Paul Brown is the godfather of modern football.
Perhaps the most important figure in NFL history, Brown shaped the way the game is played today. Although he coached his last game more than four decades ago, Brown’s impact is evident all over the NFL. Co-founder and first coach of the Cleveland Browns — a team named after him — and later founder and first coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Brown left the most widespread and underrated legacy in pro football history.
Your dose of NFL trivia illuminates the career highlights of the legend that the Paul Brown stadium was named after. The stadium is located on approximately 22 acres of land and has a listed seating capacity of 65,515. Paul Brown Stadium is nicknamed “The Jungle,” an allusion not only to the namesake Bengal tiger’s natural habitat, but also the Guns N’ Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle”
Brown, more than any other coach, was responsible for putting the professional in football. Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman once said, “I always felt before Paul Brown, coaches just rolled the ball out onto the field.”
When, in 2013, ESPN ranked Paul Brown as the sixth-greatest coach in NFL history, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote, “That’s like naming Bill Russell the sixth-best basketball player of all time, or Babe Ruth the sixth-greatest baseball player. Have some respect for history, fellas. Here’s a guy whose inventive fingerprints are all over the modern game, whose Cleveland Browns – another Brown invention – played in the championship game of the league for ten straight seasons.”
A visionary, Brown invented many of the concepts standard in football today. The playbook, training camp, practice squads, and classroom teaching facilities? All Paul Brown’s. He pioneered film study, using it to scout opponents and grade his own players. Brown invented the modern face mask, was the first to racially integrate, and introduced the passing pocket. Mr. Brown built the first year-round, full-time coaching staff and was the first to employ position coaches. He was the first to use the 40-yard dash as an evaluation tool. Brown hatched the idea of putting a radio receiver in a quarterback’s helmet. He designed both the draw play and zone defense.
Brown won everywhere he coached. At the high school level, he claimed four national championships and six state titles in 11 years. Brown guided Ohio State to the 1942 Big Ten crown. Chuck Noll and Bud Grant played for him, and Brown’s disciples won 11 of the first 25 Super Bowls.
The first 50 Super Bowls involved 54 different head coaches. Of those 54, 33 belong to the Paul Brown coaching tree. In 21 of those first 50 contests, both coaches belonged to Brown’s tree – a whopping 42 percent.
After assisting Brown in Cleveland, Weeb Eubank led the Baltimore Colts to NFL championships in 1958 and 1959. He then joined the AFL New York Jets, leading them to a win in Super Bowl III – the biggest upset and most important victory in pro football history. Weeb Eubank is the only coach to win a championship in both the NFL and AFL.
In 1951, defensive back Don Shula was one of only two rookies to make Paul Brown’s squad in Cleveland. After serving as an assistant to Brown protégé Blanton Collier at Kentucky, Shula replaced Weeb Eubank in Baltimore. A four-time NFL Coach of the Year, Shula guided Baltimore to the 1968 NFL Championship. He led the Miami Dolphins to three straight Super Bowls, winning two, and guided the Dolphins to the only perfect record in NFL history. Mr. Shula had only two losing seasons in 33 years and holds the NFL record for most wins as a coach, with 347.
“My 33 years [as an NFL head coach],” Shula said. “that was pretty much from the Paul Brown playbook.”
As an assistant to Brown during the Bengals inaugural season, Bill Walsh developed the West Coast Offense. Walsh brought the system to San Francisco in 1979 and guided the 49ers to three Super Bowl titles. Walsh hired and mentored George Siefert, Mike Holmgren, and Dennis Green. They, in turn, trained Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan and Andy Reid.
At eight, Bill Belichick attended a Cleveland Browns training camp with his father. Fascinated by the briskness and efficiency of the man commanding them – Paul Brown, Belichick implemented the same philosophies 40 years later, when he became head football coach of the New England Patriots. In less than two decades in Foxboro, Belichick has taken the Pats to eight Super Bowls, winning 5 of them.
The Paul Brown coaching tree grew into a forest. Legendary mentors Bill Arnsparger, Howard Schnellenberger, Lou Saban and Buddy Ryan are all branches. So are Bill Cowher, Mike Martz, Chuck Knox, Jerry Glanville and Jeff Fisher. Rex Ryan is a disciple, as are Jim Schwartz, Mike Munchak and Marty Schottenheimer.
Paul Brown amassed a career record of 213-104-9 [.672] coaching pro football. In 17 seasons, he played for the league championship 12 times, winning eight. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, Mr. Brown remains the sixth-winningest coach in pro football history.