Most disappointing Cleveland Browns quarterbacks: 3. Mike Phipps (1970-1976)
Coming out of Purdue in 1970, Mike Phipps was supposed to be a star quarterback in the NFL — which is why he went third overall in the draft that season. Selected by the Miami Dolphins, Phipps never played for them as he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield.
Coming off his best season as a pro, Warfield had just eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and at 28-years old, he was still in his prime. He would go on to catch 156 passes for 3,335 yards with 33 touchdowns for Miami — while also helping them to a perfect season.
As for Phipps, it took him a while to get going. He wasn’t a full-time starter until his third season. That year, he was able to lead them to 10-wins, and then Cleveland was 7-5-2 the following season, but not all that winning was due to Phipps.
In fact, the team was finding ways to win despite his penchant for turnovers. In 1972, he had 13 touchdowns against 16 interceptions which were his best ratio for his career in that department. He followed that up with nine touchdowns and 20 picks in ’73 and nine vs. 17 in ’74. Phipps had an extreme low in 1975 when he threw four touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
He was also just 5-15 combined as the starter in the 1974 and 1975 seasons before being replaced by Brian Sipe, who while he ended up being an NFL MVP was a 13th round pick in 1972 out of San Diego State. That’s not exactly the resume of a player who should have supplanted the No. 3 overall pick.
In all, Phipps was 24-25-2 as the Browns starter and had an unbelievably bad touchdown-to-interception ratio of 40-to-81. That’s not enough of a return on investment to justify trading away one of the best players the team has ever had.