The Browns At 75 Years Old: My Top 10 Receivers

Paul Warfield won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, but his place in Browns history is as the franchise's all-time best receiver. (USA Today)

Paul Warfield won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, but his place in Browns history is as the franchise's all-time best receiver. (USA Today)


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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Browns, I will commemorate the franchise with periodic lists honoring top moments, players, coaches, games and characters from my history as a beat writer and analyst.


The category: Top 10 wide receivers


The Browns dominated the AAFC and NFL in their early years partly because Paul Brown’s passing system was ahead of its time. The Browns had the best quarterback and receivers, or split ends, as they were called then.


There are only 33 receivers, or ends, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and two came from Brown’s dynasty era. A third came in the 1960s and simply is the greatest receiver in Browns history.


Comparing receivers from different eras is difficult. The sport has undergone drastic changes over time and recent rules changes have inflated offensive statistics, particularly in the passing game.


These ratings are based on the impact the receivers had on their teams, not necessarily their career statistics.


10. (tie) Josh Gordon: 2012-18, 41 games, 180 receptions, 17.3-yard average, 16 TD.


I might be the only one to include him on a list of top 10 all-time Browns receivers. I don’t care. I’m biased. As far as sheer ability, he was the best I’d ever seen. When he stepped on the field for the first time at age 21 after not playing college football for 18 months, he was the best talent on the field. His troubled childhood set him up for addiction issues that cost him millions of dollars and many years of stardom. It came together for him only one year. That 2013 season shattered Browns records for receiving yards (1,646) and yards per game (117.6). He had two 200-yard games. Man, what could have been.


10. (tie) Kevin Johnson, 1999-2003, 73 games, 315 receptions, 12.2-yard average, 23 TD. 


He didn’t miss a game in his first four seasons in the start-up of the expansion Browns and was quarterback Tim Couch’s dependable, favorite receiver right through the initial playoff season of 2002. His TD catch of 56 yards on a Couch “Hail Mary” produced the expansion team’s first win in 1999.


9. Dave Logan, 1976-83, 115 games, 262 receptions, 16.2-yard average, 24 TD.


A three-sport star who was drafted by the MLB Cincinnati Reds and NBA Kansas City Kings, in addition to the Browns in the third round in 1976, he was a stalwart of the Kardiac Kids. His receptions were somewhat muted by the fact quarterback Brian Sipe distributed the ball fairly evenly to five pass catchers, including backs. Typecast as a tall, possession receiver, Logan averaged 16.2 yards per catch and was as sure-handed as they came. He was a regular on the “all-hands” onside kick team and was used to defend “Hail Mary” passes by the opposition.


8. Reggie Rucker: 1975-81, 103 games, 310 receptions, 16.0-yard average, 32 TD.


He was traded to the Browns at the age of 28 and put in seven solid seasons. In the short-lived Kardiac Kids era, he had more receptions and touchdowns than any of Brian Sipe’s receivers. He averaged 20.8 yards per catch and had eight touchdowns in 1978.


7. Jarvis Landry: 2018-20, 47 games, 236 receptions, 12.7-yard average, 13 TD.


His value to the Browns in the last three years – and what may lie ahead – can’t be fully measured in statistics. He came to the Browns advertised as the toughest player on the Miami Dolphins. That toughness has contributed to the team’s turnaround.


6. Webster Slaughter: 1986-91, 84 games, 305 receptions, 15.8-yard average, 27 TD.


Web-Star was the final piece in the receiving trio, which included Brian Brennan and Reggie Langhorne, that quarterback Bernie Kosar led to five consecutive playoff appearances, including three AFC Championship Games. The wiry Slaughter was fast and fearless.


5. Ray Renfro: 1952-63, 142 games, 281 receptions, 19.6-yard average, 50 TD. 


One of the overlooked and under-rated offensive players in Browns history. Renfro was the leading receiver in the 1954 NFL title game the Browns dominated, 56-10, over Detroit – ending a two-year Championship Game losing streak to the Lions. And then Renfro led the NFL in 1955 with a 20.8-yard average. His 28.0-yard average in 1957 didn’t qualify for the league title. Renfro’s 19.6-yard career average ranks ninth all time in the NFL.


4. Gary Collins: 1962-71, 127 games, 331 receptions, 16.0-yard average, 70 TD.


Collins’ career numbers mirror those of Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann of the Steelers. The difference? Swann was a member of four Super Bowl championship teams. Collins pre-dated the Super Bowl and earned only one NFL championship. He was most noted for three receiving TDs in the Browns’ last NFL Championship in 1964. Over time, the eccentric Collins came to resent that that game obscured an overall fine career that included six seasons as the team’s full-time punter. He led the league with a 46.7-yard punting average in 1965. Collins’ 70 touchdown catches are a Browns record.


3. Mac Speedie: 1946-52, 86 games, 349 receptions, 16.1-yard average, 33 TD.


Afflicted by Perthes Disease, which made one leg shorter and thinner than the other, Speedie was an integral player on Paul Brown’s dynasty teams until he defected to the Canadian Football League after a contract dispute. He led the AAFC three times in receptions and the NFL once. His two 1,000-yard seasons in the 1940s were unheard-of. He was named to the Centennial Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.


2. Dante Lavelli: 1946-56, 123 games, 386 receptions, 16.8-yard average, 62 TD. 


His career statistics may pale to the inflated numbers now so common among journeymen receivers of the modern era. His nicknames of “Gluefingers” and “Mr. Clutch” speak to his impact on seven Browns championship teams in his 11 seasons. A native of Hudson, OH, he is simply one of the franchise’s giant figures.


1. Paul Warfield: 1964-69, 1976-77, 97 games, 271 receptions, 19.2-yard average, 52 TD.


Arguably the most graceful, big-play receiver in NFL history, Warfield had fantastic achievements in his first six seasons with the Browns but he probably received more notoriety for his five seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The trade of Warfield to Miami in 1970 for the draft pick to select bust QB Mike Phipps was an Art Modell folly superseded only by his franchise end run to Baltimore and firing of Paul Brown. Warfield’s career receiving average of 20.1 (including his Miami years) still ranks tied for fourth all time in the NFL.

Previously

My top 10 games

My top 10 head coaches