This is a tough one. Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown is probably the most famous athlete in Cleveland sports history. He won a championship with the Cleveland Browns in 1964, the city’s last professional title, and he is regarded by many as the greatest running back to ever play the game. Brown made the Pro Bowl every year he played, and still holds virtually every Browns rushing record still to this day.
But unfortunately for Jim Brown, he is the second-best player in franchise history.
The greatest Cleveland Brown of all time is Otto Graham. The first-round pick quarterback from Northwestern had immediate success in professional football. In his rookie season of 1946, Graham had a 112 passer rating and led the Browns to a championship over the Yankees. In Graham’s first four seasons in the league, he made the Browns a dominant force, a dynasty as they would win the championship every year. In the AAFC days, Graham was the leading passer throwing an incredible 86 touchdowns to just 41 interceptions.
Graham only lost four games in four seasons in the while playing in AAFC league, but would he be able to keep it up in the NFL? Absolutely. In the 1950 championship game, Graham had one of the greatest performances ever by a quarterback. Trailing in the final quarter against the Los Angeles Rams Graham led a game-winning drive, threw four touchdown passes and even ran for 99 yards. Graham started and played on 10 Browns teams, all ten made it to the championship.
And then there’s Jim Brown. Brown put together some of the best seasons by a running back, but he wasn’t the big gamer that Otto Graham was. He was containable, unlike Graham. Brown played in four playoff games and only scored one touchdown. His biggest playoff disappointment came in the 1958 playoffs against the New York Giants when he carried the ball seven times for just eight yards. Browns lost 10-0.
The only championship that Jim Brown ever won was a home game. Graham on the other hand went into Los Angeles and beat the Rams on their turf to win a championship. Graham’s clutch ability made him the standard for quarterbacks at the time. Brown retiring early at the age of 29 didn’t help either. With Otto Graham the Browns were a dynasty going 105-17 and won seven titles over a ten year span. With Jim Brown, the Browns were a somewhat underachieving team come playoff time.
In the end, Otto Graham is the best player in Cleveland Browns history.
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