Nine Notable Browns-related Pro Bowl Moments

Pro Bowl? Memorable? Well, it used to be, and the Browns played a part.

1951: Three weeks after the Browns won the championship in their first NFL season with a thrilling 30–28 home win over the Rams, the inaugural Pro Bowl was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Paul Brown and Joe Stydahar were rematched as the opposing coaches. Unlike the modern pattycake affairs, this game was hard-hitting and closely contested. Browns legend Otto Graham went most of the way at quarterback, scoring two touchdowns on sneaks and throwing for another. Six other Browns played that day, but the great Graham was named Player of the Game in the East’s 28–27 comeback win.

1953: Graham scored the only touchdown for the Eastern Conference “Americans” coached by Paul Brown, but he was also intercepted five times and lost a fumble in the 27–7 loss.

1962: Cleveland’s phenomenal fullback Jim Brown shed four tacklers for a Pro Bowl record 70-yard scoring run, giving his side a late 30–24 lead. Moments after being announced as the game’s MVP, as the East milked the clock, Brown fumbled deep in his own end. The Bears’ Bill George made the hit and recovery, giving Johnny Unitas a last-ditch chance to work his magic, which he did. Rams back Jon Arnett made the game-winning catch on his knees as time expired.

1963: Four days after the stunning dismissal of longtime coach Paul Brown, Jim Brown broke his year-old game record with 141 rushing yards, including first-quarter scoring runs of 1 and 50 yards in the East’s 30–20 win.

1965: Two weeks after leading the Browns to a stunning 27–0 title game triumph over Baltimore, quarterback Frank Ryan felt the brunt of Colts’ end Gino Marchetti’s anger. Reportedly still seething from Ryan’s choice to pass to Johnny Brewer in the dying seconds of the championship game, Marchetti sacked Ryan with a vengeance in the second quarter, knocking him out of the exhibition with a separated shoulder that required surgery and ultimately shortened his career.

1966: In what would turn out to be his last game, Jim Brown scored three times in a 36–7 romp at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Coach Blanton Collier led the East squad, which included Browns QB Frank Ryan, WR Gary Collins, guards Gene Hickerson and John Wooten, OT Dick Schafrath, LB Jim Houston and DE Paul Wiggin.

1990: Browns coach Bud Carson coached the AFC in Honolulu, and Cleveland was represented by five players. Defensive starters Michael Dean Perry, Clay Matthews and Frank Minnifield were joined by WR Webster Slaughter and LB Mike Johnson. Johnson picked off Mark Rypien midway through the fourth quarter, the 22-yard touchdown return narrowing their deficit to six points. With five seconds left Dave Krieg of Seattle (then in the AFC) found teammate Brian Blades in the end zone for the probable winning touchdown. But the officials flagged a lineman for illegal formation, a technicality that sealed a 27–21 NFL win.

2008: This game served as a consolation prize of sorts for Browns fans deprived of a playoff appearance despite a 10–6 record. The previous eight years had seen only one Brown Pro Bowl appearance (Jamir Miller in 2002), so six solid orange helmets in Hawaii seemed remarkable. Derek Anderson played more than any quarterback, but he was atrocious, going 10-for–26 for 103 yards and one interception, with a passer rating of just 34.6. The best Browns moments in the 42–30 AFC loss ended up being Braylon Edwards’ 31-yard catch from Peyton Manning to set up an early score and Josh Cribbs’ 41-yard kickoff return.

2011: With the Pro Bowl devolved into something of a farce, and only two offensive lineman, Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, to represent the Browns, Cleveland fans had little reason to tune in. But most of them eventually saw one bizarre highlight that embodied what this exhibition had become. With the AFC down 20 points in the final minute, QB Matt Cassel found teammate Dwayne Bowe deep over the middle. He lateraled to Montell Owens, who eventually flipped the ball back to the waiting Mack. The Browns’ center rumbled down the left sideline 40 yards to complete an absurdly amusing 67-yard scoring play.

Excerpted from the upcoming book Brown for the Count: A Compendium of Cleveland Browns Lists, now available for pre-ordering.

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