All Time Top 5 Running/Fullbacks

When looking into the history of the Cleveland Browns, the current state of the team clouds the mind and make it easy to forget there were so many great players on the squad in the past. Let’s reminisce about backfields that had once had both Pruitt’s at the same time,1 Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner double teaming defenses, and the GOAT.2

No. 5: Greg Pruitt

Stats: 5,496 rushing yards, 25 TDs, 3,022 receiving yards, 17 TDs, 4 Pro Bowls (1973, 1974, 1976, 1977)

Pruitt was a dynamic player for the Browns in the 70s, starting out as a punt and kick returner, even making the Pro Bowl in his rookie and sophomore years being used primarily as a returner. He eventually became a Pro Bowl level running back for the team, rushing for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in 1976 and 1977. Greg Pruitt3 was with the Browns for nine years and totaled 5,496 rushing yards and 25 TDs.

No. 4: Marion Motley

Stats: 4,712 rushing yards, 31 TDs, 1,107 receiving yards, 7 TDs, 1 Pro Bowl (1950), 2 All Pro teams (1948, 1950), 1 NFL Championship (1950), Hall of Fame (1968)

Originally, I had Motley No. 5, just due to lack of stats comparatively, but when you look at the numbers he put up in an era where 1,000 yard seasons were almost unheard of, it put him above other worthy challengers.  Motley paved the way for African American players in the NFL, with his no nonsense approach on and off the field. Motley was a “hit ’em in the teeth,” grind it out player and paid for it by having such a short career when you look at his successors. Running for 4,712 yards as a Brown, Motley comes in No. 6. He does lead the franchise in yards per attempt at 5.7 among those with at least 200 attempts (sorry Mike Phipps) and had only nine lost fumbles in his eight years as a Browns fullback. He was instrumental in the 1950 championship season, the one season he made the Pro Bowl.

 No. 3: Mike Pruitt

Stats: 6,540 rushing yards, 47 TDs, 1,761 receiving yards, 5 TDs, 2 Pro Bowls (1979, 1980)

Mike Pruitt, no relation to Greg, was less flash but more production than his surname-sake. Rushing for 6,540 yards in nine years, he outproduced the other Pruitt by over 1,000 yards, while also losing fewer fumbles, 37 to 59. Mike was named starter midway through the 1978 season and never gave the job back. He was named to the Pro Bowl the next two seasons, helping the Browns make the playoffs in 1980.

No. 2: Leroy Kelly 

Stats: 7,274 rushing yards, 74 TDs, 2,281 receiving yards, 13 TDs, 6 Pro Bowls (1966-1971), 3 All Pro teams (1966-1968), Hall of Fame (1994)

Kelly took over the starting job reigns from the legendary Jim Brown in 1966 and kept the train going into the 1970s. Once finally handed the starting job, Kelly went to six straight Pro Bowls and had three All Pro seasons. Rushing for 7,274 yards in his ten year career, Kelly finished as No. 2 in franchise history in yards. Kelly earned his place in the Hall of Fame, getting inducted in 1994.

No. 1: Jim Brown

Stats: 12,312 rushing yards, 106 TDs, 2,499 receiving yards, 20 TDs, 9 Pro Bowls (1957-1965), 8 All Pro teams (1957-1961, 1963-1965), NFL Championship (1964)

Another list where the top was always known. Jim Brown can make a claim that only Ric Flair can: best there is, best there was, best there ever will be. Totaling over 12,000 yards, he rushed for 1,000 more yards than No. 3 and 4 on this list combined. It’s not hard to grasp how good he was; he was named to the Pro Bowl every year he played, and was named to the All Pro team in every year except 1962, when he rushed for *only* 996 yards and 13 TDs. He was the focal point of the team that won the championship in 1964 and has set records that will likely never be beaten. It’s plain and simple: when it comes to Browns running backs, Jim Brown is the GOAT.4

Honorable Mention

It was hard to not list Kevin Mack or Earnest Byner, but it needs to be mentioned that in 1985, they were only the third teammates to both rush for 1,000 in the same season. For that reason they are here in the honorable mentions category. Out of the crop of “new” Browns, Jamal Lewis is No. 9 all time in rush yards in only three seasons, totaling 1,304 in 2007 and 1,002 in 2008. Of those currently on the roster, Isaiah Crowell is No. 12 with 2,265 rushing yards. If an extension is reached, he could eclipse some big names over the next year(s).

WFNY’s All-Time Cleveland Browns position rankings

  1. Greg and Mike []
  2. If we need to tell you who the Greatest Running back of All-Time is, then perhaps you found WFNY by mistake. Welcome and please continue reading for the answer. []
  3. there are two Pruitt’s on this list remember []
  4. Apologies to Jose Ramirez but rules are rules. []

  • mgbode

    Why take the path of least resistance when you can be tackled for no gain by taking a crazy route to it?

  • tigersbrowns2

    he displays excellent vision on this play … he sees the Steelers safety at the top of the screen & immediately went the other way.

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    My personal favorite was when he once ignored a HUGE HOLE GAPING IN THE DEFENSE and decided to try to jump over the pile instead…

  • tigersbrowns2

    he should be following #75 on this play … the Dolphins defender at the 43 yard-line is unblocked & zeroing in on him … i would be following the blockers around the right end.

  • tigersbrowns2

    so , now i guess i have to go find some William Green video on just how good he was …

  • mgbode

    Yeah, I mean he could have tripped over the OL’s feet and still scored and all.

  • mgbode

    75 cuts up the orange line on this particular play.

  • tigersbrowns2

    man , he was really really bad … so what does all this mean ??? … T-Rich was really bad , had no vision , no burst , no nothin’ & as bad as he was he STILL broke Jim Brown’s rookie records.

  • tigersbrowns2

    nahhh , i can take it … he is actually working his ass off on this thread … and besides , he can’t win every single time.

  • mgbode

    naw, no work at all. – search “Trent Richardson misses hole”

    There are about 100 more if you are interested.

  • tsm

    Don’t forget the Kansas Comet – Gale Sayers. In my view a better version of Barry Sanders.

  • Chris

    Fair to say his biggest problem was getting past his own lineman?

  • Garry_Owen

    He’s the biggest barrier to us being a perennial playoff team.

  • Chris

    Bode did it.

  • Chris

    No no no no no… you’re confusing “leaving” with “shipped out for boatloads of mid-round draft picks”.

    Big difference

  • mgbode

    He believed in his ability to run over defenders so much that he refused to run through open space?

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi TSM … great great player … i think he gets shafted sometimes because of how long he played.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … so , would you accept 950 yards & 11 TD’s from Crowell ??

  • mgbode

    not if they came on 267 rushing attempts

    good thing is he would get benched before reaching those numbers
    better thing is he won’t need 267 attempts to eclipse 1100 yards

  • mgbode
  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    He wasn’t in that movie? Are you sure?

  • tigersbrowns2

    i will leave our discussion with this & then you may have the last word … Green was more than just a flop on the field … 2 college suspensions for marijuana , arrested in 2003 , while with the Browns , for drunk driving & marijuana possession … that same year he gets stabbed by his wife during a domestic dispute … then in 2014 has a child out of wedlock & on & on.

    here is a guy with all the talent in the world , would’ve been a top-10 pick easily … but he pissed it all away. i personally don’t think T-Rich had anywhere near the talent that Green did … T-Rich was lucky to play on a powerhouse Alabama team , but at least for the most part he kept his nose clean … so tell me , which is worse & who is more disappointing ??

  • Chris

    “Huge monster of a man straps into tiny cockpit”… haven’t heard of it.

  • Chris

    “Flop” insinuates that there were expectations. I would exclude Hillis from even an honorable mention.

    “One-Year Wonder” for sure.

  • mgbode

    Oh, we are including off the field now and you think Trent wouldn’t still clinch it? So, there’s this video…

  • mgbode

    Do not read that quote quickly or it will read as something different than what it says.

  • CBiscuit

    Pet peeve on my list…especially every time in an 10 items or less aisle.

  • Chris

    …or on mobile.

    “Pit” didn’t make the preview

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  • tigersbrowns2

    my good man , you know as well as I that the off-field distractions have much to do with the on-field performance … I will drop it now.

  • mgbode

    yeah, do you not know of the Richardson video? or the littany of other off field issues Richardson had in the NFL?

    I’ll just let Phil Savage (Bama radio man now) sum it all up for you:
    “He’s not handled his affairs off the field,” Savage said.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MG … i am fine with Green being at the top of my most disappointing list , as i’m sure you’re good with T-Rich being at the top of yours. as you proved with your examples yesterday , T-Rich was never as good as some thought to begin with … I expected more from Green.