Lou Groza

Louis Roy Groza (January 25, 1924 – November 29, 2000), nicknamed "The Toe", was an American football placekicker and offensive tackle who played his entire career for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). Groza was professional football's career kicking and points leader when he retired after the 1967 season. He played in 21 seasons for the Browns, helping the team to win eight league championships in that span. Groza's accuracy and strength as a kicker influenced the development of place-kicking as a specialty; he could kick field goals from beyond 50 yards (46 m) at a time when attempts from that distance were a rarity. He set numerous records for distance and number of field goals kicked during his career.

Groza grew up in an athletic family in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He enrolled at Ohio State University on a scholarship in 1942, but after just one year in college, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to serve in World War II. Groza deployed as an army surgical technician in the Pacific theater, where he stayed until returning in 1946 to play for the Browns. Helped by Groza's kicking and play at offensive tackle, the Browns won the AAFC championship every year between 1946 and 1949, when the league disbanded and the Browns were absorbed by the more established NFL. Cleveland won the NFL championship in its first year in the league on a last-minute field goal by Groza. Groza set NFL records for field goals made in 1950, 1952 and 1953. Sporting News named him the league's Most Valuable Player in 1954, when the Browns won another championship. The team repeated as NFL champions in 1955.

Groza retired briefly after the 1959 season due to a back injury, but returned in 1961. He was part of a 1964 team that won another NFL championship. Groza retired for good after the 1967 season. Later in life, he ran an insurance business and served as a team ambassador for the Browns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1992, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission named the Lou Groza Award after him. The award is given annually to the country's best college placekicker. Groza died in 2000 of a heart attack.

Lou Groza
refer to caption
Groza on a 1950 Bowman football card
No. 46, 76
Position:Offensive Tackle
Placekicker
Personal information
Born:January 25, 1924
Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
Died:November 29, 2000 (aged 76)
Middleburg Heights, Ohio
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:250 lb (113 kg)
Career information
High school:Martins Ferry (OH)
College:Ohio State
Undrafted:1946
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:216
Field goals:234/405 (57.8%)
Longest field goal:52
Extra points:641/657 (97.6%)
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Early life

Born in eastern Ohio in Martins Ferry, just north and across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia, Groza's parents were immigrants from Transylvania, part of modern-day Romania. His Hungarian mother Mary and Romanian father John (Ioan) Groza owned and ran Groza's Tavern on Main Street.[1][2][3] Lou was the smallest in stature of four boys in an athletic family; his brother Alex became a star basketball player at the University of Kentucky, a member of two national championship teams.[4]

Groza lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at Martins Ferry High School.[4] The Purple Riders won the state basketball championship in 1941, when Groza was its captain.[5] He was also captain of the baseball team.[5] Groza learned placekicking from his older brother Frank, and practiced by trying to kick balls over telephone wires when he and his friends played touch football in the street.[5]

College career and military service

Groza graduated from high school in 1942 and enrolled on an athletic scholarship at Ohio State University in Columbus, where he played as a tackle and placekicker on the Buckeyes' freshman team.[4][6] Groza played in three games and kicked five field goals, including one from 45 yards (41 m) away.[5] In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as World War II intensified.[6] He first went for basic training to Abilene, Texas, and then to Brooks General Hospital in San Antonio.[6]

After a stint with the short-lived Army Service Training Program, Groza was sent with the 96th Infantry Division to serve as a surgical technician in Leyte, Okinawa, and other places in the Pacific theater in 1945.[4][7] The day he landed in the Philippines, Groza saw a soldier shot in the face. He was stationed in a bank of tents about five miles from the front lines and helped doctors tend to the wounded.[8] "I saw a lot of men wounded with severe injuries", he later said. "Lose legs, guts hanging out, stuff like that. It's a tough thing, but you get hardened to it, and you accept it as part of your being there."[8]

While he was in the Army, he received a package from Paul Brown, the Ohio State football coach. It contained footballs and a contract for him to sign to play on a team Brown was coaching in the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC).[4] He signed the contract in May 1945 and agreed to join the team, called the Cleveland Browns, after the war ended in 1946.[4][9] Groza got $500 a month stipend until the end of the war and a $7,500 annual salary.[3]

Professional career

Following his discharge from military service, Groza reported to the Browns' training camp in Bowling Green, Ohio. He showed up in army fatigues carrying all his clothes in a duffel bag.[10] There, he joined quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and receivers Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie to form the core of the new team's offense.[11] Groza was mainly a placekicker in his first two years with the Browns, but he played a big part in the team's early success.[11] In his first season, he set a professional football record for both field goals and extra points.[12] The Browns, meanwhile, advanced to the AAFC championship against the New York Yankees. Groza sprained his ankle in the game and missed three field goals, but Cleveland won 14–9.[13] Behind a powerful offense led by Graham, Motley and Lavelli, the Browns finished the 1947 season with a 12–1–1 record and made it back to the championship game. Groza, however, was injured and could only watch as the team won its second championship in a row.[14]

Further success followed for the Browns and Groza, who was nicknamed "The Toe" by a sportswriter for his kicking abilities.[5] Groza led the league in field goals and the team won all of its games in 1948, recording professional football's first perfect season.[15] As he grew into a star placekicker, Groza began playing regularly at offensive tackle beginning in 1948.[11] One highlight of that year for Groza was a 53-yard field goal against the AAFC's Brooklyn Dodgers that was then the longest kick in pro football history.[16] With Groza, the Browns could attempt field goals at a range many other teams could not. "Anywhere from 40 to 50 yards (37 to 46 m), he was a weapon", Tommy James, Groza's holder for eight years, later said.[17] Another championship win followed in 1949, but the AAFC dissolved after the season, and the Browns were among three teams absorbed by the more established National Football League (NFL).[4]

The war had shortened Groza's college career, so he continued to study at Ohio State in the offseason in his early years with the Browns. He graduated with a degree in business in 1949.[18] Groza married that year, to Jackie Lou Robbins, a girl from Martins Ferry who was working as a model in New York City when they first dated.[6]

The Browns' debut in the NFL in the 1950 season was closely watched; while the team dominated the AAFC in its short existence, some sportswriters, NFL owners and coaches considered the league inferior.[19] Cleveland put all doubts to rest in its first game against the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, winning 35–10.[20] In a game against the Washington Redskins later in the season, Groza broke a 24-year-old NFL record by kicking his 13th field goal of the season. He also scored the only touchdown of his career in that game on a reception from Graham.[21] The Browns ended the regular season with a 10–2 record in the American Conference, tied with the New York Giants. That forced a playoff against the Giants in which Groza kicked the winning field goal for the Browns with under a minute to play.[22]

Lou Groza kicks winning field goal, 1950
The game-winning field goal in the 1950 NFL championship was the highlight of Groza's long career.

The Browns next faced the Los Angeles Rams in the championship game. Groza came into the game as the NFL's leading kicker, both in terms of points scored and accuracy. He had a success rate of 68.4% in an era when most teams made fewer than half of their attempts.[23] The Rams went ahead early in the game on a touchdown pass from star quarterback Bob Waterfield and a scoring run by Dick Hoerner.[24] But Graham and the Browns came back with four touchdowns, two to receiver Dante Lavelli.[25] As time wound down in the fourth quarter, however, the Rams were ahead 28–27, and Cleveland had a final chance to win the game.[26] Graham drove the offense to the Rams' nine-yard line and set up a Groza field goal attempt. The 16-yard try sailed through the uprights with 28 seconds left, giving the Browns a 30–28 victory. It was the biggest kick of Groza's career.[27] "I never thought I would miss", he said later.[28] After the season, Groza was named to the first-ever Pro Bowl, the NFL's all-star game.[29]

Cleveland again reached the championship game in 1951, but lost this time in a rematch against the Rams.[30] Groza had a 52-yard field goal in the game, a record for a championship or Super Bowl that stood for 42 years.[31] He was again named to the Pro Bowl after the season.[32] The same scenario was repeated in 1952 and 1953: the Browns reached the championship both years, but lost both times to the Detroit Lions.[33] Groza was playing with cracked ribs in the 1952 championship loss, and he missed three field goals.[34] Groza set a record in 1953 when he made 23 field goals and had an 88.5% success rate, a single-season mark that stood for 28 years.[35] He made the Pro Bowl again in 1952 and 1953, and was a first-team All-Pro selection both years.[36]

The Browns came back in 1954 to win another championship.[37] That year, Groza was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player by Sporting News.[38] Cleveland won the championship again in 1955, beating the Rams 38–14.[39] Groza was named to the Pro Bowl and sportswriters' All-Pro teams in 1954 and 1955.[40]

Hurt by Graham's retirement before the season, Cleveland had its first-ever losing season in 1956.[41] Groza's kicking continued to be a strength through the ensuing three years: he reached the Pro Bowl in 1957, 1958 and 1959, and tied Sam Baker for league leader in points scored in 1957.[40][42] Cleveland reached the championship game in 1957 but lost to the Lions.[43] The Browns lost to the New York Giants in a single-elimination playoff in 1958, and failed to reach the postseason in 1959.[44][45] Groza sat out after the 1959 season due to a back injury and was presumed to be retired.[8] While his kicking was his most visible contribution to the team, Groza was also an offensive tackle up until his injury, when Brown replaced him with Dick Schafrath.[46] "Lou never got all the credit he deserved for his tackle play, probably because his great kicking skills got him more notoriety", Andy Robustelli, a defensive end who played against Groza, later said.[35]

Groza took 1960 off and did some scouting for the team. He also focused on an insurance business he started. "I was 36 and I thought I had retired", he said.[47] The following year, however, he came back to the team at the urging of Art Modell, who bought the Browns that year.[48] Not wanting to use a roster spot on a kicking specialist (Groza's back injury prevented him from playing on the line), Brown had signed Sam Baker to kick and play halfback.[48] But Groza was eager to return and Modell insisted.[49] Groza stayed with the team as a placekicker until 1967, and was on a Browns team that won the 1964 championship.[50] Groza scored the first points in that game on a third-quarter field goal.[51] He also kicked four kickoffs more than 70 yards (64 m) and out of the Baltimore Colts end zone, preventing a return.[52] Cleveland won 27–0.[53]

When Groza retired for good in 1968 after 21 seasons in professional football, he held NFL career records for points scored, field goals made and extra points made.[54] He had 234 field goals, 641 extra points, and 1,349 total points in the NFL. Counting his AAFC years, his career point total was 1,603.[54] He was the last of the original Browns still on the team.[54] Groza, who was 44 years old when he quit the game, said in his memoir that retiring was "the saddest day of my football life."[55] His top salary was $50,000 in his final year.[50]

Later life and death

After Groza retired, he entertained an offer to play for the San Francisco 49ers, but was reluctant to do so because he did not want to move his family and insurance business to the West Coast.[55] He was offered a spot with the Browns as a kicking coach, helping mentor the young Don Cockroft, but he declined.[55] Later in life, he became an ambassador and father figure for the Browns, inviting rookies over for dinner and helping them find apartments.[50] He continued to run a successful insurance business and lived in Berea, Ohio near the Browns' headquarters and training facility.[56] He and his wife Jackie were known as the team's First Family.[50]

Modell relocated the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 and renamed the team the Ravens, provoking a wave of anger and disbelief from fans and former players. Groza was a leading critic of the move, saying it was "like some man walking off with your wife."[57] In 1996, Groza wrote a memoir titled The Toe: The Lou Groza Story.[58] The Browns restarted as an expansion team in 1999.[57]

Groza was hobbled in the late 1990s by back and hip surgeries and Parkinson's disease. He suffered a heart attack in 2000 after dinner with his wife at Columbia Hills Country Club in Columbia Station, Ohio.[59][57] He was taken to a hospital in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, where he died.[57] He was buried in Sunset Memorial Park in North Olmsted, Ohio.[60] Groza and his wife had three sons and a daughter.[57] Following Groza's death, the Browns wore his number 76 on their helmets for the 2001 season.[57]

Kicking style

Lou Groza's Kicking Shoes (11282314243)
Lou Groza's kicking shoes
Lou Groza demonstrates kicking technique, 1947
Groza laid a piece of tape on the ground for better accuracy before the practice was outlawed by the "Lou Groza Rule".

While field goals had long been viewed as an important part of football strategy, kicking specialists were a rarity before Groza's time.[61] Groza's success from distances of 40 yards (37 m) and beyond raised the bar for kickers across the league.[62] He set single-season NFL records for accuracy, distance and number of field goals in his first three years in the league, marks that went unbeaten until kicking specialists became a common feature of the game in the early 1970s.[62] Groza's kicking was the difference in 15% of the Browns' games during the AAFC years, and teams began to take notice when his field goals made the difference in both the NFL playoffs and the championship game in 1950.[63] "Everybody started to pay attention to field goals when the Browns started to win games with them", Pat Summerall said.[63] Groza led the NFL in field goals made five times in his career.[64]

Groza was a straight-ahead kicker. He approached the football in a straight line and booted it with the top of his foot, aiming for the middle of the ball.[65] Early in his career, Groza scraped the ground with his cleats in a straight line to help guide his kicks. Later he put down a piece of one-inch adhesive tape rolled up inside his helmet.[66] The "Lou Groza Rule" in 1950 banned the use of artificial kicking aids, including the tape.[66][42][67] The straight-ahead style used by Groza and other kickers of his era has since been supplanted by soccer-style kicking with the side of the foot.[50] "I don't know why all the kids kick soccer-style", he said in 1997. "They kick the ball with the side of their foot, which is supposed to give them better control. I don't know, I never tried it."[50]

Legacy

Groza was named to the National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team in 1969 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.[68][69] The Browns retired his number 76; he is also in the team's Ring of Honor, a grouping of the best players in the club's history whose names are displayed below upper-deck seats at FirstEnergy Stadium.[70][71] In 1992, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission established the Lou Groza Award, given to the best National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) kicker.[72] [73] One of his kicking shoes is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.[57]

The city of Berea, Ohio (where Groza settled down after his retirement), has honored him in numerous ways:

  • The street the Browns training facility is located was renamed 76 Lou Groza Boulevard[74]
  • In 2012, Lou Groza Field was built in Berea.
  • The above field is home of the Lou Groza Football program, serving middle school aged children in suburban Cleveland.[75]
  • In 2016, Groza was honored with a statue in front of his namesake field.[76]

References

  1. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 187.
  2. ^ "Lou Groza biography". Lou Groza Football. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Boyer 2006, p. 40.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Piascik 2007, p. 21.
  5. ^ a b c d e Keim 1999, p. 29.
  6. ^ a b c d Heaton 2007, p. 170.
  7. ^ Heaton 2007, pp. 170–171.
  8. ^ a b c Keim 1999, p. 27.
  9. ^ Cantor 2008, p. 82.
  10. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 188.
  11. ^ a b c Heaton 2007, p. 171.
  12. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 58.
  13. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 63–64.
  14. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 79.
  15. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 121.
  16. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 111.
  17. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 112.
  18. ^ Pluto 1997, pp. 189–190.
  19. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 152–153, 160, 162.
  20. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 164.
  21. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 173.
  22. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 175.
  23. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 177.
  24. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 178.
  25. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 178–179.
  26. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 179.
  27. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 180–181.
  28. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 181.
  29. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 185.
  30. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 234.
  31. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 232.
  32. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 235.
  33. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 253, 281.
  34. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 253.
  35. ^ a b Piascik 2007, p. 258.
  36. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 254, 284.
  37. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 325.
  38. ^ "Cleveland's Lou Groza Is Top Pro Player". Southeast Missourian. Associated Press. December 20, 1954. p. 5. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  39. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 341.
  40. ^ a b "Lou Groza NFL Football Statistics". Pro Football Reference. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  41. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 366–367.
  42. ^ a b Gonslaves, Rick. "The Toe" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2012. He wished that he could use his kicking tape now, but the NFL had outlawed it that season, stating that no artificial medium can be used by a player to assist in the execution of a placekick. This became known as 'the Lou Groza Rule'.
  43. ^ "1957 Cleveland Browns Statistics & Players". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  44. ^ "1958 Cleveland Browns Statistics & Players". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  45. ^ "1959 Cleveland Browns Statistics & Players". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  46. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 204.
  47. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 44.
  48. ^ a b Cantor 2008, p. 168.
  49. ^ Cantor 2008, p. 169.
  50. ^ a b c d e f Pluto 1997, p. 191.
  51. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 150.
  52. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 149.
  53. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 151.
  54. ^ a b c Heaton, Chuck (September 11, 1968). "Lou the Toe Retires – Without a Kick". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 10.
  55. ^ a b c Groza 2003, p. 100.
  56. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 186.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g Goldstein, Richard (December 1, 2000). "Lou Groza, 76, Star Kicker For Cleveland Browns, Dies". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  58. ^ Groza 2003.
  59. ^ Boyer 2006, p. 42.
  60. ^ "Lou "The Toe" Groza". Find a Grave. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  61. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 255.
  62. ^ a b Piascik 2007, p. 256.
  63. ^ a b Piascik 2007, p. 257.
  64. ^ "NFL Year-by-Year Field Goal % Leaders". Pro Football Reference. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  65. ^ Pluto 1997, p. 190.
  66. ^ a b Groza 2003, p. 49.
  67. ^ Sauerbrei, Harold (June 11, 1950). "N.L. Bans Groza's Grid Tape 'Guide'". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 7B. A note under Item C, Article 1 of Section 5 of the new National League rule book released last week, reads 'On an attempted field goal (including a free-kick) the kicker may not use a tape line, piece of tape or paper, dirt mound or lime from an adjacent yard line as a marker for intended spot of kick'. Commissioner Bert Bell of the National League yesterday told Coach Paul Brown that the new rule was not aimed specifically at Groza or the Browns.
  68. ^ "NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s – OFFENSE". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  69. ^ "Groza, 3 More Into Grid Hall". The News-Dispatch. United Press International. February 6, 1974. p. 15. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  70. ^ "Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor". Cleveland Browns. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  71. ^ Keim 1999, p. 31.
  72. ^ "The Award". Palm Beach Sports Commission. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  73. ^ Boyer 2006, p. 39.
  74. ^ About Lou Groza - Lou Groza Football.com
  75. ^ Lou Groza Football
  76. ^ Lou Groza Field now has statue - Cleveland.com (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Bibliography

  • Boyer, Mary Schmitt (2006). Browns Essential. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 978-1-57243-873-6.
  • Cantor, George (2008). Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 978-1-57243-725-8.
  • Groza, Lou; Hodermarsky, Mark (2003). The Toe: The Lou Groza Story. Cleveland: Gray & Company. ISBN 978-1-886228-80-1.
  • Heaton, Chuck (2007). Browns Scrapbook: A Fond Look Back at Five Decades of Football, from a Legendary Cleveland Sportswriter. Cleveland: Gray & Company. ISBN 978-1-59851-043-0.
  • Keim, John (1999). Legends by the Lake: The Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press. ISBN 978-1-884836-47-3.
  • Piascik, Andy (2007). The Best Show in Football: The 1946–1955 Cleveland Browns. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-571-6.
  • Pluto, Terry (1997). Browns Town 1964: Cleveland Browns and the 1964 Championship. Cleveland: Gray & Company. ISBN 978-1-886228-72-6.

External links

1946 Cleveland Browns season

The 1946 Cleveland Browns season was the team's first in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). The Browns, coached by Paul Brown, ended the year with a record of 12–2, winning the AAFC's Western Division. Led by quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, the team won the first AAFC championship game against the New York Yankees.

The Browns were founded by Arthur B. McBride, a Cleveland taxi-cab tycoon, as a charter franchise in the new AAFC. McBride in 1945 hired Brown, a successful coach at the high school and college levels. Brown, who was serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, began to assemble a roster as the team prepared to begin play in 1946. After beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in an exhibition game, Cleveland opened the regular season against the Miami Seahawks at Cleveland Stadium on September 6, winning 44–0. The Browns proceeded to win six more games before losing for the first time in October against the San Francisco 49ers at home by a score of 34–20. Cleveland lost a second game in a row against the Los Angeles Dons the following week, but rebounded to win the final five games of the season, including a 66–14 victory over the Dodgers. Cleveland finished with the league's best record and a spot in the championship game against the Yankees. The Browns won the game 14–9.

Lavelli led the AAFC in receiving with 843 yards and 8 touchdowns, while placekicker Lou Groza led the league in points scored, with 84. Graham had the league's best passing average, with 10.5 yards per attempt. His quarterback rating of 112.1 was the highest in professional football history until Joe Montana surpassed it in 1989. Cleveland played all of its home games in Cleveland Stadium. The 1946 Browns set a professional football record with 67 defensive takeaways; the record still stands as of 2019.

1947 Cleveland Browns season

The 1947 Cleveland Browns season was the team's second in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Coached by Paul Brown, Cleveland finished with a 12–1–1 win–loss–tie record, winning the western division and the AAFC championship for the second straight year. As in 1946, quarterback Otto Graham led an offensive attack that featured fullback Marion Motley and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie.

After a number of coaching changes and roster moves in the offseason, including signing punter Horace Gillom and fullback Tony Adamle, the Browns began with a 30–14 win over the Buffalo Bills, the first of a string of five victories. The team lost its only game of the season to the Los Angeles Dons in October. Five more wins followed before a come-from-behind tie in November with the New York Yankees, the team Cleveland defeated in the 1946 AAFC championship. The Browns won their last two games, including a 42–0 shutout against the Baltimore Colts in the finale, to set up a championship game rematch with the Yankees in December. Cleveland beat the Yankees 14–3 in New York on an icy field to win its second championship in a row.

Graham was named the AAFC's most valuable player after leading the league in passing yards, with 2,753, and passing touchdowns, with 25. Speedie led the league in receiving, and several other Cleveland players were named to sportswriters' All-Pro lists. Brown was named the league's coach of the year by Pro Football Illustrated. The Browns played all their home games in Cleveland Stadium, attracting an average crowd of 55,848, the best home attendance record in both the AAFC and the competing National Football League (NFL).

1948 Cleveland Browns season

The 1948 Cleveland Browns season was the team's third in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). After winning the AAFC crown in 1946 and 1947, the league's first two years of existence, the Browns repeated as champions in 1948 and had a perfect season, winning all of their games.

The season began with a number of roster moves, including the addition of linebacker Alex Agase and halfbacks Ara Parseghian and Dub Jones. Following training camp and two preseason games, the Browns began the regular season with a win against the Buffalo Bills. Led by quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and ends Mac Speedie and Dante Lavelli, the Browns followed with a string of victories leading up to a November matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams had perfect records to that point, the 49ers relying heavily on the offensive production of quarterback Frankie Albert and end Alyn Beals to win their first 10 games. The Browns beat the 49ers 14–7, and followed two weeks later with another narrow victory over San Francisco, their closest competition in the AAFC in 1948.

By the end of the season, the Browns had a perfect 14–0 record and led the league's Western Division, setting up a championship-game matchup with the Bills, who had won a playoff to take the Eastern Division. Cleveland beat Buffalo 49–7 in December to win the championship and preserve its unbeaten record. After the season, Graham, Motley and Speedie were included in many news organizations' All-Pro teams, alongside several other teammates. Graham was named the co-Most Valuable Player of the league alongside Albert. Browns games were televised for the first time in 1948.

The season is recognized as perfect by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although the National Football League (NFL), which absorbed the Browns when the AAFC dissolved in 1949, does not recognize it. Ohio senator Sherrod Brown wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in 2008 asking the league to officially recognize AAFC team statistics, including the perfect season. The 2007 New England Patriots were vying to complete a 19–0 season at the time and join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to register a perfect record.

In the 2017 NFL season, the Browns went 0-16, becoming the first team in NFL history to have a imperfect season and a perfect season.

1949 Cleveland Browns season

The 1949 Cleveland Browns season was the team's fourth and final season in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). The Browns finished the regular season with a 9–1–2 win–loss–tie record and beat the San Francisco 49ers to win their fourth straight league championship. In the season's sixth game on October 9, 1949, the 49ers stopped the Browns' professional football record unbeaten streak after 29 games. The streak started two years before on October 19, 1947, and included two league championship games and two ties.

Cleveland made numerous roster moves before the season, adding tackle Derrell Palmer, linebacker Tommy Thompson and defensive back Warren Lahr, all of whom remained with the team for many years afterward. It was clear even before the season began, however, that the AAFC was struggling and might not survive beyond the 1949 season. The regular season was shortened to 12 games and a new system where the top four teams would participate in a two-week playoff was put into place.

The Browns began the season with a tie against the Buffalo Bills, but won their next four games. Following their loss to the 49ers in the sixth game of the season, the Browns won all but one of their remaining regular-season games, another tie with the Bills. The team finished atop the AAFC standings and faced the Bills in a league semifinal that they won, 31–21. The Browns then beat the 49ers in the championship game, shortly after AAFC and National Football League (NFL) owners agreed to a deal where the Browns, 49ers and Baltimore Colts would merge into the NFL starting in 1950 and the rest of the AAFC teams would cease to exist.

Browns players including quarterback Otto Graham, end Mac Speedie and linebacker Lou Saban were named to sportswriters' All-Pro lists after the season, while head coach Paul Brown was named AAFC coach of the year by Sporting News. Graham led the league in passing for the third time in a row, while Speedie was the league leader in yards and receptions. Fullback Marion Motley was the AAFC's all-time leading rusher. While the Browns were successful in the AAFC, winning all four of its championships, many people doubted that they could match up against NFL teams. Cleveland went on to win the 1950 NFL championship.

1950 Cleveland Browns season

The 1950 Cleveland Browns season was the team's first in the National Football League (NFL) after playing the previous four years in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), which folded after the 1949 season. The Browns finished the regular season with a 10–2 win–loss record and beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the NFL championship. It was Cleveland's fifth consecutive championship victory, the previous four having come in the AAFC.

Cleveland added 12 new players to its roster before the season began, several of whom came from other AAFC teams that had dissolved as part of a selective merger of the Browns, the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers into the NFL in 1949. They included guard Abe Gibron, who went on to a 10-year football career, and Len Ford, a defensive end who had a Hall of Fame career with the Browns. The team's top draft choice was halfback Ken Carpenter.

After winning all five of their preseason games, the Browns faced the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in their first regular-season game. Many sportswriters and owners considered the Browns inferior despite their success in the AAFC, calling them the dominant team in a minor league, but Cleveland defeated Philadelphia 35–10, the first of 10 victories on the season. Cleveland's only two losses came against the New York Giants, with whom the team shared a 10–2 record at the end of the regular season.

The tie forced a playoff to determine whether the Browns or Giants would win the American Conference and play in the championship game. Cleveland won the playoff 8–3 in freezing weather at Cleveland Stadium. A week later, on Christmas Eve, the Browns faced the Rams at home in the championship. Cleveland fell behind 28–20 in the fourth quarter against the Rams' potent offense, but quarterback Otto Graham engineered a comeback with a touchdown pass to Rex Bumgardner and a long drive that set up a winning field goal by Lou Groza with 28 seconds left to play. It was the first of six straight NFL championship appearances for the Browns. Cleveland fullback Marion Motley led the NFL in rushing, and seven Browns were selected to play in the first-ever Pro Bowl, the league's all-star game.

1950 NFL Championship Game

The 1950 National Football League Championship Game was the 18th National Football League (NFL) title game, played on Sunday, December 24th at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.In their first NFL season after four years in the rival All-America Football Conference, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 30–28. The championship was the first of three won by Cleveland in the 1950s under head coach Paul Brown behind an offense that featured quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley, and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie.

Cleveland began the season with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles, who had won the previous two NFL championships. The Browns won all but two of their regular-season games, both losses coming against the New York Giants. Cleveland ended the season with a 10–2 win–loss record, tied with the Giants for first place in the American Conference. The tie forced a playoff that the Browns won, 8–3. Los Angeles, meanwhile, finished the season 9–3, tied with the Chicago Bears for first place in the National Conference. The Rams won their playoff, setting up the championship matchup with the Browns, in which the Browns were four-point favorites at home.The game began with a long touchdown pass from Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield to halfback Glenn Davis on the first play from scrimmage, giving Los Angeles an early lead. Cleveland tied the game later in the first quarter with a touchdown from Graham to Dub Jones, but the Rams quickly went ahead again on a Dick Hoerner touchdown run. Cleveland scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second and third quarters, retaking a 20–14 lead. A pair of Rams touchdowns in the third quarter, however, gave Los Angeles a two-possession advantage going into the final period. Cleveland responded with a diving touchdown catch by Rex Bumgardner in the final minutes of the game, followed by a field goal by placekicker Lou Groza with 28 seconds left to win, 30–28.

Lavelli set a then championship-game record with 11 receptions, and Waterfield's 82-yard pass to Davis on the first play of the game was then the longest scoring play in championship history. Los Angeles had 407 total yards to Cleveland's 373, but Cleveland had five interceptions, compared to just one for the Rams. The Browns' Warren Lahr had two interceptions in the game. After the game, NFL commissioner Bert Bell called Cleveland "the greatest team ever to play football".

1950 NFL playoffs

The 1950 National Football League playoffs took place after the 1950 regular season ended with a tie for first place in both the American and National conferences. The ties forced one-game playoffs to determine who would play in the NFL championship game. It was the only time in the NFL's championship-game era that two such tiebreaker playoff games were needed in the same year. The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants tied for first place in the American Conference, while the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams tied for first place in the National Conference. The Browns proceeded to beat the Giants 8–3, and the Rams beat the Bears 24–14 in their playoff game. Cleveland then beat the Rams in the championship game the following week.

Playing their first year in the NFL after four years in the rival All-America Football Conference, the Browns battled with the Giants for the lead in the American Conference for most of the regular season. Cleveland ended with a 10–2 win–loss record, having lost its only two games against the Giants. The Giants, meanwhile, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Cardinals. In the National Conference, the Bears and Rams were also near the top of the standings in the second half of the 12-game season, and both ended with 9–3 records.

The Browns and Giants and the Rams and Bears played their playoff games on December 17. In Cleveland against the Giants, the Browns won a low-scoring game in freezing conditions on two field goals by placekicker Lou Groza and a late-game safety. The Rams beat the Bears in 92-degree heat in Los Angeles, thanks largely to a strong performance by quarterback Bob Waterfield, who threw three touchdowns to end Tom Fears. The results set up a championship matchup between the Browns and Rams. The Browns won the game 30–28 on a Groza field goal with 28 seconds to play.

1951 All-Pro Team

The 1951 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1951 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Associated Press (AP) (chosen in a national poll of AP football writers), the United Press (UP) (selected by UP sports writers), and the New York Daily News.The All-Pro selections were dominated by players from the Cleveland Browns (nine first-team honorees including Otto Graham and Lou Groza), New York Giants (seven honorees including Emlen Tunnell), Los Angeles Rams (six first-team honorees including Elroy Hirsch), and Detroit Lions (four first-team honorees including Doak Walker).

This was the first year that separate defensive and offensive teams were selected as up until this point most players had played both ways for much of the game (although this had decreased in the later 1940s), so a quarterback/tailback/ halfback on offense usually just became a defensive back similar to today's safety when playing defense while the fullback, usually a larger player, or a larger halfback (and before the T-formation, the quarterback, who was usually actually a blocking back on offence), would play a position similar to linebacker. Ends would also usually convert to defensive backs, similar to corner backs of today.

Alexis Serna

Alexis Serna (born February 8, 1985) is a former placekicker and punter who played in the Canadian Football League from 2008 to 2010 for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He graduated from A. B. Miller High School in Fontana, California. He was the starting placekicker and punter for the Oregon State University football team, the Oregon State Beavers, from 2004-2007. He won the 2005 Lou Groza Award which recognized him as the best placekicker in the United States. On June 3, 2008, Serna signed a contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and was the team's starting kicker, replacing Troy Westwood. On August 10, 2010, Serna was released by the Blue Bombers.

Andre Heidari

Andre Heidari is an American football placekicker who is currently a free agent. He played college football for the USC Trojans. As a true freshman in 2011, he completed 88.2% of his field goals, the third highest field goal percentage in the nation, and all 50 of his PAT attempts. He was named First Team All-Pac-12, Sports Illustrated All-American Honorable Mention, and First Team Freshman All-American by Phil Steele. He was also a 2011 Lou Groza Award semifinalist.

Brad Craddock

Brad Craddock (born June 24, 1992) is an Australian-born American football placekicker who is currently a free agent. He played college football for the University of Maryland, College Park.

Joe Allison (gridiron football)

Joe Allison is a former American football placekicker. Allison is perhaps most famous for being the winner of the inaugural Lou Groza Award in 1992, the award presented to honor the top placekicker in college football. He went on to play in one game for the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League in 1995.

Jonathan Nichols (American football)

Jonathan Nichols (born March 26, 1981) is a former American football placekicker. Nichols won the Lou Groza Award in 2003, given to the best kicker in college football. Nichols played for the University of Mississippi Rebels.

Judd Davis

Judd Dillon Davis (born c. 1973) is an American former football player who was the 1993 recipient of the Lou Groza Award recognizing the best placekicker in college football.

Davis grew up in Ocala, Florida. He attended Forest High School in Ocala, and played high school football for the Forest Wildcats as both punter and placekicker. During his high school senior season, he completed seven of eight field goals attempts, with a long of 49 yards, and averaged over 40 yards per punt.

Davis attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators football team from 1991 to 1994. He was initially a walk-on player and saw no game action until his 1992 sophomore season. During his 1993 junior season, he completed fifteen of nineteen (78.95%) field goal attempts, and forty-seven of forty-nine (95.92%) extra point attempts. Memorably, he completed four of four attempted field goals and three of three extra point attempts, and providing the Gators' winning margin in their 33–26 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in wet field conditions. In addition to winning the Lou Groza Award in 1993, Davis received first-team All-American honors from United Press International and third-team honors from the Associated Press. He received first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors as a senior in 1994.During his three-season college career, Davis set or tied eight school records and three SEC records. In 1994, he surpassed former Gators running back Emmitt Smith to become the Gators' all-time leading scorer with 225 career points. Including bowl games, Davis completed nearly 87 percent of his field goal attempts (33 of 38) inside of 50 yards. He completed two of four attempts greater than 50 yards, including a career long of 52 year against the Ole Miss Rebels in 1994. On point-after-touchdown attempts, he completed 129 of 131 extra points, a new team record.

Davis graduated from Florida with a bachelor's degree in American studies in 1995. He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 2011. He now lives in Ocala, Florida and has two children, Connor and Maggie Davis.

Ka'imi Fairbairn

John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a "Ka'imi" Fairbairn (born January 29, 1994) is an American football placekicker with the Houston Texans in the National Football League (NFL). Playing college football with the UCLA Bruins, he was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior, when he was also awarded the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top college kicker in 2015. After winning the kicking position as a true freshman, Fairbairn became the Pac-12 Conference record holder for the most career points scored. Undrafted out of college, he signed with Houston as a free agent and was named their starting kicker the following year in 2017.

List of Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl selections

This is a list of Cleveland Browns players who were elected to the Pro Bowl.

The year indicates when the game was played, not the season that it followed.

Lou Groza Award

The Lou Groza Award is presented annually to the top college football placekicker in the United States by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. The award is named after former Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Browns player Lou Groza. It has been presented since 1992, with Joe Allison of Memphis receiving the inaugural award. The incumbent award holder is Andre Szmyt of Syracuse. The award is part of the National College Football Awards Association coalition.

Marc Primanti

Marc Primanti is a former American football kicker who played college football for North Carolina State University. He won the Lou Groza Award and earned consensus All-American honors in 1996 after successfully completing 20-of-20 field goals during the season.

Steve McLaughlin

Steven John McLaughlin (born October 2, 1971) is a former American college and professional football player who was a placekicker in the National Football League (NFL) and the Arena Football League. He played college football for the University of Arizona, earned All-American honors and won the Lou Groza Award. A third-round choice in the 1995 NFL Draft, he played for the NFL's St. Louis Rams, as well as five different Arena League teams over an 11-year career.

Lou Groza— awards, championships, and honors

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