Cleveland Browns: Top 10 quarterbacks of all-time
By Thomas Moore
Proving once again that the Pittsburgh Steelers were every bit as bad at evaluating quarterbacks as the Browns currently are, Cleveland swung a deal prior to the 1968 season to acquire Bill Nelsen.
In five years with the Browns, Nelsen would lead the team to the brink of Super Bowls III and IV (a familiar tale to Browns fans) and posting 34 wins in his four years as the starting quarterback.
Nelsen took over as the starting quarterback three games into his first season with the Browns as the offense was struggling.
Under Nelsen the offense found its footing and he led the Browns to an eight-game winning streak, including handing the Baltimore Colts their only regular-season loss. During the streak the Browns scored at least 30 points seven times and averaged 37.9 points as they rolled through the NFL.
Nelsen led the Browns past the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs before falling to the Colts in the NFL title game.
Nelsen and the Browns were back the following season, once again defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs – the last road playoff win by the Browns – before once again coming up short of the Super Bowl, losing the NFL title game to the Minnesota Vikings.
Nelsen’s balky knees finally caught up with him in the 1970 season, but he still had enough left in him to lead the Browns to a Central Division title in 1971. He started the season opener in 1972 before giving way to Mike Phipps and retired at the end of the season.
A first-team all-NFL selection in 1968 by The Sporting News, Nelsen made the Pro Bowl in 1969 when he posted career highs in passing yards (2,743) and touchdown passes (23).
Next: No. 4: Frank Ryan (1963 to 1968)