I had it narrowed down to 31 players initially, but with 12 Hall of Famers & four current stars, it didn’t get any easier. I got an idea for another article while reading about the 4th pick in 1972. Vikings legendary receiver Ahmad Rashad was once traded for quarterback Dennis Shaw. Maybe I should write an article on the most lop-sided trades in NFL history? Just imagine, we could have Earnest Byner for Mike Oliphant, Randy Moss for a fourth round pick, the draft day trade where the Eagles got Mike Mamula & the Buccaneers got Warren Sapp & Derrick Brooks, Denver’s Alphonso Smith trade that got the Seahawks Earl Thomas, and of course, the infamous Herschel Walker trade that built the Cowboys dynasty.
So I guess that’s an idea to explore after I finish the draft series. Today’s list left me with the usual dilemma of deciding which Hall of Fame players to leave out for the sake of a couple of modern legends who I think will eventually reach Canton. This time I had to leave out the 4th leading sacker in NFL history (Chris Doleman), & Bears Hall of Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton. I almost left out Jonathan Ogden, but with his resume, the least I could do is leave him in a tie with the other player that had the same score.
So, here’s my top 11 NFL players drafted with the fourth overall pick:
10 (tie). Baltimore Ravens-Jonathan Ogden, OT, UCLA, 1996
He began his rookie season as a guard, starting all 16 games. He moved to left tackle in 1997, and became a fixture there with the Ravens, starting 176 of 177 games played. Amazingly, he was selected to the Pro Bowl each year he started at left tackle for the Ravens (1997-2007). He earned a ring with the team’s win in Super Bowl XXXV. He was voted the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2002. He was named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor in 2008, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
10 (tie). Miami Dolphins-Bob Griese, QB, Purdue, 1967
He was an instant star in the AFL, starting 10 of 12 games as a rookie, and throwing for 2,005 yards and 15 touchdowns. He followed that with 2,465 yards and 21 touchdowns in 1968, and was selected to the AFL All Stars team in each of his first two seasons. He earned the first of six Pro Bowl selections (1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977 & 1978) when the AFL & NFL merged in 1970. In 1971 he was named the NFL MVP, throwing for 2,089 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. This was at a time when the touchdown/interception ratio was never that great, he had 12 touchdowns & 17 interceptions the previous year, and yet they were still a playoff team, going 10-4 in 1970.
In 1971 they made it to Super Bowl VI, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The team was off to a great start in 1972, but lost Griese to a broken leg in the fifth game of the season. Along came Earl Morrall, who won the next 11 games before being replaced by Griese in the AFC Championship against the Steelers. The Dolphins went on to win Super Bowl VII, completing what is still the only perfect undefeated season since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970.
As if that wasn’t enough, he led them back to the Super Bowl again, beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. He led the league in two different passing categories later in his career, leading the NFL with 22 touchdown passes in 1977, and a league best 63% completion percentage in 1978. He maintained a winning record as a starter for all but two of the 11 years he played for Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, going 92-56-3 as a starter. He remained the team’s starter until 1980, but even then started three of five games while mentoring Don Strock & David Woodley.
A shoulder injury in 1980 led to his eventual retirement. He spent his entire 14 year career with the Dolphins (1967-1980), starting 151 of 161 regular season games played. He completed 1,926 of 3,429 attempts, throwing for 25,092 yards, 192 touchdowns, and 172 interceptions, with a passer rating of 77.1. He was inducted into the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, both in 1990.
9. Chicago Bears-Gale Sayers, RB, Kansas State, 1965
I almost left him off of this list just based on how short his career was, it’s a good thing I did my research first. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, scoring a then record 22 touchdowns in a 14 game season. He had 166 carries for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns, 29 catches for 507 yards and six touchdowns, for a total of 1,374 yards and 20 touchdowns on offense. He also added 16 punt returns for 238 yards and a touchdown, and 21 kickoffs returned for 660 yards and a touchdown, giving him 2,272 yards from scrimmage.
I guess we could say that he had a sophomore slump in 1966 because he “only” scored 12 touchdowns combined as a runner, receiver, and returner. He had 229 carries for 1,231 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, or 0.2 yards higher than the previous year. He also added 34 catches for 447 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80 yard catch, matching his longest from 1965. He only had six punts returned for 44 yards, but he still had 23 kickoffs returned for 718 yards and two touchdowns. Even with fewer punt returns, he still outdid his previous season’s total all purpose yardage, with 2,440 yards.
His workload was lightened a bit more in 1967, but he still produced more than 100 all purpose yards per game, with 1,689 yards in 13 games. He had 186 carries for 880 yards and seven touchdowns, including a career long 70 yard run. He was used as a receiver less, with only 16 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. He only had three punt returns, but produced 80 yards and a touchdown. He returned fewer kickoffs as well, but scored three touchdowns and gained 603 yards on only 16 returns.
He was leading the league in rushing again in 1968 with 138 carries for 856 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a career high 6.2 yards per carry, when he tore the ligaments in his right knee. Even with his season ended after nine games, he still produced 1,463 yards from scrimmage. He had 15 catches for 117 yards, two punt returns for 29 yards, and 17 kickoffs returned for 461 yards. He worked out & went through physical rehab with friend & teammate Brian Piccolo, and was right back in the lineup for the 1969 season.
He led the league with 236 carries for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns in 1969, but averaged “only” 4.4 yards per carry, his lowest so far in his career. He added 17 catches for 116 yards, and 17 kickoffs returned for 461 yards, but was no longer used on punt returns. In 1970, he injured his left knee after only two games, and had only 23 carries for 52 yards, and lost six yards on his only catch. He followed that with only two games in 1971, with 13 carries for 38 yards. His final comeback attempt ended with two fumbles on three carries in 1972 preseason.
In his seven year career he played in 68 games, with 991 carries for 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns, and had 112 catches for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns. As a returner he had 27 punt returned for 391 yards and two touchdowns, along with 91 kickoff returns for 2,781 yards and six touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1977, and is still the youngest player inducted at the age of 34. He was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. In addition to setting the rookie scoring record, he also tied Ernie Nevers & Dub Jones single game touchdown record with six, as well as tying the single game return touchdown record with two, most recently tied by the Lions Jeremy Ross in 2013.
8. Indianapolis Colts-Edgerrin James, RB, Miami (Fla.), 1999
Colts fans were disappointed the team picked him over Ricky Williams, but he wound up as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1999, and was named to his first four Pro Bowls (1999, 2000, 2004, 2005). He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had 339 carries for a league leading 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 62 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns. He led the league in rushing again in 2000, with 387 carries for 1,709 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 63 catches for 594 yards and five touchdowns. He was already at 4,442 yards from scrimmage after only his second season.
In 2001 he suffered a torn ACL only six games into the season, and finished with 151 carries for 662 yards and three touchdowns, and 24 catches for 193 yards. He started 14 games in 2002, but the effects of knee injury made some wonder if he would ever be back to his old self. He had 277 carries for 989 yards and two touchdowns, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. He was closer to his old self in 2003, starting all 13 games he played and finishing with 310 carries for 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was back above 4 yards per carry, with an average of 4.1.
In 2004 he started all 16 games for the first time since 2000, and had 334 carries for 1,548 yards and nine touchdowns, along with 51 catches for 483 yards, giving him more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage (2,031) for the first time since 2000. He wound up with back-to-back 1,500 yard seasons, with 360 carries for 1,506 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2005. He left the Colts in free agency in 2006, signing a four year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals. As it turns out, he left at just the wrong time.
The Colts went on to win Super Bowl XLI, but the team still gave him a ring because of his contributions to their success during the Peyton Manning era. He started all 16 games with the Cardinals in 2006, gaining more than 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his career, but he scored only six touchdowns and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. He did slightly better in 2006, starting all 16 games again, with 324 carries for 1,222 yards and seven touchdowns, but still only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. In 2008 he started only seven of 13 games, with 133 carries for 514 yards and three touchdowns, and only 19 yards receiving on three catches.
He spent the 2009 offseason away from football after the death of the mother of his four children, but signed a one-year, two million dollar deal in late August 2009. He played in only seven games, and was released after 46 carries for 125 yards. In 11 years in the NFL he started 135 of the 148 games he played. He had 3,028 carries for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns. As a receiver he had 433 catches for 3,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor in 2012, but hasn’t been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet. I think he will eventually get in, he’s currently 11th in NFL history in rushing yards, ahead of Hall of Famers Marcus Allen (12,243), Franco Harris (12,120), Thurman Thomas (12,074), John Riggins (11,352), and O.J. Simpson (11,236). The only active players who are close are free agent Steven Jackson (11,388), Colts running back Frank Gore (11,073), and the Vikings Adrian Peterson (10,190). He is the Colts all-time leader with 9,222 yards and 64 touchdowns on the ground.
7. Oakland Raiders-Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan, 1998
He was an instant star with the Raiders, earning selection to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years (1998-2001). He started all 16 games as a rookie, and had five interceptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. He only had one interception in 1999, but that’s probably because quarterbacks learned to stay away from him. He added on another four interceptions for 36 yards in 2000.
He recorded the first two sacks of his career in 2001, along with one interception for 64 yards. He missed eight games due to injury in 2002, starting seven of eight and recording only one interception. He missed one game in 2003, three in 2004, and 10 games in 2005 due to a broken leg. After two years of playing with a franchise player salary, the Raiders decided to let him explore free agency.
He signed with the Packers in 2006, starting all 16 games for the first time since 2000, and had a career high eight interceptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. He started 14 games in 2007, and had four interceptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. In 2008 he started an incredible run of four straight Pro Bowls (2008-2011), and had seven interceptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He was selected as the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year & the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league with nine interceptions for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2010 he had two interceptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, five forced fumbles, and two sacks. The Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers, but Woodson suffered a broken collarbone right before halftime. He was back to his usual self in 2011, tying for the league lead with seven interceptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. In 2012 he started and played in only seven games after breaking his collarbone.
He was released by the Packers in 2013, and signed on to return to the Raiders & play safety. He started all 16 games for them in each of the past two seasons, setting career highs with 97 tackles in 2013 & 113 in 2014. So far he has started 235 of 238 games played in 17 years in the NFL, recording 60 interceptions for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 32 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries for 106 yards and two touchdowns, & 20 sacks. His career tackling statistics are inconclusive because of discrepancies between various websites, but according to nfl.com he had 929 (747 solo) not including 1998-2000.
6. Kansas City Chiefs-Derrick Thomas, OLB, Alabama, 1989
He was such a dominant pass rusher that he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first nine seasons (1989-1997). He spent his entire 11 year career with the Chiefs (1989-1999). In his prime he was probably the best pass rushing linebacker since Lawrence Taylor. In 1990 he led the league with 20 sacks, becoming only the fifth player since the sack became an official statistic in 1982 to have 20 or more sacks.
He reached double digits in sacks seven times during his career, starting with 10 as a rookie. He set the single game record with seven sacks of Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg in a Monday night game in 1990. He followed his 20 sack performance in 1990 with 13.5 in 1991, and 14.5 in 1992. He had only eight in 1993, but teammate Neil Smith had 15 that year.
He alternated double digit sack seasons from 1994 to 1998, with 11 in 1994, 13 in 1996, and 12 in 1998. Even his career low season in 1999 produced seven sacks. I think he still would’ve had a few more years as a pass rushing specialist if he hadn’t died from injuries suffered in a car accident in January 2000. In 11 years he started 157 of the 169 games he played in, producing 126.5 sacks and 601 tackles. He was inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2001, followed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, and had his jersey number #58 retired by the Chiefs in 2009.
5. New England Patriots-John Hannah, G, Alabama, 1973
He is considered one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, usually mentioned in the same high regard as fellow Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz & Joe DeLamiellure. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 1976, and was selected a total of nine times in his last 10 years in the league (1976, 1978-1985). He spent his entire 13 year career with the Patriots (1973-1985), starting all 183 games he played in.
He was selected to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was selected as the NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year four years in a row, from 1978-1981, and was the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1984. He did get to play in Super Bowl XX, but announces his retirement after the Patriots loss to the Bears. He was the first player inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 1991, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers-Joe Greene, DT, North Texas, 1969
He was the first player selected by another eventual Hall of Fame Steeler, coach Chuck Noll. The team went 1-13 during his rookie year, but he was named the 1969 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also chosen for his first Pro Bowl as a rookie, and went on to be selected 10 times in his first 11 years (1969-1976, 1978, 1979). He was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 & 1974, and was also the NEA Defensive Player of the Year for those two years.
The Steelers went on to win four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, XIV) in a span of six years, and were probably the most dominant & balanced team in the NFL during the 1970’s. He had 78.5 sacks in his career, but it’s considered unofficial since the sack wasn’t officially recognized statistically until 1982, the first year after his retirement. He spent his entire 13 year career with the Steelers (1969-1981). He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, The Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team (50th Season), and the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team (75th Season). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, and had his jersey #75 retired by the Steelers during the 2014 season.
3(supp). Philadelphia Eagles-Reggie White, DE, Tennessee, 1984
He began his career with the Memphis Showboats of the short lived NFL rival United States Football League, and had 198 tackles and 23.5 sacks in two years (1984-1985). After the USFL folded, the Eagles had his NFL rights because of a special supplemental draft they did in 1984 for all of the current active players from the CFL & USFL. He was just as dominant in his first NFL season as he was in the USFL, with 13 sacks and 100 tackles in 1985.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 years in a row, from 1986 to 1998. His most impressive run of sacks from 1986 to 1988, recording 18 sacks in 1986, and 18 sacks again in 1988. His 1987 season was possibly the most impressive season from a defensive lineman in the modern era. He led the league with 21 sacks in 1987, and this was in spite of the fact that he & most other veterans only played in 12 games that year because of the players strike. At a pace of 1.75 sacks per game, he would’ve had 28 sacks in a 16 game season, well above the current single season record of 22.
He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987, and was also the UPI NFL Defensive Player of the Year that year. He led the league in sacks for the second year in a row with 18 in 1988. He reached double digits in sacks 12 times in his 15 year career, and had at least 15 of them five times. He surprised a lot of people when he chose to sign with the Green Bay Packers in the league’s first official unrestricted free agency period.
The Packers convinced White that with him on defense & Favre on offense, they would fulfill his goal of winning the Super Bowl. They did exactly that in 1996, with the Packers beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. White set an NFL record with three sacks in that Super Bowl, a record since tied by the Cardinals Darnell Dockett. In 1998, his final season as a Packer, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with 16 sacks & four forced fumbles.
He retired after the 1998 season, but got the itch to play again after a year away. He signed with the Panthers in 2000, and added on another 5.5 sacks to his already league leading career total. In his career he started 228 of the 232 games he played. He had 1,112 tackles, three interceptions for 79 yards, 33 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries, and 198 sacks. He was eventually passed by Bruce Smith for #1 on the career sacks list (200), but Smith needed 279 games to do it, which is almost three additional full seasons. If you add in the 23.5 sacks he had in the USFL, he would be at 221.5 for his career, but the NFL will never add numbers from another league to theirs.
He was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All Time Team, and the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team. He died on December 26, 2004, from a cardiac arrhythmia. He was posthumously inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 2005, as well as the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2006, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Philadelphia Pro Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. he had his jersey #92 retired by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers.
2. Chicago Bears-Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State, 1975
Yeah, I know, leave it to a cheesehead to have Walter Payton only ranked second on a list of best players drafted with the fourth pick. You’ll notice it wasn’t a Green Bay related bias, as Reggie White was ranked third. The only player I could list ahead of him is the quarterback I consider to be the greatest of all time. The only possible knock against Walter is that his average rushing yards per game is only sixth (88.0), behind Eric Dickerson (90.8), Terrell Davis (97.5), Adrian Peterson (98.0), Barry Sanders (99.8), and Jim Brown (104.3).
He had a rather humble beginning to his career, playing for a Bears team that finished 4-10, and carrying the ball 196 times for 679 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. He had a breakout year in 1976, earning his first Pro Bowl selection with a league leading 311 carries, producing 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He was selected as the NFL MVP in 1976. He stepped up a notch again in 1977, leading the league with 1,852 yards and 14 touchdowns on 339 carries. He set the NFL’s single game rushing record with 275 yards in a game against the Vikings. That year he also led the league in rushing yards per game (132.3), rushing average (5.5), yards from scrimmage (2,121), and rushing & receiving touchdowns combined (16). He was selected as the 1977 NFL MVP by four different news organizations.
He led the league with 333 carries in 1978, rushing for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had similar success in 1979, leading the league with 369 carries for 1,610 yards and 14 touchdowns. His numbers suffered a little before Mike Ditka took over as coach, with only six touchdowns in 1980, and another six in 1981. During the strike shortened 1982 season he only had 148 carries for 596 yards and a touchdown.
In 1983, Ditka’s first full 16 game season as head coach, Walter was back in the Pro Bowl after a two year layoff. He had 314 carries for 1,421 yards and six touchdowns in 1983, and followed that with 381 carries for 1,684 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1984. On October 7th, 1984, he surpassed Jim Brown as the NFL’s all time rushing leader. The Bears reached the NFC Championship in 1984, but were shutout by the 49ers.
The 1985 season was one of the greatest of Walter’s career, and for the Bears, as they went 15-1 with a record setting defense. Walter did his part with 324 carries for 1,551 yards and nine touchdowns, as the Bears went on to trounce the Patriots in Super Bowl XX by a score of 46-10. Even at age 32, he still had one more 300 carry season left, with 321 carries for 1,333 yards and eight touchdowns in 1986. He split the workload with Neal Anderson during his final season in 1987, with 146 carries for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
He spent his entire 13 year career with the Bears (1975-1987), starting 184 of the 190 games he played, with the only missed game in his career coming in his rookie season. He had 3,838 carries for 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns, along with 492 catches for 4,538 yards and 15 touchdowns, for a grand total of 21,264 yards from scrimmage, and 125 touchdowns. With another 539 yards on kickoff returns, that gives him 21,803 all purpose yards, surpassed by only Brian Mitchell (23,330 yards) and Jerry Rice (23,546 yards). He was the league’s all time leading rusher until being passed by Emmitt Smith in 2002.
He was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his career, in 1976-1980, and 1983-1986. He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, and had his jersey #34 retired by the Bears in 1988. He died from complications from bile duct cancer on November 1, 1999, but his passing helped inspire 13,000 people in the Chicago area to sign up as organ donors.
1. Detroit Lions-Otto Graham, QB, Northwestern, 1944
Other than the fact that I ranked him ahead of Walter Payton, the first thing most people will say is, “Otto Graham was drafted by the Lions?”. If you’re not familiar with him, then you need a history lesson. Graham was drafted by the Lions, but wound up serving in the military during World War II. Paul Brown was so impressed by his performance in college that he came & offered him $7,500 per year to play for the Cleveland Browns in a new pro league called the All-America Football Conference. The salary would not kick in until the season started in 1946, but Brown also offered him $250 per month to get by until then.
He reported to the Browns after his service in the military ended, and led the team to a 12-2 record. The Browns won the AAFC Championship in 1946, with Otto completing 54.6% of his passes for 1,834 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. His passer rating of 112.1 was the league’s highest until beaten by Joe Montana in 1989. He completed 60.6% of his passes for 2,753 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 1947, leading the Browns to another AAFC championship.
The team went undefeated & untied in 1948, becoming only the second team in pro football history to do so, winning their third championship in three years. His accuracy dipped a little in 1948, completing only 52% of his passes, but he still threw for 2,713 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The team won it’s fourth championship in 1949, but the league dissolved after the season, with the Browns & two other teams joining the NFL for the 1950 season. It was assumed by some in NFL circles that the reason the Browns won so many championships was because the talent of their competition was so inferior. The Browns proved that theory wrong with the first game in 1950.
Graham threw for 298 yards & 4 touchdowns, as well as rushing for 99 yards on 12 carries, and the Browns won by a score 35-10. They went 10-2 in 1950, beating the Giants in the opening round of the playoffs to go on to face the former Cleveland Rams, who moved to Los Angeles after the Browns dominance drove away their hometown competitor. The Browns won by a score 30-28, marking their fifth year in a row with a championship win. Graham did have a rather down season compared to the first four years, throwing for 1,943 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
He was closer to normal in 1951, leading the team to an 11-1 record, and throwing for 2,205 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. The team did return to the NFL Championship, but this time they lost to the Rams by a score of 24-17. They went 9-3 in 1952, and once again wound up in the NFL Championship, this time against the Detroit Lions. They lost 17-7, with Graham throwing for 157 yards.
The team continued it’s usual excellence in 1953, starting the year with 11 straight wins, but then losing the season finale to the Eagles. The team advanced to the NFL Championship again, but lost a heartbreaker, to the Lions by a score of 17-16. Graham informed the team that the 1954 season would be his last. The team lost it’s first three games, but won the final eight to advance to the NFL Championship, once again against the Lions.
The Browns trounced the Lions in the 1954 Championship, by a score of 56-10. Graham was 9-12 for 163 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, and also ran nine times for 27 yards and three touchdowns. When the team could not find an adequate replacement for him for the next season, he was talked into playing one more year. He led the team to a record of 9-2-1 in 1955, and went on to beat the Rams in the 1955 NFL Championship by a score of 38-14.
In 10 years as a pro quarterback, Otto Graham took the Browns to the championship game every year, winning seven of the 10 championships. If that were to happen today, there would be absolutely no debate about who the greatest quarterback of all time is. However, since it started before the Browns were in the NFL, the league only recognizes the three championships they won since joining the NFL. It’s obvious to me how great they were, with Graham being one of six players from the original Browns teams inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis, Lou Groza,and Frank Gatski.
In 10 years between the two leagues, Graham played in 126 games, completing 1,464 of 2,626 attempts for 23,584 yards, 174 touchdowns, and 135 interceptions, for a passer rating of 86.6. He won the AAFC Championship in 1946-1949, and the NFL Championship in 1950, 1954, and 1955. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five times, from 1950-1954. He was the AAFC MVP in 1947 & 1948, and the NFL MVP in 1951, 1953, and 1955. He was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 75th Anniversary Team. He had his jersey #14 retired by the Browns, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.