Otto Graham - Quarterback
Should quarterbacks be judged solely on whether their teams win or lose, and not by their individual statistics? There are some who believe they should, and if that's the case, then there's no doubt that the greatest quarterback in pro football history is Otto Graham.
Graham, who played his entire career (1946-55) with the Browns, was a perfect "10" in that he led them to the league championship game in all 10 of his seasons, notching seven victories.
He quarterbacked the Browns to all four titles handed out in the All-America Football Conference from 1946-49, then guided them to six championship games in as many seasons in the NFL from 1950-55, with three more wins. What a way for a franchise to start.
And Graham's individual stats were just as impressive. He had a major part in the team's success. In Graham's – and the Browns – inaugural season of 1946, he threw for 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He increased that to 25 TDs with 11 interceptions in 1947 while upping his yardage total by 919 to 2,753. The following year, as the Browns went 15-0 and became just one of two teams in pro football history to finish a season undefeated and untied, Graham had a carbon-copy effort of 1947 with 2,513 yards and 25 TDs with 15 picks. In the league's final season in 1949, he passed for 2,785 yards, his highest total for the AAFC portion of his career, with 19 scores and 10 interceptions. In all, he threw for 10,085 yards and 86 TDs while completing 55.8 percent of his passes in the AAFC. He also rushed for 11 TDs. In the NFL, he was a five-time all-league pick and went to six Pro Bowls – and with good reason. In 1952, he led the NFL in passing attempts (364), completions (181) and yards (2,816) while tying for first in TD passes (20). He topped the league the following year in completion percentage (64.7), yards (2,722) and yards per attempt (10.55), and in 1954 led in completion percentage again (59.2). He retired after leading the Browns to the league title in 1954 but was wooed back by head coach Paul Brown when the team struggled to find a quarterback in training camp in 1955. After shaking off the rust, he paced the NFL that season in completion percentage (53.0) and yards per attempt (9.30) while having the second-best passer rating of the NFL portion of his career, 94.0. Overall in the NFL, he also rushed for 33 TDs.
Graham was at his best in the big games. He threw for four TDs overall and led the Browns from eight points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-28 in the 1950 league title game. He passed for three TDs and ran for three more in the 56-10 win over the Detroit Lions in the 1954 championship game, and passed for two scores and ran for two in a 38-14 title game win over the Rams in 1955, after which he retired for good. If you add his statistics from both leagues together, he completed 1,464 passes, which would be third on the Browns all-time list, in 2,626 attempts (third) for 23,584 yards (second) and 174 TDs (first) with 135 interceptions. His quarterback rating would be 86.6 (second).
-- Steve King
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