This list is filled with unsung heroes that have faded into the history
books. It’s also a good example of players I’ve had second thoughts about. For
example, I like Bill Glass more and more, but I just don’t want to retool the
entire list for a defensive end that played 40 years ago. That’s the problem
with this sort of thing: I made this list up last year, then put it aside. I had
all sorts of justification and reasons for every player and his position, but
many months later (and many gallons of what the great Herb Caen called Vitamin V
for vodka), I can no longer recall all of my rationalizations. For some reason,
I have Jerry Sherk and Walter Johnson, great defensive linemen from the 1970s,
rated lower than the early 1990s combo of Anthony Pleasant and Rob Burnett.
Don’t ask me why. I remember the latter duo playing, but have only vague
memories of Sherk. And it’s my list. Humbug!
Here’s today’s installment. Let the “Doc Gonzo is clearly a moron” campaign
begin (or continue) …
81. STEVE EVERITT (C, 1993-1995): Yes, he was a flaky art major from
the University of Michigan drafted 13th overall in 1993, but he was loyal. A
good center, Everitt wore a Browns bandana during a nationally televised game in
1996 after he and the team moved to Baltimore. A wonderful gesture. Led an
offensive line in 1994 that allowed just 14 sacks. He later played for the
Eagles and Rams. His Web site, www.se-foundation.org, benefits children. He also
has links to Browns Backer chapters near his North Carolina home. Has visited
BerniesInsiders chats in the past.
82. MONTE CLARK (T, 1963-1969): A fourth-round draft pick of the
49ers in 1959, Clark made his way to Cleveland after a season with Dallas
(1962). He anchored the tackle position, opening holes for both Jim Brown and
Leroy Kelly as the Browns made it to the NFL championship game in 1964 and 1965.
Jim Brown once called Monte and his fellow linemates “the greatest downfield
blockers in the history of professional football.” Clark later amassed a 51-67-1
record as head coach of the 49ers (1976) and the Lions (1978-84). Took the Lions
to the playoffs in 1982 and 1983. Has coached offensive line everywhere,
including Cal, Stanford and the Miami Dolphins in recent years. Also coached an
American football team in Russia for a season.
83. ERICH BARNES (DB, 1965-1971): A six-time Pro Bowler, including
1968 with the Browns, Barnes spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career
with the Bears and Giants. Came to Cleveland in 1966 from New York in exchange
for a third-round draft pick that year. Played left cornerback for several
strong seasons. Moved to safety at the end of his career. Holds the team record
for highest average gain on interception returns in a career, 23 yards per pick
on 18 career picks. Returned three for scores, which it tied for third most in
84. BILL GLASS (DE, 1962-1968): After playing for the Lions from 1958
to 1961, Glass arrive in Cleveland after a complicated fifth-round draft day
trade … and immediately became a four-time Pro Bowler for the Browns. An
integral part of the Cleveland defense that crippled Baltimore in the 1964 NFL
title game. In 1965, he set the single-season team record, which still stands,
with 14.5 sacks. In 1966, he set the team mark for consecutive games with a sack
(7). A terror at defensive end, Glass off the field was studying to become a
minister. He earned his theology degree and later appeared with the Rev. Billy
Graham on television. A well-known motivational speak, Glass has been profiled
several times nationally for his prison ministry. An All-American at Baylor, he
also spent a season in the CFL right out of college. I was thinking he should be
higher on the list, but, well, I was too lazy to move him.
85. ERNIE GREEN (RB, 1962-1968): Really unheralded as a running back
and rather lost to the ages, all Green did was blast open holes for Hall of
Famers Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. Not glamorous work, but a job well done.
Amassed a quiet 3,204 yards on 668 carries, good for a 4.8 yards a pop average
that stands only second in team history to Brown. Best season came in 1966, a
year after Brown retired, when he ran for 750 yards on 144 carries (5.2 avg) and
scored three times. Also caught 45 passes for 445 yards and six more scores. All
was done as second banana to Leroy Kelly and Gary Collins. Green was a very
capable pass-catcher out of the backfield. Has since gone on to a very
successful career in the automotive industry.
86. JERRY SHERK (DT, 1970-1981): One of the best defensive ends in
team history, and any other writer worth his weight in dog biscuits would have
him rated much higher. Second all-time on the team with 69 career sacks.
Recorded a career-high 12 in 1979, the first Kardiac Kids season. Went to the
Pro Bowl each year from 1973 to 1976, and the NEA named him its defensive player
of the year in 1976. Notched a team-record four sacks in a game against the
Eagles that year. A series of knee injuries and then a near-fatal staph
infection forced him into retirement.
87. WALTER JOHNSON (DT, 1965-1976): Perhaps one of the toughest
players in team history. Nearly lost fingers to frostbite after a playoff game
at Minnesota. Never missed a game … 168 consecutive games, in fact, good for
fourth-best in team history. Third all-time on the team with 58 sacks. Pro
Bowler from 1967-69. An outstanding plugger in the middle who picked off a pair
of passes in his career. His pressure in the middle helped force opposing
quarterbacks into many bad tosses, helping Cleveland set an interception record
in 1968 with 32. Helped the team to a pair of NFL Championship games. Played his
final season in Cincinnati. Passed away at age 56 in 1999.
88. ERNIE KELLERMAN (DB, 1966-1971): Started five seasons at safety
after being signed by the Browns in 1966. Had played quarterback at Miami of
Ohio. A very solid, if unspectacular, defensive back. Joined fellow
secondarymate Erich Barnes in the 1968 Pro Bowl. Picked off six passes that
season as the Browns set a then-team record with 32 interceptions (later broken
by the 2001 team). Spent the 1972 season with Cincinnati and the following year
89. GERALD MCNEIL (WR/KR, 1986-1989): Known and loved as the Ice Cube,
the diminutive wide receiver never made much impact as a pass catcher, but was
punt return demon. Despite being just 5-foot-7 and 143 lbs, he’s the team’s
all-time leader with 161 career returns, including 49 in 1989, and seven in a
game three times. His best season was his rookie year, when he led the team with
40 punt returns, including an 84-yarder for a touchdown that helped beat the
Lions. He also was the team’s primary kick returner that season, recording 47
for 997 yards, including a 100-yarder to help the Browns break the Three Rivers
Stadium jinx in Pittsburgh. Both his career receiving touchdowns came in 1986,
when he caught a total of eight passes for 120 yards. Spent 1990 with the
Houston Oilers. Finished his 76-game career with 29 grabs for 380 yards and four
rushes for 61 yards.
90. CHARLIE HALL (LB, 1971-1980): Quite honestly, I don’t know a whole
lot about Charlie Hall. This pick is based on what others have told me, and the
little I was able to find about him online. He’s considered by many to be one of
the better linebackers in team history, teaming with Clay Mathews, Robert L.
Jackson and Dick Ambrose to form perhaps the best foursome to wear the brown and
orange together. Recorded 13 career interceptions, scoring on one in 1974. Was
later replaced by Eddie Johnson