The Coach – A Look at Paul Brown

After writing about celebrities in the family, it seems I may have taken a rather blasé look at my grandmother’s generation’s biggest celebrity, and her cousin, Paul Brown. That was never the intention. 
When I was a teenager, I met the football great. At that time, he seemed rather overrated to me. What did I know? I was and still am the family nerd. Baseball, not football, was my sport of choice, and youthful ignorance won the day.
The day cousin Paul died, I was on Cape Cod with my first wife and the radio station WBZ in Boston made the announcement. I remember at that moment thinking, how important it was to begin doing something with our family’s story. It took me another ten years to finally get around to it. Again, youthful ignorance won the day.
My lack of interest truly disappoints me. How many families can claim to have the first coach of an NFL team and the founder of another in their family?


Paul Eugene Brown (September 7, 1908 – August 5, 1991) was a coach in American football and a major figure in the development of the National Football League. A seminal figure in football history, Brown is considered the “father of the modern offense,” with many claiming that he ranks as one of if not the greatest of football coaches in history. Such claims are backed by significant evidence: Brown dominated as a gridiron general on every major level — high school, college, and professional.


Paul Brown’s parents, Lester Brown and Ida Belle Sherwood-Brown

Born in Norwalk, Ohio, Brown’s family moved to Massillon when he was nine. His father Lester, a dispatcher for the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad, was described as “very meticulous, serious-minded and highly-disciplined,” all of which characterized Brown’s later approach to coaching. Brown graduated from Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio in 1925, having played varsity quarterback in the wake of Harry Stuhldreher (one of the University of Notre Dame’s legendary Four Horsemen).

High school and college coaching career

Enrolling at Ohio State University as a freshman quarterback, Brown (also known as Bruno/Pot) found his 145-pound frame would not stand the rigors of major college football, and transferred to Miami University in Ohio, losing a year of eligibility in the process. Under Coach Chester Pittser, Brown played two years and was named to the All-Ohio small college second team by the AP at the end of the 1928 season. In 1930, he graduated from Miami with a B.A. in Education. He would complete his academic career in 1940 when he received an M.A. in Education from Ohio State University.

As his academic credentials indicate, Brown was as much a teacher as he was a coach. He qualified for a Rhodes Scholarship in 1930, but he had married Katie Kester, his “high school sweetheart”, in 1929 and with the coming of the Great Depression, he needed employment. His coaching career began in 1930 when he was hired as a teacher/coach at Severn School, in Severna Park, Maryland, at the time a Naval Academy preparatory.


An infant Paul Brown

Washington High School Tigers

Tasting success with a 16-1-1 mark in two seasons at Severn, Brown gave up a brief attempt at law school in 1932 to become at age 23 the head football coach of his hometown Massillon Washington High School Tigers. In his nine years at Massillon Brown posted an 80-8-2 record which included a 35-game winning streak. After his first three years, he had improved the fortunes of the Tigers, but still had been unable to defeat the team’s bitter rival, Canton McKinley High School, losing all three meetings by at least fifteen points per game.

Brown not only ended that frustrating losing streak, but also won the next six games with McKinley, and an overall total of 58 of the next 60 contests, tying one, and was voted to six straight Ohio poll high school football championships. (1935 through 1940) for Massillon. The Tigers outscored their opposition 2,393 to 168 during those six years. The 1940 team outscored its opponents 477 to 6, with the lone score against them made by Canton McKinley. During this period, Brown’s achievements also helped build a new stadium for the high school that seated 20,000 people, and drew crowds that surpassed every football program in Ohio except Ohio State University.

Brown had achieved this success by implementing a system at Massillon based on techniques developed by Dr. John B. “Jock” Sutherland, head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Sutherland had played professional football for the pioneer Massillon Tigers club when Brown was a boy and had gone on to success as a coach. Brown planned every phase of his program, detailing practice schedules, assigning assistant coaches (which he dubbed “position coaches”) specific duties, and installing his entire system in Massillon’s junior high schools so that players would already know his system when they reached high school.

Ohio State Buckeyes

With avid support from influential groups including the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association and future Purdue University head coach Jack Mollenkopf of Toledo Waite High School, Brown moved into the college ranks by becoming head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 14, 1941. Under Brown, the Buckeyes went 18-8-1 (1941-43). Brown’s players were known for speed, intelligence, and contact; his teams for execution and fundamentals; and he was dubbed “Precision Paul” at Ohio State.

In his first season at Ohio State Brown went 6-1-1, losing to Northwestern University and their running back Otto Graham, and tying Michigan. The Buckeyes tied for second place in the Western Conference, finished 13th in the AP poll, and Brown was voted fourth place on balloting for National Coach of the Year behind Frank Leahy, Bernie Bierman, and Earl Blaik.


Lester & Ida Belle Brown at their Massillon home.

The following year, despite losing 18 lettermen to graduation and to military service in World War II, Brown led the Buckeyes to the university’s first National championship, using a team of 3 seniors, 16 juniors, and 24 sophomores. Among his players were senior Les Horvath and four former Massillon players, two of whom (Lin Houston and Tommy James) would play for the Cleveland Browns. The only loss in 1942 was on the road to Wisconsin in a game that came to be known as the “Bad-Water Game,” because most of the team came down with dysentery from unsanitary water during their travel to Madison by railroad.

Brown had recruited what was reputedly the finest freshman team in Ohio history in 1942 but lost virtually all of them to military service. In 1943 Ohio State was handicapped when the school affiliated itself with the U.S. Army’s ASTP officer training, which did not allow its trainees to participate in varsity sports, while schools such as Michigan and Purdue became part of the Navy’s V-12 program, which did. Although the Big Ten promulgated a special wartime exemption in 1943 allowing freshmen to play varsity football, Ohio State found itself in competition against older and larger teams (both military and college) featuring players such as Elroy Hirsch. The 1943 “Baby Bucks” had only five returning players and one starter from the national champion team, six from the 1942 freshman team, and 33 17-year-old freshmen, going 3-6.

After Brown was re-classified 1-A in February 1944, he was commissioned April 12, 1944, as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the United States Navy.[6] He served at the Great Lakes Naval Station as head coach of its Bluejacket football team, which competed against other service teams and college programs, putting together a mark of 15-5-2 during the final two years of World War II. One of those five losses was to Ohio State on October 9, 1944.

After the war, despite still being Ohio State’s head coach in absentia, Brown chose instead to go to Cleveland as part-owner, vice president, general manager and head coach for Arthur B “Mickey” McBride’s entry in the upstart All-America Football Conference. He signed his contract February 8, 1945, while still in the Navy. A name-the-team poll taken in the Cleveland Plain Dealer initially yielded the nickname “Panthers.” However, Brown found out that the “Panthers” name had previously belonged to a semipro team in Cleveland with a long history of losing. At his suggestion, the team sponsored another name-the-team contest which resulted in the name “Brown Bombers,” after heavyweight champion Joe Louis. The name was quickly shortened to “Browns,” which led to speculation that the team was named after Paul Brown himself–a myth which persists to this day.

Until 1951 Brown retained an interest in coaching the Buckeyes. Despite his success as a professional head coach, he let it be known following the resignation of Wes Fesler that he would entertain an offer to return to Ohio State, and he received an immediate show of strong support from many of the same organizations and people who had supported him in 1940. However Brown had also alienated many of his supporters within the Buckeye alumni ranks for failing to return to the coaching position reserved for him at the end of World War II, and within the athletics department by signing Buckeye players, Lou Groza chief among them, to professional contracts before their college eligibility had ended. Brown strenuously denied breaking any rules, claiming that the Browns were allowed to sign those players because they had all completed World War II military service and their college classes had already graduated, as allowed by the rules then in place. Although he interviewed with the university’s athletic board on January 27, 1951, with tumultuous campus support, the board unanimously rejected Brown in favor of Woody Hayes, who was unanimously endorsed by the board of trustees.


Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio

Professional leagues
Cleveland Browns

While the AAFC lasted only four seasons, the Browns served as the gold standard for the league, winning all four championships and losing only four games during the league’s four-year existence

Brown put together the most extensive player recruitment network that had ever been seen in pro football at the time. The great majority of the early Browns teams came from Massillon, Ohio State and Great Lakes. One key move came when he tapped Otto Graham, a single-wing tailback during his days at Northwestern University, as his quarterback, providing the team with a signal caller who would lead the team to the league title game in each of his 10 seasons. In addition, Brown ignored the gentlemen’s agreement that barred African-American players from the league, adding future Pro Football Hall of Famers Marion Motley and Bill Willis.

Following the merger between the NFL and AAFC, the Browns, along with the San Francisco 49ers and the first Baltimore Colts franchise, moved to the NFL in 1950. Critics had predicted that the overall weakness of the AAFC would expose the Browns. However, in their very first official NFL game, the Browns dismantled the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 35-10, putting up 487 yards of total offense, 346 of them in the air. They won the NFL Championship in their first year, defeating the Rams in the title game on December 24 on a last-minute field goal by Lou Groza. The Browns went on to appear in the next five title games, winning back-to-back titles in 1954 and 1955.

Brown was a great innovator during his time in Cleveland. He was the first to use intelligence tests to judge players, establish a game film library, instruct players in a classroom setting, use a radio transmitter to communicate with players on the field, and install face masks on helmets. Another innovation was the use of “messenger guards” to relay plays from the sidelines after the radio proved problematic due to the technology then available. The offense directed by Graham was the predecessor of the West Coast offense made famous by Bill Walsh, a protégé of Brown.


Michael & Paul Brown, circa 1986

He was also a person known for his stubborn approach to criticism. In 1950, Eagles head coach Greasy Neale dismissed the Browns’ shredding of his Eagles’ vaunted defense in the season opener by saying, “All they do is pass the ball.” In the team’s subsequent meeting a few months later, the Browns set an NFL record that still stands by attempting no passes in a 13-7 win over the Eagles.

By 1959, Brown was respected enough in the NFL that efforts were made to draft him for the league’s commissionership, which was vacant following the death of Bert Bell. Brown declined, and Pete Rozelle was eventually chosen.


Brown was fired as coach on January 9, 1963 by majority owner, Art Modell, who had purchased the club in 1961 and looked to take more control over the team. Controversy developed over the timing of the decision, coming in the midst of a local newspaper strike that limited discussion of the move. One comment from a local journalist later noted the move was akin to the toppling of the Terminal Tower, then Cleveland’s tallest building.

The relationship, which had never been warm, had continued to deteriorate because Brown felt Modell interfered too much in personnel matters. The team’s previous two owners, McBride and David Jones, gave Brown complete control over the football side of the operation.

Shortly after Modell bought control, Brown privately made a huge trade with the Washington Redskins in December 1961 without Modell’s knowledge. Brown’s deal secured Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, the star running back from Syracuse University. However, the trade marked the beginning of the end of his Cleveland career and turned tragic when Davis developed leukemia during his first training camp in 1962. The feud itself was exacerbated when Brown chose not to play Davis, despite assurances from doctors that Davis could withstand the physical demands of NFL action. Modell saw no harm in playing Davis, with his financial investment obviously a consideration in his thinking. Davis would never play in a professional game, dying of the disease on May 18, 1963.

Modell was also concerned that Brown’s old-school disciplinarianism wasn’t suited to the team’s younger players, such as Jim Brown.

In exile after more than 30 years of coaching, Brown spent the next five years away from the sidelines, never once attending a Browns contest. While he was secure financially, earning $82,500 annually for the final five years of his contract as well as retaining approximately six percent of the team, Brown’s frustration grew with each passing year, later recalling, “It was terrible. I had everything a man could want: leisure, enough money, a wonderful family. Yet with all that, I was eating my heart out.” Because Brown was still receiving his annual salary from the Browns and liked to golf, it was said in jest that only two men in the country made more money at golf than he did: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Just months after his dismissal, he was rumored to be part of an ownership group to buy the Philadelphia Eagles, but no deal was ever officially signed. Then, in May 1966, Brown sold his stake in the Browns and traveled with Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes to make a presentation on behalf of Cincinnati for an American Football League franchise.

Cincinnati Bengals

On September 26, 1967, Brown officially returned to football as principal owner, general manager, and coach of the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL’s rival American Football League. The team would join the NFL with the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. He would coach the team for eight seasons, leading the team to three playoff berths, including one in the team’s third year of operation in 1970. In each of those seasons, as well as a number of preseason clashes, Browns’ Bengals took on his former Browns team, reigniting the bitter rivalry between Brown and Modell. Brown was criticized for failing to shake Browns’ coach Collier’s hand after the first Browns/Bengals games in 1970.

Brown stepped down as coach on January 1, 1976, but remained as team president. Under him, the Bengals made two trips to the Super Bowl, losing both games to Bill Walsh ‘s San Francisco 49ers. Following his death in 1991 of complications from pneumonia Brown was succeeded by his son Mike as Bengals’ team president.

Ironically, Walsh, who was a Cincinnati Bengals assistant for seven seasons under Brown, was passed over in favor of Bill “Tiger” Johnson when Brown retired in 1975. In a 2006 interview, Walsh claimed that during his tenure with the Bengals, Brown “worked against my candidacy” to be a head coach anywhere in the league. “All the way through I had opportunities, and I never knew about them,” Walsh said. “And then when I left him, he called whoever he thought was necessary to keep me out of the NFL.” Michael Lewis confirmed Walsh’s argument (cf. “The Blind Side,” pp. 96-7, W.W. Norton, 2006): “Brown had several times refused other NFL teams permission to interview Walsh for their head coaching jobs, without bothering to mention their interest to Walsh. Instead Brown had told Walsh that he didn’t think he’d ever make a good NFL head coach.”


Paul & Mary Bown, Ilene Wright, and Scott Truman at one of the Brown Family Reunions in the mid 1980’s


Brown was honored in 1967 by his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In addition to that accolade, two stadiums bear his name: Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, and Paul Brown Stadium, current home of the Bengals.

Brown’s first wife, Kathryn “Katie” Brown, died in 1969 and in 1973 he married his former secretary, Mary Rightsell. He died in Cincinnati on August 5, 1991, and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Massillon, Ohio.

From the Newspapers

Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)-August 6, 1991

Art Modell, the man who fired Paul Brown as general manager and coach of the Browns in January 1963, said yesterday he was saddened by the death of the football giant.

“Despite our differences I regarded him as a man who was great for professional football,” Modell said. “He was an innovator and a pioneer in the game.

“I look back and am amazed at what he did in the early going. So many things that have happened for the good of the game are the result of his vision. He was years ahead of the others.

“He even won in service football.”

Brown was fired after a 7-6-1 season in 1962, but that record was not the reason for the dismissal. It was a personality clash of two strong-willed men and Brown could not reconcile himself to a hands-on owner after directing every aspect of the club from its inception in 1946.

The breakup was characterized by bitter feelings for years, but the passage of time mellowed both men. They never became close friends, but they got back together to some extent at NFL meetings and social gatherings at those huddles.

“We got closer some years back,” Modell said. “We never became bosom buddies to the point of playing gin rummy together on Saturday nights, but we did get closer.

“Paul was a conservative and I lean that way sometimes. So we were on the same side of the fence at many NFL meetings.

“We were on the same side on the merger of the AFL and the NFL alignment. We got, I believe, a new respect for each other with the passage of time.”

Modell recalled that he was instrumental in bringing Brown back into football through the franchise granted to the Cincinnati Bengals. He OK’d placing another pro team in the state.

“I worked with Gov. Jim Rhodes on this,” Modell said. “If it wasn’t for me I don’t believe he would have been back in the game. And the rivalry with the Bengals has become a very good one.

“This has been one of my proudest achievements.”

As soon as he was informed of Brown’s death, Modell ordered his staff to have a moment of silence in memory of Brown at last night’s exhibition game between the Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Many other NFL owners, coaches and players expressed similar sentiments when they learned of Brown’s death. Accolades swept in from all parts of the nation.

Lin Houston and Tommy James, both of whom played for Brown at Massillon, Ohio State and the Browns, were about to tee off at Brookside Country Club in Canton when they received the news.

“I wouldn’t have played for him at all those places if I didn’t like and respect him,” said James, a defensive back. “We had a few differences, but he treated me just fine. He always told us football was secondary to an education.”

Houston, who spent part of his years with the Browns as a “messenger guard,” running in plays, said, “I know that nobody lives for ever, but this was a real loss.

“I spent 13 years under Paul. I regard him as a super coach. He taught a lot of coaches how this game is played.”

Fellow Hall of Famer Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said that Brown “pretty much shaped my coaching philosophy. No one had more influence on me than he had. He was the first IBM coach. He used the briefcase and the hat.

“He brought organization into pro football. We thought we had to perfect our defense to the point they perfected their offense.”

When Lou Groza, who had spent a year at Ohio State, came out of the U.S. Army in World War II, Brown signed him as a place-kicker and offensive tackle. Known as the Toe, Groza is in the Hall of Fame.

“We had a good relationship,” said Groza, now an insurance executive. “When I had a problem I could go directly to him. He always has kept track of his former players. Paul was a tough disciplinarian and a fine organizer and got good players and good assistant coaches.”

Brown used to describe Mike McCormack as “the finest offensive lineman I ever coached.” McCormack had an equally high opinion of the coach.

“We’ve lost a real giant of the game,” he said. “He was such a great innovator and at his best when the game was kind of teetering.

“Remember how he was severely criticized for calling the plays? Now there isn’t a level of football in which the coach doesn’t do this.”

McCormack said he last saw Brown at the NFL meetings in Hawaii in March. “We had what must have been a 40-minute talk,” he said. “I’m so glad for that.”

Miami coach Don Shula played for Brown and as a player at John Carroll spent much time watching Brown’s teams.

“With the passing of Paul Brown, football has lost one of the great contributors to the game,” Shula said. “I feel privileged to have played for him and to have worked for him for over 15 years on the league competition committee. He had a profound impact on my development as a coach.”

Former Browns and Cincinnati coach Forrest Gregg remembered that Brown gave him a second opportunity to coach in the NFL. “I will never forget that and will always appreciate that,” Gregg, now athletic director at Southern Methodist, said. “I really respected the man. He had a wonderful eye for talent.”

MARION MOTLEY, Browns fullback, 1946 to 1953 – “He was such an innovator. You know, he came up with the split end, and he was the first to move the halfbacks around so that the defense had to move with them. Everyone else just followed him.”

TAYLOR SMITH, president of the Atlanta Falcons – “He and George Halas (late founder of the Chicago Bears) were like the fathers of the NFL. He is one of the true greats of all time in the history of the NFL.”

MICHAEL R. WHITE, Cleveland mayor – “The game of football has lost one of its giants. Paul Brown, probably more so than any other individual, is responsible for transforming the game of football into the popular national sport that we enjoy today. He was an innovator, a competitor unlike any other the sport has seen. Because of his special significance to Cleveland, I urge all residents to join me in extending condolences to his family and friends.”

JOHN WOOTEN, Browns lineman, 1959-1967 – “He was such an outstanding technician. With that I mean the head, the feet, the steps. His game and his knowledge of the game was unbelievable. He was so far ahead as far as teaching and the fundamentals of the game. Other people were working just during the season. He was working all year round.”

BILL (TIGER) JOHNSON, former Bengals head and assistant coach – “It’s not a happy day and it is difficult for me. The things I remember most are when I was with the 49ers as a player and coach. The Browns were always our biggest rival and I always placed Paul above everyone. He was untouchable, an idol, in a position of reverence. He was all those years bigger than life. And none of that changed years later when I went to work for him. He was forever a leader in our profession.”

WEEB EWBANK, former New York Jets and Baltimore Colts head coach, an assistant with Brown at Great Lakes and at Cleveland – “This is very hard for me. Our families were so close. My wife, Lucy, and his (first) wife, Katie, often took long walks together. I meant to call him last week but could not get through. Paul was to be my presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but that was the year his son, Robin, died (1978). He was one of the greatest as a man and a coach. He was a gentleman and a wonderful friend.”

JOHN PONT, longtime college coach and a charter member of Miami University’s “Cradle of Coaches” like Brown – “He was a good friend. I know a great deal will be said of his football and innovative contributions and what he did for and with his players. When I first started coaching in 1956, I went to the Browns’ camp in Hiram, Ohio. I was a rookie coach, but he was one of the most gracious and courteous individuals I ever met. He always had a kind word and a smile. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He had very strong convictions and, throughout his life, he did not change them.”

GERRY FAUST, former coach at Cincinnati Moeller High School, Notre Dame and now coach at University of Akron – “He and his wife Mary treated me first class when I was a high-school coach even though he had no reason to do that. He was a great man and I will miss him.”

JACK CLARY, Brown’s official biographer – “Personally, I am saddened. I lost a dear friend, the finest person next to my father I have ever known. He was a wise and compassionate man. The game itself should be saddened. He was probably the wisest man in the game today who is responsible for the game reaching the heights it has.”

BOOMER ESIASON, Bengals quarterback – “When I was a rookie, I got a chance to sit next to him on the bus on the way to a game. He said to me, ‘Boomer, don’t ever forget the people who came before you and made football the game it is today.’

Washington Post-August 6, 1991
Author: Leonard Shapiro, Washington Post Staff Writer

Frank Ryan has a doctorate in mathematics, has been an athletic director at Yale and is now a vice president at Rice University. But even now he cringes at some of his most memorable classroom experiences of all, sitting in a darkened room before practice as Paul Brown, his coach with the Cleveland Browns, dissected film of quarterback Ryan’s performance the previous day

“He laid you bare naked in front of the whole world,” Ryan recalled yesterday. “You’d be there, he’d stop the projector and put the lights on and look right through you, telling you how badly you had screwed something up. Everyone hated those sessions, but he always had a purpose for what he said, and no one ever made the same mistake twice.”

Brown, maybe the greatest coach in the history of professional football, died yesterday at age 82 at his suburban Cincinnati home from complications caused by pneumonia {Obituary, Page B4}. He never retired from the game he loved, still active as part-owner, vice president and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Brown was remembered yesterday as one of the game’s innovators, a genuine football genius who won and won big at every level, from a brilliant high school coaching career in Massillon, Ohio, where they named a stadium after him, to a national championship at Ohio State in 1942, to four straight titles in the old All-America Conference with the team he started, the Cleveland Browns, to three NFL championships and seven Eastern Conference titles.

After being dismissed as coach by new owner Art Modell in 1963 despite a record of 168-68-8, Brown went to football exile before returning in 1967 to found and coach the expansion Bengals of the American Football League. After the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, the Bengals won the AFC Central that first year, the earliest an expansion team has ever won a division championship. He coached the Bengals to an 11-3 record in 1975, his last year on the field before becoming a full-time general manager as well as a powerful force in the league.

Brown will be remembered for producing a long line of head coaches who either played or coached for him, among them Weeb Ewbank, Don Shula, Blanton Collier, Bill Walsh, Otto Graham and Mike McCormack, and for the innovations he brought to the game. For example, he was the first to use “messenger guards” to get his plays to his quarterback and to have a printed playbook.

“When I was inducted into the Hall of Fame {in 1984}, Paul Brown presented me and gave me a copy of my first playbook,” said McCormack, an offensive lineman under Brown in Cleveland for nine seasons. “When I first came into the league with the old New York Yankees in 1951, they would give you a secretary’s shorthand notebook and you took your own notes. Not Paul. He had it all there for you.”

Brown called all the plays for his quarterbacks, including the great Graham. McCormack recalled playing against the New York Giants in a game almost halted when fans spilled onto the field in the final seconds: “The referees called us back from the locker room to finish it. Our offense went out. Twelve guys. Even though we were only kneeling down with the ball, Paul wanted the messengers out there.”

Brown was responsible for drafting Jim Brown out of Syracuse and setting up the schemes that made him the most feared runner in the game. He paired Brown with Bobby Mitchell, now assistant general manager of the Washington Redskins, and that combination was virtually impossible to contain.

“Paul Brown and Jim Brown respected each other,” McCormack said. “I was at a dinner honoring Paul a few years ago in Dayton, really the first reunion between Paul and Jim. Jim got up and said to Paul, ‘Everyone always said you and I had problems, but no one ever quoted me about that, and no one ever asked me.’ ”

Added Ryan: “I think Jimmy was a real challenge to Paul. He treated Jim a little different than the rest of us. He didn’t dress him down in the meetings. He’d only criticize Jim when he figured Jim knew he knew anyway. But he knew how to handle everyone. . . .

“I only played for him one year. . . . He even called the plays in practice. So he let me do it {once}. I got it in there and he didn’t say a word. But from then on, he always knew that if I made a mistake, it was always better to let me correct it right away. He learned from it.

“In games, he’d call plays I never even thought about calling, and they always worked. I would come back to the bench and tell my teammates, ‘Can you believe that call?’ He was always one step ahead of the defense, always thinking ahead.

“One of the most wonderful days of my life happened a few years after I stopped playing. I was in Washington then and he was bringing the Bengals in to play the Redskins. I called him to try and meet him at the hotel. I got him on the phone and said, ‘This is Frank Ryan.’ He said, ‘You mean my Frank Ryan.’ That meant so much to me. It touches me to this day.



1941-43…Ohio State……18-8-1…… .685

1946-49…Cleveland*……47-4-3…… .898

1950……Cleveland…….10-2-0…… .833

1951……Cleveland…….11-1-0…… .917

1952……Cleveland……..8-4-0…… .667

1953……Cleveland…….11-1-0…… .917

1954……Cleveland……..9-3-0…… .750

1955……Cleveland……..9-2-1…… .792

1956……Cleveland……..5-7-0…… .417

1957……Cleveland……..9-2-1…… .792

1958……Cleveland……..9-3-0…… .750

1959……Cleveland……..7-5-0…… .583

1960……Cleveland……..8-3-1…… .708

1961……Cleveland……..8-5-1…… .607

1962……Cleveland……..7-6-1…… .536

1968……Cincinnati……3-11-0…… .214

1969……Cincinnati…….4-9-1…… .321

1970……Cincinnati…….8-6-0…… .571

1971……Cincinnati……4-10-0…… .286

1972……Cincinnati…….8-6-0…… .571

1973……Cincinnati……10-4-0…… .714

1974……Cincinnati…….7-7-0…… .500

1975……Cincinnati……11-3-0…… .786

……….NFL Totals…166-100-6…… .621


1946-49*..Cleveland……..5-0-0….. 1.000

1950-75…Cle./Cin………4-8-0…… .333

*-All-America Conference.


Used intelligence tests as a hint to players’ learning potential.

Used notebooks and classroom techniques extensively.

Used complete film clip statistical studies, which he used to grade

his players.

Used guards as messengers in calling the plays from the sideline.

Perfected defense that could counteract a pattern passing attack.

Kept players and coaches at a hotel the night before a game.

Source: Cincinnati Bengals


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