Looking Back: Frank Minnifield

Frank Minnifield, along with Hanford Dixon, comprised arguably the best cornerback tandem in the Cleveland Browns history. Chuck Murr caught up with #31 late in the 2001 season talk about the new Browns, the new Stadium, and how the game has changed in just 15 short years.

Present Occupation: I have my own company called Minnifield Enterprises. I actually have several companies that are part of Minnifield Enterprises. Most of them are in the construction business. Minnifield All Pro Homes builds homes in the $120,000 - $150,000 range. Team Realty is a full service real estate brokerage firm whose main responsibility is marketing Minnifield All Pro Homes. Kitchen and Bath Creations manufactures cabinets. First En-Counters makes countertops. Then I have another company separate from the construction business called Minnifield Services. It is a steel brokering business that caters to the automobile industry in Kentucky.

Family: My wife, Diane, and I have two kids. Chase is 12 years old and Chanel is 10.

Residence: We live in Lexington, Kentucky.

Q: How do the current DB's compare to you and Hanford during the 80's?
A:  The rules today are terrible. Guys like Hanford and me wouldn't have a chance today. Back when we played it was a much more physical game. We scratched, we held, we bit, we pushed, we intimidated. The rules today are so lenient towards wide receivers that a DB cannot even touch a wide receiver without a penalty being called. I hate where the NFL has taken the rules. QB's should be able to pass for 10,000 yards a game with the rules like they are now

The defense was built around Hanford and me when we played. We put a lot of guys in the box and it allowed us to play a lot of man coverage. We forced teams to throw against us. We could get away with it back then because the rules were not as strict.

Nowadays it is impossible to do this because the rules allow for the wide receivers to get open so easily. It is a lot harder to isolate DB's in that type of scheme for that reason. They have no chance now and I think the game is worse off for it.

Receivers had to make their money back then. I cannot imagine how a guy like Lynn Swann would fare today with the new rules. He would rewrite the record books even more than he did.

Q: What is your favorite Browns memory?
A: The New York jets overtime playoff game. Everybody left the Stadium and came flying back in when they heard we were coming back.
We basically checked out ourselves. There was a feeling on the sidelines that we were out of it.

Then Bernie, Webster and Brian Brennan made some awesome plays and you could feel the life being pumped back into us. I had the best seat in the house on the sidelines watching those guys make the plays to get us back into it.

Q: Have you visited the new stadium?
A: I have seen three games at the Stadium this year.

Q: How does it compare to the old Municipal Stadium and the old Dawg Pound in particular?
A: Let me say this. Denver really has an advantage with where they play because of the altitude. I always felt like I couldn't breathe for the first half because it was difficult to get acclimated to the altitude. Seattle had the dome. It was so loud in there that you couldn't even hear yourself think.

I always felt we had an advantage with the old Municipal Stadium because nobody wanted to come there to play. It was such a had experience for opposing because of the horrible condition of the facility that it created a nice advantage for us.

All the things you heard about the old Stadium were true. The locker rooms were dilapidated and cold. And yes it was true you were lucky as a player to have a nail in the locker to hang your clothes. The sod was always coming up. There were rises all over the field, especially near the Dawg Pound end zone. The Dawg Pound bleachers were right there on top of the field and the fans were pitching dog biscuits, beer and other things that really made it difficult for opposing team to concentrate, not to mention a few extra shots by the fans when an opposing player got to close to the back of the end zone.

This new facility is so nice that I think we have lost that edge. Players don't mind coming here anymore because it is such a great facility.

Q: The Drive and The Fumble were two of the most memorable games in Browns history. Almost 15 years later, do you still think about those games and what could have been?
A: The Drive game is on ESPN every week. It has to be the most replayed game ever. A week doesn't go by that somebody I know doesn't see it and bring it up.

I still think about it. I replay in mind all the time things we could have done differently. Unfortunately it is like watching the movie Titanic, as much as I don't want it to go down at the end, it always does. Same with The Drive, the outcome doesn't change even though I want it to every time I see it or replay it in my mind.

As far as The Fumble is concerned, that one doesn't hurt as much. It was more of an offensive thing than anything else.

Q: How did those games affect your career?
A: I think it not only changed my career but pro football as well. We had the best team in the league both those years. We certainly would have matched up better versus the NFC than Denver did The NFC kept up their dominance over the AFC for years to come because of it.

The NFC was more of a power league and liked to run the ball. Our defense was suited for putting a lot of guys in the box, stopping the run and forcing teams to beat us with the pass. A pocket passer like Phil Simms would not have been able to have the kind of success against us like he did against Denver because of the type of defense we ran. 1 think we beat them the year before that season and the year after.

Unfortunately, it also had the effect of costing a lot of talented guys on our team to have a shot at the Hall of Fame. If we would have won a Super Bowl then I think a lot of deserving guys on our team would have had a better chance of making it to the Hall. But given the circumstances, I don't think a lot of them will get the recognition they deserve. It truly is unfortunate because we had some really good players that could have made it otherwise.

Q: Do you get to watch many Browns games?
A: I have seen three games in person and watched a few others on television.

Q: What do the Browns need to get to the next level?
A: Experience. They remind me of the 1985 team. We were young just like them and played entirely on talent. We didn't understand what the game was all about yet. We reacted more than we played instinctively.

They need to gain experience and understand as a team that games start on Monday. Good preparation leads to instinctive play and gives you the edge over your opponent. The difference in talent from one team to the next is small and the team that has to think about what to do on every play and react rather than anticipate is really at a disadvantage.

This takes time. Leaders in the locker room need to emerge and push every player to spend more time in preparation and film study so they can gain this edge. The team demands a lot already, but players need to do more over and above what they are asked by their coaches. This doesn't mean a few people, but every player

This will come with experience. It took me a couple of years to figure it out and so will these guys. Then they will really be in good

Q: Do you ever get the itch to suit back up and go out there again?
A: No. When I fast started playing it was for the money, but then I fell in love with the city and people of Cleveland. I played for the team and the city thereafter. It was fun but I stayed two years too long.

Q: How did you know know it was time to retire?
A: I was injury free for the most of my career until the last two years. I had a lacerated kidney, two separated shoulders and had to play with braces and straps all over me those last two years.

I ran a sub-4.3 40 when I broke into the league and was lucky to run a 4.6 by the end of my career. Luckily, I learned a few tricks by then and was still able to do my job well, but there came a point where I just couldn't make up the ground anymore and my body told me to quit.

This article originally appeared in Bernies Insiders magazine on December 10, 2001.

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