The Browns are sitting at 4-1-0. They are tied for second place of the AFC North Division with the Baltimore Ravens. Ahead of both of these clubs is the 4-0-0 Pittsburgh Steelers who Cleveland plays this upcoming weekend.
When was the last time the Browns began the season 4-1-0? The 1964 NFL Championship season? Was Marty Schottenheimer the head coach of a team like that? Wasn’t Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown roaming the sidelines?
Actually, it was 1994.
And it was another Hall of Fame-type roaming those Municipal Stadium sidelines: Bill Belichick.
Belichick had been the defensive coordinator for the New York Football Giants and helped them win two Super Bowls under head coach Bill Parcells. In fact, Belichick’s gameplan on how to defeat the high-scoring Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 25 is displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of its brilliance.
After Cleveland head coach Bud Carson was fired nine games into the 1990 season, Jim Shofner took over and the Browns went 1-6-0 during the final stretch. With a complete coaching search, Belichick was offered and accepted the job. The irony with the Belichick hiring was that Parcells was contemplating leaving the Giants because of reoccurring health issues. His plan was to leave the position for Belichick but before the matter could be discussed, Browns’ owner Art Modell had hired the aspiring defensive coach for the 1991 season.
After Cleveland went 3-13-0 in 1990, under Belichick the Browns improved to 6-10-0 and then a pair of 7-9-0 seasons. But, in 1994, they finished 11-5-0.
And began 4-1-0.
So, what was going on in 1994?
Glad you asked.
For the NFL, it was the 75th Anniversary of the league. The Jacksonville Jaguars became the league’s 30th franchise. Bill Parcells won his second NFL Coach-of-the-Year award as head coach of the New England Patriots. QB Steve Young won the league MVP. The San Francisco 49ers trounced the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX in Miami.
The NFL’s top passer was Drew Bledsoe of the Patriots. Barry Sanders topped all rushers with 1,883 yards that season while Jerry Rice led all receivers with 1,499 yards. The top percentage for field goals was Cleveland’s kicker Matt Stover, who Belichick recruited from the Giants.
CB Antonio Langham and WR Derrick Alexander were Cleveland’s picks in the first-round of the NFL draft. Michael Lombardi was the GM while Nick Saban held the title of defensive coordinator. Future Baltimore Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome was the club’s assistant director of player personnel. He would later build the Ravens into a league powerhouse.
Let that sink in a moment: considered to one of the greatest at their professions all-time, Belichick, Saban and Newsome were all employed by the Browns in 1994.
Vinny Testaverde was the Browns’ starting quarterback. The defense became the team’s ace with names such as Pepper Johnson, Eric Turner, Rob Burnett, Michael Dean Perry, Carl Banks, Don Griffin, Anthony Pleasant and Bill Johnson.
Cleveland’s defense allowed the fewest points scored with a 12.8 average.
The Browns wore white pants all year. The helmets had white facemasks. With the Brown colored jerseys, the socks were also brown with three white stripes that encapsulate two orange stripes. With the white jersey configuration, the socks were white as well with three brown stripes that have two orange stripes inside.
1994 in America
The President was Bill Clinton with Al Gore his Vice Presidential sidekick. The Dow Jones peaked at 3,978. Unemployment was steady at 6.9%. Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin would sign the “Kremlin Accords” which was an agreement to stop the pre-programmed aiming of nuclear weapons at each other. The USSR, as Russia was known, no longer existed.
A new house cost an average of $154,000. You could buy a stamp for 29 cents. Gas was averaging $1.11 a gallon. A gallon of milk was $2.88 and a dozen eggs were a mere 87 cents.
The vehicle that sold the most units was the Ford F-150 full-sized truck which was priced at $12,648 while the car that sold the most was the 6-cylinder four-door Ford Taurus GL with a price tag of $16,240.
The internet’s very first banner advertisement ran with an AT&T ad that users could “click” to get more information. More inventions included a new Hershey’s candy bar flavor called Cookies ‘n’ Creme. The George Foreman grill debuted. The first PlayStation console was introduced. The Honda Odyssey mini-van and Range Rover SUV were new to the auto industry.
McDonald’s introduced a “Super Size” version for the first time while Burger King offered a Lion King toy in their Kid’s Meal.
The first female cadet at The Citadel is admitted, Shannon Faulkner. Skater Tonya Harding is involved in the Nancy Kerrigan attack. Nirvana lead singer Kirk Cobain is found dead in his home. Former President Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy Onassis passes. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy is executed.
Ford Broncos painted white became the most famous vehicles in the world with the O.J. Simpson chase. Woodstock ‘94 happens. The World Series is canceled for the first time in 90 years due to a player strike. The Canadian Football League establishes three franchises in the United States making the first time any club was located outside Canadian borders.
Notable births were Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry and actor Dakota Fanning. Other famous deaths include Cesar Romero, Bud Wilkinson, George Peppard, Dick Sargent and Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J.’s wife.
Top songs in 1994 were “I Swear” by All-4-One (Country), Green Day’s “When I Come Around” (Rock), Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal” (Hip Hop), “The Sign” by Ace of Base (Pop), and “Now and Forever” by Richard Marx (Adult Contemporary).
The top-ranked TV show was “Seinfeld” followed by “ER.” At Number 8 was the first season of “Friends.” Top grossing movies were “The Lion King”, “Forrest Gump”, “True Lies”, and “The Mask.” Director Steven Spielberg won his very first Academy Award.
And how did the 1994 Browns finish with their 4-1-0 start?
Cleveland concluded the year with an 11-5-0 final record just one game off the division title behind the 12-4-0 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Next up, a 20-13 home playoff win in front of 77,452 fans over the league’s best passing team the Patriots. The following week, they lost 29-9 to the Steelers. DT Michael Dean Perry and KR Eric Metcalf made the Pro Bowl.
Prior to the following season, Sports Illustrated picked the Browns to meet the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl following Belichick’s efforts in 1994.