The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the semifinalists on Wednesday who are eligible for enshrinement as senior members of the Class of 2024.
In that group of 60 seniors, coaches and contributors are two former members of the Cleveland Browns who are overdue for a place among the game’s best.
In the senior player category is linebacker Clay Matthews, one of the game’s top linebackers for 19 years. A mainstay on a Browns defense that helped the team reach three AFC Championship Games in the 1980s, Matthews played 16 seasons with the Browns and posted 75 sacks - still second on the official franchise career record and just two-and-a-half off Bill Glass’ unofficial record - 1,430 tackles, 14 interceptions and 24 forced fumbles.
Matthews made the Pro Bowl four times, with three consecutive trips from 1987 to 1989 as a key part of a Browns team that made the playoffs five consecutive years and was inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor in 2019.
He closed out his career by playing three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
In the coach/contributor category is former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who passed away in 2021.
Schottenheimer coached four different NFL teams over 21 years, including the Browns for 4.5 years in the mid-1980s. During his career, Schottenheimer’s teams made 13 playoff appearances, and he posted a career winning percentage of .613, which is better than such notable head coaches as Bill Parcells (.569), Chuck Noll (.566), Marv Levy (.561) and Hank Stram (.574).
In addition, Schottenheimer’s 200 wins as a head coach are surpassed by just seven head coaches in NFL history- Don Shula, George Halas, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Andy Reid, Curly Lambeau and Paul Brown - which is a pretty good group to be associated with.
Schottenheimer took over the Browns midway through the 1984 season after the firing of head coach Sam Rutigliano and led the team to its last period of sustained success.
Under Schottenheimer, the Browns won division titles in 1985, 1986 and 1987, and claimed a wild card spot in 1988. Even though he last coached a Browns game 34 years ago, Schottenheimer still ranks:
- fourth in franchise history with 44 wins
- third in winning percentage at .620
- third in most playoff appearances with six
After the Browns, Schottenheimer coached the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 seasons, making the playoffs seven times, and finishing with a winning percentage of .634, which is second-best in Chiefs’ franchise history.
His .588 winning percentage in five seasons as head coach of the San Diego Chargers is tied for second-best in franchise history.
When you look at their careers, it becomes clear that both Matthews and Schottenheimer are long overdue to take their places in Canton among the game’s best.
Other names on the semifinalist list with ties to the Browns include linebacker Carl Banks, who played for the Browns in 1994 and 1995, cornerback Everson Walls, who played with the Browns in 1992 and 1993, and Art Modell, who owned the team from 1961 until 1995, and offensive guard John Wooten, who played for the Browns from 1959 to 1967 and is being considered for his work in the front offices of the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens after retiring from the league.