History and League Success
The team was formed on 1946 by owner Arthur McBride, who held a newspaper contest to pick out the name for the team. The winning name for the team, the "Browns", was based on the name of popular coach Paul Brown, who had attained much success in Ohio winning five state championships coaching at Massillon High School in Canton during the 1930s, and leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to their first national championship in 1942. They were members of the All-American Football Conference, winning the league's championship all four years of its existence (1946-1949). When the league folded the Browns (along with the San Francisco 49ers and a team called the Baltimore Colts, no relation to the later franchise of the same name which is now the Indianapolis Colts) joined the NFL.
The Browns won the NFL Title in its first year in the league, and would go on to win it three more times (1954, 1955, 1964). Upon the merger of the AFL and the NFL, the Browns (along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the then Baltimore Colts) were moved to the AFC to equalize the number of teams in each conference.
After a lull in the 1970s, the team had a renaissance of sorts in the 1980s, led by popular quarterback Bernie Kosar, winning four Central Division Championships and reaching the AFC Championship game three times ('86, '87, '89) though all three years losing to the Denver Broncos, with the first two being under heartbreaking circumstances, with those games known in Cleveland sports lore as "The Drive" and "The Fumble" respectively.
After the 1995 season, owner Art Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore for financial reasons, even though the team had an extremely loyal following in Cleveland. As a condition of the move, the team name, logos, and history of the Browns did not go with the relocated team (which started fresh as the Baltimore Ravens), but were given to an expansion Cleveland Browns team which began operations in 1999.
Since the team resumed as an active franchise, it has been noted for its futility, having only three winning seasons (2002, 2007 and 2020, with the 2002 and 2019 teams being the only playoff seasons in the new era; the 2020 season would see the team's first playoff win since its resumption as a franchise). The lowest point occurred in 2017, when the team went 0-16, becoming only the second team to do so (after the 2008 Detroit Lions) since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. The team has never appeared in the Super Bowl, one of two NFL teams existing at the time of the AFL-NFL merger never to appear (the Lions are the other).
AFC North Rivals