Dare to Compare? – 1964 to 2018
The dawg days of summer are here. I cut my grass this morning and I think I lost three pounds in the process. We all suffered through a long winter while watching Cleveland’s NFL franchise roll its roster into yet another incarnation of a team that we want to see win so badly. The wait for meaningful football games in Cleveland may be coming to a close. We’re weeks away from the start of the season. If you have faith in General Manager John Dorsey and his staff, you’re probably as excited as I am. If you’re of the “I’ll believe it when I see it” ilk, be prepared to see a few things this season. It’s going to be a fun football season.
This team has more than a few things in common with the 1964 edition of the Browns. Yes, I mean the last Browns team to win a championship. The team that had Lou Groza, Jim Brown, Frank Ryan and others that remind me of this team. That may sound sacrilegious, but humor me for a few minutes. I’m not suggesting that the Browns will win the Super Bowl this season. I simply like the composition of the team and believe that the roster construction is similar to that of the beloved 1964 Browns.
The Browns obtained quarterback Frank Ryan in a 1962 trade with the LA Rams. He became the Browns starter in 1963. He was an efficient QB who found more success in Cleveland than he had in LA. In fact, Ryan led the league in TD passes twice and was selected to three Pro Bowls. Tyrod Taylor may never lead the league in TD passes, but he has the talent around him that should allow him to improve on anything he has done to this point. Tyrod also has the right attitude for this team, just as Ryan did when he demanded to be traded from the Rams in order to get a chance to start.
Jim Brown is the greatest football player of all time. I would never compare anyone to him. Of course, the game was a little different back then. Teams ran the ball a lot more than they do now. Can you imagine having the greatest back of all time on your team and still look to constantly upgrade that position? The Browns did exactly that. The Browns drafted Ernie Green in 1962 and for good measure added future Hall-of-Famer Leroy Kelly in the 1964 draft. Talk about a three-headed monster! Kelly didn’t do much more than return punts in 1964, but he could have. The Browns have done the same thing in 2018 by creating a stable of backs who are all worthy of starting in Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb.
The Browns had a memorable draft in 1964, adding both Kelly and Paul Warfield. Warfield teamed with veteran Gary Collins to create a dynamic and explosive set of starting receivers. Warfield is in the Hall of Fame and Collins is worthy. The Browns have added quality and depth to the receiver position in 2018. Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry are two of the best receivers in the league and should present serious problems for opposing defenses. Newcomer Antonio Callaway is a rookie to keep an eye on. Emory Hunt (@FBallGamePlan) graded him as the top receiver in the draft this year. He’ll have to stay away from off-field issues to realize that potential. The Browns have other receivers who could also have an impact, but it’s the quality of the starters that reminds one of the 1964 team.
The Browns defense was tenacious and made plays when they had to in 1964. That may sound like an excuse-filled description. It’s not. They did pitch a shutout against the Baltimore Colts in the Championship game. The 2018 defense has skill and depth across the board on paper. They will have to show that knack to come up big when necessary. The consistency to always keep the offense in the game will also be needed.
The similarities are there. The 2018 team should provide us with some memories and maybe a playoff run isn’t far down the road in Cleveland.
Image: Pro Football Hall