Top 5 Head Coaches in Cleveland Browns History

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Who Are the Greatest Browns Head Coaches of All Time?

Since 1999, when the Browns returned as an expansion franchise, there has been a revolving door of head coaches. Before this period, however, Cleveland's coaching tradition was far more stable, and there were many successes to be celebrated.

Over the first 29 years of the franchise's existence, only three men coached the team—and over the next 21 years only seven made the play calls. Unfortunately, coaching stability dropped off after that. Since 1999 there have been 11 head coaches in 22 seasons (and a 12th will wear a headset for the 2020 season). Only one coach since 2008 has posted a winning record, but eight have taken the Browns to the postseason—and two have won championships.

A list of the top five head coaches in Browns history follows, as well as a handful of honorable mentions. In addition, you will find a complete list of every head coach in franchise history.

Selection Criteria

With so many coaches who have taken the Browns into the playoffs, there were some tough choices to make regarding this list. The criteria considered include:

  • Legacy Honors (Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor, etc.)
  • Coaching success (winning percentage, postseason appearances, etc.)
  • Longevity (years spent with the Browns)

Only games coached with the Browns are factored into this list, so while Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg was a great player for the Packers and also coached for 11 total seasons, his 18–23 mark over three seasons with the Browns won't make the cut here.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) shakes hands with former Browns coach Hue Jackson after a 2017 game. Belichick was the final head coach of the Browns before the team was moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) shakes hands with former Browns coach Hue Jackson after a 2017 game. Belichick was the final head coach of the Browns before the team was moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

5. Bill Belichick

  • Browns Head Coach: 1991–95
  • Record: 36–44
  • Playoff Appearance: 1994

Bill Belichick had spent several seasons as an assistant coach in the NFL, and he finally got his head coaching break when he was hired by the Browns in 1991.

In 1988 Belichick had interviewed for Cleveland's vacancy when Marty Scottenheimer was fired. He instead stayed with the Giants; he won a Super Bowl in 1990 as their defensive coordinator. Belichick was 38 years old at the time he was hired by the Browns, making him the youngest head coach in the league. However, he didn't take the NFL by storm as some disruptive young coaches have.

Belichick would ultimately face a losing record in four of his five seasons in Cleveland, though he did lead the team to the postseason in 1994. The Browns finished 11–5 that season, and they beat the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. Despite a losing record in 1995, it was Belichick's understanding that he would follow the Browns to Baltimore when Modell moved the team there for the 1996 season. Instead, he was fired. He's since become one of the greatest head coaches in the history of the NFL and has won six Super Bowls with the Patriots.

Bill Belichick: Browns Coaching Record

YearGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

1995

16

5

11

0

0.313

1994

16

11

5

0

0.688

1993

16

7

9

0

0.438

1992

16

7

9

0

0.438

1991

16

6

10

0

0.375

4. Sam Rutigliano

  • Browns Head Coach: 1978–84
  • Record: 47–50
  • Playoff Appearances: 1980, '82
  • Awards: United Press International NFL Coach of the Year (1979–80)

When the Browns hired Sam Rutigliano, they did something they had never done in the first 31 years of the franchise—hire a head coach from outside the organization. Rutigliano was the sixth coach in the history of the Browns, and he was hired off of the Saints' assistant coaching staff.

It didn't take long for him to become a beloved figure in Cleveland. By 1980 he had the Browns in position to make the postseason. Behind the arm of quarterback Brian Sipe, who was named the NFL's MVP that season, the Browns won their division. But they lost in the first round of the playoffs on the famed Red Right 88 play call.

Cleveland would make the postseason in the strike-shortened 1982 season, but again they faced a first-round exit. The Browns finished at 9–7 in 1983 but missed the playoffs, and the team started to unravel in 1984, scuffling to a 1–7 start. That's when Rutigliano—who also served as vice president of operations for the Browns—was fired and replaced by his defensive coordinator, Marty Schottenheimer.

Sam Rutigliano: Browns Coaching Record

*Fired mid-season
^Strike-shortened season

YearGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

1984*

8

1

7

0

0.125

1983

16

9

7

0

0.563

1982^

9

4

5

0

0.444

1981

16

5

11

0

0.313

1980

16

11

5

0

0.688

1979

16

9

7

0

0.563

1978

16

8

8

0

0.500

3. Marty Schottenheimer

  • Browns Head Coach: 1984–88
  • Record: 44–27
  • Playoff Appearances: 1985–88
  • Awards: United Press International AFC Coach of the Year (1986)

When Marty Schottenheimer was promoted to Browns head coach in the middle of the 1984 season, he inherited a talented team that had limped to a measly 1–7 record over the first eight games. The former defensive coordinator would make the most of his first head coaching job, however, directing the team to a 4–4 finish that season.

After that, he pushed Cleveland to four postseason appearances. Schottenheimer's Browns won three straight division titles from 1985 to '87, and they made the postseason as a wild card in '88. In both 1986 and '87, Cleveland advanced to the conference championship game but lost to the Broncos.

Schottenheimer and Cleveland owner Art Modell mutually agreed to part ways following the 1988 season, despite the talented core Schottenheimer had built still being intact. Schottenheimer wanted to continue serving in a dual role as head coach and offensive coordinator in 1989, while Modell believed the Browns needed a full-time offensive coordinator to get past the best teams in the league. Even though Schottenheimer was criticized throughout 1988 for taking on the extra responsibilities, his stubbornness won out when he decided to amicably move on rather than realign his assistant coaching staff. He would continue on to coach Kansas City, Washington and San Diego, though none of his teams ever made the Super Bowl.

Marty Schottenheimer: Browns Coaching Record

*Strike-shortened season
^Hired mid-season

YearGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

1988

16

10

6

0

0.625

1987*

15

10

5

0

0.667

1986

16

12

4

0

0.750

1985

16

8

8

0

0.500

1984^

8

4

4

0

0.500

2. Blanton Collier

  • Browns Head Coach: 1963–70
  • Record: 76-34-2
  • Playoff Appearances: 1964–65, 1967–69

Blanton Collier became the second coach in Browns history after Paul Brown was abruptly fired following the 1962 season, and Collier certainly tried to keep pace with the team's established winning tradition. He led the Browns to two NFL championship games; they won the title in 1964, the last championship in franchise history. In that game, the Browns upset the heavily favored Colts 27–0 in one of the greatest games in NFL history.

Collier spent eight seasons under Brown as a backfield coach from 1946 to '53, and then he returned to Cleveland as an assistant in '62 after being relieved of his head coaching duties at the University of Kentucky. Collier's head coaching style was in contrast to Paul Brown, allowing him to quickly earn the respect of his players, despite being quite reserved and soft-spoken.

The Browns appeared in the NFL championship game again in 1965. They advanced to the conference championship game in 1968 and '69, but they weren't able to find victory. Collier finished his career with a 3–4 playoff record. After the 1970 season, he announced his retirement as head coach due to a hearing ailment, but he stayed with Cleveland as a scout and quarterbacks coach. It was said the league lost a true gentleman when he stepped down, paving the way for his offensive coordinator, Nick Skorich, to take over as head coach.

Blanton Collier: Browns Coaching Record

YearGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

1970

14

7

7

0

0.500

1969

14

10

3

1

0.769

1968

14

10

4

0

0.714

1967

14

9

5

0

0.643

1966

14

9

5

0

0.643

1965

14

11

3

0

0.786

1964

14

10

3

1

0.769

1963

14

10

4

0

0.714

1. Paul Brown

  • Browns Head Coach: 1946–62
  • Record: 158-48-8
  • Playoff Appearances: 1946–55, 1957–58
  • Awards: Hall of Fame (1967), Browns Ring of Honor, United Press International NFL Coach of the Year (1957), NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team

Under the guidance of Paul Brown, the Browns dominated the short-lived All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1946 to '49, and then became one of the most feared teams in the NFL during the 1950s. Brown was also a co-founder of the franchise, and during his 17-year tenure as head coach Cleveland won seven championships, made the postseason 12 times and had just one losing season. The Browns won every championship in the short-lived AAFC and then picked up NFL titles in 1950, '54 and '55. Brown's postseason record as head coach was 9–5.

On top of his on-field success, Brown was also an early innovator of several common practices in today's NFL. He was the first coach to use film to scout opponents and hire a staff of assistant coaches, and he also invented the face mask, the practice squad and the draw play.

Most importantly, however, he played an integral role in breaking football's modern color barrier. In 1946, he signed the two black players in the AAFC—fullback Marion Motley and defensive end Bill Willis. However, Brown didn't make these decisions in an attempt to further civil rights—he just wanted the best football team he could have.

By 1962, new owner Art Modell and Brown had significant disagreements on the direction of the franchise, which led to Brown's firing on Jan. 9, 1963. His firing remains one of the most controversial moments in franchise history, even though many players didn't like Brown's strictness. After several years away from football, he co-founded and coached another Ohio NFL team—the Bengals. He was involved with that franchise until his death in 1991.

Paul Brown: Browns Coaching Record

YearGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

1962

14

7

6

1

0.538

1961

14

8

5

1

0.615

1960

12

8

3

1

0.727

1959

12

7

5

0

0.583

1958

12

9

3

0

0.750

1957

12

9

2

1

0.818

1956

12

5

7

0

0.417

1955

12

9

2

1

0.818

1954

12

9

3

0

0.750

1953

12

11

1

0

0.917

1952

12

8

4

0

0.667

1951

12

11

1

0

0.917

1950

12

10

2

0

0.833

1949

12

9

1

2

0.900

1948

14

14

0

0

1.000

1947

14

12

1

1

0.923

1946

14

12

2

0

0.857

Former Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams questions an official during a 2018 game. Technically, he is the only Cleveland coach since the 1980s to have a winning career record.

Former Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams questions an official during a 2018 game. Technically, he is the only Cleveland coach since the 1980s to have a winning career record.

Honorable Mentions

Several other Browns head coaches have left an indelible mark on franchise history but fell just short of the top five.

Nick Skorich

As the third head coach in franchise history, Nick Skorich led the Browns from 1971 to '74. Cleveland made the playoffs in the first two seasons of Skorich's tenure, but they were unable to win a game—though they nearly upset the undefeated 1972 Dolphins in the first round. Skorich had a hand in drafting several future stars of the Browns, including quarterback Brian Sipe, running back Greg Pruitt and offensive lineman Doug Dieken. His career record was 30-24-2.

Bud Carson

Bud Carson didn't coach the Browns for very long, but in his limited time he accomplished a fair amount. In his only stint as an NFL head coach, Carson led the Browns to a divisional championship in 1989, but the team lost to the Broncos in the conference championship game for the third time in four seasons. Carson was fired midway through the 1990 season; he finished 11-13-1 with the Browns.

Gregg Williams

It's unusual that an interim coach would make a list of a team's best coaches, but given the Browns' performance in recent years, the spark that Gregg Williams ignited in the second half of 2018 was the brightest the franchise had seen in years. Williams took over for the fired Hue Jackson halfway through the season, and he led the Browns the rest of the way to a 5–3 record, which technically made him the only Cleveland coach with a winning career record since the 1980s. The Browns ultimately passed on hiring Williams for the 2019 season—instead picking Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after one season.

Former Browns head coach Hue Jackson protesting an official's decision during the 2018 season. Jackson was one of the most unsuccessful coaches of all time, going 3-36-1 over 2 1/2 seasons in Cleveland.

Former Browns head coach Hue Jackson protesting an official's decision during the 2018 season. Jackson was one of the most unsuccessful coaches of all time, going 3-36-1 over 2 1/2 seasons in Cleveland.

How many head coaches have the Browns had?

The Browns have had 22 head coaches since their inception in 1946. A year-by-year list of every coach's record follows.

Who is the current head coach of the Browns?

On Jan. 12, 2020, Cleveland formally announced that Kevin Stefanski had been hired as the 22nd head coach in franchise history.

Kevin Stefanski was introduced as the 22nd head coach in the history of the Browns on Jan. 14, 2020.

Kevin Stefanski was introduced as the 22nd head coach in the history of the Browns on Jan. 14, 2020.

Browns Head Coaches: Complete History

Current through 2019

YearCoachGamesWinsLossesTiesWinning %

2019

Freddie Kitchens

16

6

10

0

0.375

2018

Gregg Williams

8

5

3

0

0.625

2018

Hue Jackson

8

2

5

1

0.313

2017

Hue Jackson

16

0

16

0

0.000

2016

Hue Jackson

16

1

15

0

0.063

2015

Mike Pettine

16

3

13

0

0.188

2014

Mike Pettine

16

7

9

0

0.438

2013

Rob Chudzinski

16

4

12

0

0.250

2012

Pat Shurmur

16

5

11

0

0.313

2011

Pat Shurmur

16

4

12

0

0.250

2010

Eric Mangini

16

5

11

0

0.313

2009

Eric Mangini

16

5

11

0

0.313

2008

Romeo Crennel

16

4

12

0

0.250

2007

Romeo Crennel

16

10

6

0

0.625

2006

Romeo Crennel

16

4

12

0

0.250

2005

Romeo Crennel

16

6

10

0

0.375

2004

Terry Robiskie

5

1

4

0

0.200

2004

Butch Davis

11

3

8

0

0.273

2003

Butch Davis

16

5

11

0

0.313

2002

Butch Davis

16

9

7

0

0.563

2001

Butch Davis

16

7

9

0

0.438

2000

Chris Palmer

16

3

13

0

0.188

1999

Chris Palmer

16

2

14

0

0.125

1995

Bill Belichick

16

5

11

0

0.313

1994

Bill Belichick

16

11

5

0

0.688

1993

Bill Belichick

16

7

9

0

0.438

1992

Bill Belichick

16

7

9

0

0.438

1991

Bill Belichick

16

6

10

0

0.375

1990

Jim Shofner

7

1

6

0

0.143

1989

Bud Carson

9

2

7

0

0.222

1989

Bud Carson

16

9

6

1

0.594

1988

Marty Schottenheimer

16

10

6

0

0.625

1987

Marty Schottenheimer

15

10

5

0

0.667

1986

Marty Schottenheimer

16

12

4

0

0.750

1985

Marty Schottenheimer

16

8

8

0

0.500

1984

Marty Schottenheimer

8

4

4

0

0.500

1984

Sam Rutigliano

8

1

7

0

0.125

1983

Sam Rutigliano

16

9

7

0

0.563

1982

Sam Rutigliano

9

4

5

0

0.444

1981

Sam Rutigliano

16

5

11

0

0.313

1980

Sam Rutigliano

16

11

5

0

0.688

1979

Sam Rutigliano

16

9

7

0

0.563

1978

Sam Rutigliano

16

8

8

0

0.500

1977

Forrest Gregg

13

6

7

0

0.462

1977

Dick Modzelewski

1

0

1

0

0.000

1976

Forrest Gregg

14

9

5

0

0.643

1975

Forrest Gregg

14

3

11

0

0.214

1974

Nick Skorich

14

4

10

0

0.286

1973

Nick Skorich

14

7

5

2

0.571

1972

Nick Skorich

14

10

4

0

0.714

1971

Nick Skorich

14

9

5

0

0.643

1970

Blanton Collier

14

7

7

0

0.500

1969

Blanton Collier

14

10

3

1

0.769

1968

Blanton Collier

14

10

4

0

0.714

1967

Blanton Collier

14

9

5

0

0.643

1966

Blanton Collier

14

9

5

0

0.643

1965

Blanton Collier

14

11

3

0

0.786

1964

Blanton Collier

14

10

3

1

0.769

1963

Blanton Collier

14

10

4

0

0.714

1962

Paul Brown

14

7

6

1

0.538

1961

Paul Brown

14

8

5

1

0.615

1960

Paul Brown

12

8

3

1

0.727

1959

Paul Brown

12

7

5

0

0.583

1958

Paul Brown

12

9

3

0

0.750

1957

Paul Brown

12

9

2

1

0.818

1956

Paul Brown

12

5

7

0

0.417

1955

Paul Brown

12

9

2

1

0.818

1954

Paul Brown

12

9

3

0

0.750

1953

Paul Brown

12

11

1

0

0.917

1952

Paul Brown

12

8

4

0

0.667

1951

Paul Brown

12

11

1

0

0.917

1950

Paul Brown

12

10

2

0

0.833

1949

Paul Brown

12

9

1

2

0.900

1948

Paul Brown

14

14

0

0

1.000

1947

Paul Brown

14

12

1

1

0.923

1946

Paul Brown

14

12

2

0

0.857