The Cleveland Browns helmet logo is, well, a bare space of orange, unless one wants to count three helmet stripes at the crown as a logo, and it has been that way since the team’s first season in 1946 (joined NFL in 1950).
But, was there an idea to place a logo on the team’s helmet, and did such a helmet ever see the light of day?
Logos of the 1960s
In 1960, the NFL had thirteen teams. Only the Baltimore Colts, the expansion Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Redskins had helmet logos. Every other team either had a blank helmet or simply plastered numbered decals to the sides of their helmet.
In the rival and startup AFL, the Boston Patriots, Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Dallas Texans had logos, with the other four teams featuring blank helmets or numbered helmets.
By 1964 the entire AFL featured helmet logos, with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, and Oakland Raiders adopting identities for their teams. Meanwhile, in the NFL, the Browns became the last holdover for logoless helmets, having resisted the helmet logo surge of the 1960s, which really began back in 1948 when the Rams donned ram horns on the sides of their leatherheads.
Why Adopt Helmet Logos?
In the 1960s, both the NFL and TV were surging in popularity as opposed to previous decades. For this reason, the leagues pressured resisting teams into adopting helmet logos to better market their team’s brand and give each an identity for fans viewing the game on television.
It’s important to remember that we’re talking black and white TV where it wasn’t so easy to judge who was who in those days, which led to the NFL to mandate one team wear a dark jersey while an opponent wore light to better distinguish teams. Logos on the helmets augmented such distinguishment.
So, by 1964, the NFL had conformed with a logo on at least one side of the helmet or on top of the helmet, as was the case for the Washington Redskins, who later adopted the spear logo in 1965, similar to what Florida State has on their helmets in the college ranks.
Origin of the CB Logo
After winning the 1964 NFL Championship (seriously) the Browns were then approached by the NFL, speaking with owner Art Modell and coach Blanton Collier about adding a logo and the two ultimately decided to conform to the NFL’s new standards.
The origins of the Browns’ logo goes back to the 1950s, however, when trainer Leo Murphy added a logo to one helmet to see how coach Paul Brown reacted. Brown basically told Murphy he didn’t want his team to resemble that of automobile racers and the idea was terminated.
Fast forward to 1963, and artist David Boss was tasked with the job of designing a clever and descriptive logo for the Browns. Boss’ design came about on the same exact helmet, except with an italic ‘CB’ logo, where the bottom of the ‘C’ extended its tail to incorporate the ‘B’ in brown lettering with white trim.
1965 Cleveland Browns
Despite the designed helmet logo, the Cleveland media was not notified, as both the team’s media guide that season and program that featured the Cleveland Browns versus the College All-Stars (an annual game pitting the best players in college football against the previous season’s NFL Champions at the time) both featured the team’s logoless helmet.
When Boss was tasked with creating oil paintings featuring each NFL team, he included the Browns’ helmet with the ‘CB’ logo.
In addition to the paintings, virtually every single piece of NFL merchandise regarding the Browns prior to the season displayed the ‘CB’ logo, including gumball helmets, playoff programs from the 1965 season, and even vintage sport items.
So, did this logo actually appear in a game?
If you click through the links, you’ll find that not a single image bears a photo of a player wearing the look, kind of a stark contrast from today where teams tend to unveil new uniforms to the public prior to April’s NFL Draft.
It’s noted that the Browns never wore these helmets during training camp in 1965, and as mentioned earlier, when Cleveland defeated Roger Staubach’s College All-Stars in the then-annual Chicago Charities College All-Star Game which served as the league’s first preseason game, the helmets were still blank. Photos exist from that year’s preseason featuring the Browns and not a single one depicts the team wearing the helmets.
September 4th, 1965
According to rumor, the plan all along had been to unveil the new helmet logo to Cleveland’s fan base during the preseason opener in 1965, against the Green Bay Packers on September 4th.
However, the legend states when Art Modell unveiled the look to the players, he was met with instant backlash, with the team reportedly hating the new logo. Of course, when one views the ‘CB’ decal, they a) don’t blend in well with the helmet and b) are rather bland compared to other NFL logos at the time, and even today.
Another legend states the Browns wore the ‘CB’ helmets for that preseason game in 1965, however, the team proceeded to revolt and tear off the logos after the game, causing them to vanish from the history books.
Again, these are just rumors, so let’s go ahead and separate legend from facts.
Facts and Legends
Many state one of the key motivators for both Modell and Collier to adopt a logo was to put their own mark on a franchise dominated by Paul Brown, who built the Browns into one of the greatest dynasties of all-time in the 1940s and 1950s, spanning over two different leagues in doing so.
Modell and Brown were always at odds, and Collier wanted to be known for more than merely the guy who won with Paul Brown’s players, much like Barry Switzer became to the Dallas Cowboys in 1995, winning Super Bowl XXX with Jimmy Johnson’s team.
As I stated earlier, a rumor has it that the Browns did wear the ‘CB’ logo on the September 4th game against the Packers, however, photo evidence disputes these rumors.
Not a single program, home or away, for any Browns games, depicts the team wearing the ‘CB’ logo, despite an NFL-based program from December of that season, showing the Browns’ helmet with the ‘CB’ logo.
In fact, none of the Browns players at the time saw the logo, and the story of Modell coming into the locker room on September 4th that season wasn’t confirmed to be true by any player as well despite Modell’s insistence on using and keeping the logo on a permanent basis.
As for Leo Murphy, the Browns’ trainer who was responsible for striping the helmets each week, he too cannot recall ever being tasked to slap a helmet logo on the sides, despite contradicting reports stating the ‘CB’ logo was already on the helmets prior to the September 4th game against the Packers. However, as mentioned above, not a single player in the locker room during the 1965 preseason recalls ever seeing a helmet logo.
Uniform researchers who had gone on an odyssey looking for evidence that the helmet was used either in preseason or prior to a game in the locker rooms, or even practices have come up with nothing. If such a photo exists anywhere, it would change the landscape of the Cleveland Browns’ helmet history forever.
Did such a helmet exist?
Of course, and Modell was dead set on using the helmet.
It’s also confirmed that the helmet never saw the field, and strong evidence points that it never even appeared in the team’s locker room at the home preseason opener.
However, it’s been proven, that beyond a shadow of a doubt that the helmet existed, and was on just about every bit of trademarked merchandise and publication from 1965.
You can even find products depicting the logo at internet stores, such as eBay, especially for those uniform historians and die-hard Browns fans.