Browns 75th anniversary all-time team: Coaching staff of legends from Paul Brown to Marty Schottenheimer to Bill Belichick – Akron Beacon Journal

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We got our Browns 75th anniversary party started by drafting an all-time team of players.
Let’s keep it going with an all-time draft selecting Browns coaches.
Longtime Browns writers Ray Yannucci, Mike McLain, Steve King and yours truly picked the players team in draft style. We called it “The 75 Greatest Browns Players, Plus One For The Toe.”
While the draft panel’s working knowledge of team history dates to the beginning, we’re not smart enough to come up with 75 coaches. So we drafted 20.
The ground rules gave panelists a few ground rules. Take the best coach available, focusing on his work with the Browns. Don’t dwell on a coach’s work elsewhere, but weigh it as you see fit. Head coaches and assistants are fair game.
In our players draft, the pecking order went oldest to youngest (all of us are old enough). We flipped it for the coaches draft, going youngest to oldest.
This isn’t exactly a spoiler alert. Paul Brown got drafted first.
After that, much of the fun became imagining how our 20 coaches might fit together.
For example, Bill Belichick has turned into many observers’ idea of the NFL’s coaching GOAT. Plenty of historians think Paul Brown was the pro GOAT. A case can be made that Nick Saban is the college GOAT.
Bill Cowher just went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he did, he said in his stadium speech Marty Schottenheimer belongs in. Bruce Arians could get there. Hall of Fame player Forrest Gregg could have whipped any of them in arm wrestling.
All of them got drafted by our panel. The meeting room might get loud.
Meanwhile, let’s jump into the particulars with our complete anniversary coaches draft:
Career path: Brown played football at Massillon and Miami (Ohio) before a nine-year run as Massillon’s head coach (1932-40). He then won a national championship at Ohio State, and after World War II became head coach of the new Cleveland Browns. His Cleveland teams posted records of 52-4-3 in the All-America Conference (1946-49) and 167-53-8 in the NFL (1950-62). He was head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in their first eight years of existence (1968-75).
Steve King: His selection was a complete no-brainer. In fact, it would be the same if the category was the greatest head coach in pro football history. Yes, the top man among all those top men such as Halas, Lombardi, Shula and Belichick is the man from Massillon, the man in the fedora. In his first 10 seasons, his Browns played in 10 league championship games, winning seven of them. That’s a feat that had never been done, and will never, ever be done again. He is known as “The Father of Modern Football” for all of his innovations. That the Super Bowl championship trophy is not named for him is an absolute joke.
Career path: He grew up in Kentucky and met Paul Brown at a Navy training base during World War II. Collier worked on Brown’s Cleveland Browns staff from 1946-53, was a head college coach at Kentucky from 1954-61, and rejoined the Browns in 1962. Collier took over for Brown in 1963 and was head coach through 1970, compiling a 79-38-2 record.
Steve Doerschuk: The indignity of getting fired by upstart Art Modell became a deeper bruise for Brown, then 54, when his old friend Collier, then 56, replaced him. Collier was in his second year in the saddle when the Browns won the 1964 NFL championship. He certainly was working off Brown’s foundation then, but he proved himself as a leader and strategian in an eight-year run of winning seasons. The Brown era was old news when home playoff victories propelled Cleveland to NFL championship games, both blowout losses, in 1968 and ’69. How Browns history would have played out had Modell not bought the team and fired Brown is a question for the ages.
Career path: Schottenheimer grew up near Pittsburgh, played in the NFL for six years, and was 36 when he became Browns defensive coordinator in 1980. Promoted to head coach midway through the 1984 season after Sam Rutigliano got fired, Schottenheimer went 42-27 (including 2-4 postseason) in four full seasons before Modell fired him.
Mike McLain: Marty was a good X and O guy who was strong on the defensive side. The standard criticism is his postseason record, which includes two dramatic losses to the Broncos in AFC championship games. He made three other head coaching stops after Cleveland and ranks eighth all-time with 200 regular-season wins. A lot of coaches would like to have had his success.
Career path: Rutligliano was a Tennessee teammate of Jimmy Haslam Sr. before a run as a high school and college coach. He was 46 when the Browns hired him in 1978, and he was head coach until midway through the 1984 season. He was 46-43 in his six full seasons. Later, he was a college head coach at Liberty from 1989-99.
Ray Yannucci: After the era of Forrest Gregg, a taskmaster in the mold of his former coach, Vince Lombardi, Rutigliano brought a fresh, offensive-oriented style to the Browns which took the team to folklore status with the thrilling Kardiac Kids. In Sam’s system, Brian Sipe developed into the NFL’s MVP for 1980. It’s too bad Sam couldn’t survive until Bernie Kosar arrived, because he would have taken Bernie to even greater heights. Sam was a good coach, but was even better as the de facto general manager. I once asked  him why he didn’t seek the GM title. His reply was: “I don’t need the title, I have as much power as (Miami Dolphins coach) Don Shula.”
Career path: Born in Canal Fulton, Brinker played for Paul Brown at Massillon and coached in Brown’s program before becoming head coach at Steubenville High School. He then worked at Ohio University before joining Brown as a defensive coach in 1952. He stayed with the Browns through 1973 and later coached under Brown for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Steve King: The greatest overall team effort in Browns history resulted in a 27-0 domination of the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL championship game. Brinker devised the plan that kept the league’s top-scoring team off the scoreboard. In Brinker’s 22 years as coordinator, he put together defenses that were great but never got their due. The time has come for that to change.
Career path: Belichick grew up with a coaching dad, Steve, whose inspiration was Paul Brown. Bill was 23 when he landed his first NFL job and 38 when he coordinated the Giants’ defense in a 1990 Super Bowl win. He posted a 37-45 record as head coach of the Browns from 1991-95. Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996, leaving Belichick behind.
Steve Doerschuk: Belichick’s time in Cleveland was dreary, but in retrospect slivers of genius showed through. He opened with three straight losing seasons after the Browns had gone to three AFC title games in five years. Yet, he believed his fourth season (11-5, playoff win) was only the beginning of a payoff to “the plan.” In an alternate universe, the Browns don’t move, and Belichick is in his 10th Cleveland season when the Browns spend a late draft pick on Tom Brady.
Career path: Saban grew up in West Virginia, played safety at Kent State, and was head coach of the 9-2 Toledo Rockets in 1990 before landing a job with the Browns. He was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator from 1991-94 before jumping to Michigan State as head coach in 1995.
Mike McLain: Any Google search on tactical defense lands nothing but Saban-style tactics, going back to his Browns days. He was an innovator in mixing coverages and a master of turning individual talents into a unit. Saban’s 1994 Cleveland defense ranked first in the NFL in least points allowed, 204. The Steelers were second at 234.
Career path: Before carving out his Hall of Fame career as a head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cowher first made his mark in the NFL with the Browns. He stood out on special teams for the 1980 Kardiac Kids and also played linebacker for the team in the early ’80s. He began his coaching career as the special teams coach and secondary coach for the Browns (1985-88) before becoming defensive coordinator for the Chiefs (1989-91). He guided the Steelers to a regular-season record of 149-90-1 (.623), .and a postseason record of 12-9 with one Super Bowl title.
Ray Yannucci: He had a tough, fiery persona to go along with the overall coaching talent. On this “dream” staff he’d be special team’s coordinator. He was excellent as a special teams player and coach. I would use him in a dual role. I believe any coaching staff should have a liaison between coaching staff/front office and players. Someone tuned into both sides. Someone the players would respect and trust. Like Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, he adjusted to the ever-changing psyche of today’s players. Cowher could relate to the old-fashioned, hard-nosed players, as well the head cases such as Antonio Brown and Johnny Manziel.
Career path: Heisler was a 155-pound Massillon guard for Paul Brown in the mid-1930s. He coached with Brown on a national championship team at Ohio State. He was 30 when he joined the new Cleveland Browns in 1946. He remained with the Browns through 1970, focusing on offensive line.
Steve King: The Browns in their first 25 seasons won eight league championships and played in seven more league title games. Heisler’s offensive lines sustained excellence season after season, decade after decade. Heisler developed Hall of Famers Lou Groza, Frank Gatski, Mike McCormack and Gene Hickerson. He brought along Jim Ray Smith and Dick Schafrath, who should be enshrined. He worked with Abe Gibron, John Wooten, John Morrow and Monte Clark, who were pretty darn good. They were all Fritz’s guys.
Career path: The Bellaire, Ohio native played guard for the Cincinnati Bearcats in college and then for the Steelers in the late 1940s. He was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1961-63 and joined the Bowns as an assistant after getting fired. He replaced Blanton Collier as head coach in 1971 and in four seasons went 30-26-2.
Steve Doerschuk: You have to be tough to be 5-foot-9 and play guard in the NFL. Skrorich was. He wore the countenance of an angry undertaker. He thought like a quarterback. He was offensive coordinator of Browns teams that reached the NFL championship game in 1968 and ’69. As head coach in 1972, he split two games with Chuck Noll’s Steelers and barely lost the division title. He would have turned 100 in June.
Career path: He played high school ball at Mogadore and coached at Akron and Ohio State before landing his first NFL job in 1979, with the Browns. He was a defensive coach in Cleveland from 1979-84 and returned as defensive coordinator from 1986-88.
Mike McLain: He was a solid defensive line coach and defensive coordinator during two stints with the Browns. He worked the AFC title games capping the 1986 and ’87 seasons. He knew how to talk to people. Late in his career, he worked for Ohio State and Michigan. He was honorary game captain for both teams for the 2016 Ohio State-Michigan game, three months before he died.
Career path: He turned to coaching after a Hall of Fame career as an offensive tackle for Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay dynasty. He was Nick Skroich’s offensive line coach in 1974 before getting promoted to head coach and going 18-23 from 1975-77. In later head coaching stops, he went 34-27 with the Bengals and 25-37-1 with the Packers.
Ray Yannucci: Looking for an offensive line coach? How about someone who has the toughness and mentality of an offensive lineman? How about someone who has played on Super Bowl championships teams? How about someone who played for one of the greatest NFL coaches of all-time? How about someone who was a head coach of a Super Bowl team? Forrest Gregg checks all of the boxes.
Career path: Because of World War II, Ulinksi didn’t begin his Browns playing career until 1946, when he was 27. He was a Cleveland offensive line coach from 1954-63 and coached other positions from 1964-71.
Steve King: Nobody in team history is more of a true-blue Cleveland Brown than Ulinski. He was the starting left guard on the first four Browns teams that demolished the opposition from 1946-49. He was tutored by iconic offensive line coach Fritz Heisler. Ulinski checked his ego at the door and did whatever the team asked. Toward the end of his coaching career, he became an administrative aide and then, in 1971, worked as the team’s first film coordinator. His 35-year stint with the Browns ended in 1984.
Career path: He spent 16 years as an Ohio high school coach near his college alma mater, Miami, where he had been a teammate of Paul Brown. Brown employed him as a Cleveland assistant from 1948-53, when the team went to six straight league title games. As a head coach, Ewbank won NFL championships in 1958 and ’59 with the Colts and a Super Bowl in 1968 with the Jets.
Steve Doerschuk: He was small, quiet and quick-minded. It surprised a lot of people that he was a multi-sport star in college. After the Browns went 15-0 in 1948, Paul Brown lost a couple of coaches and offered Ewbank a job. Weeb ran with it, learning to coach various positions when Brown said he didn’t need a quarterbacks coach, Ewbanks’ preference. Nobody called him by his real name, Wilbur.
Career path: The Midland, Michigan native played seven years in the NFL (1964-70) before a long career as an offensive line coach. Mudd, Gene Hickerson and Jerry Kramer were the guards on the 1960s All-Decade Team commissioned by the Hall of Fame. He worked for the Browns from 1983-88, then went to Kansas City with Marty Schottenheimer.
Mike McLain: He led one of the better offensive lines, one that helped protect the immobile Bernie Kosar. Bearded and gruff, he looked like an offensive line coach. He was 78 when he died in 2020 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash.
Career path: He followed Jimmy Johnson around as a defensive line coach for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Miami Hurricanes and the Dallas Cowboys. The Browns hired him as head coach in 2001 after he helped Dallas win two Super Bowls. He resigned with five games left in the 2004 season with a record of 24-35.
Ray Yannucci: I realize there were some very good assistant coaches for the Browns, but I lean to taking a former head coach because those men, although perhaps not successful head coaches, were excellent assistants, or they would not have been hired as the top guy. Butch certainly is in this class. He could have had a successful career with the Browns with a top-notch GM instead of putting player procurement in his own hands, and in those of an over-matched Pete Garcia.
Career path: After playing for TCU and then as a Browns cornerback from 1958-63, Shofner worked his way to coaching Browns quarterbacks from 1978-80. He returned in 1990 as offensive coordinator, becoming interim head coach after Bud Carson got fired with seven games left.
Steve King: There would have been no Kardiac Kids without Brian Sipe, and there would have been no Brian Sipe without Shofner. Shofner’s quiet, thorough teaching helped turn Sipe into the man who owns most of the Browns’ passing records. After Shofner left in 1981 to be offensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers, Sipe and the Kardiac Kids offense were never quite the same.
Career path: Arians went straight into coaching after playing quarterback for Virginia Tech. He was Peyton Manning’s position coach in Indianapolis before working as Browns offensive coordinator from 2001-03.
Steve Doerschuk: Arians helped Kelly Holcomb look like Manning that day. The Browns’ 17-point lead in a playoff game at Pittsburgh remains a wonder of Browns history. Arians getting fired by Butch Davis a year later is another wonder. Not hiring him when he practically begged to be a Browns head coach is another. He was a great coach who needed an opportunity. See what happened when the right one came along?
Career path: Redding grew up in Oklahoma and became an All-Big 8 defensive end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He was 30 when he became the Browns’ first strength and conditioning coach in 1982. He worked from 1982-88, leaving after Marty Schottenheimer got fired.
Mike McLain: This pick is a change-up. Redding kept the 1980s Browns in good shape when conditioning was becoming more important. Redding was one of the best. At least, Schottenheimer thought so when he brought him to the Chiefs and kept him for nine years.
Career path: He grew up in Chicago and had a four-year run as a Chargers defensive end. The first of his six NFL stops as a defensive line coach was in Cleveland.
Ray Yannucci: “Red Man” is one of the greatest defensive line coaches of all-time. The NFL Defensive Line Coach of the Year Award is named after him. He won three Super Bowls as a defensive line coach. Three of his players — Kevin Greene, Chris Doleman and John Randle — are in the Hall of Fame. He wasn’t in Cleveland long, but it wasn’t his fault Bud Carson got fired.
Reach Steve at [email protected]
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP


We got our Browns 75th anniversary party started by drafting an all-time team of players.Let’s keep it going with an all-time draft selecting Browns coaches.Longtime Browns writers Ray Yannucci, Mike McLain, Steve King and yours truly picked the players team in draft style. We called it “The 75 Greatest Browns Players, Plus One For The…

We got our Browns 75th anniversary party started by drafting an all-time team of players.Let’s keep it going with an all-time draft selecting Browns coaches.Longtime Browns writers Ray Yannucci, Mike McLain, Steve King and yours truly picked the players team in draft style. We called it “The 75 Greatest Browns Players, Plus One For The…

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