When it comes to opening games, nothing surpasses the Browns' first game in the National Football League according to the man who got Cleveland started on a glorious 35-10 triumph Sept. 17, 1950.
William (Dub) Jones said that trouncing of the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, "was the biggest game we ever played, including all those championships."
That is saying a lot since Jones played in a championship game at the end of each of his eight seasons in Cleveland. The first two came when the Browns were in the All-America Football Conference. The next six were in the NFL.
"That game was so special because we had looked forward for years to playing it," Jones said. "A lot of people said the Browns won championships in a joke league. Paul Brown had us as prepared as any team ever for a game.
"We had to be, because the Eagles had a great defense. Most thought it was impossible to penetrate that defense and score that many points against them.
"Greasy Neale was their coach, a tough old son of a gun. The New York Giants get credit for inventing the umbrella defense in the 1950s, but Neale was really using it then and stopping everybody."
It didn't matter to the Browns' offensive juggernaut. Jones caught a 59-yard pass for the Browns' first touchdown in the NFL. His 57-yard run late in the game capped the triumph.
"We had so many great players," Jones said. "Everybody knows what a great quarterback and leader Otto Graham was. Mac Speedie was the greatest receiver of that era. And we had Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli and great linemen like Lou Rymkus, Abe Gibron and Lou Groza. That's just on offense, mind you."
Jones, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder as adept catching the ball out of the backfield as he was running from his halfback position, fit right in with the established offense, though he admits he didn't feel comfortable immediately.
"I got to Cleveland in 1948 and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said. "I had played for two of those really bad teams in the All-America Football Conference, the Miami Sea-hawks and Brooklyn Dodgers, so to get traded to the Browns was like living a dream.
"Paul Brown used to cite that trade as one of the best he ever made. That made me feel great for years and years, even after I retired. Then a few years ago, I read his book and he wrote the real reason he made the trade was he also got $20,000 in the deal. Back then, that was like $200,000 today. What he wanted was the money.
"I made the starting lineup right away, but it took me maybe a year to really get accepted by the veterans. That's the beautiful thing about a winning team, you have to earn your way. On a losing team you are not always sure the guy next to you is playing 100 percent on every down. On a winner, especially the Browns under Paul Brown, there was never a doubt. You played hard or you were gone. Period."
Jones said the Browns had so many offensive weapons that he and others often felt slighted.
"There were games where I wish I had been used more," he admitted. "But Dante and Mac and Marion felt the same way. Paul Brown had no trouble relegating responsibility."
Jones' talents were used on Nov. 25, 1951, in a 42-21 thrashing of the powerful Chicago Bears. He scored an NFL-record six touchdowns, a feat also accomplished only by Ernie Nevers in 1929 and Gale Sayers in 1965.
"What made it satisfying was it was against the team that was leading the other conference at the time," Jones said. "It was a very tough game, very emotional. The record for most penalties was set in that game."
The Browns had a record 209 yards in penalties, the Bears, 165. The 37 total penalties and 374 total yards remain records for one game. Jones scored the final five times he touched the ball. The last one was a 43-yard pass from Graham.
"I knew Dub needed one more TD to tie the record," Graham told reporters years later, "so when Paul Brown sent in a running play I ignored it and called for a pass. It was one of the few times I disobeyed him.
"I was always happy Dub got that record. He was truly a real team man. He didn't give a darn about records as long as we won. He was by far one of my best receivers at analyzing defenses. When he would come back to the huddle and tell me what he thought would work, I listened because you could count on him being right."
"I was out of football from 1955 until Blanton Collier gave me a call in 1963 and asked me to be an assistant coach," he said.
"I appreciated the interest, but wasn't sure I wanted to do it. But I took the job and the next year we won the championship. That was very rewarding. We had a lot of offensive talent and an average defense. But it was that defense that played its heart out and won the championship (27-0 over Baltimore).
"I took the job with the understanding I could bring my family with me to Cleveland. I was the only guy allowed to bring his family to training camp. My son Bert warmed up Frank Ryan and Jim Ninowski.
"Bert later became a star quarterback at Louisiana State and with the Baltimore Colts.
"It was very satisfying to follow Bert's career," Jones said. "My younger son Tom was a quarterback at Arkansas and we enjoyed his career, too. Now, he's my boss."
The Jones family runs a general contracting company in their long-time home of Ruston, La., but Dub (short for the 'W' in his first name of William) still follows football, particularly the Browns.
"I'm so happy Cleveland has its team back because what happened to those great fans was just terrible," Jones said. "I watch as many Browns games as I can. I like what I see of the team this year.
"I get a gleam now and then of parts of the game that I like. What I enjoy is
seeing a young player come out and do the job like Kurt Warner did with the
Rams. That's exciting and you don't see things like that too much these days."