The AFC North rivals have butted heads twice annually since 1999, when they represented the bygone AFC Central Division. The origin of the rivalry, of course, dates back two decades to when the original Browns deserted Cleveland for the promise of a new stadium and revenue streams in Baltimore.
Friday marks the 20th anniversary of a key date in the acrimony between the factions. It was on March 11, 1996, in Palm Beach, Florida, that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the combined finance and stadium committees gave approval to owner Art Modell to move his team to Maryland. It was the final stamp on a deal the owners voted for a month earlier in Chicago that also allowed Cleveland to keep the Browns nickname, colors and records for a new team that would begin play in 1999.
To mark 20 years of pro football friction between Baltimore and Cleveland, we present 20 things to know about the intertwined history of the Browns and Ravens:
1. Baltimore Marauders?
Before the Ravens became the franchise's mascot, owner Art Modell inquired with Indianapolis Colts executive Jim Irsay about bringing the Colts' nickname back to Baltimore. He was rebuffed, and the team eventually put the decision up to a fan vote. Ravens won in a landslide over Americans, Marauders, Mustangs and Railers.
2. Stadium costs
Cleveland lost the original Browns in large part because it didn't replace decaying Cleveland Stadium, which opened in 1931 and served as the team's home since its inception in 1946.
The state of Maryland jumped in and willingly built PSINet Stadium, which opened in 1998. Now known as M&T Bank Stadium, the venue cost an estimated $220 million when it was constructed.
The city of Cleveland wound up paying most of the costs for the new Cleveland Browns Stadium, anyway. That venue, now known as FirstEnergy Stadium, cost an estimated $290 million at the time of its opening in 1999.
Ravens' all-time record: 173-146-1 (.542) in regular season; 15-8 (.652) postseason.
Browns' record since 1999 rebirth: 87-185 (.320) in regular season; 0-1 (.000) postseason.
Head-to-head series: Ravens lead 25-9 (no postseason meetings).
Although the 1990s Browns never made a deep playoff run, they boasted a remarkable collection of coaching and executive talent at the time the move was approved.
Bill Belichick: He was the Browns' head coach from 1991 to '95. After getting the initial green light to move from his fellow owners, Modell fired Belichick. The coach reunited with former boss Bill Parcells as an assistant with the New England Patriots (1996) and New York Jets (1997-99) and then began an epic tenure as Patriots' head coach in 2000.
Ozzie Newsome: Newsome became a Browns scout in 1991 after a successful 13-year career as a tight end with Cleveland and steadily rose through the pro personnel ranks with the Browns and Ravens. He became Baltimore's general manager in 2002, a role he still maintains, and was a key figure in assembling two championship rosters. Newsome remains Cleveland's career leader in receptions and receiving yards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Kirk Ferentz: The future University of Iowa head coach was the Browns' offensive line coach from 1993 to '95 and held the same title with the Ravens from 1996 to '98.
Eric Mangini: The future Jets and Browns head coach started with the Browns as a ballboy and later became a coaching assistant, a role he also held with the Ravens in 1996.
Jim Schwartz: The future Detroit Lions head coach was a scout and pro personnel staffer with Cleveland from 1993 to '95 and followed the team to Baltimore to become an assistant coach.
Pat Hill: The future Fresno State head coach assisted with Browns offensive linemen and tight ends for four seasons and stayed with the team through its first season in Baltimore.
Executives: Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, Thomas Dimitroff, Phil Savage, George Kokonis and Mike Lombardi were all young executives with the 1990s Browns before ultimately rising to top executive positions around the league.
Previously: Two other future NFL head coaches assisted Belichick in Cleveland, although they weren't on his final Browns staff in 1995. Nick Saban was defensive coordinator under Belichick from 1991 to '94 and left to become head coach at Michigan State. Al Groh, who went on to become head coach for the Jets and the University of Virginia, was Belichick's linebackers coach in 1992.
5. Ill-fated logo
A Maryland man designed the first Ravens logo but was never compensated for it.
Frederick Bouchat, a security guard and amateur artist, submitted an unsolicited design to the Maryland Stadium Authority that was later appropriated by the team. Bouchat won a court decision, and the team changed from the original "Flying B" logo to the current raven's head icon in 1999.
Bouchat earned a partial court victory in 2010 regarding archival use of the logo by the team and the NFL. But again, no damages were awarded.
6. Draft: 1995 vs. 1996
The Browns selected Ohio State linebacker Craig Powell and Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier with the top two choices in their last draft before moving to Baltimore. Powell never started an NFL game. Zeier was a capable backup for six NFL seasons but went 4-8 in 12 career starts.
The following year, the Ravens selected UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and Miami linebacker Ray Lewis with their top two choices. Ogden was named to 11 Pro Bowls and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. Lewis was named to 13 Pro Bowls and will be eligible for Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2018. Both players spent their entire careers with the Ravens.
7. Hey, coach!
The Ravens have employed only three head coaches in the past two decades: Ted Marchibroda (16-31-1), Brian Billick (80-64, 5-3 postseason) and John Harbaugh (77-51, 10-5).
The Browns have had eight head coaches since their rebirth in 1999: Chris Palmer (5-27), Butch Davis (24-35, 0-1), Romeo Crennel (24-40), Eric Mangini (10-22), Pat Shurmur (9-23), Rob Chudzinski (4-12), Mike Pettine (10-22) and newly hired Hue Jackson. That doesn't include Terry Robiskie (1-4), who served as interim coach after Davis was fired in 2004.
8. Top performers
A comparison of the statistical leaders for the Ravens and new Cleveland Browns (since the 1999 season):
Top Ravens passer: Joe Flacco -- 28,322 yards.
Top Browns passer: Tim Couch -- 11,131 yards.
Top Ravens rusher: Jamal Lewis -- 7,801 yards.
Top Browns rusher: Jamal Lewis -- 2,806 yards.
Top Ravens receiver: Derrick Mason -- 5,777 yards.
Top Browns receiver: Kevin Johnson -- 3,836 yards.
9. Double agent: Jamal Lewis
As mentioned above, Lewis leads both franchises in rushing since the Browns were revived.
In one of the most impressive rushing efforts in NFL history, Lewis memorably clobbered the Browns to the tune of 500 yards in 2003. He rushed for 295 yards at home on Sept. 14, setting an NFL record at the time. Lewis came back with 205 yards at Cleveland on Dec. 21, 2003. Those efforts helped him compile a league-leading 2,066 yards that season. Lewis rushed for 100-plus yards in a game against the Browns three other times during his career, and he enjoyed five seasons of 1,000-plus yards with the Ravens.
After spending the first six seasons of his career in Baltimore, Lewis defected to Cleveland for his final three. He didn't rush for 100 yards in any of the five games against his former team, but he did top the 1,000-yard mark twice with the Browns.
10. They were super after all
Cleveland is infamously starved for a championship, having last celebrated when the Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship. The Browns are one of only four teams, along with the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, yet to reach the Super Bowl.
We don't mean to pour salt on a wound here, but the future success of many former 1990s Browns evokes quite a list.
The Ravens won Super Bowl titles in the 2000 and 2012 seasons, and Belichick has won four Super Bowls in six appearances with the Patriots. Saban failed to lead the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs during two seasons as head coach there, but he has acquitted himself nicely at the collegiate level by winning five national championships -- four at Alabama, one at LSU. Among Browns players, Bernie Kosar, Keenan McCardell, Andre Rison, Brian Kinchen each went on to win the Super Bowl with a team other than the Ravens.
11. The downward spiral
After earning a wild-card berth and playoff victory the previous season, the 1995 Browns were expected to be good. So good that Sports Illustrated predicted the team would win the AFC championship.
But despite a promising 3-1 start, the season didn't turn out that way at all. Cleveland then lost three consecutive games before beating the Cincinnati Bengals to get to 4-4. But on the eve of the team's home game against the Houston Oilers in Week 10, news broke that Modell had signed an agreement to move the team.
A freefall followed, with the Browns losing their next six games in a row and seven of their last eight overall. The six consecutive losses marks the longest such streak in Belichick's career as a head coach. The Browns' only win in the second half of the season came against the Bengals, as Cleveland skidded to a 5-11 finish.
Fan support was never the issue in Cleveland. The Browns averaged 69,948 fans per home game in 1994, the last full season before the team announced its move. The peak was a crowd of 77,774 in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite news of the move midway through the 1995 season, the Browns still averaged 64,049 fans per home game that year. The biggest home crowd of the year numbered 76,211 for a Monday Night Football game in Week 5 that pitted the 3-1 Browns against the 2-1 Buffalo Bills. The Browns lost 22-19 on a field goal with five seconds left.
13. The last home game
It was a surreal scene when Cleveland hosted Cincinnati on Dec. 17, 1995. Knowing that it almost certainly would be the Browns' last game at Cleveland Stadium, a crowd of 55,875 showed up to see the hosts beat the Bengals 26-10. There were 10,769 no-shows.
More than 100 extra police officers were pressed into duty, and perhaps as a result, few major incidents were reported. A few rows of seats were ripped out and thrown onto the field behind the Bengals bench. In a precautionary measure, the teams switched sides of the field in the fourth quarter to avoid firecrackers thrown by fans.
Modell wasn't present, and NBC set up its broadcast booth in his empty owner's box.
Receiver Rison, who received death threats after publicly chirping, "Baltimore, here we come," was booed every time he touched the ball. About 20 Browns players went to the famed Dawg Pound section to commiserate with fans afterward, and Belichick brought his wife and children onto the field.
In the box score, Vinny Testaverde threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns for Cleveland, and Earnest Byner rushed for 121 yards.
14. Exit Belichick
Modell fired Belichick on Valentine's Day 1996, a few days after the owners initially voted to approve the move.
"We've had some success with Bill, including an 11-5 playoff team in 1994," Modell said. "However, I believe to get to the next level, a change at head coach is necessary."
In a statement, Belichick said, "This team has an excellent future and I wish them well. I will review my options with regard to my future in the NFL."
Belichick was replaced by Ted Marchibroda, who as head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1975 had hired Belichick to his first pro coaching position.
"It was an emotional day out there for us. I think we're going to reflect back on it after the season, and there's going to be a hole inside of us." -- Testaverde, on the final home game of the 1995 season.
"I look at this as more than a preseason game. This is a renewal for Art Modell, a new adventure, a new era in my life." -- Modell, during the Ravens' exhibition opener in 1996.
"I hate that it ended this way. I grew up a Browns fan, and I don't like it any more than the fans do. I'm not the bad guy." -- Rison.
16. You asked for it
The Browns specifically requested to play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their longtime archrivals, in their first game as a reborn franchise on Sept. 12, 1999. The wish was granted, and the Steelers routed the Browns 43-0 in front of a Sunday night national television audience. The Browns, with Ty Detmer starting at quarterback, mustered only 40 yards of total offense.
17. Only two stuck up for Cleveland
The owners of 25 NFL teams voted to approve the Browns' relocation to Baltimore. Three teams that had recently moved -- the Raiders, Rams and Cardinals -- abstained from the vote.
Only the Steelers and Bills voted against the measure.
18. The owner
Although Modell became forever reviled in Cleveland after the move, he was embraced in Baltimore for bringing the NFL back to that city 12 years after the Colts left town. Modell was presented with keys to the city and attempted to imitate Lewis' signature dance after the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade in 2001.
"I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move," Modell told The Associated Press in 1999. "The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me."
Years later, Modell claimed he had to move the Browns to avoid bankruptcy. He sold his majority stake in the Ravens to Steve Bisciotti in 2004 and died in September 2012 in Baltimore, five months before the Ravens would beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
19. We don't condone this behavior
A Browns fan made headlines -- and a classless spectacle of himself -- by urinating on Modell's grave and posting a video of the incident on YouTube in 2014. Prosecutors in Maryland, where Modell is buried, later dropped a charge of disorderly conduct against the 62-year-old Ohio man who committed the act. He could have faced up to two years in jail if found guilty.
20. Ultimately, some things never change
The AFC North-rival Bengals have won zero playoff games since the original Browns fled Ohio.
Even star-crossed Cleveland has won a postseason game more recently than the Bengals. The Browns, under Belichick, defeated the Patriots 20-13 on Jan. 1, 1995.
Interestingly, in the months before acquiring the former Browns, the city of Baltimore unsuccessfully tried to lure the Bengals to Maryland.
Since then, the Ravens are 15-8 in the postseason with two Super Bowl victories. The Bengals are 0-7.