The Cleveland Browns found themselves in a unique situation heading into the 1981 season.
From the team’s very first game on September 6, 1946, up until the playoff game against the Oakland Raiders on January 4, 1981, the Browns had employed just two primary placekickers in franchise history - Lou Groza and Don Cockroft.
Cockroft had retired after that playoff loss to the Raiders, so the Browns found themselves needing a new kicker.
The Browns gave the first shot at the job to Dave Jacobs, a 12th-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 1979 NFL Draft. Jacobs did not stick with the Broncos and appeared in four games with the New York Jets in 1979, making 10-of-11 extra points but just five-of-nine field goals.
Jacobs was even worse with the Browns, however, as he made just four-of-12 field goal attempts before the team decided it had seen enough after just five games.
Enter Matt Bahr, who had spent two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before being released and signing with the San Francisco 49ers after Ray Wershing suffered a hip injury in the season’s first game. Once Wershing was healthy, the Browns were able to pick up Bahr in a trade for a ninth-round draft selection.
Bahr got off to a rough start with the Browns, making just two of his first seven field goal attempts, but once he settled in, he stabilized the position in the same way as his predecessors.
In his nine seasons with the Browns, Bahr would be part of six playoff teams (although he missed the 1986 playoffs due to a knee injury) and is fourth on the franchise’s all-time list in field goals made (143) and extra points made (248). He converted 98.4 percent of his extra points while with the Browns — second to only Matt Stover on the all-time list — and is fifth in career points with 677.
The Browns released Bahr after the 1989 season when head coach Bud Carson decided it was time for the team to go in a different direction, and Bahr signed with the New York Giants for the 1990 season. He helped the Giants win the Super Bowl that season by five field goals in the NFC Championship Game win against the 49ers and two more field goals in the Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills.
Ironically, that Super Bowl victory helped propel Bill Belichick to the head coaching position with the Browns the following season. In another interesting twist, Bahr was the placekicker for the New England Patriots when the Browns defeated the Patriots in a playoff game on January 1, 1995 - the last time the Browns won a playoff game.
Bahr retired the following season with 1,422 career points, which currently ranks him at No. 29 in league history.
Even though the field was a thin one, Bahr is a deserving selection as the best player to wear No. 9 in franchise history.
Who is the best player to wear No. 9 in Browns history?
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