Finally we’ve reached the end of our division renaming journey, the AFC North. In the AFC we have divisions named for Marino, Elway, and Unitas. In the NFC we have the L.T., Rice, and Butkus divisions. The NFC South poll is still open (scroll way down in the previous articles for that), Warren Sapp is the current leader.
It seems cut and dry that we just call this the Brown Division, be done with and go about our days. If you recall, though, I have an issue with naming a division after a color, especially an earth tone. Let’s see if anyone else comes along to ease my mind.
It won’t be a Bengal, that’s for certain. Left tackle, Anthony Munoz is their only Hall of Famer and the team’s greatest player by far, but he doesn’t stand up against the other greats in the division. For the record, this is the greatest moment in Bengals history.
The Ravens/Browns thing is just very confusing. Art Modell moved the original Browns to Baltimore in ’96 and changed their name to the Ravens, but took all of the Browns’ franchise records with them. Looking at it that way, Jim Brown is the greatest player in Ravens history.
The move left Cleveland’s Dawg Pound with nowhere to go to bark until ’99 when the NFL “reactivated” the Cleveland Browns and a brand new era of suffering began.
Of the current Ravens, Ray Lewis obviously stands out as a great. He’s as close to a first ballot Hall of Famer as there is in the league right now, but he’s still active and thereby eliminated from the discussion. You tell him. Shannon Sharpe and Johnathan Ogden may both get in the Hall of Fame some day, but Sharpe only played in Baltimore for 2 years and Ogden may not have been better than Munoz. Special consideration goes to Elvis Grbac for the ’01 season when he dooped me into thinking he was going to put up big fantasy numbers. Thanks, Elvis.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention former Steelers receiver Louis Lipps.
The Lipps Division! Awesome name, not a great player, it truly saddens me, this could have been easy. I also want to mention former Steelers linebacker, Greg Lloyd. He was a mean looking dude, and he hurt Dan Marino once.
Rod Woodson presents a very interesting argument. Playing ten seasons with the Steelers as a cornerback and early on as a punt returner, Woodson became an All-Time great. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in ’93, was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. After a stint with the 49ers, Woodson went on to play safety with the Ravens for four seasons. There he won his first and only Super Bowl, before moving on to finish his career with the Raiders. He holds the NFL records for career interception yards (1,483) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (12). That’s one hell of a resume. Were he in the AFC East or NFC South, he’d getting a division named after him, but I’m not sure it’s happening here.
I don’t mean to glaze over the Steeler offenses of the ’70s, but we’re going to move along to the Steel Curtain. No offense to Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster, and everyone else, but let’s not kid ourselves in to thinking that those teams would have been as successful without that defense. If the division could have a picture as it’s name it would be of Jack Lambert’s face. Then there’s another great, Jack Ham. The Ham Division! I honestly hadn’t thought about that until just now, this may require another poll. The foundation of the defense, though was defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene. First, some nickname history I learned from Wikipedia: “He got his nickname when the Pittsburgh fan base mistakenly assumed that the North Texas team nickname of “Mean Green” was Joe Greene’s nickname; however, Coach Rust’s wife wanted to give a nickname to the team’s outstanding defense. Since green is the school’s main color, she gave the defense the name “Mean Green”. I did not know that. Something else I learned is that during a game early in his career, Joe Greene spit in the face of Dick Butkus and challenged him to a fight! I’d pay $50 to see that fight right now. The man was an animal, wreaking havoc and keeping blockers off of Lambert, Ham, and everyone else. To be regarded as the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain takes a legendary player and Mean Joe Greene is just that.
He presents the same problem as Jim Brown, though. His last name is a color, even with the “e” at the end, it still counts. There’s little argument that it comes down to these two, though. Jim Brown is obvious, I’ve gone on long enough and he’s never regarded as anything less than the third greatest player of all time whenever that discussion is had. It’s like the greatest music videos of all-time countdown on MTV. “Thriller” almost always wins, but occasionally they’ll throw Nirvana a bone just to change it up. I won’t waste time on his stats or what he did, Google it if you don’t know or watch this.
Aside from my issues with a color-named division, naming this the Brown Division just confuses the hell out of everything. It wouldn’t immediately make me think of Jim Brown, which I want the division title to do. It might make me think of the Cleveland Browns, or Bengals owner Mike Brown, or his father, Paul Brown, who founded the Browns and the Bengals. There’s just too much going on with brown.
Where does that leave me? I got to thinking about the ’08-’09 AFC Championship Game between the Ravens and Steelers. The game was a concussion fest and really hammered home how much these teams dislike each other. As Sam Wyche made clear even the Browns and Bengals can’t stand themselves. I think I’m going to be fine compromising and calling this the Mean Division. Of course that means it has to be the meanest division in the league, which I think it is. Recently, I can’t think of another division that comes close, with respect to Philly fans for trying to up the mean ante.