SI Vault
 
A MAN FOR THIS SEASON
Tex Maule
September 10, 1962
Since 1958, meticulous Paul Brown has won battles and lost wars. This may be his year
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 10, 1962

A Man For This Season

Since 1958, meticulous Paul Brown has won battles and lost wars. This may be his year

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Paul Brown, the suave, keen-eyed and somewhat militant appearing gentleman on the opposite page, is one of the most controversial men in the world of football. During the last five years he has won more games than any other coach in the National Football League, but followers in Cleveland often think of him as a loser. He has been accused, by his own players and others, of using an outmoded, stereotyped offense; actually he is as inventive as any coach in the game today and is responsible for originating ideas about offense that changed the face of defensive football. In the operation of his football machine, the Cleveland Browns (he is the only man in pro football to have a team named after him), he is as cold as a Comptometer. At home, between seasons, he is a warm, gregarious man, fond of music, gin rummy, golf and small children. This year, after four frustrating seasons during which his players have always come close but have not won a conference championship. Brown's Browns are likely to win one. If they do. Brown will be the least surprised man around. In the past 16 years he has won more championships than any pro coach. "I have never had a team which I felt could not win the championship," he said recently, without self-consciousness. "I feel the same way about this one."

Last year the Browns finished third after a turbulent season in which Milt Plum, the Brown quarterback, complained bitterly because Brown, as usual, called all the offensive plays for the team. Plum has since been traded to the Detroit Lions for Jim Ninowski, an ex-Brown quarterback who declared, when he heard that he was on his way back to Cleveland, that he would rather retire than play for Brown. Paul Brown was "dinged," as he calls it, in the press for being unimaginative and for restricting his quarterback on the use of audible signals. Almost every other quarterback in pro football is allowed to change signals, even those sent in by his coach, if he discovers a radically changed defense awaiting him at the line of scrimmage. Not Brown's quarterback, however—a fact that many Cleveland spectators have found infuriating.

Brown, characteristically, has never bothered to answer his critics, in print or verbally. Nor has he changed his offense or his system. His messenger guards still shuttle back and forth with plays called from the bench. Were it possible. Brown would send in the signals by radio. Several years ago, in fact, he did devise a small receiving set to be worn in the helmet by his quarterback. He had to give up his direct communication system, though, after his signals were intercepted by an opposing team.

To ignore the attacks of his detractors and the compliments of his admirers has been a Brown trait for almost as long as he has been in football. Early in his pro career Brown summed up his attitude toward the sport. Playing before a huge crowd, his Browns had just lost a football game—a thing they hardly ever did in those days—and someone offered the attendance figures as consolation to the coach. "You play this game to win," Brown said morosely. "Winning is not bad. I would rather win before 10,000 than lose before 80,000."

This capsules Paul Brown's football philosophy neatly, if not completely. In his personal life he enjoys winning and tries hard to beat his friends at everything, particularly gin rummy and golf, but he finds time and uses it for things other than winning and, as often as not, he can even lose graciously. This he cannot do in football, where winning long ago became an obsession, not a joy. Brown's split attitude about winning marks very clearly the basic difference between the Paul Brown of August through December, when he is boss of the Cleveland Browns, and the entirely different human being who bears the same name from December until August, when he is with his family.

Six weeks ago the nonfootball Paul Brown strolled happily through the wide streets of Shaker Heights in the best section of Cleveland. He had just finished a very good dinner cooked by Katy, his wife. Football, the active season, was just a few weeks and 25 miles away. It would begin, as always, at the Browns' training camp in Hiram, Ohio.

Brown walked briskly. He has often been described as a small man, but he is not, except in the context of pro football, where anyone shorter than 6 feet 3 and lighter than 230 pounds is apt to be thought of as a midget.

"I'm 5 feet 11," he had pointed out testily to a photographer during the afternoon. "I am not a small man."

Brown is, however, slender—which gives him the appearance of being small. He has lost his hair and almost always wears a hat. He is carefully groomed and very well dressed, most of the time in a brown ensemble. He looks like a trim, intelligent attorney who probably played football in high school but wasn't quite big enough to make the team at college. This probably is what Paul Brown would have been had he not been infected, early in his life, with a passionate, almost obsessive, love for football.

"I don't remember when that started," Brown said as he strode down the cool, tree-lined street. "I remember very clearly when I first felt it. I was living in Massillon, Ohio, and I was just about to start high school. The Massillon High School football team had a training camp that opened two weeks before school started. I weighed about 100 pounds, but I had always thought that when I started high school I would automatically go to the camp. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9