February is the best time on the sporting calendar to take a step back and have some fun barstool conversations. One such topic is favorite players of the Cleveland Browns, so the WFNY staff decided to jot ours down. The rules are simple. Choose your favorite all-time Browns player. If someone has already selected that player, then choose your second favorite (or third if second also picked, etc.). Give a brief explanation why you chose the play and it is highly recommended to add an appropriate image or GIF.
Craig: Ozzie Newsome.
I know this gets complex with Ozzie’s involvement with another team in the league after retiring as a player, but there’s one specific memory that will never be surpassed for me. I have no idea which game it was or even what year it happened, but I remember Ozzie making a catch and the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium scoreboard reading “OZZIE AWESOME” and getting all the warm fuzzy feelings. It’s one of those moments that is the inception of every sports fan. I happen to remember mine, kind of, mostly.
Joe: Joe Haden.
I liked Joe Haden when he came out of Florida and so my fandom began right from the beginning. He is one of the only few players the Browns have drafted since 1999, who have performed well and have earned a second contract. He plays hard and leaves everything on the field, case and point to this season where he played through two groin injuries to play the final few games of a meaningless season. But, I also love his passion for Cleveland. He is a true champion of Cleveland, attending Cavs games and opening up a shoe store downtown.
Michael: Joe Thomas.
Over the 10 seasons he has played for the Browns, the team has won more than they lost only once- in ihs rookie year- and never been to the playoffs. The Browns have been such a complete mess as regime after regime after regime has done a half-assed job of patching together the roster. Through it all, Thomas has not missed a snap. Not one. He has competed at a Hall of Fame level and been so outstanding that he has received recognition from around the league. NFL accolades despite playing for a moribund franchise at an often ignored position.
Even more, his play does not appear to be one of physical domination. He doesn’t pancake the opposition to the ground as Orlando Pace did. Joe Thomas simply does not yield ground and gets in the way. A masterful technician or the world’s best scrub. There are many times watching the Browns that I get frustrated and need to calm myself. I don’t step away. I don’t take deep breaths. I watch Joe Thomas for an entire series. He is my happy place.
Josh: Josh Cribbs.
No, it’s not just because his name is Josh. While I have a handful of favorite Browns over the years, I chose Cribbs because I just like how he played the game. He played it the right way and did so much for the team back in his day, whether it was lining up at receiver or in the backfield, he seemed very underappreciated at times on the Browns offense. His best skill was being a kick and punt returner, but that quickly faded when the NFL virtually made kickoff returns nonexistent, which was part of the reason why he didn’t do much in the NFL after that rule change. I also love the fact that he still does Browns pre- and post-game work with the Browns, it shows that he truly loves the team and wants them to succeed.
Scott: Clay Matthews.
When I was younger, my parents spent their winters slaying what was called “toll painting.” Craft shows, much like card shows, were the shit and were flooded with folks looking to spend money on original items. My parents, despite both working full time, did their best to provide for my sisters and I and the thinking was they could spend a few hours after dinner to whip up some wooden magic—my dad on the band saw, my mom with a wall of paint colors and her brush—to produce some extra spending money come Christmas time. One of the people who stumbled into my parents’ booth many years back was Leslie Matthews, the wife of then Browns linebacker, Clay.
Outside of the four Pro Bowls and three-time first team All Pro nods, Matthews, to me, was the quintessential Cleveland football player. At 6-2, 250 lbs., his stature was attainable. The Starting Lineup of his likeness was a spitting image thanks to the grid-like facemask and gigantic, serving plate-sized shoulder pads. And no matter what point in the game it was, it felt as if Matthews was always dirty.
Leslie and my mom would strike up a relationship wherein rather then waiting for various shows, she would just come to our house and essentially shop from our living room. It’s like when Oprah shuts down a Hermés so she can shop, but on a super-suburbia, late-80s level. While Clay would never come with her (can you blame him?) she would come equipped with some autographed items that would absolutely light up the young Browns fan in me.
The bloodlines are writ large, and Eric Mangini passing on Clay III in 2009 is something I still haven’t gotten over.1 And while Clay III gets celebrated for helping the Packers win a Super Bowl (and the hair sure didn’t hurt), it’s easy to forget that his dad has just three fewer sacks while racking up four times as many tackles and ten more interceptions.2 When healthy, Clay III has been a treat for modern-day fans to watch. For those of us who had the pleasure and fortune of watching the Browns of the mid-to-late-80s, watching his old man go to work was much more so.
Pat: Eric Metcalf.
He is infamous thanks to the phrase “Metcalf up the middle,” but Eric Metcalf was more than a slim guy who former head coaches Bud Carson and Bill Belichick used to plow into defensive tackles. Metcalf was a dynamic game changer in an era before the NFL was interested in players like that. Back in the early 1990s, the AFC’s central division was reserved for hard-nosed, grit-and-grind teams who were mostly interested in running the football and passing to set up another run of the football. Metcalf was a running back, wide receiver, and returner all rolled into one. He could truly do it all, and he could break your ankles in the process. It’s a shame he never got to play in the modern league where he would have been a true star.
Jim: Brian Sipe.
There are so many painful memories for Cleveland Browns fans, and while Brian Sipe’s throw during Red Right 88 will live in infamy, that magical 1980 season still stands as one of the most memorable in Cleveland history. Bernie Kosar and Otto Graham are the two quarterbacks that are most mentioned in Browns history, but Sipe still holds most of the major records for the organization, including most all-time yards, most single season yards (the only QB in Browns history with more than 4,000 in a season), and most TDs in a season, to name a few. Sipe’s best attribute wasn’t in the statistics, but what he brought to the field every game. The 6’0,” 190 pound quarterback wasn’t close to prototype, but he was a natural born leader. He wasn’t particularly fast, or strong, and won’t be remembered for his cannon arm, but the leader of the 1980 “Kardiac Kids” took a beating, and still always seemed to find a way to win. 1980 made me an NFL fan, and Sipe was the centerpiece. Thirteen of the Browns 16 games were decided in the final two minutes, and 14 of 17 overall, if you throw in that fateful playoff game against the Raiders. He was a gunslinger…a risk-taker…and a natural born football general. While that mentality led to that infamous interception that ended a brilliant season, it also led him to the unanimous MVP that same year, becoming only the second player in Browns history to win the award. The first? Jim Brown…enough said.
Corey: Tim Couch.
On December 8, 2002, the Browns trailed the Jaguars 20-14 in Jacksonville. While Cleveland was driving late, my father sought to caution my 12-year-old heart that the game may not go our way. I said, “Don’t worry Dad. All we need is a Hail Mary to win.” On the next play, Tim Couch dropped back to pass and launched a 50-yard rainbow which Quincy Morgan pulled in with one hand. Tim proved me right. That was my first truly great moment as a Browns fan, and Tim Couch made it possible. Plus I had his bobble head.
Dave: Eric Turner
As a lifelong Browns fan it was tough for me to pick a player for any specific football reasons. We’ve had a ton of great players over the years. I picked Eric Turner because when I used to watch the Browns with my dad, he always liked him, so naturally I liked him too. He was a hard hitter, but he also had the chops to play in coverage, but I think what my dad liked about him was his leadership on the field. He was very vocal on defense and it seemed like he was a critical piece of the defense. That was made very clear during the 8 games he missed in ’95 where teams threw downfield at will. Everyone was shocked when in 2000 he passed away at age 31 from abdominal cancer just a few months after the ’99 season where he played in Oakland. I’ll always remember watching him play and he’ll always be my favorite Brown.