Cleveland Browns: Tom Brady tries to tie Otto Graham with 7 championships

Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham trying to avoid being tackled in a 17-7 loss to the Detroit Lions in a League Championship game on December 28, 1952 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gelatly/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham trying to avoid being tackled in a 17-7 loss to the Detroit Lions in a League Championship game on December 28, 1952 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gelatly/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Cleveland Browns QB Otto Graham played for 10 years and never missed the Championship Game.

Quarterback Tom Brady has a chance to tie the lifetime totals of Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham, with 10 Championship Game appearances and seven championships, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win on Sunday.

However, we can feel confident that Automatic Otto’s record of 10-straight appearances in the Championship Game will stand for a while. Tom Brady needs nine straight after this year to tie him. Of course, it will have taken Brady an astounding 21 seasons to get to 10 Super Bowls. Otto never missed the title game in his career.

Which is more impressive? Is it cooler to be in the league for 21 seasons and go to the dance 10 times? That’s a crazy stat, especially when you consider that there are 32 teams in the NFL these days. Thus it’s harder in the modern game to make it to the Super Bowl, just owing to the larger number of teams.

There is also the matter of the split Championship. There were two football leagues from 1946 to 1949, the NFL and the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). After World War 2, to make a long story short, some rich businessmen formed the AAFC figuring they could outspend the NFL and take over the game of professional football in America.

They got the first part right. The AAFC really did sign the best players for the first few years. For example, 44 of the 60 players chosen to play in the 1946 College All-Star Game signed with an AAFC team and not to the NFL. However, where they miscalculated was that the AAFC team owners didn’t like losing money any more than the NFL owners, and in fact, by paying more for salaries, they probably lost more money.

During most of this period, the NFL had 10 teams and the AAFC had eight, so certainly defenders of TB12’s stats have a legitimate point that It was harder to beat 31 teams as opposed to seven. Ultimately they can always argue that Graham’s stats don’t count because the NFL doesn’t recognize the AAFC. Well, recognized or not, Graham and the upstart Browns won the first championship when the leagues merged, and they made it to the championship six years in a row, so hopefully they can recognize that.

Both athletes are remarkable and have bragging rights that will go down in history. There’s no point in trying to put down one or the other. Since this is a Browns publication, however, here are some ultra remarkable Graham stats that no one else can claim.

First, it’s phenomenal to make it to the Championship Game 10 straight times and never miss. That says as much about Paul Brown and the Cleveland organization, not to mention Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Lou Groza, Lou Saban, Dante Lavelli, Mac Speedie, Frank Gatski and so many other stars that were on that team.

Actually, however, it was 11-straight championships if you include professional basketball. That’s right, Graham was a member of the World Champion Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League in the 1945-46 season.

Truthfully, this fan was shocked that Brady was able to play so well at age 43 and actually make it to the Super Bowl over the Packers, Saints and Seahawks. Seeing Brady tie Graham’s record of 10 football championships is unbelievable. Brady has spent his entire career doing unbelievable things.

Now, of course, people can say that they knew it all along, but it did not look very promising when the Saints were beating up on them 38-3. Drew Brees went down this season, still slinging it, but with a host of injuries, and that is kind of what I had expected might happen to Brady, especially with a team adjusting to a new head coach and a new quarterback. So everyone else can say that they knew it all along, but I thought Graham’s record was safe until a few weeks ago. Win three road playoff games in a row on the road? At age 43? Not very likely. Or so many of us thought. But here it is.

Never say never, but we do not expect to see No.12 line up in the defensive backfield for Tampa.  Otto Graham, however, has played defensive back in the Championship Game and even came away with a key interception. Graham was a starting defensive back as well as a quarterback in the early days, which is why he wore number 60, before switching to number 14.

Brady and Graham have both thrown a few interceptions, but Graham made seven interceptions as a defensive back and also delivered one in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean that Graham was better than Brady, but it does mean that he was a different breed of cat.

Graham’s record of 8.98 yards per pass attempt is still the highest in Pro Football history, even though supposedly he played in the “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” era of football. Incidentally, Patrick Mahomes is second on the list, with 8.39 yds/attempt.

In films, you can see Graham fling passes 50 yards or more downfield without really winding up. He just flicks his wrist and the ball comes flying out. Brady is the same way. Historically, however, Brady never put up monster numbers until 2007 when Randy Moss showed up, probably because coach Belichick prioritized defense a little more than Brady would have liked.

Brady’s job was to basically not turn the ball over, and he did a great job with good but not superstar talent around him. With Randy Moss as his main target, people suddenly started drafting him for their fantasy football team. From that point on, fans and media people started to realize that Brady was truly an elite football player. The longer he played, the more people realized that Brady is a true phenomenon.

There’s a lesson here, namely that football is a team game, and the quarterback who threw only 24 touchdown passes in 2006 was the same player who threw 50 in 2007. The difference was mainly the talent around him, and especially Randy Moss. Quarterback stats do not tell the whole story.

In Graham’s case, it was obvious from the get-go that he was a major star. After converting to quarterback in the 1946 season, by 1947 he was the AAFC MVP, and in 1948 he led the Browns to an undefeated season (oh, have you been told that the Miami Dolphins were history’s only undefeated Pro Football team? Well, it ain’t so. Your Cleveland Browns went 14-0, and then won the AAFC Championship Game that season).

So, who’s better? Brady, or Graham? Or perhaps someone else? These questions really cannot be answered because, obviously, they don’t play each other, and moreover it is a team sport, so it really depends on how you ask the question. Certainly, no one ever filled a trophy case faster than Graham, but Brady has had twice as long to compile his.

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What’s for sure is that Otto Graham’s personal record of championship professional football games played, once thought to be unbreakable, is about to be tied at 10. The record of seven wins could be tied if the Patriots win on Sunday.