Before each of his 17 seasons as coach of the Cleveland Browns, Paul Brown began training camp with The Speech — a brief review of the Browns Way and general Laying Down of the Law. I’ve come across two versions of it, one from 1956 (after the Browns had been to 10 straight league championship games) the other from ’59 (when the Giants had surpassed them in the Eastern Conference). It’s fascinating to note the differences between them.
The ’59 speech is already in print — in my first book, The Pro Football Chronicle. This being the preseason, I thought I’d post the ’56 speech for your perusal:
“It may seem funny, but I don’t want you fellows to act like a professional football team in the old sense of the word. You will dress and act like gentlemen at all times.”
— Paul Brown
I am glad to see you veterans back from last season. The last time we were together it was a happy occasion. You had just won the world’s championship, and you realized the hard work it took to win it.
To you new fellows, we mean for you to have a pleasant experience. You probably are worried, and it is only natural. You’re no different than the old timers.
We brought you here because we think you can make the team. But you will have to listen and digest everything that is said. When you’re too big to listen you’re done whether you’re a rookie or veteran.
We anticipate some major changes in playing personnel this season. For the first time in 10 years we will be without Otto Graham. But we have had major changes in the past in administration and playing personnel.
No matter what happens, the habit of winning and being the best has got to go on. With me it’s an obsession of living.
Last year, early in the season, things looked pretty bad. We had lost two of our first three games, but we won it going away. You have to have something special to do that. It is the sign of a thoroughbred.
I firmly believe we can win again this season. I’ve never entered a football season in which I didn’t think we couldn’t win. I think we have the makings here of another championship team, and we’re going to guard jealously the factors we have [going for us] in our organization.
First, I would like to eliminate those bad starts. The last few seasons we have started out by losing several of our early games. This can’t go on. One of these years it will catch up with us.
I think we’re considered about tops in our field, and I want you to act accordingly. It may seem funny, but I don’t want you fellows to act like a professional football team in the old sense of the word.
You will dress and act like gentlemen at all times. When you travel you will wear suits or sport coats and a tie. We will eat together and say grace before meals. There will be no foul language at any time, on or off the field. You must remember that youngsters look up to you fellows.
Your conduct around camp also should be watched. There will be no T-shirts allowed in the dining room, and we have no use for ill manners at the table. Keep your elbows off the table and your face out of the soup bowl. Make meals enjoyable and take your time.
You should be in your rooms by 10 p.m., and lights out will be at 10:30. We’ve never had trouble with card playing, and we don’t anticipate any. We don’t mind a game for pennies, but no big money.
We will have a bed check, and if you sneak out after the check and we find out about it, don’t bother to come back for your belongings — we’ll send them to you.
If you’re a drinker you may as well leave now. The smoking should be stopped for your own good, but if you must have one don’t do it around here or in public. Again, you will be looked up to by youngsters, and nothing is worse for a youngster than to see his football hero smoking.
Building a football team is like building a house: the weaker the foundation, the poorer the house. With a strong foundation, there is no limit as to . . . how high you can go.
On the field, we want the right to improve not only the rookies but the veterans. You have to be an eager learner. You can’t win this thing without paying the price. It just can’t be done. Sometimes it will get rough, but don’t ask any quarter and don’t give any.
From time to time you will be interviewed by members of the press here at Hiram [College]. Treat them as you would me and answer their questions. We’ve always had good relations with the press, and the writers at the camp won’t ask you any embarrassing questions. They have been here for several years, all of them, and if you start talking out of turn I am sure they will clean it up. They aren’t interested in making a fool of any of you players.
When we are on the road there will be no radio or television appearances. We like to sneak into a city, win the football game and get out. Once in a while when we go into a city, I might talk us down [to the media]. That isn’t for your consumption. It would be better if you couldn’t read.
Remember, we’ve been in 10 straight championship games, and we’re not going to blow it now. When it comes time to pick the squad, everything and everybody is impersonal, and it won’t make any difference whether you’re from Ohio State, Great Lakes or Massillon [places Brown had previously coached]. The team comes first!
Postscript: Without their Hall of Fame quarterback, the Browns finished 5-7 that season, the only time under Brown they didn’t post a winning record. But the next year, after drafting Jim Brown in the first round, they were back in the title game again. For their coach, “the habit of winning and being the best” was still “an obsession of living.”