Winning is the ultimate goal every season for teams in the National Football League.
By that standard, no one has ever been better than Otto Graham.
When head coach Paul Brown started building the team, Graham was the first player he signed, understanding even that the importance of having a top-notch quarterback who could lead the team.
“I don’t think anybody ever let up or let (Graham) down because you knew he always gave 100 percent,” Chet Hanulak, a halfback on the Browns in 1954, said in the 2007 book, The Best Show in Football. “And if he did, you were certainly going to do the same thing. And I think that was the attitude we had on offense, that he was the leader and the ultimate leader, and he kind of set the pace and you better follow that pace.”
And what a pace it was.
Graham took over the starting quarterback role for the Cleveland Browns in the second quarter of the team’s very first game in 1946, throwing a touchdown in the 44-0 victory. Nine years later, he walked off the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after throwing a pair of touchdown passes in his final game, a 38-14 win in the 1955 NFL Championship Game.
In between, Graham set a standard for winning that will never be matched.
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Graham played 10 years and led the Browns to the league championship game every season, walking away with seven titles, three Most Valuable Player awards, five Pro Bowl selections and a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1950s Team.
In an era where most offenses were based on a ground-and-pound running attack, Graham averaged nine yards per pass attempt in his career – still the best mark in NFL history. His career quarterback rating of 86.6 is also the highest ever for any quarterback who began his pro career before 1979.
He is still the franchise leader in touchdown passes with 174, and second in passing yards with 23,584. He is also fifth on the list in rushing touchdowns with 44.
Graham remains to this day the lone Browns quarterback to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“The test of a quarterback is where his team finishes,” Brown said of Graham. “By that standard, Otto Graham was the best of all time.”
Didn’t we tell you he was something special?