The Browns have struggled to put a viable product onto the field since 1999. Many might ask whether I’m joking about this post, as even the most die-hard NFL fan would have a tough time naming ten relevant Browns who’ve succeeded enough to warrant recognition on a Top Ten List. However, there is hope despite the fact the Browns are 88-203 since returning to the league. Many may find it more appropriate to do a Top Ten Browns of All-Time kind of list, where guys such as Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Brian Sipe, and Bernie Kosar would easily make such a list. Clay Matthews, Otto Graham, Bill Willis, Lou Groza, Gary Collins, Paul Warfield, and others would easily warrant consideration. Ironically, it’d be tough to find ten players to end up a cut above the others, especially during the 1950’s, 60’s, and 80’s. There are simply too many to fit into a top ten. For that, I needed a challenge, so I took the last eighteen years since the expansion season of 1999 to bring to you the Top Ten Cleveland Browns Since 1999.
10) Josh Gordon, WR: 2012-present- Despite his endless suspensions, Josh Gordon put together one of the best seasons in NFL History back in 2013. After an initial suspension cost him the first two games of 2013, Gordon returned to dominate the league with 87 receptions, 9 touchdowns, and over 1,600 receiving yards. The jury is still out on Gordon’s return, and he’s only a two-year-wonder. If he can get his act together, Josh Gordon can move up the ranks on this list.
9) Daylon McCutcheon, CB: 1999-2006- Daylon McCutcheon was the longest lasting player from the original 1999 team who wasn’t a specialist (Phil Dawson). A third round pick out of USC, McCutcheon posted a respectable 7 sacks and 12 interceptions in seven seasons with the Browns. Known for his physicality, he made 463 tackles before being released in March 2007.
8) Kevin Johnson, WR: 1999-2003- Many wonder what could have been with Kevin Johnson had the Browns kept Head Coach Chris Palmer, who drafted Johnson in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Johnson is best known for being the one to haul in a last second Hail Mary to give the Browns their first win in the Expansion Era. Johnson was known among fans as Tim Couch’s favorite weapon until 2003, when Couch was benched for Kelly Holcomb. Johnson also clashed with Palmer’s successor, Butch Davis, ultimately leading to his release in the middle of the 2003 season, justified by Davis as, “Not being a good blocker.”
7) Tim Couch, QB: 1999-2003- Tim Couch may land on several lists of All-Time NFL Draft Busts, but few remember his magical 2002 season, where he went 8-6 as a starter, going 7-3 down the mid to late season stretch, leading the Browns to their only playoff appearance in the last two decades. Couch is also the last (and only) Browns quarterback since 1999 to have started all sixteen games in a single season (2001), and start the season opener for three straight seasons. To this day, he’s one of the most highly respected Cleveland Browns among the fan base.
6) Kellen Winslow, TE: 2004-2008- A broken fibula and motorcycle accident marred Winslow’s first two seasons, but when he returned in 2006, he proved he wasn’t broken. Winslow tied a team record in receptions, hauling in 89 receptions in 2006. In 2007, he became part of a dynamic trio with quarterback Derek Anderson and receiver Braylon Edwards.
5) Jamir Miller, OLB: 1999-2003- One can’t say enough about Jamir Miller. The outside linebacker was signed as a free agent back in 1999, and was easily the team’s most talented player. In 2001, Miller recorded 13 sacks, becoming the Browns first and only Pro Bowl player of the Expansion Era until 2007.
4) Joe Haden, CB: 2010-2017- Joe Haden’s career started with a bang, recording six interceptions in 2010. From 2010 to 2014, he was one of the NFL’s best corners, making the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. Injuries have derailed Haden since and the artist known as Mr. Cleveland has since moved on to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, enabling the Cleveland Cavaliers season ticket holder to remain close to his shoe companies, located in his first football town.
3) D’Qwell Jackson, MLB: 2006-2012- When one thinks of D’Qwell Jackson, they think of a warrior. Jackson missed all of 2009 and 2010 with a pectoral injury, only to return in 2011 to continue where he left off, leading the NFL with 158 tackles. In 2014, after moving onto Indianapolis, Jackson led the AFC with 140 tackles, and followed up in 2015 with 150.
2) Phil Dawson, Kicker: 1999-2012- Phil Dawson, at age 42, continues to kick in the NFL. Dawson’s first big break came in 1999 when the Browns upset the Steeler at Three Rivers Stadium on a last second field goal. Dawson was the last remaining player from the Browns Expansion Era, moving on to San Francisco in 2013. Dawson may be best remembered with his unusual field goals, where he had two in 2007 bounce off the crossbar. The first, initially being called ‘no-good,’ was reversed after a long review, leading to a new rule in the NFL dubbed, “The Phil Dawson Rule.”
1) Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle: 2007-present- Everyone in slots two through ten were competing for second. In fact, it would be hard to keep Joe Thomas off the NFL’s All-Decade team for both the 2000’s and 2010’s. Thomas is the Tom Brady of NFL Offensive Tackles, having set what is believed to be the longest consecutive snap streak in NFL History, well over 10,000. In fact, Thomas has never missed an NFL snap in his eleven seasons, and is one of only a handful of players to have been selected to the Pro Bowl every time in their first ten seasons. Thomas will retire one day, and five years after his retirement, he’ll be a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer. He’s arguably the greatest Offensive Tackle to ever play the game.