Simply said: There aren’t any Jim Browns in the NFL anymore.
While there certainly are few players at any position as great as he was in his Cleveland Browns days, I am referring to the way he ended his career – on top.
Brown – arguably the greatest running back in the history of the game – played only 9 seasons before hanging up the cleats. He retired in 1965 after leading the team to the NFL Championship, beating Green Bay, and being named the league MVP.
But that was then, this is now. Today players take the field as long as they can, often appearing as mere shadows of their former selves.
In a way you can’t blame them. Players like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of their illustrious careers. Big Ben missed most of last season with injury, while Brady left the New England Patriots and his six Super Bowl championships behind to head south.
But they make so much money it has to be difficult to step away. Look at the decline in Peyton Manning at the end of his career or Franco Harris as they both ended up with teams other than those where they became famous. And there are many more who risk injury for one more season.
Then again, it’s not just the money. There is a certain high in sports and being in the limelight. Many players in all sports don’t know what to do with themselves after they retire.
Obviously, Jim Brown didn’t make the kind of money these players are paid today. But he had a chance to go to the movies and jump into the sack with Rachel Welch in the movie “100 Rifles.”
While he had a small role in several movies, at least he was still in the spotlight, something he has always craved as a player, movie actor or civil activist. Even today he is a go-to guy on TV interviews at times.
How will Brady and Big Ben perform this season? Certainly not at the level they once did.
I’m sure Brady will be happier playing for Bruce Arians, one of the true nice guys in coaching. Something Bill Belichick was never accused of being. Remember how upset Roethlisberger was when Arians was pushed out in Pittsburgh?
But regardless of their relationship, Brady and Belichick were great together. It’s like with hit songs. It takes a combination of words and music to make a chart topper as detailed in the 1948 movie classic “Words and Music.” Brady and Belichick were the words and music in New England.
And now that Brady is gone, we will see how good Belichick really can coach. No matter what, coaches are only as good as the players they put on the field. Look at the Browns – Nuff said!
In Cleveland they constantly run new coaches in and out. But if you aren’t willing to get the right players to perform at a high level and have coaches who can jell with those players, you can’t win in the NFL.
Now the Browns have a new coach and several new players. Still, only time will tell.
Remember: words and music ... words and music!
LYNN SATERNOW is sports editor of The Herald and The Allied News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org