At Cleveland, of course, the people had been used to almost unbroken success. During his four years in the old All-America Conference and 13 seasons in the NFL, Brown's teams won 167 games, lost 53 and tied nine. In 11 of his 17 pro seasons, Brown's clubs played for a championship. They won seven.
The break in Cleveland came after a strong clash of personalities between Brown and Arthur Modell, the new owner. A small coterie of Cleveland Brown players, headed by All-Pro Fullback Jim Brown, indicated to Modell that they would not play another season under Paul Brown. Their reasons were rather vague: some accused Brown of having let modern pro football pass him by, others said he was cold and distant. In any case, Brown was out as coach.
The end of his connection with Cleveland came after the 1962 season; he never saw his old team play again until last year. Brown was in Canton, Ohio, being inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, and the Browns were playing the traditional game for the ceremony. He could not very well avoid seeing them then.
"Katy and I did all the things we have always wanted to do," Brown says of the intervening years. "We traveled. We played golf, bridge and gin rummy. The people in La Jolla were friendly. Sometimes during the season I'd go up to Los Angeles to see the Rams play, especially if they were playing a club I was interested in, like the Packers."
During his enforced vacation from football, Brown did not suffer for money. He still owned some 10% of the Browns and drew his salary on a long-term contract estimated at $80,000 a year. Actually, he was still working for the Browns; each year he would submit a list of players he recommended for the draft and, often as not, his suggestions were accepted.
He and Katy took trips to Europe, South America and the Orient. Brown, always a competent golfer, brought his scores down to the high 70s. "But after a while," he said, "it began to seem pointless." And after that, his whole life began to seem pointless.
"It was terrible," he said. "I had everything a man can want: leisure, enough money, a wonderful family. Yet, with all that, I was eating my heart out."
Brown seemed a lost man. At a Packer-Ram game a few years ago he came down from his seat in the stands and called to Vince Lombardi and a writer who were on the field before the game. He talked to them briefly, and then Lombardi had to leave to complete pregame preparations for his club. And the writer, seeing the hunger in Brown's eyes as he watched the players warm up, said, "Is it that bad?"
Brown is not an openly emotional man but for a moment his eyes were wet, and then he nodded. "I can't tell you how bad it is," he said. "I can't tell you."
Brown shook his head at the recollection. "I suppose if I had known that I would be sitting at this desk today, back in football, I might have enjoyed it. But I didn't know that. I still felt I had much to contribute, and for a long time it seemed as if I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do it. In one way, I guess, we were lucky, Katy and I. While we were still young enough to take advantage of the opportunity, we were given time and money enough to do everything we wanted to do. And I suffered through it for five years."