The Browns and the Eagles have played 49 times with the Browns holding a 31-17-1 edge. However, the Eagles have won five in a row. The Eagles joined the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1933 along with the Pittsburg Steelers and the now-defunct Cincinnati Reds. After the All American Football Conference folded in 1949, the Browns, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts joined the NFL much to the dissatisfaction of the 10 league owners. Philadelphia owner James Clark fought the hardest to keep these teams out of the NFL. At the time, the NFL owners didn’t think much of the AAFC. Their feelings were reprinted in an article in “Sports Illustrated Classic” in 1991. “Since the AAFC was formed four years ago the NFL had bum-mouthed it. ‘The worst team in our league could beat the best team in theirs.” said Redskins owner George Preston Marshall last year. Back in ’45, then-NFL commissioner Elmer Layden was asked about the upstart league’s hopes of playing the NFL. ‘What league?” he said. “Let them get a ball first.”
The NFL responded by scheduling the Browns to play the two-time defending NFL champion Eagles for their first game on September 16, 1950. The same “SI” article pretty much summed up what happened. “On this first day of this 1950 season, the NFL changed for good. The Cleveland Nobodies, four-time champions of the laughed-at All-America Football Conference, roasted, braised and fricasseed the big, bad, two-time defending NFL champion Eagles in a game that needed to be a lot closer just to get filed as a blowout. Playing in their first-ever NFL game, the Browns outscouted, outcoached, outran, outblocked, outpassed and out-and-out humiliated the Eagles from just past the national anthem until just after the last shower trickle was turned off.” Browns quarterback and future hall of famer Otto Graham passed for 346 yards and the Browns won, 35-10.
Needless to say, the city of Philadelphia couldn’t wait for the Browns to leave town. From the same article, “After the Browns got on the plane to carry them home, the aircraft sat on the runway, holding for instructions. Finally, the gruff voice of the air-traffic controller came over the pilot’s earphones. ‘You’re clear for takeoff,” it said. “Get those goddam Browns out of Philadelphia!'”
After the game, Eagle coach Earle “Greasy” Neale said that Browns head coach Paul Brown would have been a better basketball coach, “because all he does is put the ball in the air.” This didn’t sit well with Paul Brown. When the two teams met again on December 3, 1950, Brown had a new twist to throw at the Eagles. In a game the Browns won, 13-7, Cleveland never attempted a pass. In terrible weather conditions, the Browns scored a 30-yard interception return by Warren Lahr. Future Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza added field goals of 35 and 43 yards. Browns punter Horace Gillom punted 12 times, often on third down, to keep the Eagles in bad field position. “That Gillom did a great job of punting in the mud,” Neale said. “He kept us in our own territory.” It was the last time an NFL team never attempted a pass in a game.
The last time the Browns beat the Eagles was on November 11, 1994. The final score was 26-7. Browns starting QB Mark Rypien was 12 of 30 for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The rushing attack was led by RB Leroy Hoard who had 86 yards on 21 carries. Kicker Matt Stover added field goals of 35, 21, 22 and 36 yards. Wide receiver Mark Carrier had 63 yards on four catches and a touchdown. RB Earnest Byner added a late four-yard touchdown run. The Browns never trailed in this game. Eagles QB Randall Cunningham was sacked three times, twice by DT Michael Dean Perry and once by DB Bennie Thompson. LB Frank Stams intercepted Cunningham once.
When the Browns play the Eagles this Sunday, they will once again be looking to break a five-game losing streak versus an opponent. As I said last week, history tells us streaks are meant to be broken and it’s 2020, so anything can happen.