Ohio State Hall of Famer: Man of Many ‘Firsts’


What a legacy, at Ohio State and beyond.

This Pro Football Hall of Famer was responsible for Ohio State becoming included among the elite college football programs by leading the Buckeyes to their first National championship. Then there were many more “firsts” to come in Paul Brown’s legendary coaching career.

Brown was hired to coach Ohio State in 1941 straight from the high school ranks. He had coached Massillon Washington High School to 6 consecutive state championships and 4 High School National Championships as well.

The 33 year old head coach brought a disciplined style of football to the Buckeyes, and found favor with the fans immediately. Ohio State finished 6-1-1 in coach Brown’s first season. And the 20-20 tie with Michigan at the end of the season was certainly an improvement over the three straight losses that ended Francis Schmidt’s tenure as head coach of the Buckeyes.

The following season he led Ohio State to a 9-1 record, and after the 21-7 victory over Michigan the Buckeyes were awarded their first National championship by the Associated Press. In 1943 things took a downturn. WW II was heating up and players from every school were being drafted into the service and the Buckeyes were only 3-6-1. After the season coach Brown was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Navy.

He coached a Navy team in 1944-45, the Great Lakes Blue Jackets, and his teams pulled off two victories against Notre Dame. After the war, instead of returning to coach Ohio State he accepted the head coaching job of a new professional football team, the Cleveland Browns. He said he was sad not to be returning to Ohio State but he had to take the offer to coach Cleveland in fairness to his family. It was reported Brown was to be the highest paid football coach in the nation.

Here is where the “firsts” for Paul Brown really began to pile up. Not only was he the first coach of the Cleveland Browns, his team won the first All American Football Conference Championship in 1946.  

Then he coached the first undefeated 14-0 professional football team in history in 1948. After winning the AAFC championship all four years of its existence, the Browns entered the NFL along with the San Francisco 49ers and the original Baltimore Colts.

The AAFC was a laughing stock to many in the NFL, so they paired Cleveland with the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in the first game of the 1950 season to show their superiority. Coach Brown’s team won that first game 35-10.

The Browns went on to win their conference that first season and played in the NFL title game. Cleveland defeated the Los Angeles Rams 30-28 to win the championship in their first NFL season.

The Browns went on to play in the next five championship games winning two of them. Coach Brown became the first, and only, head coach in professional football history to reach his league’s title game 10 years in a row.

Following a dispute with owner Art Modell, Brown was let go as head coach of Cleveland in 1963. Then he had another first.

He founded the Cincinnati Bengals, an AFL expansion team, in 1969. And of course he was their first head coach.

Paul Brown was one of the most innovative football coaches ever, so there were even more “firsts” as well. Check out some of those courtesy of Wikipedia.

"The AAFC’s Paul Brown produced numerous innovations to the game on and off the field. Among them were year-round coaching staffs, precision pass patterns, the face mask, and the practice of coaches’ calling plays via “messenger guards”. He also was the first coach to have his staff film the opposition and have his team break down those game films in a classroom setting. In fact, the classroom setting and chalkboard analysis can also be attributed to him. His success with the Browns forced the rest of both leagues to adopt his methods."

This “first” was extremely important.

"Black players were excluded from the NFL from 1934–1945. The AAFC helped reintegrate Professional Football in 1946 when Cleveland signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis."

Coach Brown was way ahead of his time in many ways.

He certainly was a man of many “firsts”. Here are a few that have never been matched and some of them never will be.

The only professional coach to lead his team to 29 consecutive wins.

The only football coach to win a high school state championship, a National high school championship, a college National championship and two titles in different professional football leagues.

The only man to be the first head football coach of two different franchises in different leagues.

The only professional football coach to lead his team to ten consecutive title games.

The only professional coach to win 5 consecutive titles.

More from Scarlet and Game

There are probably even more “first and only” situations with Paul Brown. However, I think this makes the point that the man set standards that were so high even some of the great coaches who followed him couldn’t quite reach them.

A pretty good career don’t you think? Especially for a guy who couldn’t make the Buckeye football team and had to leave Ohio State and go to Miami University to play quarterback. It’s a good thing he didn’t hold it against the university and was willing to come back and coach the Buckeyes.

The National championship team he coached in 1942 brought Ohio State into National prominence in college football. The Buckeyes haven’t looked back since.

must read: This Ohio State Player A Difficult Path to HOF

That was a great “first” for coach Paul Brown, and for Ohio State fans everywhere!

I want to give credit to those at Wikipedia for providing much of the information in this article.