ONE MAN HAD TO GO SO THREE COULD ARRIVE
The Cleveland Browns are happy to announce that they are back in business and bigger than ever. Led by Jimmy Brown, that magnificent fullback, the Browns are crushing opponents this, season as remorselessly as they did in the early 1950s, when they won six straight Eastern Division titles. The Browns opened the season, by flattening Washington 37-14. Brown scored three touchdowns, one on an 80-yard run, another on an 83-yard pass play. He scored two more touchdowns against Dallas the following week on runs of 71 and 62 yards, as the Browns again won easily 41-24. Last week, on a wet field at Cleveland, he scored another touchdown, a 17-yard run, as the Browns won their third straight, 20-6 over the Rams. In the three games Brown gained 489 yards, the best start the great back has ever had.
It was just a year ago that Jimmy Brown had his worst season as a pro. For the first time since his rookie year he failed to gain 1,000 yards and for the first time he did not win the league's rushing title. The team did not fare well either, finishing a poor third behind the Giants and Steelers. The low point for Brown and his teammates came late in the season at Dallas. The Browns lost to the Cowboys 45-21. Jimmy Brown was held to 29 yards and in the dressing room he was obviously a very bitter man. He had been called upon to carry the ball only eight times and the man who called the plays was Paul Brown, the coach.
There can be no doubt that the major factor in the improvement of Jimmy Brown and his teammates this year is the absence of Paul Brown. Paul Brown was a legend, a coach with a glittering record, but much of the glitter was dimming. His Browns last won a division championship in 1957 and since then there had been nothing but disappointing seasons and rumors of dissent between players and coach. Paul Brown ran the Browns his way. No other way was considered, no other thoughts, no other opinions.
One of the players who resented Paul Brown most was Jimmy Brown. "I've always wanted to play for a coach I feel like going out and dying for," Brown once said. "Paul Brown is not that coach." Jim felt he would be a more effective runner if he were allowed to run outside more often. Paul Brown would have none of it. Time and again Jim would be sent up the middle when all the world knew he would be doing exactly that. Jim Brown would finish games battered, bruised and disheartened. He got so discouraged last season that he indicated to friends that this year he might play out his option, making himself a free agent, if Paul Brown returned as coach.
But Paul Brown did not return. Arthur Modell, the young, vibrant owner of the Browns, fired him when the 1962 season was over. "I spent three weeks considering it," Modell said the other day. "It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. When 1 bought this club, I idolized Paul Brown."
Modell refuses to discuss his reasons for firing Brown, but some are evident. Brown traded Bobby Mitchell to Washington without consulting Modell. Worse, Modell strongly suspected that Brown was about to trade Jimmy Brown for Johnny Unitas, even after Modell had told him Jimmy Brown must stay. But probably Modell's biggest reason for firing Brown was the discord between the players and the coach.
Sure enough, when Brown was let go to sit out his six-year contract at $75,000 a year, the players almost cheered. "After contacting most of our veteran players," said Bernie Parrish, the player representative, "I found that it was the virtually unanimous opinion that it was time for a change." Jim Brown was pleased. "Moralewise," he said, "I think things will improve. Football players don't like being treated as inferiors."
The man who is now coach of the Browns, Blanton Collier, was an assistant to Paul Brown for 10 years. He is loyal to Brown—he refused to speak to Modell for a week after Brown was fired and only took the job after Brown gave his blessing—but he has his own ideas about football techniques. "Collier gives us personal responsibility and a voice," said Jimmy Brown recently. "He is not autocratic. He leaves it up to me to work the way I want to work." Brown, contented too because of new line blocking assignments that allow him to pick his own hole, has been working harder in practice than ever before and his performance on the field speaks for itself.
Collier has also been responsible for the improvement in Frank Ryan, the Browns' quarterback. Ryan has been passing extremely accurately and this threat on offense has taken a lot of the pressure off Jimmy Brown.
"Collier taught me more about playing quarterback in six weeks than I had learned in my whole life," Ryan said the other day. "When I came up to the Rams in 1958, I tried to copy Johnny Unitas. I used to drop back, stare to my left, then turn right and try to find my receiver. Lots of times I couldn't do it. Collier told me to back away from the line of scrimmage, reading the defense as I did. He also told me to keep my eye on the receiver I think should be open. Defensive backs are watching the receivers—not me—so there's no point in faking. He said, 'Suppose you're in a crowded railroad station and you look across the waiting room at a nondescript man and you want to watch him walk across the room. If you watch him all the time, it's easy to follow him as he makes his way through the crowd, but if you look away for a second, you won't be able to find him again. It's the same with receivers.' "
Collier has also taught Ryan a trick he learned in the Navy. Collier was on the rifle range one afternoon, spraying shots all over the target area, when an old Marine sergeant came by and asked him what he was aiming at. Collier said the target, and the sergeant asked what part of the target. "The bull's-eye," Collier replied. The sergeant snorted. "You got to aim at the middle of the bull's-eye," he told Collier. "The margin of error increases with the size of the target."
While there is no record of Collier winning any medals for marksmanship, his aim did improve and he decided the same theory could be used in football.
"He told me to imagine a cross on the chest of the receiver," Ryan said. "Then I'm to aim for the middle of the cross. If I miss, I don't miss by much and the good receivers can catch anything close to them." This season Ryan has hit six imaginary crosses for scores and is second in the league in passing yardage.
While the Browns, undefeated and leading the Eastern Division, have obviously improved with Paul Brown out and Blanton Collier in, it should be emphasized that the opposition has been weak. Ahead are the major tests, games against the Steelers, Giants and Cardinals, plus a rugged intersectional battle with Detroit. These will prove just how strong Cleveland is. With Jimmy Brown happy and running free and Frank Ryan throwing bull's-eyes at imaginary crosses, opposing teams are not looking forward to finding out.