Otto’s last game, NFL Championship vs Rams, 1955
After having charmed Otto Graham out of retirement, with the additional enticement of the highest salary of any quarterback in football ($25,000 per year), the Browns made it back to the NFL championship game in 1955 for their tenth straight appearance in the championship game.
What more fitting end to his career but to encounter the Los Angeles Rams? As this fan has reminded readers numerous times, that team was formerly the Cleveland Rams, leaving the city after winning an undisputed World Championship in 1945. Cleveland fans were still upset about it.
The first quarter was harmless enough with Lou Groza putting the Browns on the board first with a 26-yard field goal. But at 10:00 on the video, Don Paul of the Browns intercepts Norm Van Brocklin and takes it back to the house. Suddenly, the Browns were up 10-0.
The Rams came back with a bomb to Skeets Quinlan (about 11:15 in the video) bringing the Rams back to within three points. At 14:40, Graham reciprocated, hitting Dante Lavelli with a 50-yard bomb and once again the Browns were up 17-7, which held up through the end of the half. Van Brocklin ended the half by throwing another interception, giving him five for the first half. The fact that they were still within two scores was a miracle.
In the third quarter, a drive by the Browns fizzled with a missed field goal from Groza from 48 yards. The defense rose to the occasion, forcing a punt by the Rams. Ken Konz fielded the ball at the 32-yard line and made a great 24-yard return to allow the Browns to start a drive on the Los Angeles 46 at the 18:30 mark of the video. From there, the Browns relied on runs by Maurice Bassett and Graham to move the ball downfield, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown run by the old quarterback at about the 19:15 mark.
Van Brocklin did not get much better in the second half, chucking yet another interception and causing coach Sid Gillman to send in the great Billy Wade in place of the future Hall of Famer. Wade promptly fumbled, then threw an interception and was sacked twice.
Graham’ final touchdown pass to Ray Renfro can be seen at about 24:45.
Automatic Otto went to the championship game 10 times in a 10-year career. Actually, he was 11 for 11, if you want to count playing guard for the National Basketball League champion Rochester Royals in 1945. He had one NFL championship, four AAFC championships and three NFL championships, finishing runner-up three additional times. So, take that, Tom Brady!
Graham never missed a game in his career. Hello, Joe Thomas!
Otto Graham is still the all-time NFL leader in yards per pass attempt with 9.0.
To cite some other stats, Graham had
10 seasons out of 10 in the top 10 in completions
10 seasons out of 10 in the top 10 in passing yards.
10 seasons out of 10 in the top 10 in passer rating.
10 seasons out of 10 in the top 10 in pass completion percentage.
He was three times the NFL Most Valuable Player, went to five Pro Bowls, and was first team All-Pro seven times.
For good measure, here are two other achievements that Baker Mayfield and other Browns quarterbacks will never match: two seasons in the top 10 in punt returns and one year in the top 10 in interceptions. That is not throwing interceptions, but catching them while playing defensive back.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet could have been talking about Otto Graham when he said, “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”