CLEVELAND’S UNBEATEN STREAK
Well, it’s looking more and more like the Carolina Panthers may join the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins as the only teams to go unbeaten and untied in the regular and postseason. That’s right, the Browns and the Dolphins. And even though it’s true, you won’t find any mention of the Browns undefeated milestone in the NFL Record and Fact Book. But it really did happen. It’s just that it didn’t happen in the NFL. It occurred in 1948, when the Browns played in the upstart All-America Football Conference (AAFC), a rival league that competed for four seasons (1946-49) with the established NFL.
The eight-team AAFC not only gave birth to the Browns, but also the San Francisco 49ers and the first iteration of the Baltimore Colts. All three of those AAFC entries were admitted intact into the then-10-team NFL by way of a 1950 merger. The rest of the AAFC’s stable of quality players were absorbed by NFL teams through a convoluted player distribution plan following the 1949 season.
Somewhat lost to history is how good the AAFC was back then. Thirteen players, whose careers began in the AAFC, went on to Hall of Fame enshrinement. One player, a defensive back with the AAFC’s Brooklyn/New York Yankees, Tom Landry, went on to stardom as a coach, earning Hall of Fame coaching honors in 1990.
But it was the Cleveland Browns and their seven future Hall of Fame players and their Hall of Fame Coach Paul Brown that dominated the upstart league.
How good were they? They were very, very good. In fact, the Browns won the AAFC title each of the four years the league existed and in 1948 posted their perfect 15-0 record. And, as if to prove their NFL worthiness, the Browns won the NFL title in 1950, their first season as members of the senior circuit.
Now, clearly an undefeated season is impressive enough, but if you count ties, Cleveland actually began their oft-overlooked “non-losing” streak in 1947 and extended it into the 1949 season. The talent-laden Browns finished with an amazing 29 games without a loss. That is the longest winning streak – or “non-losing” streak if you prefer – in pro football history.
So, is it fair to count ties in the Browns winning streak. To that my answer is a resounding “yes.” Back in the day, there was no provision for an overtime period in regular season games to settle tied games.
If you insist that we not count ties, then the Browns streak drops to 18, and that’s good only for a six-way tie for third longest winning streak in pro football history. But, like I said there was no provision for overtime until much more recently and obviously ties are not losses, so for me the streak is 29. And, oh-by-the-way, if we do count ties, the second longest winning streak in pro football would belong to the NFL’s Canton Bulldogs who from the final game of the 1921 season to the final game of the 1923 season went 25 consecutive games without a loss.
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