a coming-out party on Monday Night Football where he scored maybe the most impressive five-yard receiving touchdown in team history against the Cincinnati Bengals. In that one play, Metcalf showed the jaw-dropping ability that made him one of the most electric playmakers to ever play the game.
Metcalf’s rookie season was historic for the Browns. The do-it-all Metcalf still holds the team rookie record for net yards in a season with 1,748. His ten total touchdowns tied him with the great Jim Brown for the most by a rookie and his 1,030 yards from scrimmage was also a record at the time. Metcalf topped off his stellar rookie season by giving fans a glimpse into his future when he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown during the Browns win against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs.
In Metcalf’s second season, he was the best kickoff returner in the NFL leading the league in both return yards with 1,052 and touchdowns with two. After a down third season that saw his effectiveness and availability limited due to injury, Metcalf was again one of the most versatile playmakers in the NFL in 1992. Metcalf scored touchdowns as a runner, a receiver, and as a punt returner proving to be electric anytime that he had the ball in his hands.
On the offensive side of the ball, Metcalf found most of his success as a receiver both out of the backfield as well as lining up in the slot. He finished second on the team in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Metcalf also finished second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns by running backs with five in 1992.
By 1993, Metcalf had developed into the most dangerous punt returner in the league. His two punt return touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers will always be remembered as one of the greatest individual performances in Browns’ history. Metcalf was named a first-team All-Pro and was also voted to his first Pro Bowl for his excellent play. Metcalf’s jack of all trades status was cemented in 1993 when he led the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,932.
Metcalf’s last season as a member of the Browns was 1994. That season he was once again the best punt returner in all of professional football. Metcalf led the league in punt return touchdowns and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the second time. After the season concluded, Metcalf was traded to the Atlanta Falcons where excelled as a wide receiver.
Metcalf would go on to play seven more seasons in the NFL and remained an electric playmaker until the day he retired in 2002. Metcalf’s unbelievable heroics will always live in the hearts and minds of Browns fans as will his legendary single-game performances. In 2008, Metcalf was inducted into the Browns Legends Program.
Eric Metcalf was a player that was ahead of his time and he was the best player to ever wear number 21 for the Cleveland Browns.