If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.
That’s just what the Browns did on Jan, 13, 1960, when they acquired quarterback Len Dawson in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for wide receiver/running back Preston Carpenter and safety Junior Wren.
The Browns had attempted to get Dawson with their No. 6 overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft. Head coach/General Manager Paul Brown thought Dawson could be the one to fill the gaping hole left when Otto Graham, who had led the Browns to the league championship game in each of their first 10 years of existence -- with seven titles -- retired after the 1955 season. Without Graham, the Browns, with pretty much everyone else returning, promptly went 5-7 in 1956.
But Brown was rebuffed in his quest for Dawson when the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, picking one spot ahead of them at No. 5, took him. The Browns went to their Plan B and drafted a running back from Syracuse named Jim Brown.
Things didn’t work out for Dawson during his three seasons with the Steelers, as he was just 6-of-17 passing for 96 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. That didn’t dissuade Brown, though. He thought Dawson, who had played at Alliance (Ohio) High School -- about a 90-minute drive southeast of Cleveland, and then at Purdue, which was developing a reputation as being the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” in college football -- still had what it took.
As it turned out, Brown was right, although he never got to reap the benefits of Dawson’s considerable passing skills.
Just as Dawson was arriving in Cleveland, Milt Plum, who had steadily gotten better in his three seasons with the Browns after being their second-round draft pick in 1957, really blossomed. Plum was the top passer in the NFL in 1960, throwing for a league-best 2,297 yards and 21 touchdown passes with just five interceptions for a team-record 110.4 quarterback rating. He topped the league in passing yards again in 1961 with 2,418, and had 18 scoring passes with 10 interceptions for a 90.3 rating.
As a result, Dawson also didn’t get to play much with the Browns, attempting only 28 passes in two seasons.
So the Browns let him go, and Dawson went on to the AFL’s Dallas Texans in 1962 and immediately blossomed after being reunited with head coach Hank Stram, his offensive coordinator from Purdue. The Texans moved to Kansas City the next year and became the Chiefs. With Dawson and Stram, they went to two Super Bowls, winning once, and Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, joining Stram, Paul Brown, and Jim Brown.
Paul Brown also got rid of Plum after the 1961 season, trading him to the Detroit Lions. At about the same time that offseason, the Browns acquired Frank Ryan in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, and he helped lead them to the 1964 NFL championship.
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