Two Decades of Suck: The Twenty Best Cleveland Browns Since 1999

Firstly, some notable points.  Guys like Myles Garrett, Joe Schobert, and Baker Mayfield are not eligible.   Only players who are no longer on the team can be on this list; and cannot have been drafted prior to 2016.  Secondly, the stats below are the most noteworthy of each player and only from their time on the Browns.   Each player is not just evaluated on stats, but talent, production and legacy both on the team and in the league.

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

WR/KR Dennis Northcutt

  • Receiving: 3,438 yards
  • Rushing: 298 yards
  • KR/PR: 2,149 yards
  • Total TD’s 15

– Dennis Northcutt would of been higher on the list if it wasn’t for Joshua Cribbs being one, if not the best returner, ever.  Northcutt was a Jack-of-All-Trades and a needed spark in those 2001 and 2002 years when the team was actually competitive.  He was a a second round draft pick in 2000, the teams second draft class since it’s return.

 

TE Kellen Winslow

    • Receiving: 2429 yards
    • Total TD’s: 11
    • 2007 Pro Bowler (1x)

– While Kellen Winslow is on trail for heinous crimes, we can’t just wash away his history for the sake of being sensitive.   Winslow would of been much higher if he wasn’t a perpetual mess.  He was taken with the sixth pick in the 2004 draft out of Miami (FL) but missed nearly his first two years of his career thanks to a motorcycle wreck.   He was part of that magical 2007 team that won 10 games and somehow missed the playoffs, before shuffling off to Tampa Bay.

 

QB Kelly Holcomb

  • Passing: 3,438 yards
  • Passing TD’s: 26
  • Interceptions: 21
  • Completion Percentage 62.6

– Undrafted in 1995, Holcomb came in and rose to fame in 2002, subbing in for an injured Tim Couch in the season opener.  He produced some of the highest scoring games in that season, causing a quarterback controversy and getting a start for an injured Couch in the playoffs.

 

 

RB Jamel White

  • Rushing: 1,324 yards
  • Receiving: 1,246 yards
  • Return: 1,165 yards
  • Total Yards: 3,735
  • Total TD’s 11

– While now we respect players like White, back in his run with the team all purpose players like him were looked past because they weren’t seen as conventional between the tackle runners.  Undrafted in 2000, White went on to have four productive years as a versatile offensive player at at time when we didn’t have many play-makers.

 

 

20) QB Tim Couch

  • Passing Yards: 11,131 yards
  • Passing TD’s: 64
  • Interceptions: 67
  • Completion Percentage 59.8
  • 1999 No. 1 Overall Pick

Some call Couch a bust, but I don’t think that’s fair.  Before Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach, the two best offensive lineman we had were Dave Wohlabaugh and Jim Pyne for the first two years, and his best receiver was Kevin Johnson; who at best was a no.2 on any other bad team.  I think Couch is simply a disappointment, and being the first overall pick in not just the 1999 NFL Draft but also the Browns first pick in years doesn’t help.  If you look at his run in 2001 and 2002 under Butch Davis he was very productive and even lead the team to several comeback wins.  Not to mention Couch lead the team to the only playoff appearance since the team came back in 1999 (to date).   He and David Carr are often seen as examples of what happens to talented players when they lead the league in getting hit.  Poor play by the offensive line caused more injuries and forced Couch to retire.

 

 

 

19) C/G Sean O’Hara

  • Started 38 games at guard and center.

It took him some time to develop the undrafted player of the 2000 Draft but the team missed the boat by not re-signing O’Hara.  He’d go on to be a three time pro bowler and a SuperBowl champion with the New York Giants.  During his time with The Browns he showed his versatility playing left guard and center at times, often filling in for an injured Wohlabaugh.  Arguably the teams 4th best offensive lineman of the last twenty years.

 

 

 

18) QB Derek Anderson

  • Passing Yards: 7,083 yards
  • Passing TD’s: 46
  • Interceptions: 45
  • Completion Percentage 51.9
  • 2007 Pro Bowler (1x)

It’s nucking futs to see Anderson this high, right?  The former Oregon State Beaver was a 2005 sixth round pick and much  like Couch, his singe season performance can’t be overlooked.  He won ten games in his first season as a starter, went to the pro bowl (only Browns QB to do that since 1999), and threw the 2nd most TD’s in one season with 29 (Brian Sipe had 30 in 1980).  Unfortunately, like Couch a bad offensive line and a bad head coach cost him success.

 

 

 

17) RB Peyton Hillis

  • Rushing: 1,746 yards
  • Receiving: 610 yards
  • Total TD’s: 16
  • Madden 2011 Cover Athlete

While Hillis will go hand-in-hand with the term “quitter” his single season was a thing of beauty.  Hillis perfected the ‘leap over a tackler’ move that we see so often today, and was leagues most exciting player in 2010.  He was a 7th round draft pick behind former Arkansas teammates Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but arguably had the best single season of any of them.  Despite his stunning performance behind a mediocre line,  and no real help offensively, he tanked his career by holding out for money, allegedly faking injuries and quitting in games.  What could of been.

 

 

16) WR Kevin Johnson

  • Receiving: 3,455 yards
  • Punting: 245 yards
  • Total TD’s: 24 (one passing)

Kevin Johnson was the 2nd pick in the Browns new history, following Tim Couch.  He started a run on 2nd round receivers that would go until 2003 (Johnson, Northcutt, Quincy Morgan and Andra Davis).  He was the most reliable pass catcher for the team and was the first player to top 1,000 yards in a single season since the franchise returned.   While he did the best he could, he couldn’t impress former coach Butch Davis when he was shockingly cut mid-season in 2003.  He was claimed by 16 teams before Jacksonville was rewarded the receiver’s talents., but injuries caught up to him and he was out of the NFL two years later.

 

 

 

15) C Jeff Faine

    • Started 36 games at center.
    • Traded for 2nd round pick that became D’Qwell Jackson

Jeff Faine was expected to be the staple of our offensive line for a decade but never stuck around long enough to see if he could be.  While he’s not more talented than O’Hara, he gets the nod because he was a higher draft pick, and was traded for longtime mainstay in the middle of the defense, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.  While I think it’s debatable if he was the 21st best player in the 2003 draft, at least he was flipped for someone of note.

 

 

 

14) WR Josh Gordon

  • Receiving: 3,089 yards
  • Total TD’s: 16
  • 2013 Pro Bowler (1x)

Josh Gordon was a second round pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft, following in the footsteps of former Browns QB Bernie Kosar.  He caught an impressive 1,646 yards in his second season at only 22 years old.  That one year is the single highest yards a receiver put up since the team came back.  Gordon though would sabotage his career in Cleveland, being unable to stay sober and getting suspended a multitude of times.  His raw talent couldn’t be ignored and he’s since gone on to New England where he’s reviving his career.

 

 

 

13) WR Braylon Edwards

  • Receiving: 3,697 yards
  • Total TD’s: 28
  • 2007 Pro Bowler (1x)

Braylon Edwards looked like the next great Wide Receiver coming out of Michigan with the 3rd overall pick in 2005, but a slow start to his pro career caused massive doubts.  He was part of that magical 2007 season, where he earned his only pro bowl, but when you were taken 21 picks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, you better deliver more than ONE great season.  He was traded only two years later to the New York Jets after leading the league in dropped passes.

 

 

 

Tied 12) TE’s Jordan Cameron/Gary Barnidge

  • Receiving: 1,600/ 1,938 yards
  • TD’s: 10/ 13
  • Pro Bowler in 2013/2015 Respectively (1x each)

Neither player really did much on the team individually but they played so similarly and had similar stays with the team you couldn’t do anything but count them together.  Cameron was a 4th round pick by the Browns in 2011 and played four good years for the team, earning a pro bowl nomination in 2013.  Concussion and other mounting injuries caused the Browns to let him go.  Barnidge was a fifth round pick in 2008, and shared one season with Cameron in 2013.  After Cameron’s departure, Barnidge posted a 1,000 yard season and earned a pro bowl spot in 2015.  Despite racking up nearly 2,000 yards in two seasons, he was let go in 2017 and hasn’t played football since.    He shockingly enough appeared on WWE’s Total Divas and IMPACT Wrestling, so maybe a career change is in order.

 

 

 

11) DT Shaun Rogers

  • 129 tackles
  • 8.5 sacks
  • 2008 Pro Bowler (1x)

I might be putting Rogers a bit high for this list.  Picked in the second round of the 2001 draft, Rogers earned three pro bowl selections, but only one in Cleveland.  He anchored the 3-4 defensive for Romeo Crennel but the team was terrible that year, and Rogers was a minimal highlight alongside Ryan Pontbriand and Joe Thomas.

 

 

 

10) LG Eric Steinbach

  • Started 62 games at left guard
  • 2007 Pro Bowler (1x)

Eric Steinbach was part of that magical 2007 season but he was arguably a much better player than his teammates who also went to the pro bowl that season (save for Joe Thomas).  He was taken by The Bengals with the first pick in the 2nd round in 2003 and became the Browns biggest free agent signing at the time.  he stabilized the left side of the line for nearly four years before being released after the 2011 season.

 

 

 

9) CB Daylon McCutcheon

  • Started 96 of 103 games played.
  • 8 forced fumbles
  • 12 interceptions
  • 63 bass deflections
  • 424 career tackles
  • 2 Defensive TD’s

It might be hard to understand why Daylon McCutcheon is this high to the unaware.  McCutcheon was one of four really useful players drafted in 1999, with Couch, Johnson and former linebacker Wali Rainer.  McCutcheon outlasted all of them, and was the longest tenured player until Phil Dawson and Joe Thomas unseated him.  McCutcheon was a starter from the jump basically and was part of the Browns best seasons, save for the 2007 season.   He was a blue collar worker, who never known for his athleticism, just his grit and grind.  A profoundly Browns player.

 

 

 

8) LS Ryan Pontbriand

  • 5th Round Pick (probably highest ever for a long snapper)
  • Played eight seasons
  • Played in 134 of 144 possible games.
  • 2007 and 2008 Pro Bowler. (2x)

Yes a Long Snapper made it into the top ten.  I’m not sure if he’s the highest ever, because I’m sure a regular lineman was taken in the first round who also long snapped, yet I can’t think of one person who was drafted solely to be a long snapper.  According to his wiki page, Pontbriand in college was only the teams long snapper and didn’t play an every down position, which was apparently good enough to get him drafted in the fifth round.   Pontriand lived up to Butch Davis’s expectations as he earned two pro bowl appearances for special teams.  He was efficient, even if he only played a special teams position.

 

 

 

7) OLB Jamir Miller

  • 300 tackles
  • 22.5 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 2001 Pro Bowler (1x)
  • 1x All Pro (2001)
  • *First for the franchise since it’s return)

Jamir Miller will go down as a sad song for the Browns. A top ten pick for the Arizona Cardinals in 1994, Miller joined the Browns in 1999 through free agency and became an instant star for the organization.  While not a bust, he was a bit of a disappointment for the Cardinals organization, only amounting 13.5 sacks through five years.  He would become an All Pro in 2001, finally achieving his potential.  However he started the 2002 pre-season by tearing his Achilles tendon.  This injury lead him to never play again, and he ultimately retired in early 2003 after being waved by the team.

 

 

 

6) SS T.J. Ward

  • 325 tackles
  • 3.5 sacks
  • 10 forced fumbles/ 4 fumble recoveries
  • 5 interceptions
  • 22 pass deflections
  • 1 defensive touchdown
  • 2013 Pro Bowler  (1x)

TJ Ward and D’Qwell Jackson were set to be cornerstones of the team for years, until the idiot that was Ray Farmer let them leave in free agency and replaced them with less talented, older and more expensive players in Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby.  While Jackson would earn a pro bowl birth with Indianapolis, Ward earned one of his two with The Browns and was even named a second team All Pro in 2013.  Ward would go on to win a SuperBowl with Denver.  Injuries have slowed him down, and he’s currently not signed to anyone.

 

 

 

5) C Alex Mack

  • Started 101 games out of 112
  • 2010, 2013 and 2015 Pro Bowler (3x)
  • 1x Second Team All Pro (2013)

Before Mack went off to play for the Atlanta Falcons, he was a staple of the offensive line. He and Joe Thomas anchored some bad teams, no doubt, but they were arguably the two best parts of the team no matter what other turmoil was going on.  Mack’s a future Hall of Famer in my opinion, with six Pro Bowls in his career (three in Cleveland).  Leaving was the right move for him, as he’s gone to the SuperBowl since leaving, but at 34 he may of been better off staying in Cleveland with the offense they’ve put together; because it’s far more likely the Browns get to a SuperBowl next year than Atlanta.  Either way though, his legend is secure.

 

 

 

4) KR/PR Joshua Cribbs

  • Punt Returns: 2,154 yards
  • Kick Returns: 10,015 yards
  • Receiving: 1,161 yards
  • Rushing: 753 yards
  • Total Yards: 14,083
  • Total TD’s: 20
  • 2007, 2009, and 2012 Pro Bowler (3x)
  • 2x First Team All Pro (2007, 2009)

If the NFL cared more about Special Teams contributions, Cribbs would be a Hall of Famer.  A better all around player than Devin Hester, Cribbs did everything for the Browns.  A former Quarterback from Kent State, Cribbs came into the league unsure what his future would be and ended up making his career one the fans will never forget.  An icon in Cleveland, Cribbs proved you didn’t need to be a high draft pick to make an impact, just have the guts to do anything it takes to make it; and by god he did.

 

 

 

3) K Phil Dawson

  • 305 of 363 field goals made (84% accuracy)
  • 1,271 points
  • 2012 Pro Bowler (1x)
  • 2x Second Team All Pro (2007,2012)

–  See Cribbs as well; a future hall of famer if the NFL cared about Special Teams.  Dawson was the most efficient kicker in the Browns return to the NFL and maybe one of, if not the best, ever to dawn the orange and brown.  Dawson not only put up amazing numbers, he did it in terrible weather.  It’s hard enough to get into the NFL as a kicker, but to last twenty years?  That’s beyond impressive.  He’s currently a free agent and could return to the team, but who knows?  Dawson’s legacy in Cleveland is beyond secure.

 

 

 

2) CB Joe Haden

  • 19 interceptions
  • 1 defensive TD
  • 370 tackles
  • 2013, and 2014 Pro Bowler (2x)
  • 1x Second Team All Pro (2013)

– Joe Haden is the most disappointing addition to this list, because there’s no good reason why he shouldn’t still be on the team.  At only 30 years old, the former two-time Pro Bowler now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers where he’s started every game of his career.  Haden was well on his way to being a legend in Cleveland before the last regime made the stupid decision to cut him.  Thanks for nothing, Sashi Brown.

 

 

 

1) LT Joe Thomas

  • Started 167 straight games
  • Played in 10,363 consecutive snaps on offense, most all time
  • since stat was recorded in 1999
  • 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Pro Bowler (10x)

– What needs to be said about the best tackle in the history of the National Football League?  Thomas never missed a game until his injury in 2017.  He could of kept playing, but Thomas opted to retire, missing the revival of the Browns in 2018 and beyond.  He’s talked about how his health isn’t great anymore, and footnall probably has a lot to do with it.  Since retirement he continues to be a big Browns supporter and even hosts a podcast talking about the Browns and other things with former teammate Andrew Hawkins, called the ThomaHawk Show.  Thomas’ iconic legacy in Cleveland will be well remembered, and never forgotten.  As fans we hoped he’d get to the playoffs just once, but we’re just thankful he stuck around with us.  Loyalty like his is hard to come by these days.