The Cleveland Browns are one of the most storied NFL franchises, even if their more modern history has been lackluster.
Formed in 1946 as one of the eight teams in the AAFC, a futures bet on the Cleveland Browns would pay off handsomely, as the Browns would win the championship in all four years of the AAFC’s existence. Upon the AAFC’s merger with the NFL, a bet on the Cleveland Browns still would’ve made a lot of sense, as the team appeared in the next six championship games, winning three of them. Those celebrated teams were coached by the legendary Paul Brown, and quarterbacked by Hall-of-Famer Otto Graham, and that period from 1946-1955 was arguably the most dominant of any football franchise in history.
Most agree that the team derived its nickname from its head coach. Paul Brown was already a legend in Ohio, having won a college football championship with Ohio State in 1942. Even though Brown himself was reportedly against naming the team after him, the moniker stuck, and the Browns were born. Initially, their logo consisted of an elf wearing brown clothing. That existed in various form until 1970, when then-owner Art Modell decided that, “the helmet is the logo,” depicting the orange helmet that is in use until this day.
The most famous of all Cleveland Browns players, however, wouldn’t join the team until 1957. Running back Jim Brown would lead the league in rushing in eight out of the nine seasons he played for the team. It would take him eight years, however, to hoist a championship trophy, and only after the team had already split with its legendary coach. A bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the title 1964 would’ve paid, as the Browns shut out the Colts 27-0, picking off Colts QB Johnny Unitas twice and holding him to only 95 yards passing. Brown himself ran for over a hundred yards in the game, but didn’t score – WR Gary Collins hauled in three touchdown passes after halftime.
The Cleveland Browns odds to repeat were good, but in what would be Brown’s final year, Cleveland was beaten by a Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, 23-12. That would be the final year before the renaming of the championship game – the first “Super Bowl” was held the year after. The Packers would go on to win the next two championships, while the Browns have never appeared in a Super Bowl to this day.
But not for lack of talent. The early days of the AFL-NFL merger saw a powerhouse Browns team that could never quite get over the hump. RB Leroy Kelly and QB Bill Nelson led the team to the playoffs in five out of six years. A bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the division would have paid, as well, as the team won four “Century Division” titles during that span. The Cleveland Browns odds to advance were high, but they lost to Minnesota and Baltimore in back to back semifinal games in 1968 & ‘69. In 1971, the team lost to the Colts again in the divisional round. In ’72, they were dispatched by the Dolphins, during the only undefeated season in NFL in history. The Browns would miss the playoffs every year for the rest of the 1970s.
The 1980s would bring some success, however. QB Brian Sipe led the team in passing from ’76-’83, and RB Mike Pruitt led the team in rushing for even longer – from 1974-83. Both would be selected to the Pro Bowl in 1980, when the Browns would win the AFC Central, only to defy the Cleveland Browns odds and lose to the 3.5-point-underdog Oakland Raiders in the divisional round. 1982 brought about a Wild Card berth and another loss to the Raiders, this time the Browns being heavy underdogs.
In 1984, Head Coach Sam Rutigliano was fired midseason, promoting defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer after eight games. Schottenheimer would defy the Cleveland Browns odds and win four more division titles through the end of the decade. Even so, a bet on the Cleveland Browns to advance to the Super Bowl would’ve failed to cash, as the team lost three AFC title games to John Elway’s Denver Broncos. Ironically enough, Denver would go on to lose each of those Super Bowl appearances.
Since then, the most notable thing to happen to the Browns would be a relocation to Baltimore in 1996… and subsequent expansion back into the league in 1999.
The team has not won a division title since that 1989 season. Cleveland Browns odds to break the .500 mark have not been good, either – the team has had three winning records in the twenty-eight seasons since. And in 2017, the team became the second franchise to lose all sixteen games in a season. In fact, in recent years, a bet on the Cleveland Browns to lose all of their games has been almost as popular as a bet on them to win the title.
Most recently, however, the Cleveland Browns odds of turning things around have gone up. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has led a slew of offensive talent to create optimism amongst the fanbase. While it may be a sense of false excitement – where else can an 0-16 team go but up? – the team’s fans are amongst the most passionate in the league. If the Browns can resurrect the glory years of old, it will come with plenty of support.