It’s never easy following a legend, but sometimes being the guy who comes after the guy can work out pretty well.
Such was the case with Milt Plum, who almost wasn’t a Cleveland Brown.
Needing a quarterback in 1957, Browns head coach Paul Brown had his heart set on drafting Purdue quarterback Len Dawson, but the Pittsburgh Steelers beat them to it. (Of course, the Steelers being what they were at the time, let Dawson go after starting him just one time in three seasons. Apparently the notion of “seeing what you have” was not popular in the 1950s.)
With Dawson off the board, the Browns settled for running back Jim Brown and then picked up Plum in the second round with the 17th overall pick.
Plum would go on to win twice as many games as he lost with the Browns (a record of 33-16-2) and helped the Browns reach the NFL Championship Game in 1957, a 59-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.
He started 11 games his second year in the league, leading the Browns to a 9-2 mark, but could only lead the Cleveland offense to 86 total yards in a playoff loss to the New York Giants.
Plum made two Pro Bowls with the Browns, in 1960 and 1961, and his quarterback rating of 110.4 in 1960 stood as a league record until 1989. Always an efficient quarterback, his quarterback ratings from 1958 through 1961 placed him placed third, third, first and second, respectively, in the NFL.
He also posted the ninth-best passing day in franchise history on Oct. 23, 1960, when he finished 16-of-22 for 289 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 145.1 as the Browns dropped a close decision to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Following the 1961 season Plum reportedly had grown tired of having Paul Brown call the offensive plays, so Cleveland packaged him in deal to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Jim Ninowski, defensive end Bill Glass and running back Howard Cassady.
Plum spent six years with the Lions, before closing out his career with single-year stints with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.
Next: No. 5: Bill Nelsen (1968 to 1972)