NFL Commissioner Bert Bell didn’t waste any time in setting up a stern test for the new kids—the four-time AAFC champs would begin their NFL journey with an opener against the two-time NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles, a tough, old-school team with a dynamic rushing attack led by Steve Van Buren, and a defense that had shut out the Rams in the previous championship game, 14-0. The Eagles had allowed the fewest points and scored the most in 1949, so this game was a clear message to the best team in the AAFC—you may have been a big fish in a small pond, but the NFL is the ocean.
“If you could feel cocky before a game, we felt cocky,” Eagles running back Bosh Pritchard said years later. “This was a team from what we thought was maybe a bush league… but they weren’t.”
According to Pritchard, Eagles head coach Earl “Greasy” Neale didn’t scout the Browns before the game. He apparently thought Brown was little more than a high-school coach, and that the Eagles wouldn’t have to do much to beat Brown’s team.
“I played for Greasy for quite a few years,” quarterback Tommy Thompson later said. “He made very, very few mistakes, but I believe he made a mistake on [not] scouting this ballclub.”
Brown, well-schooled in motivational tactics, used pre-game articles debasing his team’s readiness to face up against the Eagles as bulletin-board material.
“I really think that was our motivation,” Browns running back Marion Motley said. “When we got to Philadelphia, reading [these] newspaper[s] for two weeks, we were ready to hit anything the Eagles had.”
Not that the Eagles were oblivious to Brown’s strategy—at least, if they read the newspapers. The September 7, 1950 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a story from sports reporter Frank O’Gara, who spoke with “an unusually unreliable source, who doesn’t wish to be identified.” This source, or O’Gara himself, posited that “the Clevelanders are of the opinion that quick…