Browns' top play winner: Byner fumble
July, 11, 2014
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
AP photo/Mark DuncanWe have a winner. The voters picked Earnest Byner's fumble at the goal line against the Broncos in the 1987 AFC title game as the Browns' most memorable play. I respect the selection, but also respectfully disagree. Gary Collins' touchdown reception from Frank Ryan in the last championship in the city of Cleveland is the play I consider the most memorable.
Score: Cleveland 27, Baltimore 0
Date: Dec. 24, 1964. Site: Cleveland Municipal Stadium
One inherent difficulty with conducting a survey such as this is those most interested in the survey weren’t around or don’t know enough about a team’s long-term history.
Cleveland Browns history, most of their choices were from the 1980s forward.
That is fine and fair, but it doesn’t recognize the greatest stretch of achievement in team history, when Paul Brown’s teams won or played for the championship in 10 consecutive seasons.
Four of those were in the old All-America Football Conference, but it didn’t matter. Brown cemented his legacy by winning the title in his first season in the NFL and playing in the title game his first six -- winning three.
The 1964 Browns team was Paul Brown’s, coached by Blanton Collier, and it continued Brown’s tradition of the Jim Brown toss-sweep and the Gary Collins post pattern as the Browns won the NFL title, the last professional championship of any kind in the city of Cleveland.
The Fumble, The Drive, The Helmet, Red Right 88 ... they’re all memorable. But are they really more memorable than the plays of championship teams? Dare we immortalize all Earnest Byner did for the Browns and Cleveland by picking his one mistake as the most memorable play of all time?
Too much good happened in the Browns' glory days -- and those days must be recognized.
It’s excruciatingly painful to make this list without considering Jim Brown’s power sweep behind pulling guard Gene Hickerson. The problem is Brown’s sustained excellence made every one of his plays memorable -- to the point that no one stood out on the marquee. A strong case could be made for the 3-yard TD run in Dallas when Brown ran through or by six Cowboys on his way to the end zone, but not strong enough to get past the titles of 1950 and '64 and the heartbreaks of the '80s.
But when the Browns' great plays are mentioned, there always is a reference to Gary Collins going over the middle to catch a touchdown pass. In the 1964 championship game at Municipal Stadium, Collins caught three TDs. Two were long throws when he beat the coverage. The first was his patented post pattern, over the middle, against a defense expecting it and looking for it but unable to stop it.
That post pattern epitomized that time, and that game.
And because of that, it is my most memorable play in Cleveland Browns history.