QB GRAHAM STARS
NFL CHAMPS EMBARRASSED
Philadelphia, Sept. 16, 1950—Rivers flow uphill. The sun sets in the east. Dogs love cats. It all makes sense after what happened tonight. Chisel it above the granite entrance at still-shuddering Municipal Stadium: Cleveland Browns 35, Philadelphia Eagles 10.
On this first day of this 1950 season, the NFL changed for good. The Cleveland Nobodies, four-time champions of the laughed-at All-America Football Conference, roasted, braised and fricasseed the big, bad, two-time defending NFL champion Eagles in a game that needed to be a lot closer just to get filed as a blowout. Playing" in their first-ever NFL game, the Browns outscouted, outcoached, outran, outblocked, outpassed and out-and-out humiliated the Eagles from just past the national anthem until just after the last shower trickle was turned off.
It couldn't be. It shouldn't be. But it was. The game that had filled more bar-stool conversations than any other in league history turned out in a way nobody figured it would. With Browns quarterback Otto Graham trying to discover how long an inflated pigskin could stay in the air, and with Browns fullback Marion Motley trying to see how many cleat marks the average Eagle jersey would hold, and with Cleveland coach Paul Brown making Philadelphia coach Earle (Greasy) Neale look like a man who would have trouble planning toast and coffee, the Browns let pro football know that it's going to be a very, very long season.
"They didn't upset us," Eagle tackle Bucko Kilroy tried to explain afterward. "Man for man, they were just a better team." Not just better. Flawless. Graham threw for a preposterous 346 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns defense allowed 118 forward yards. Municipal Stadium was as quiet as a mortuary.
And when it was all over, you knew you had seen the work of a genius: Paul Brown. Until now his deliberate, closemouthed ways were the antics of the town lunatic—remarkable, watchable, but, let's face it, mostly comical. Five year-round assistant coaches? Get serious! The Eagles only had one lull-timer, and he left alter last season. Scout an opponent for a year, I he way the Browns did I he Eagles? Ludicrous! The Eagles never sent anybody to a Browns game. Issue every player a notebook filled with plays? Call the plays from the sideline? Time guys in the 40-yard dash? Is any of this actually necessary? From now on it will be. Somebody call the NFL's head decorator. We're redoing everything in shades of Brown.
NFL bigwigs burned
This was also the work of arrogance—the NFL's. Since the AAFC was formed four years ago the NFK had bum-mouthed it. "The worst team in our league could beat the best team in theirs." said Redskins owner George Preston Marshall last year. Back in '45, then-NFL commissioner Elmer Layden was asked about the upstart league's hopes of playing the NFL. "What league?" he said. "Let them get a ball first."
When the AAFC folded last year, $11 million in the hole, Cleveland, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts finally made it into the Big League, but plenty of the 10 NFL owners—including Philadelphia's James Clark—fought it all the way. And all the while, Paul Brown watched and waited.
"Coach Brown should've been a general," said Graham. "For four years, he never said a word, just kept putting that stuff on the bulletin board. We were so fired up for this, we would've played them anywhere anytime—for a keg of beer or a chocolate milk shake, didn't matter."
A recent bulletin board posting quoted Coach Neale as saving Blown would have been a better basketball coach "because all he does is put the ball in the air." So cavalier was Neale about the game that he spent one practice lying upside down on a hill eating yogurt. "Helps me lose weight." lie explained. What, him worry? "This is the best team ever put together," Neale said in the off-season. "Who is there to beat us?"
Only Graham and Motley and Lou (the Toe) Groza and Dante (Glue-fingers) Lavelli. Practically all of these Browns have one thing in common: They can't stand Brown much. but they love him. All business, no fun, Brown is a tough cuss who cares not a whit about anything but football. If the players laugh at something dining film meetings. Brown will flick on the lights and bark, "Nothing funny about football." Said Graham, "There are times I've wanted to shoot him. But nobody ever outcoached him."
Certainly not Neale. When he stepped onto the field at Municipal in front of 71,237 people—dressed in his lucky checkered suit and straw hat—there appeared to be no yogurt stains on his shirt and no concern on his face. In the Cleveland locker room, NFL commissioner Bert Bell, who had pushed hard for this Ultra Bowl, was nervous. "I've seen what you can do." he told the Browns. "Show them they can be beaten." Then Paul Brown got up and said just one thing: "Remember, the worst thing von can do to an opponent is defeat him. Nothing hurts as bad as losing."
From the beginning, the Browns seemed bent on making it hurl real bad. The Eagles' first possession was of the chorus-girl variety—one-two-three-kick. On the first two plays, (Cleveland defensive guard Bill Willis had flattened the Eagles' All-Every-thing center Chuck Bednarik. "He jumped on me like a cat," Bednarik said later. All of a sudden, the Eagles looked like the fellow who suddenly glances up from his paper and realizes he's on the wrong train.
The Browns didn't get untracked immediately either, and the Eagles scored first on a 15-yard field goal. But on Cleveland's next possession, end Dub (Special Delivery) Jones whispered to Graham in the huddle, "He's ready for it." Cleveland halfback Rex Bumgardner went in motion, leaving Philly linebacker Russ Craft to single-cover Jones, who is only slightly faster than sound. "Nobody can cover our guys one-on-one," Graham said. "When we saw that, we knew we had 'em." He was right. Jones ran a square-out, Graham faked it. Craft hit, Jones made haste for the end zone, and Graham hit him 10 yards in the clear. Jones could have walked that last 25 yards reading a Russian novel. Fifty-nine yard TD. Cleveland led 6-3.
But Groza, the Browns great kicker, was in the locker room in agony with a shoulder he had hurt earlier. That meant Forrest (Chubby) Grigg, an offensive tackle, had to kick the PAT. Grigg hadn't kicked in ages, but he stepped up and thunked it—"You could've planted a carrot in the hole I dug," Chubby said later—and the football tumbled through the goalposts. Grigg celebrated as if he had just been elected pope.
A marauding Motley
What happened alter that you would do well never to bring up within the Philadelphia city limits. The Eagles marched to a first down at the Cleveland six. But as the Eagles were calling the next play. Brown snuck Motley in at linebacker. All he did was smother the Eagles' running backs four straight times. Offense, defense, blocking, tackling—he was a one-man demolition company. If Motley doesn't end up in the Hall of Fame, let's say we burn it down.
The momentum was all Cleveland's. Graham to Lavelli, 26 yards, touchdown. Graham to Mac Speedie, 12 yards, touchdown. (O.K., so Otto's worth the $12,000 a year.) Desperate, the Eagles ditched their T-formation offense and scored early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 21-10. Was there hope? Nope. As though to torment Neale personally, Brown had Motley and Jones run the ball seven straight times before Graham took it in from the one. "We wanted to show them we could run the ball even better than they could," Graham said. Alter Bumgardner scored on a one-yard end sweep for a 35-10 lead, Neale threw in what scrubs could be pried off the bench. Single men first!
Somewhere Elmer Layden must be thinking, All right, who's the wise guy who gave 'em a ball? In the Philadelphia locker room, Neale looked like he had just walked out of a horror movie. "Gee, they got a lot of guns over there, don't they?" he said.
The gushing reviews poured forth. "Otto Graham may be the best quarterback that ever played the game." said Kilroy. Graft stared at the ground and said, "It was like trying to cover three Don Hutsons...impossible." Commissioner Bell was jubilant: "Cleveland is the best football team I have ever seen."
Across the way, No. 60, the remarkable Graham, was posing for pictures with button-down, brown-suited Brown. That was when a very strange thing happened. Paul Brown smiled. "I lived in fear all week that we'd blow too soon." Brown said. "It hardly seemed possible we could hold oil another day. I think today we were the best football team I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot."
After the Browns got on the plane to carry them home, the aircraft sat on the runway, holding for instructions. Finally, the gruff voice of the air-traffic controller came over the pilot's earphones. "You're clear for takeoff," it said. "Get those goddam Browns out of Philadelphia!"
Cleveland's Motley powers around end during TD drive in last night's rout.
Graham's 346 yards earned him the Best Player trophy.
Coach Brown's game plan made Philly look silly.
Hal Herring stops Philly 's Frank Ziegler as Eagles are held to 118 yards.