Just this week, the NFL released their Top 100 Players of 2017, and to no one’s surprise, there were no Cleveland Browns in the Top 10.
The first Brown to grace the list was at number 25, and again, to no one’s surprise, that honor belonged to perennial Pro Bowler and holder of our collective hopes and dreams that our quarterback remains upright, Joe Thomas.
Before you ask, “No. There are no other Browns on the list.” Nor are there any former Browns on the list who went on to excel elsewhere. There are plenty of guys the Browns have passed on in prior drafts, though.
To ease the pain, I’ve seen plenty of sites, radio shows, and Tweeters sending out their lists of Top 10 Browns for the upcoming season. Sure, I could have done that too, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’ve decided to give to you the Top 10 Browns of All Time.
The criteria are simple. I’ve had to actually see them play, they had to wear a Browns jersey, and that’s it.
So, here goes. (Spoiler alert: Joe Thomas doesn’t make this list.)
10. Brian Brennan
Brian Brennan, for the longest time during my childhood, was the greatest Brown alive. It didn’t hurt that I got to meet him when I was maybe six or seven, but it also didn’t hurt that he actually had a couple of pretty good seasons at the old Municipal Stadium. Eight seasons in Cleveland resulted in over 300 catches for nearly 4200 yards and 19 touchdowns. World beater he was not, but at 5’9″ and 178 lbs, he was Wes Welker before there was Wes Welker…
…ok, maybe he was more a poor man’s Brandon Stokely.
9. Joshua Cribbs
For years, Josh Cribbs was the only Browns highlight you’d find on SportsCenter each and every Sunday. The guy still holds 11 team return records, is tied for first all-time in career kick return touchdowns with 8, and at times looked like he was flying across the football field, playing his own version of catch-me-if-you-can. He went to the Pro Bowl three times (which is three times more than any first round draft pick not named Joe Thomas or Alex Mack) and finally retired a Brown this past offseason, even though he hadn’t played for anyone in almost two years.
Undrafted, he spent nine years in a Browns uniform and brought a little excitement in bleak times. Thanks, Josh.
8. Eric Turner
It’s difficult to try and pour humor into talking about a man who lost his life to cancer at the age of 31, but when I found that photo of Eric Turner, I couldn’t help but see a bit of incredulous as he listened to then-Browns coach Bill Belichick.
Turner was the first pick of Belichick’s time in Cleveland, at number 2 overall in 1991, and I remember a guy who hit hard and played at 120% all the time.
He was the kind of safety a lot of guys who are heralded in the league to this day play like and was probably on track to being a borderline Hall of Fame player…or at least a very memorable one at his position, notching 30 interceptions in 109 games played.
7. (tie) Eric Metcalf/Kevin Mack
As strange as it sounds, I can’t remember a Browns game growing up without hearing (at least once) the phrase “Metcalf up the middle.” Eric Metcalf was Josh Cribbs before there was a Josh Cribbs, excelling at kick and punt returns but never really becoming the guy on run plays, instead running right up the middle for negative yards. Sure, it wasn’t every time, but hearing my dad and other Browns fans talking, it might as well have been. In his Cleveland career alone, Metcalf returned five punts for touchdowns and two kickoffs to the house.
I had Kevin Mack’s “Starting Lineup” figure. He had a pretty good career in Cleveland, pairing with Earnest Byner to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season for the same team (1985), only the third duo to accomplish that.
5. Webster Slaughter
Suiting up in the brown and orange for six seasons, he finished his Cleveland career wtih 305 receptions and 27 TDs. Oh yeah, he also held the single-season receiving yard record with 1,236 (1989) that wasn’t broken until some scrub from TTUN broke it in 2007. Slaughter moved on to the Houston Oilers, where he traded in Brian Brennan and Reggie Langhorn for Ernest Givins and Haywood Jeffires…oh yeah, and Warren Moon.
4. Phil Dawson
Admit it, you still miss him. That’s fair, so do I. Phil Dawson was regularly the only bright spot on Browns teams year in and year out since their rebirth in 1999. He never really got the financial respect he deserved for all that suffering and exceptional play, twice franchised by the team and then ultimately allowed to walk in free agency. Still, he does have an entire rule named after him, which is really, really cool.
In the end, P-Daws is second in career points behind Lou Groza and also holds the record fir most field goals made in team history. We miss you, Phil. Every day.
3. Bernie Kosar
Bernie, Bernie. Oh, yeah! How you can throw! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Bernie, Bernie, Oh Baby, Superbowl!
What else do you need to know?
2. Michael Dean Perry
He has a brother nicknamed “The Refrigerator,” but Michael Dean Perry was terrifying and lovable all at once. So much so that McDonald’s unveiled the MDP in local markets (for a limited time, of course):
Playing for the Browns from 1989 to 1994, Perry went to five Pro Bowls and recorded 51.5 sacks. He finished his career in Denver, which seems sacrilegious when you think about it, but all and all, the guy could play and anchored our defense for years.
1. Clay Matthews, Jr.
This was easy, really. For years, a buddy of mine and I have constantly discussed the merits of Clay Matthews, Jr.’s career and have openly wondered aloud and protested his exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His stats stand up better than most think against guys like Mike Singletary, Derrick Brooks, and Junior Seau and are virtually the same as Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks.
For me, he’s the most fearsome face to ever don the Brown and Orange and deserves to be recognized as such. He’s been a semi-finalist twice, so maybe he’ll get in soon. If not, he should sack Roger Goodell for good measure.
So who did I “forget”? There’s a whole comment section where you can yell at me, or hit us up on Twitter @TalktheLand.