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Terry Pluto's "Vintage Browns" shares memories of "the last great era" of Cleveland football

Terry Pluto's new book, "Vintage Browns"
Gray & Company Publishing
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Pluto collected stories from beloved Browns players from the last 50 years to write "Vintage Browns."

Terry Pluto is out with a new book about the Cleveland Browns teams of the 1970’s through the ‘90s.

“Vintage Browns: A Warm Look Back at the Cleveland Browns of the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and More” is a collection of stories and memories from many beloved players of that time.

Pluto said the idea from the book came after he started talking with former players about their draft day stories as a series for Cleveland.com.

"People really liked these stories. And I did a book a few years ago called Vintage Cavs, where I wrote about Cavs players I liked and eras I liked, so I decided to do this about the Browns."

The greatest era of Browns football
Pluto said the "heart" of the book is about the Browns of the 1980s, an era that's largely defined as "The Drive" and "The Fumble."

"It should be really defined as the last great era of Browns football we've seen," Pluto said.

And he said there were so many beloved players, such as Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner and Clay Matthews.

"These guys still have such a warm heart for the city," he said.

Pluto said it was also the waning days of the old Municipal Stadium, which he said "was rocking."

"It was the more of a gritty, blue collar football show than what we have now," Pluto said.

"These guys still have such a warm heart for the city."
Terry Pluto

The Bill Belichick question
Pluto says the book spends three chapters answering one question: Would Bill Belichick had been a good coach had he remained in Cleveland?

Belichick had a 36-44 record as head coach in Cleveland from 1991-1995. He was fired by then-owner Art Modell.

He's been the head coach of the New England Patriots since 2000. He's the only head coach in NFL history to win six Super Bowls. Through 2020, Belichick owns the most wins among all active coaches and ranks third all-time with 311 total victories as a head coach.

So, would he have been as successful had he continued in Cleveland?

"No," Pluto said.

"In New England, he had Tom Brady, a great quarterback. Here he just ran through quarterbacks. He had Bernie Kosar who was all beat up, then Vinne Testaverde and then Eric Zeier."

And Pluto said Belichick developed an eye for talent in New England that he didn't have in Cleveland.

"In Cleveland he drafted 41 players and just one made a Pro Bowl (Eric Turner)," Pluto said.

Pluto said after Belichick was fired in Cleveland, he reunited with his mentor, Bill Parcells, as a coordinator on the Patriots on a team that lost in the Super Bowl in 1997.

"By being fired in Cleveland, it made him really evaluate some things he did in Cleveland," Pluto said.

Bernie Kosar's feelings about Cleveland
Pluto said the book also explores quarterback Bernie Kosar's relationship with Cleveland.

"I've talked to Bernie a lot over the years and I knew he came to the Browns through the supplemental draft and that he came out early because he graduated in two-and-a-half years with a degree in finance. But I didn't know how he felt about coming to Cleveland," Pluto said.

Pluto said he learned that Kosar actually wanted to stay at the University of Miami another year and try to win the Heisman Trophy and a national championship.

"He loved the college atmosphere but he said he felt if he could come out as a top pick in the draft, that's millions of dollars," Pluto said.

He also learned that Kosar had a tough adjustment.

"He said he walks in, he's 21-years-old, he's now the quarterback of the Browns and he's thinking, 'Just three years ago I was at Youngstown Boardman High School.' He did feel, especially in the first year or two, the pressure of almost the whole area on him," Pluto said.

The focus on winning
Pluto said the '80s era of Browns football is often overlooked because those teams never won a Super Bowl.

"This was a good team. This was great entertainment. Sunday was must-watch TV," Pluto said.

It's just unfortunate that if you don't play on a championship team, that somehow you're a failure," Pluto said.

He hopes "Vintage Browns" will help build a better appreciation for that era.

"It was a chance for these guys to talk, and they were more than happy to talk. And that's what made the book wonderful," Pluto said.

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Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.