Cleveland Browns: 5 best trades of all-time

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Despite not throwing an NFL pass since 1968, Frank Ryan still remains the last quarterback to lead the Cleveland Browns to an NFL championship.

Originally drafted the the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round of the 1958 NFL Draft, the Browns acquired Ryan during the summer of 1962, sending defensive tackle Larry Stephens and third- and sixth-round picks in the 1963 draft to the Rams for Ryan and running back Tom Wilson.

Ryan took over the starting job midway through the 1962 season after quarterback Jim Ninowski was injured. In his five full seasons as the Browns starting quarterback, Ryan led the club to two championship games, had the team in contention for two others, and led the Browns to the playoffs in 1967. He also made the Pro Bowl from 1964 to 1966.

He also led the NFL in 1966 with 29 touchdown passes, and his 2,974 passing yards that season stood as the Browns’ single-season record until Brian Sipe threw for 3,793 yards in 1979.

But Ryan’s finest day came in the 1964 title game against the Baltimore Colts, when he threw three touchdown passes as the Browns defeated the allegedly unbeatable Colts, 27-0.

That championship game came with a price, however.

With the clock winding down and the Browns the clear victors, Baltimore defensive end Gino Marchetti asked the referee to end the game, a request that Ryan denied as he wanted to run one more play.

“With one more play, I threw a pass to our tight end John Brewer,” Ryan told The Plain Dealer in a 2014 story. “He hadn’t caught any passes. It was more about caring for Brewer than anything else. I didn’t think about how it would affect the other team.”

Marchetti vowed revenge and got it two weeks later at the Pro Bowl, when he sacked Ryan on a play in the second quarter, which resulted in a separated shoulder for Ryan. (It is hard to imagine the reaction if that happen today to someone like Tom Brady.)

While he would go on to play four more successful seasons, the injury continued to bother Ryan.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t practice very well because I had so much pain,” Ryan said. “I still had several more good years throwing the ball, but it hurt like hell. I would’ve played more than I did if I hadn’t got hurt. It just goes to show you how I was a neophyte who made that jackass move for one more play. I have no one to blame but myself.”

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