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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / A Look Back: Top-5 Cleveland Browns’ Quarterbacks All-Time

A Look Back: Top-5 Cleveland Browns’ Quarterbacks All-Time

The best to wear orange and brown
Publish Date: 05/24/2021
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
Top Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks

Is anyone else out there missing sports? I enjoyed a video of marble racing earlier…that is a sad commentary on an unprecedented situation. With no new competition in the sports world, it seems like a perfect time to look back.

The Cleveland Browns franchise began in 1946 as a part of the All-America Football Conference. Throughout the years that featured cheers and pain, the Browns have been:

• A dominant force
• A ‘so close and yet so far’ team
• Inactive
• A reborn franchise
• Perpetually struggling

Throughout the decades, the Browns have held on to the memory of several exemplary football players, who gave the team, the fans, and the city of Cleveland something to cheer about; the top five Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.

1. Otto Graham

Quarterback Otto Graham led the Browns to four AAFC championships logging a record of 52-4-3 during that time. When the Browns became part of the AFL, Graham continued his winning ways. He led his team to six NFL Championship games winning three.

Graham earned the nickname ‘Automatic Otto’ because of his precise passing skills. Graham could also make things happen on the field by keeping the ball. The Cleveland Browns went to ten championship games on the arm of Otto Graham, winning seven of the ten.

During his ten years in the league, Graham threw for 23,584 yards, averaging 8.63 yards per attempt. One hundred seventy-four of those passes were touchdowns, and Graham also ran for 44 TDs.

His skills on the field and leadership off of the field put Otto Graham on nearly every list of top NFL quarterbacks.


• Finished third in Heisman Trophy voting
• A first-round draft pick- drafted fourth overall
• All-Pro 1947, 1948, 1949
• Pro Bowl selections in 1951, 1952, 1953,1954,1955
• Played in ten championship games, winning seven
• Enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965


2. Frank Ryan

The Los Angeles Rams traded quarterback Frank Ryan to the Cleveland Browns after Ryan said if not traded, he would quit.

In 1962, Ryan arrived in Cleveland to be the backup to starter, Jim Ninowski. He took over the starting role after an injury sidelined Ninowski. Ryan quickly showed his skills and gained the starting position.

During Ryan’s first full season, in 1963, he threw for 2,026 yards. Ryan tossed 25 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in the 1963 season. His game improved in 1964, when Ryan gained 2,404 yards through the air and led the league with 25 touchdown passes.

Surrounded by a stellar cast of offensive players, Frank Ryan led the Cleveland Browns to the 1964 Championship.

Ryan suffered a significant shoulder injury during the Pro Bowl which hampered his play in 1965. His form returned in 1966 when he gained the second-highest number of passing yards in the NFL with 2,976. Ryan led the league with passing touchdowns, lobbing 29 in the ’66 season.

Offseason shoulder surgery in 1967 paired with two sprained ankles did not keep Frank Ryan down. Nor did the concussion Ryan received during the second quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears. Ryan was knocked out after a head to head hit with Bears’ linebacker, Dick Butkus. However, in the third quarter, he came back to throw three touchdowns. Ryan took the Browns to the playoffs but lost in the first round.

In 1968, Ryan lost his starting position to Bill Nelsen and his time as a member of the Cleveland Browns ended in 1969.

• Three consecutive Pro Bowl Selections
• Led the Browns to the 1964 Championship


3. Brian Sipe

For many years, the Cleveland Browns seemed stuck in neutral. The team was neither amazing nor awful, but a young man from California, named Brian Sipe would breathe some new life into the flatlining franchise.

Sipe came to the Browns as the 330th pick of the 1972 draft and was a reserve squad member for two years. Sipe’s first years playing in Cleveland were unremarkable, at best. In 1976, he became QB 1 for the Browns and helped improve their record to 9-5, picking up six more wins than in the 1975 season. Sipe was sidelined with an injury in 1977 after leading the team to five wins in seven games.

Things were looking up for Sipe in the 1978 season where he threw 21 touchdowns and gained over 2,900 passing yards. The team still struggled to get to .500 on the year.

The excitement began to build for the team in 1979. By 1980, numerous close games decided in the waning moments earned Brian Sipe and company the nickname the Kardiac Kids. Sipe was named MVP that season, earned a Pro Bowl selection, but will be remembered for the interception he threw in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders.

Sipe threw for respectable yards in the following seasons, but the team would never return to the Kardiac Kids of 1980. In 1984, Sipe left the team for the USFL.


• 1980 All-Pro selection
• 1980 Pro Bowl selection
• 1980 NFL MVP
• 1980 AFC Divisional Playoffs


4. Bernie Kosar

Growing up just a little over an hour from Cleveland, in Boardman, Ohio, Bernie Kosar was no stranger to the history and struggles of the Cleveland Browns.

After completing a double major of finance and economics at the University of Miami, Kosar announced that he wanted to play for the Cleveland Browns. Kosar got his wish and was drafted by Cleveland in the NFL’s supplemental draft in 1985. Initially, Kosar was to be the backup quarterback for Gary Danielson. However, after Danielson’s injury during week five of the 1985 season, Kosar put down his clipboard and took over calling signals. His efforts led the Browns to a playoff birth with an 8-8 record. They lost to the Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoff game.

Kosar took over in 1986 for an injured Danielson. Kosar became the permanent starting quarterback completing 310 passes for 3,854 yards. The Browns lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

Kosar and the Browns would meet Denver again in 1987 and 1989 losing both times in the AFC Championship games. By 1990, support for Kosar was slowly eroding, and he threw a career-high 15 interceptions.

The 1991 hiring of Bill Belichick along with injuries paved Bernie Kosar’s way out of Cleveland in 1993.


• Pro Bowl selection 1987
• Pro Bowl selection 1989
• AFC Championship game 1986
• AFC Championship 1987
• AFC Championship 1989

5. Vinnie Testaverde

The 1986 Heisman Trophy winner, Vinnie Testaverde joined the Cleveland Browns in 1993. Prior to his time in Cleveland, Testaverde spent six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who drafted him first overall in the 1987 NFL Draft.

He gained the role as the Browns’ starting quarterback after the Browns released former starter, Bernie Kosar. In 1994, Testaverde led the Browns to the AFC Wildcard game and on to a divisional playoff game. The 1995 Browns team was favored to make a Super Bowl run under Testaverde. The hopeful season fell apart after then-owner Art Model announced the team would relocate the following year.

Testaverde was a part of the Cleveland Browns team that relocated to Baltimore.

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