Innovative Paul Brown voted NFL's greatest game changer

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1947 AP

FILE- In this Sept. 26, 1947, file photo, Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown diagrams one of his pass plays on the blackboard in Cleveland. Brown, the innovative coach and powerful team owner who brought dozens of improvements to the sport, has been voted pro footballs greatest game changer. (AP Photo/File)

Paul Brown's influence on professional football has been felt for decades. He is as responsible as anyone for making it America's most popular sport.

The innovative coach and powerful team owner has been voted the NFL's greatest game changer.

A nationwide panel of 57 media members selected the founder of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, giving him eight first-place votes and 2,359 points. Brown beat out Pete Rozelle, widely considered the best commissioner in pro sports history, who earned 2,227 points despite having the most first-place votes (14).

Brown, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 — a year before the Bengals were born — is credited with bringing many now-common elements to the sport like game plans and playbooks; the use of game film in scouting; coaches or coordinators calling plays; a radio transmitter inside the quarterback's helmet for play-calling; and the helmet facemask.

With a successful background in high school, college and military service coaching, Brown was the first to hire a full-time coaching staff. He instituted a college scouting system that soon was copied by every other pro franchise. And ever the disciplinarian, Brown had his players stay in a hotel the night before a home game as well as before a road game.

"When you saw a Paul Brown team, it would be Paul Brown the creator," said running back Jim Brown, Paul Brown's greatest player. "There'd be something always new."

One thing that never got old with Brown was winning. His Browns — they were named for him by original team owner Mickey McBride — were champions of the All-American Football Conference in each of its four seasons. In 1950, the NFL accepted the Browns, Colts and 49ers into its ranks — the Los Angeles Dons merged with the LA Rams — in great part to get Brown into the more-established league.

After compiling a 47-4-3 record in the AAFC, where he also oversaw the breaking of the color barrier in 1946 with such African-American stars as Marion Motley and Bill Willis, Brown's team was considered an interloper in the NFL.