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Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor: Innaugural Class Candidate No. 1 - Paul Brown

What better place to start than at the beginning? And what better beginning to a Ring of Honor discussion than Paul Brown?


Paul Brown

Head Coach/GM/President/Owner

Bengals Career: 1968-1991 (Coach 1968-1975; President/GM/Owner 1968-1991)


Though he bears the name many Bengals fans have come to despise over the years, Paul should not be the source of Bengals fans anger. In fact, it is Paul that Bengals fans have to thank for their team in the first place and it is Paul that Bengals fans have to thank for the team's glory days.

Many modern Bengals fans do not realize that the Bengals were once a very successful franchise and that success was a direct result of Paul Brown. While Paul Brown's impact on the Bengals was immense, his impact on football as a whole is unparalleled and he is often considered the person responsible for the modernization of football and making the game the exact science it is today.

Resume For Induction


  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1967)
  • Organized the Cleveland Browns in 1945 - and allowed them to be named after him
  • Coached the Browns for 17 seasons - 16 winning seasons
  • Lead the Browns to 4 AAFC Championships in 4 years (1946-1949)
  • Lead the Browns to 3 NFL Championships (1950, 1954, 1955)
  • Headed an ownership group that brought pro football back to Cincinnati in 1968 after a 26 year absence (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • Under Brown (1968-1975), the Bengals became the quickest expansion team to make the playoffs (3rd year - 1970) - a record that held until 1996 (Jacksonville Jaguars - 2nd season)
  • In 11 seasons as a high school head coach, his teams lost a total of 10 games, won 7 state championships and 4 High School Football National Championships
  • Coached Ohio State to their first National Title (1942)
  • Has 2 stadiums named after him (Cincinnati Bengals stadium and Massillon High School stadium)

Impact on the Franchise

  • Headed an ownership group that brought the franchise to Cincinnati
  • Responsible for naming the Cincinnati football team the Bengals - a tie back to Cincinnati's football past and the previous Cincinnati Bengals football team (1937-1941)
  • Coach/President/GM/Owner from 1968-1991
  • Drafted franchise greats Greg Cook, Ken Riley, Lamar Parrish, Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis, Dave Lapham, Pete Johnson, Anthony Munoz, Cris Collinsworth, Tim Kumrie, Boomer Esiason, Eddie Brown, Eric Thomas and Ickey Woods.
  • Guided the team to the playoffs in just their 3rd year of existence (first year in the NFL) - at the time, it was the quickest an expansion team had ever made it to the playoffs.
  • Guided the Bengals to a 55-56-1 (.495) record in his 7 seasons as coach (0-3 in the playoffs).
  • 3rd most wins in franchise history.
  • In his 23 seasons with the franchise as Coach/President/GM/Owner, the Bengals were 171-168-1 (.504), had 7 playoff appearances (5-7; .417) and 2 Super Bowl appearances (0-2).
  • In the 23 seasons since his death, the Bengals are 145-222-1 (.395) and have:
    • 11 seasons of 11+ losses
    • 7 seasons of 12+ losses
    • All 5 of the franchises 13+ loss seasons
    • Have 5 playoff appearances (all with Marvin Lewis)
    • And have not won a playoff game since Paul Brown's death (0-5).
  • In the 12 seasons immediately following his passing (prior to Lewis), the Bengals were 55-137 (.286) including:
    • 11 losing seasons (one 8-8 season)
    • 9 seasons of 11+ losses
    • Six of the franchises nine 12+ loss seasons
    • All 5 of the franchises 13+ loss seasons
    • The only 14 loss season
    • 0 winning seasons
    • 0 playoff appearances
    • Were the losingest team in the ‘90's (52-108* - *includes a 9-7 in Paul Brown's last year)
    • And were the laughingstock of the NFL

Impact on the City

  • Helped bring Professional Football back to Cincinnati.
  • Responsible for naming the Cincinnati football team the Bengals - a tie to Cincinnati's football past and a 1930's professional football team (Cincinnati Bengals - 1937-1941).

Impact on the NFL

  • Responsible for making football coaching the science it is today
  • Played a significant role in the modernization of football
    • Hired full-time staff on a year-round basis
    • The first to scout opponents through game film
    • The first to call plays from the sideline
    • The first to use intelligence tests as a way to gauge a player's learning potential
    • The first to use notebook and classroom techniques extensively
    • The first to set up complete film clip statistical studies
    • The first to grade his own players based on film study
    • The first to keep his players together at a hotel the night before home and away games
    • Introduced detailed pass patterns for offenses designed to pick holes in defenses
    • Designed defenses to defend his detailed passing attack
    • Invented the draw play
    • Credited with the creation of the passer's pocket
  • Helped break the color barrier in football by having African-Americans on his teams
  • Played a significant role in the creation of the NFLPA (as a result of his stingy negotiation tactics)
  • Has a coaching tree which includes:
    • Don Shula
    • Wee Ewbank
    • Bill Walsh
    • Chuck Noll
    • Buddy Ryan
    • Mike Holmgren
    • John Fox
    • Tony Dungy
    • Marty Schottenheimer
    • Bill Parcells
    • Jeff Fisher
    • Jon Gruden
    • Andy Reid
    • Lovie Smith
    • Mike Tomlin
    • Bill Cowher
    • Bill Belichick
    • Tom Coughlin
    • Marvin Lewis
    • Jay Gruden
  • His coaching tree, himself included, has won 21 Super Bowls, 6 NFL titles and 3 AAFC titles

Blemishes on the Resume:

Paul Brown was not well liked and was notorious for his controlling personality and refusal to deviate from his way. Paul Brown also saw player salary negotiations as a battle where there was a winner and a loser and Brown was notoriously cheap when it came to salaries.

So much so, that his approach to salary negotiations played a big role in the formation of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Brown instilled this philosophy in his son Mike and as a result, the Bengals have never been able to overcome their "cheap" label since - mainly because it still rings true.

Until the rookie salary cap (and the involvement of Katie Brown and Troy Blackburn) the Bengals had struggled signing rookies and they still do struggle to sign free agents. Mike Brown's failure to adapt to changes in the league and try and force his philosophy on the franchise and his players is a direct result of the teachings of his father.

In fact, many would say, and I would agree, leaving his son Mike in charge of the Bengals could be considered a blemish on Paul Brown's otherwise stellar resume. Under Mike's reign, despite being one of the losingest franchises in professional sports and being a laughing stock of the league, Mike has been slow to change his ways in many regards and therefore the franchise struggled for many years to progress in a new era of the NFL.

Paul Brown not only passed over Bill Walsh as his successor coach of the Bengals, he tried his best to keep Walsh out of football after doing so. Walsh would go on and eventually become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers where he would win 3 Super Bowls (1981, 1984, 1988), two of which (1981, 1988) came at the hands of Brown's Bengals.