Childhood & Early Life
Paul Eugene Brown was born on 7 September 1908 in Norwalk, Ohio. When he was nine years old the family moved to Massillon, Ohio.
In 1922, he studied at Massillon Washington High School. Although he started playing football from a very young age, he didn’t qualify for the school team because he was ‘undersized’ for the sport. He graduated from the institute three years later.
He got into Ohio State University, where he hoped to make the Buckeyes Team. However, he did not get a chance to go for a tryout.
After his freshman year, he was transferred to Miami University, where he was drafted to the ‘All-Ohio small-college second team’ under Coach Chester Pittser, in 1928.
Although he had taken up the subject of pre-law in Miami and considered studying history on a Rhodes scholarship, he instead took up his first job as a coach at Severn School in Maryland, in 1930.
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After his second year at Severn School in Maryland, Massillon’s head coaching job became vacant and Brown took the position in 1931.
Brown was asked to work on the Massillon Tigers, discipline them and make them a meticulous team. It was here that he emphasized ‘quickness over strength’ with his players and no players were allowed to sit on the bench during a game; they were made to stand. It was this sort of a disciplinarian approach that improved the records of the Massillon Tigers.
In 1934, under his leadership, Massillon won all of its games until Canton defeated them 21-6 in the last game of the season.
Up to until 1940, he led the Massillon High School football team to an aggregate 59 wins, with only 1 forgettable loss. In 1940, he was made the head coach of the ‘Ohio State Buckeyes’.
In 1942, the ‘Ohio State Buckeyes’ clinched their first-ever national title, despite being threatened by the ensuing war situation on the home front. The next season was a mischance for both Brown and the Buckeyes.
In 1944, Brown was appointed as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He served at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in the outer parts of Chicago as head coach of its Bluejacket football team. During his tenure as lieutenant, he could have been called for active duty at any point of time, but the war began to end just as Brown settled.
In 1944, Arch Ward, an influential sports editor from the ‘Chicago Tribune’, projected a professional eight-team football league called the ‘All-America Football Conference’ (AAFC) after the war ended.
Brown was immediately offered the position of coaching the new team and he immediately accepted the job in 1945 at a monstrous $17,500 per year—higher than any other coach’s salary.
From 1946 to 1949, he prepared himself to put together a successful Cleveland Football Team called the ‘Browns’. It was at this time, he invented the ‘taxi squad’ and his team won the AAFC championship and every other game in the 1948 season. However, towards the end of this period, the AAFC league was struggling for endurance.
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In 1950, the ‘Browns’, under his leadership, defeated the defending champion, the ‘Philadelphia Eagles’ during their first major game in the NFL. They had a successful 10-2 season, thrashing L.A. Rams to win the NFL Championship.
From 1951 to 1955, he led the Browns to the championship game for five consecutive years, winning it all in the 1954-1955 seasons. The next year, he encountered his first ‘defeated’ season as a coach.
In 1961, Art Modell, an advertising executive, bought the team for almost $4 million, buying out 15% stake in the team and leasing Brown a renewed 8-year contract. Modell soon began taking direct accountability over the team’s processes, which infuriated Brown.
The new ownership meant that there was a growing rift between the players and Brown and Brown and Modell himself. Brown was fired as coach on January 7, 1963. After a brief hiatus, he returned to coaching once again, this time with his new team; the Cincinnati Bengals, five years later.
In the 1968-1969 seasons, the Bengals progressed below par, but the team appeared to be on the upsurge as Brown built a strong bunch of players through the draft.
In his years as the coach of the Bengals, he took his team to the playoffs three times, including once in 1970.
After his team was jettisoned from the playoffs, Brown announced his official retirement from coaching in 1975. Following his retirement, he stayed on as the team president.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Katie Kester in 1929 with whom he had three sons; Robin, Mike and Pete. He lost his wife and son, Robin, to cardiac arrest and cancer, respectively.
In 1973, he married former secretary Mary Rightsell.
Towards the end of his life, he rarely appeared in public and he passed away on 5 Aug 1991 at home after complications from pneumonia. He is interred at Rose Hill Cemetery.
After his death, his son, Mike succeeded him as the Bengals’ team president. In 2000, a new football facility called ‘Paul Brown Stadium’ was named after him.
His legacy although long-standing was not always a positive one. Many players remembered him for ill-treating them by not giving them pay-hikes or due to his arrogant behavior. Some even called him ‘cold and brutal’. Even after his death, Brown was a focal point of criticism.
Today, the concept of using a face-mask for football, the taxi-squad and the draw play are all used in modern-day American football, because Brown devised it during his lifetime.