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Way Back When: Broncos, Browns share their true colors


We are getting into the Halloween season, so the color orange is prevalent in decorations all over the country.

Of course, the Denver Broncos travel to Cleveland to play the Browns this week and orange is also a primary color for each team, so orange will be resplendent on television sets all over Broncos Country.

In fact, just last weekend, all the Broncos' Ring of Famers were presented with orange jackets, which I personally thought looked very sharp.

However, the Broncos started off wearing brown and mustard and did not go to orange until 1962.

In the early days of pro football, the primary colors chosen were red, white and blue. There, of course, had been some deviation from that since the start. Some teams picked more unique colors — like how purple came along with the Minnesota Vikings, or how the Browns always wore orange.

Denver changed their colors to orange and blue in 1962 when Jack Faulkner was hired as the general manager/head coach of the Broncos.

Naturally, he thought the original mustard and brown combo was putrid, and announced an immediate change. In fact, he later went so far as to host a burning of the original uniforms before an exhibition game.

Faulkner was a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and he had earlier coached at both Miami (Ohio) and the University of Cincinnati, so he was well familiar with the Browns' use of orange. He also knew no one else in the American Football League (the Broncos' original home) wore orange, so he felt it would make his team distinctive.

And were it not for a manufacturing mistake, perhaps the Broncos would have looked even more like the Browns.

"I was a Cleveland Browns fan and I wanted those same burnt-orange uniforms like they wore," Faulkner told The Denver Post's Joe Sanchez in 1986. "But the manufacturers sent us the bright orange instead."

Thus, the Broncos wore orange, to be joined later by expansion franchises Cincinnati (1968) and Tampa Bay (1976).

The Cleveland Browns started play in the All-America Football Conference, a second pro league that challenged the National Football League, back in 1946. Cleveland had a great history back in the 1940s and 1950s, and they were named for their co-founder, Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown. He chose orange as their other color, and the rest is history.

With Brown as their coach and Hall of Famer Otto Graham as the quarterback, Cleveland won all four AAFC championships and amassed a 52-4-3 record. They were an astonishing team, and also helped break the pro football color line.

Orange was dominant, even though it did not follow what at that time was common practice.

When other teams began to put logos on their helmets, Cleveland did not.

When most teams developed cheerleading groups, Cleveland did not.

They wore orange and brown, and they were supremely successful.

When they joined the NFL, they played in the league championship game six straight years.

In fact, Graham always played for the league title in his 10 seasons, winning seven, a record that stood until it was tied by Tom Brady.

The Browns have had multiple variations in their uniforms over the years, though they have never shifted from the orange and brown color scheme. This year they debuted a new-look uniform but still in orange and brown, so their traditional colors will not be shifting in the future.

When Paul Brown was fired by the team, he patiently waited for the opportunity to return, and that came when he had a chance to buy an AFL expansion team in Cincinnati as part of an ownership group. And it is no coincidence that the Bengals were orange, in their case using black instead of brown as the other color.

These days in the NFL, orange is still a somewhat uncommon color. We have the Broncos, Browns, Bengals, Bears and Dolphins featuring some version of orange in some capacity.

But back in the day, the Cleveland Browns started it all.

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