Tony DeMeo

Paul Brown by Andrew O’Toole

Paul Brown

By: Andrew O’Toole

The term “genius” is tossed around pretty lightly these days. If a coach has one good season some ESPN type is likely to tag the label “genius” to him. However, Paul Brown is truly worthy of that label. Brown literally re-invented professional football. He was so good they named the team after him. Andrew O’Toole does a great job of describing the rise, fall and legacy of Paul Brown.

Brown started out as a high school coach and built the Massillon High School football team to legendary heights compiling an amazing 80-8-2 record in 9 seasons. His 1940 team outscored the opposition 477 to 6 while averaging over 20,000 fans a game!

His success at Massillon led him to become the Head Coach at Ohio State at the tender age of 32. Brown led the Buckeyes to a 6-1-1 record in his first season and then an 8-1 record in his second year and was declared the National Champions. His final year at Ohio State was a very disappointing 3-6 year but many of his stars went off to fight in World War II.

Paul Brown then took the professional ranks by storm with the Cleveland franchise in The AAFC winning four straight championships. In 1950 The AAFC & the NFL merged and many thought Brown would be put in his place. But instead Brown won the Championship in 1950 the first year of the merger. The Browns went on to appear in the next 5 Championship games winning back to back championships in 1954 and 1955.

Paul Brown’s legacy was not just about gaudy statistics. Paul Brown’s legacy is about how he revolutionized the game. Brown was the first coach to use film to grade his players’ performance and also kept a film library to instruct his players how to run his plays. Brown also administered intelligence tests and used the classroom as well as the practice field to develop his squad. Paul Brown was also the first coach to take play calling duties away from his Quarterback by sending in plays with “messenger guards”. Paul Brown could also be called the father of the modern passing game. If Bill Walsh was the father of the West Coast Offense than Paul Brown was the Grandpa.

Brown left Cleveland after being fired by Art Modell (the same guy that later moved the team to Baltimore). The rift between Brown & Modell reached the breaking point over Brown’s refusal to play Ernie Davis who was diagnosed with leukemia. Brown’s Cleveland team had a run of winning 7 championships in 10 years, the Browns didn’t win another title under Brown after 1955.

Imitation is said to be the greatest form of flattery well the NFL copied many of Browns which made it tougher to win after 1955. Also the coming of Vince Lombardi the iconic coach from NY took over the Packers in 1959 and won back to back Championships in 1961 and 1962 did not make winning any easier for Brown. Modell had had enough second places and fired Brown in January, 1963.

For five years Brown was out of football until he returned to start the Cincinnati Bengals Franchise. Brown put his stamp on the Bengals immediately and made the respectable from the beginning. Pre-season was used to weed out the weak and establish discipline just as he had done at Massillon High School, Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns years before. The first time the Bengals met the Browns Paul Brown led his team to a 30-27 victory. Brown led the Bengals to the playoffs in only the third year of their franchise!

Paul Brown though a great coach and an innovator was far from a saint. His treatment of Bill Walsh was a classic example of Paul Brown’s value system. Andrew O’Toole does an outstanding job of presenting the real Paul Brown. This book is not a fluff piece nor is it a hatchet job, but rather a clear look into the life of a football coach who was successful on the high school, college and professional levels.

I would recommend this book to anyone who really takes the game of football seriously. The biography of Paul Brown is really the history of the modern NFL. He opened the game up with multiple wide receivers and a sophisticated passing attack which made it a natural sport for the television age. Andrew O’Toole packages this story into an easy to read biography of a complex man.