File:Cleveland Municipal Stadium.jpeg|
Postcard showing an elevated view of Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, postmarked 1940. Built in 1931, the stadium was used by both the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Cleveland Browns football team. Municipal Stadium was demolished in 1996.
In 1945, Arthur B. McBride and Robert H. Gries founded the Cleveland Browns, a professional football team. The team would become one of the most successful organizations to ever participate in professional sports. From 1946 to 1983, the Browns won eight league championships and eighteen divisional titles. The team also made the playoffs twenty-one times during this same span.
The Cleveland Browns's first season occurred in 1946. At this point in time, the team played in the American Football Conference, although it would join the National Football League at the end of the AFC's 1949 season. Paul E. Brown served as the Browns's first head coach and remained in this position until 1962. McBride named the team after Brown. The Browns' organization won the AFC championship for the four seasons that it played in the league. Upon switching to the NFL, the Browns won this league's championship the first year that it participated in the league.
In 1953, Arthur McBride sold his controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns to Sol Silberman and a group of other investors. Robert Gries and his son continued to hold a minority stake share in the team. Two years later, Silberman and Gries became the two owners of the team, with Silberman having bought out the other owners. During this same period, the Browns won two league championships (1954 and again in 1955). Unfortunately for the Browns and the team's fans, the organization endured its first losing season in 1956, principally due to the retirement of several players, including quarterback Otto Graham. That same year, the team drafted Jim Brown, who became one of the greatest running backs in professional football's history.
In 1961, Arthur B. Modell purchased a majority interest in the Browns. Over the next thirty years, Modell became vilified by Browns fans. In 1963, he fired Paul Brown, the team's only coach in the organization's first seventeen years of existence. Under new coach Blanton Collier, the team won the NFL championship in 1964 and four division titles between 1965 and 1969. During the 1970s, Collier, Nick Skorich (1971-1974), Forrest Gregg (1975-1977), and Sam Rutigliano (1978-1984) all served as head coach of the team. While the Browns continued to win on the playing field, they failed to attain a league championship during this period and won only one division title (1980). Due to a poor start to the 1984-1985 season, Modell fired Rutigliano and replaced him with Marty Schottenheimer.
Under Schottenheimer's tenure, the Browns continued to proper, but the team, once again, did not attain its former success. With Bernie Kosar as quarterback, the Browns won a divisional title in 1986. The Browns participated in the playoffs in during every season from 1985 to 1989, but from 1990 to 1995, the organization made only one postseason appearance. Schottenheimer left the Browns in 1988, and subsequent coaches, including Bud Carson (1989-1990), Jim Shofner (1990), and Bill Belichick (1991-1995) all experienced losing records while leading the team.
At the end of the 1995 season, Art Modell decided to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, Maryland. The city of Cleveland retained the rights to the Browns name, and Modell renamed his organization the Baltimore Ravens. The principal reason for the move centered upon Modell's belief that the city government and the team's fans were not supportive enough of the organization. The NFL eventually awarded Cleveland a new team, which began play in 1999. Between 1999 and 2006, the Browns had four coaches, including Chris Palmer (1999-2000), Butch Davis (2001-2004), Terry Robeski (2004) and Romeo Crennel, each of whom experienced losing records with the organization, although Davis did take the team to the playoffs in 2002.