Updated date:

Cleveland Browns All-Time Best Team

Cleveland Browns offensive tackle, Joe Thomas, jogs onto the field for a 2016 game against the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium. Thomas is one of the greatest Browns players of all-time.

Cleveland Browns offensive tackle, Joe Thomas, jogs onto the field for a 2016 game against the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium. Thomas is one of the greatest Browns players of all-time.

Who Makes Up the All-Time Starting Lineup for the Cleveland Browns?

From their domination of the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 to their National Football League dynasty of the 1950s, and even into the more recent seasons of struggles, the Cleveland Browns have produced legends. With 20 players and 1 coach representing the Browns in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, determining the franchise's best player of all-time at some positions was quite obvious, but at others, it involved quite the process of elimination.

While many of the players selected to this all-time team did play as teammates, putting together an all-time team allows for some all-time wonderment. What if Joe Thomas had blocked for Jim Brown? What if Otto Graham had a tight end like Ozzie Newsome at his disposal? What if the standout defenders from the 1980s playoff run teamed up with the tenacious defensive linemen from the '50s?

So many more possibilities exist, but before you get to the list, let's look at how it was put together.

Selection Criteria for This List

The criteria used to develop this list of the greatest Cleveland Browns player at every position includes:

  • Legacy Honors (Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor, retired number, etc.)
  • Single-Season Honors (MVP, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, etc.)
  • On-Field Success (league leader, playoff appearances, records, etc.)
  • Longevity (years with the Browns, percentage of career with the Browns, contributions to the Browns, etc.)

Only games played with the Browns are factored into this list, so while Hall of Famers like Tommy McDonald, Len Dawson, and Willie Davis had great careers, their limited seasons in Cleveland means they won't make the cut here. So without further ado, let's review the Cleveland Browns all-time team. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on these selections.

Offensive Players on the Browns All-Time Best Team

The Cleveland Browns have definitely had more weapons on offense than defense in their 71-year history, and selecting the best of the best at some positions was a tricky task. While certain positions (quarterback, running back, and tight end) were fairly easy to select, determining who should start on the offensive line was a very difficult process. Of the 21 individuals inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame who represent Cleveland, five played along the offensive line. That list doesn't even include some of the greatest offensive lineman the Browns have seen. At wide receiver, Cleveland also has seen its fair share of talent, and whittling the list down to the best three for this team wasn't easy, either.

The following are the 11 players who comprise the all-time starting offense for the Cleveland Browns.

Quarterback: Otto Graham

  • Seasons With Browns: 1946–55
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–55
  • All-AAFC: 1946–49
  • All-Pro: 1951–55
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–54
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1965); AAFC Most Valuable Player (1947–48), NFL MVP (1951, '53, '55)

As the first starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Otto Graham still remains the greatest ever to play for the team more than half a century later. Graham was a reliable driver of the offense, taking the Browns to league championship games each season of his career, and winning a title in 7 of those 10 appearances. Graham completed 1,464 of 2,626 career passes for 23,584 yards and 174 touchdowns, which remains a franchise record.

The Best of the Rest

  • Bernie Kosar
  • Frank Ryan
  • Brian Sipe
Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back, Jim Brown, smiles on the sidelines before a 2019 game against the Los Angeles Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back, Jim Brown, smiles on the sidelines before a 2019 game against the Los Angeles Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Running Back: Jim Brown

  • Seasons With Browns: 1957–65
  • Postseason Appearances: 1957–58, 1964–65
  • All-Pro: 1957–65
  • Pro Bowl: 1957–65
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1971); Browns No. 32 Retired, NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, Most Valuable Player, 1957–58, 1965; Rookie of the Year, 1957

James "Jim" Brown is considered one of the greatest football players in the history of the NFL, so it's no surprise that he would be the starting running back for the Cleveland Browns all-time team. Brown led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons, and was named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler every year he played. With 2,359 rushing attempts for 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns when he retired, Brown was the NFL's career record-holder in every category, and he still holds the Cleveland record in each category.

The Best of the Rest

  • LeRoy Kelly
  • Greg Pruitt
  • Earnest Byner
Hall of Fame fullback, Marion Motley, is pictured on his 1950 Bowman football card. Motley was a bruising runner, who is the best fullback in Cleveland Browns history.

Hall of Fame fullback, Marion Motley, is pictured on his 1950 Bowman football card. Motley was a bruising runner, who is the best fullback in Cleveland Browns history.

Fullback: Marion Motley

  • Seasons With Browns: 1946–53
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–53
  • All-AAFC: 1946–49
  • All-Pro: 1950
  • Pro Bowl: 1950
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1968), NFL 1940s All-Decade Team

As a bruising runner who was among the first African-American players in the NFL, Marion Motley provided an elite rushing attack for the earliest Cleveland Browns teams. He would help the Browns win five straight championships from 1946–50—including three rushing touchdowns in the 1948 AAFC Championship game. Motley led the league in rushing yards twice, and carried the ball 828 times for 4,720 yards and 31 TDs in his career. His average of 5.7 yards per carry is still the career record among NFL running backs, and Motley also played defensively as a linebacker during his career.

The Best of the Rest

  • Mike Pruitt
  • Kevin Mack
Former Cleveland Browns tight end, Ozzie Newsome, speaks to the media during the 2018 NFL Combine at the Indianapolis Convention Center. He served as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens at the time.

Former Cleveland Browns tight end, Ozzie Newsome, speaks to the media during the 2018 NFL Combine at the Indianapolis Convention Center. He served as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens at the time.

Tight End: Ozzie Newsome

  • Seasons With Browns: 1978–90
  • Playoff Appearances: 1980, '82, 1985–89
  • All-Pro: 1979–81, 1983–85
  • Pro Bowl: 1981, 1984–85
  • Award: Hall of Fame (1999), NFL 1980s All-Decade Team

Though Ozzie Newsome is the only Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer who failed to win a championship, he is still vividly remembered as one of the best contributors to team history. Newsome closed his 13-year career with 662 receptions for 7,980 yards and 47 TDs. His totals for receptions and yardage remain franchise records, and his single-game high of 191 yards was a team record for 29 seasons. After retiring as a player, he joined the front office, and followed the Browns to Baltimore in 1996. That's where he would become the NFL's first African-American general manager, a post he served from 2002–18.

The Best of the Rest

  • Milt Morin
  • Kellen Winslow Jr.
The bust of former Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Dante Lavelli, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Dante Lavelli, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Wide Receiver: Dante Lavelli

  • Years With the Browns: 1946–56
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–55
  • All-AAFC: 1946–49
  • All-Pro: 1953
  • Pro Bowl: 1951, 1953–54
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1975), NFL 1940s All-Decade Team, Browns Ring of Honor

Dante Lavelli was known as "Gluefingers" during his career, and his sure hands helped him become the greatest wide receiver in Cleveland Browns history. With 386 receptions for 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns, Lavelli was a consistent target for the Browns throughout his 11-year career, and has the second-most receiving yardage in team history. He played for 7 championship teams, and had an 11-catch, 2-touchdown effort in the 1950 NFL title game, a win over the Detroit Lions. As a rookie, he caught the game-winning touchdown in the championship game against the New York Yanks.

Wide Receiver: Paul Warfield

  • Years With the Browns: 1964–69, 1976–77
  • Playoff Appearances: 1964–65, 1967–69
  • All-Pro: 1964, 1968–69
  • Pro Bowl: 1964, 1968–69
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1983), Browns Ring of Honor

Paul Warfield made quite an impression as a rookie and it was just the start of what would become a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. He helped the Browns in winning the 1964 NFL championship, and continued on to produce plenty of big plays for the first six years of his career. After spending some time with the Miami Dolphins, Warfield returned to the Browns for the final two seasons of his career. In 8 total seasons with Cleveland, Warfield caught 271 passes for 5,210 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and 52 touchdowns (third in team history), and was also very strong in the postseason, snaring 24 passes for 404 yards in 7 playoff games.

Wide Receiver: Gary Collins

  • Years With the Browns: 1962–71
  • Playoff Appearances: 1964–65, 1967–69, '71
  • All-Pro: 1965–66, '69
  • Pro Bowl: 1965–66

Gary Collins did not produce the most eye-popping statistics, but his consistent play for a decade made him one of the most reliable receivers the Cleveland Browns have ever had. The Browns made the playoffs more often than not while Collins was playing, and much of that had to do with his 331 receptions for 5,299 yards and franchise record 70 touchdowns. He had at least 10 touchdowns in 4 seasons, which helped him establish a team record that's yet to be broken. He also doubled as a strong punter, giving this all-time team some additional flexibility.

The Best of the Rest

  • Mac Speedie
  • Ray Renfro
  • Dave Logan
Cleveland Browns offensive tackle, Joe Thomas (73), holds off Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Benson Mayowa, during a 2016 game at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Cleveland Browns offensive tackle, Joe Thomas (73), holds off Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Benson Mayowa, during a 2016 game at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Offensive Lineman: Joe Thomas

  • Years With the Browns: 2007–17
  • All-Pro: 2008–16
  • Pro Bowl: 2007–16
  • Awards: Browns Ring of Honor, NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

The greatest iron man in recent NFL history is Joseph "Joe" Thomas was on the field for 10,363 consecutive snaps until a triceps injury ended his career after 11 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. That snap total is the most all-time since the NFL began tracking the statistic in 1999. Thomas never missed a Pro Bowl and is all but certain to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he first becomes eligible in 2023. He's the only offensive lineman ever to be named a Pro Bowler in his first eight seasons, with his streak eventually ending at 10 straight selections. Cleveland never had much success during Thomas' career, finishing with a winning record only in his rookie season.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman, Gene Hickerson, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman, Gene Hickerson, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Offensive Lineman: Gene Hickerson

  • Seasons With Browns: 1958–73
  • Playoff Appearances: 1958, 1964–65, 1967–69, 1971–72
  • All-Pro: 1964–70
  • Pro Bowl: 1965–70
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (2007), Browns Ring of Honor, NFL 1960s All-Decade Team

Robert Gene Hickerson blocked for numerous Hall of Fame running backs during his career with the Cleveland Browns. The gargantuan lineman paved the way for legends Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and LeRoy Kelly during his lengthy tenure with the Browns. During his 15-year career, there were 8 times when a Cleveland running back rushed for 1,000 yards, and his superb blocking helped the Browns win the 1964 NFL championship. Hickerson played in 165 straight games for the Browns, a record at the time of his retirement.

Offensive Lineman: Dick Schafrath

  • Seasons With Browns: 1959–71
  • Playoff Appearances: 1964–65, 1967–69, '71
  • All-Pro: 1963–65, '69
  • Pro Bowl: 1963–69

Richard "Dick" Schafrath was a force on the offensive line for 13 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He came to the Browns as a 215-pound player from Ohio State, but bulked up to 265 pounds to join the starting lineup in his second season. Schafrath then became a mainstay for the Browns—making the playoffs six times and winning the 1964 NFL championship. He was known primarily for his blocking in pass protection, but also helped Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and LeRoy Kelly gain thousands of yards.

Former Cleveland Browns kicker and offensive lineman, Lou Groza, is pictured on his 1950 Bowman football card.

Former Cleveland Browns kicker and offensive lineman, Lou Groza, is pictured on his 1950 Bowman football card.

Offensive Lineman: Lou Groza

  • Seasons With Browns: 1946–59, 1961–67
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–55, 1957–58, 1964–65, '67
  • All-AAFC: 1946
  • All-Pro: 1952–1957
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–55, 1957–59
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1974), Browns Ring of Honor, Browns No. 76 retired, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Most Valuable Player ('59)

Louis "Lou" Groza is most remembered for his kicking duties throughout 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, but for the purpose of the all-time team, I placed him on the offensive line. Groza served as an offensive tackle from 1946–59, helping pave the way for seven of Cleveland's championship offenses. His selection here gives the team versatility, since "The Toe" is considered one of the greatest kickers of all-time.

The Best of the Rest

  • Frank Gatski
  • Mike McCormack
  • Doug Dieken
  • Jim Ray Smith
  • Joe Delamielleure

Defensive Players on the Browns All-Time Best Team

Throughout the 71-year history of the Cleveland Browns, the best players battled on the offensive side of the football. That said, there are still plenty of standout defenders who have suited up in the Brown and Orange uniform.

Among those 21 Hall of Famers who represent Cleveland, only 5 played on defense, and none played with the Browns for more than 8 seasons. Three of them won't even be included here, because they only played for two years in Cleveland. Despite that, I'll recognize several other local legends, who would combine to make a formidable defensive unit.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman, Bill Willis, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman, Bill Willis, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Defensive Lineman: Bill Willis

  • Seasons With Browns: 1946–53
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–53
  • All-AAFC: 1946–49
  • All-Pro: 1950–53
  • Pro Bowl: 1950–52
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1977), Browns Ring of Honor, NFL 1940s All-Decade Team

William "Bill" Willis was one of the first African-American players in the NFL, and he certainly proved he belonged. After helping the Browns win four straight championships in the AAFC, Willis continued to anchor the defense during Cleveland's first four seasons in the NFL. Those defensive units were either first or second in the league in scoring defense all eight seasons, and Willis helped the Browns finish as the only team in AAFC history to never surrender more than 200 points in a season.

Former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman, Len Ford, poses during his college career with the Michigan Wolverines.

Former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman, Len Ford, poses during his college career with the Michigan Wolverines.

Defensive Lineman: Len Ford

  • Seasons With Browns: 1950–57
  • Playoff Appearances: 1950–55, '57
  • All-Pro: 1951–54
  • Pro Bowl: 1951–54
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1976), NFL 1950s All-Decade Team

Leonard "Len" Ford was a force on the defensive line for eight seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He appeared in seven championship games for the Browns, winning three, and Ford-led defenses finished atop the league in scoring six times. One of his best games came in the 1954 NFL Championship game, when he had two interceptions in a 56–10 rout of the Detroit Lions. He was a receiver for 2 seasons before joining Cleveland, and once converted to a defender, he would recover 19 fumbles in 88 games—including 5 in 1954.

Defensive Lineman: Michael Dean Perry

  • Seasons With Browns: 1988–94
  • Playoff Appearances: 1988–89, '94
  • All-Pro: 1989–91, '94
  • Pro Bowl: 1989–91, 1993–94
  • Awards: AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1989)

Michael Dean Perry was swift and agile, despite being bulked up as one of the bigger defensive linemen in the NFL. Known for his ability to draw double teams that altered other teams' offensive game plans, Perry was a force for seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Despite the extra attention he garnered, Perry still burst through opposing offensive lines for 51 1/2 sacks in his Cleveland career. By the time of his release in February 1995, Perry also added 480 tackles, 7 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown.

Defensive Lineman: Bob Gain

  • Seasons With Browns: 1952, 1954–64
  • Playoff Appearances: 1952, 1954–55, 1957–58, '64
  • All-Pro: 1955–59, 1961–62
  • Pro Bowl: 1957–59, 1961–62

Robert "Bob" Gain was traded to the Cleveland Browns for four players before the 1952 season and his efforts helped the Browns win that year's NFL championship. After joining the Air Force, Gain was back for the final two games of the 1954 campaign, which allowed him to help Cleveland win another title. He then played every game through 1963, becoming one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL. His career ended when he suffered a broken leg early in the 1964 season, and in 126 games with Cleveland, he recovered 15 fumbles and returned his lone interception 22 yards for a touchdown. As a rookie, he also booted three point-after touchdown kicks.

The Best of the Rest

  • Jerry Sherk
  • Bill Glass
  • Walter Johnson
  • Don Colo
  • Paul Wiggin
Former Cleveland Browns linebacker, Clay Matthews Jr. (57), speaks as he is inducted into the Browns Ring of Honor at halftime of a 2019 game against the Los Angeles Rams. His son and Rams linebacker, Clay Matthews III, can be seen in the background.

Former Cleveland Browns linebacker, Clay Matthews Jr. (57), speaks as he is inducted into the Browns Ring of Honor at halftime of a 2019 game against the Los Angeles Rams. His son and Rams linebacker, Clay Matthews III, can be seen in the background.

Linebacker: Clay Matthews Jr.

  • Seasons With Browns: 1978–93
  • Playoff Appearances: 1980, '82, 1985–89
  • All-Pro: 1984
  • Pro Bowl: 1985, 1987–89
  • Awards: Browns Ring of Honor

No player has appeared in more games for the Cleveland Browns than William Clay Matthews Jr. As a tenacious linebacker, Matthews broke into the starting lineup during his second season, and never really slowed down. He is perhaps best known for intercepting a pass by Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly with 3 seconds to play in the 1989 divisional round of the playoffs. That victory-sealing interception on the 1-yard line does not, however, define his whole career. In 232 games over 16 seasons in Cleveland, Matthews had 62 sacks (even though none from his first 5 seasons were counted in official statistics), 1,430 tackles, 24 forced fumbles, and 14 interceptions. He has been a semifinalist in the Modern Era Committee's Hall of Fame voting four times.

Linebacker: Jim Houston

  • Seasons With Browns: 1960–72
  • Playoff Appearances: 1964–65, 1967–69, 1971–72
  • Pro Bowl: 1964–65, 1969–70

When James "Jim" Houston was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, he was supposed to become an anchor on the team's defensive line. But when there was a coaching change after his third season, Houston was moved to linebacker and became one of the best the Browns have ever had. He missed just 3 games in his Cleveland career, and finished with 14 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. During each season from 1964–68, he had at least two interceptions, and he returned three interceptions for touchdowns during his career.

Linebacker: Walt Michaels

  • Seasons With Browns: 1952–61
  • Playoff Appearances: 1952–55, 1957–58
  • Pro Bowl: 1955–59

Walt Michaels was a sure tackler and reliable starter for 10 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He missed just 2 of 132 games during his career in Cleveland and was a vital piece for a pair of championship teams. In 1954, he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in the championship game against the Detroit Lions, and a year later, he had another interception as the Browns defeated the Los Angeles Rams for back-to-back titles. During his career, he had 11 interceptions and recovered 8 fumbles.

The Best of the Rest

  • Chip Banks
  • Vince Costello
  • Galen Fiss
Former Cleveland Browns cornerback, Hanford Dixon, speaks at NFL UK Live at the Landmark Hotel in London in 2017.

Former Cleveland Browns cornerback, Hanford Dixon, speaks at NFL UK Live at the Landmark Hotel in London in 2017.

Cornerback: Hanford Dixon

  • Seasons With Browns: 1981–89
  • Playoff Appearances: 1982, 1985–89
  • All-Pro: 1986–87
  • Pro Bowl: 1986–88

Hanford Dixon was known as the "Top Dawg" of the Cleveland Browns defenses of the 1980s after equating the pursuit of a quarterback sack to a dog chasing a cat. The nickname eventually became so popular that it grew to include a section of the stands still known today as the "Dawg Pound." But outside of that influence, Dixon was also one of the best defenders in team history. He played a tenacious man-to-man style, often forcing quarterbacks to throw to secondary receivers. His 26 interceptions are less than would be expected from a player of his caliber, but the receivers he was covering usually had a very low number of targets (formal stats in this category were not tracked during his career).

Cornerback: Frank Minnifield

  • Seasons With Browns: 1984–92
  • Playoff Appearances: 1985–89
  • All-Pro: 1988
  • Pro Bowl: 1986–89
  • Awards: NFL 1980s All-Decade Team

Frank Minnifield teamed up with Hanford Dixon to form one of the NFL's most feared defensive backfields during the late 1980s. The duo of shutdown corners helped the Cleveland Browns to five straight appearances in the postseason. He was known as "Mighty Minnie" because dominance from a cornerback who stood at 5 feet, 9 inches tall was uncommon. But just like Dixon, Minnifield excelled in man-to-man coverage, and his 20 career interceptions also were the result of quarterbacks usually not throwing to the receiver he was covering.

The Best of the Rest

  • Clarence Scott
  • Bernie Parrish

Safety: Thom Darden

  • Seasons With Browns: 1972–81
  • Playoff Appearances: 1972, '80
  • All-Pro: 1976, 1978–79
  • Pro Bowl: 1978

Thomas "Thom" Darden became the all-time interceptions leader in Cleveland Browns history after swiping the 45th of his career in 1981 against the Buffalo Bills. That record still stands, and when combined with his vicious tackling, leaves Darden as the most remembered safety to ever play for the Browns. He led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1978 to make his only Pro Bowl and tie the franchise record for a single-season total. That came three years after he missed all of the 1975 season following knee surgery.

Former Cleveland Browns safety, Warren Lahr, is pictured on his 1954 Bowman football card.

Former Cleveland Browns safety, Warren Lahr, is pictured on his 1954 Bowman football card.

Safety: Warren Lahr

  • Seasons With Browns: 1949–59
  • Playoff Appearances: 1949–55, 1957–58
  • All-Pro: 1951–55
  • Pro Bowl: 1953

When Warren Lahr came to the Cleveland Browns, he was planning to be a quarterback. After switching to the defensive side of the ball, he reached heights he probably wouldn't have been able to reach had he remained in his original position. With 44 interceptions throughout an 11-year career, Lahr retired as Cleveland's all-time leader, and his 5 interception returns for touchdowns remains a team record. Lahr was a part of four championship teams, and had five postseason interceptions in his career.

The Best of the Rest

  • Ken Konz
  • Don Paul

Special Teams Players on the Browns All-Time Best Team

While special teams players aren't always as well known as those who start on offense and defense, The players on those units are just as important to a team's success. The Cleveland Browns are no exception.

Not only has the team had several star kickers and punters, but the Browns also had one of the most electrifying kick and punt returners in recent NFL history. What follows are the special teams players selected to the all-time team.

San Francisco 49ers kicker, Phil Dawson, gives a thumbs up following a 2015 game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, which would be his last against his former team. He played for the Browns for 14 seasons.

San Francisco 49ers kicker, Phil Dawson, gives a thumbs up following a 2015 game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, which would be his last against his former team. He played for the Browns for 14 seasons.

Kicker: Phil Dawson

  • Seasons With Browns: 1999–2012
  • All-Pro: 2007, '12
  • Pro Bowl: 2012

Philip "Phil" Dawson is the Cleveland Browns' all-time leader in made field goals—not bad for a guy signed by an expansion team as an undrafted free agent. Dawson started as the kicker when the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, and he'd remain entrenched in his position until 2012. Dawson made 363 field goals and scored 1,271 points over his 14-year career. He scored the first points for the expansion Browns with a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter of a Week 2 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Dawson then added the team's first rushing touchdown, when he ran in from 4 yards out on a fake field goal attempt in Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals. That doubled as the only touchdown of his career.

The Best of the Rest

  • Lou Groza
  • Don Cockroft
  • Matt Bahr
Former Cleveland Browns kicker and punter, Don Cockroft, holds the ball in place during a 1978 photo shoot.

Former Cleveland Browns kicker and punter, Don Cockroft, holds the ball in place during a 1978 photo shoot.

Punter: Don Cockroft

  • Seasons With Browns: 1968–80
  • Playoff Appearances: 1968–69, 1971–72, '80

Donald "Don" Cockroft provided the Cleveland Browns with all-around talent when kicking the football, and was one of the last players in NFL history to be a team's primary punter and kicker in the same season. As the best punter in franchise history, Cockroft also doubled as the primary kicker during his 13-year career with the Browns, though he was exclusively the team's kicker from 1977 onward. Even with those few seasons where he wasn't punting, he maintains franchise records with 651 punts for 26,262 yards. When he retired, he was the second-leading scorer of all-time for the Browns (his 1,080 points are now third).

The Best of the Rest

  • Horace Gillom
  • Chris Gardocki
  • Gary Collins
Former Cleveland Browns kick returner, Josh Cribbs, coaches during training camp at the Cleveland Browns Training Complex in 2018.

Former Cleveland Browns kick returner, Josh Cribbs, coaches during training camp at the Cleveland Browns Training Complex in 2018.

Kick Returner: Josh Cribbs

  • Seasons With Browns: 2005–12
  • All-Pro: 2007, '09
  • Pro Bowl: 2007, '09, '12
  • Awards: NFL 2000s All-Decade Team

Joshua "Josh" Cribbs was one of the most prominent return men in the NFL throughout most of his career, and he is definitely the best to ever play for the Cleveland Browns. Cribbs was a converted quarterback who signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2005, and was about as dangerous as return men came during his eight years with the Browns. As an elusive runner, Cribbs returned eight kicks for touchdowns during his career to tie the league record, and he also shares an NFL record by returning two kicks for touchdowns of at least 100 yards in the same game. He missed just four games in his Cleveland career, and also added three punt return touchdowns. In total, he piled up 582 returns for 12,169 yards and 11 touchdowns, and set numerous franchise records in the return game.

The Best of the Rest

  • Eric Metcalf
  • Dino Hall
  • Dennis Northcutt
  • Bobby Mitchell

Head Coach on the Browns All-Time Best Team

While a collection of superstars and Hall of Famers is great to have, they won't get very far without a coach to lead the way. While coaching styles have changed from Cleveland's AAFC days in the 1940s, there is little doubt the first coach in franchise history is the choice to lead the all-time team.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns head coach, Paul Brown, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The bust of former Cleveland Browns head coach, Paul Brown, as seen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Paul Brown

  • Seasons With Browns: 1946–62
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1967)

Paul Brown was a co-founder of the Cleveland Browns in 1946 and coached the team until 1962. Along the way, he picked up seven championships and led the Browns to a perfect season in 1948. Known as an innovator, Brown also expected all of his players to give their best effort at all times. He regularly had conflicts with players, and eventually, a squabble with owner Art Modell led to Brown's ouster as coach in one of the most controversial decisions in Cleveland sports history. In his 17 seasons, Brown posted a 158-48-8 record with the Browns, and added a 9–5 mark in the postseason.

The Best of the Rest

  • Blanton Collier
  • Marty Schottenheimer
  • Bill Belichick
  • Sam Rutigliano

Related Stories

best-head-coaches-in-cleveland-browns-history

Best Head Coaches in Cleveland Browns History

The Cleveland Browns have struggled to find a successful head coach since returning as an expansion franchise in 1999, but historically speaking, the Browns have a strong coaching tradition. This article will count down the top five Cleveland Browns head coaches of all-time.

who-are-the-best-cleveland-browns-offensive-linemen

Who Are the Best Cleveland Browns Offensive Linemen?

The Cleveland Browns have developed many legends over their 71-year history, but no unit has seen greater talent than the offensive line. A list of the top 10 offensive linemen in the history of the Cleveland Browns follows, which includes numerous Hall of Famers and some more who could be inducted.

best-defensive-players-in-cleveland-browns-history

Best Defensive Players in Cleveland Browns History

A quick scan of Hall of Famers who played for the Cleveland Browns shows a lot of offensive talent, but that's not to discount the defensive standouts the franchise has employed over the years. This article will count down the top 10 defensive players in the history of the Cleveland Browns.

greatest-wins-in-cleveland-browns-history

Greatest Wins in Cleveland Browns History

Though the Cleveland Browns have been synonymous with losing for most of the past 20 years, with 37 winning seasons and 28 playoff appearances, there have been plenty of memorable wins for the team. What follows is a list of 10 of the most prominent victories in franchise history.

worst-draft-classes-in-cleveland-browns-history

Worst Draft Classes in Cleveland Browns History

The Cleveland Browns are unfortunately known for making mistakes in the NFL Draft. While most of the criticism has come in recent years, there have been many bungled draft classes throughout the team's 71 years of existence. This article explores the worst draft classes in Cleveland Browns history.

cleveland-browns-team-history-and-timeline

Cleveland Browns Team History and Timeline

The Cleveland Browns have gone through dominance, the Kardiac Kids, their move to Baltimore, and years of mediocrity. This article will cover their rise and fall, along with their hopeful future, beginning in 1946!

top-5-miami-dolphins-quarterbacks-of-all-time

Top 5 Miami Dolphins Quarterbacks of All-Time

The Miami Dolphins have produced two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and while their careers have spanned more than half of the franchise's 54-year history, several other quarterbacks have posted respectable numbers. In this article, I'll reveal the top five quarterbacks in Dolphins history.