2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Cleveland Browns. And for two-thirds of their entire existence, Doug Dieken has been associated with them.
Dieken, a sixth-round draft pick by the Browns in 1971, spent 14 years at left tackle. He then transitioned into the broadcast booth, as part of the Browns radio team with Nev Chandler, Casey Coleman and, since the team’s return in 1999, Jim Donovan.
The Browns’ season finale Sunday against the Bengals will be Dieken’s last game in the booth, as he announced plans to retire following the season.
Learning Curve: A tight end in high school and college, Dieken was converted into an offensive lineman. There were adjustments, as Dieken was well-known for holding penalties. “Fans would give me grief when I was out,” he said. “I’d see them in the car, and they’d give me the holding penalty signal. So I got a personalized license plate, ‘MEHOLD.’”
A Declining Empire: In the 1950s and 1960s, the Browns were the class of the NFL, and vestiges of that dynasty were still present when Dieken joined the team. “I caught the tail end of the 1964 championship team,” he says. “I replaced Dick Schafrath, who I think should be in the Hall of Fame and I played next to Gene Hickerson, who is in the Hall of Fame. Gary Collins was my boyhood hero and he’s in the huddle with me! We made the playoffs my first two season, and I thought, Wow, this is really great! And then we didn’t make the playoffs for another eight years.”
Learning Curve II: Dieken transitioned to the broadcast booth, and like becoming an offensive lineman, he had no previous training. “You have to know when to talk and when to shut up,” he says. “I had to learn when to shut up.”
Next Man Up: The Browns announced they’ll search for a new color commentator — and Dieken just has one requirement: “I hope the next guy appreciates Jim (Donovan) as much as I do. He’s the best in the business. Cleveland’s been very fortunate with its announcers, like Joe Tait, Herb Score and Tom Hamilton. And Jim paints a picture as good as anybody.”
His Adoring Public: In his time with the Browns, Dieken’s met a lot of fans. And he’s humbled by how many of them treasure the moment, even years later. “I did one of the Progressive ads with Baker Mayfield, and the director said, ‘You probably don’t remember, but I met you at a golf tournament in Atlantic City when I was 8!’”
Retired Life: Even after retirement, Dieken may still be found at Browns games on Sundays. “You know, I’ve had season tickets since I got here in 1971 — and I’ve never actually sat in my seats.”