With Super Bowl XLVIII almost upon us, it features one of the NFL’s all-time great’s in Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. For all of his many accomplishments, the all-time best quarterback ever may be Cleveland Browns Hall-of-Fame QB Otto Graham.
Sixteen seasons in the NFL. Thirteen Pro Bowls. seven-times AP All-Pro, four-time AP NFL MVP, eight-time AFC Offensive Player of the Year, four-time NFL passing touchdown leader, three-time Champion, three Super Bowl appearances, as well as many other awards and honors.
Not bad for a quarterback Sports Illustrated said when scouting Manning before the 1998 NFL draft: “… has good arm strength, but not necessarily a “gun” that you might expect from a QB at the top of the draft.. He has adequate mobility and good overall AA, although he is not a scrambler by nature. He has done an excellent job of getting the most out of his abilities, but he is not quite as natural a player as (Ryan)Leaf… he may not have Hall of Fame type skills, but it certainly won’t be for lack of effort”
These achievements remind me of another, yet rarely mentioned, NFL legendary quarterback – Otto Graham.
- Five Pro Bowls (The AAFC did not have Pro Bowls)
- Three-time NFL Champion – four-time AAFC Champion
- Seven-time AP All-Pro First Team
- Two-time AAFC MVP
- Three-time NFL MVP
- NFL Pro Bowl MVP
- First Pro Quarterback to post a perfect season.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham played in two very different football leagues, as he spent four seasons in the former All-American Football Conference, a league loaded with talent.
The AAFC had drafted, in 1946, its first year, forty of the top sixty-six college all-stars. The AAFC had fourteen-game seasons. The AAFC had a shelf life of four years, before financial strains on team owners forced the league to merge with the NFL at the end of the 1949 season, a league that was also struggling, largely due to the success of the AAFC. In all, Graham’s career spanned from 1946 to the end of the 1955 NFL season. The quality of talent in the NFL was coagulated, unlike modern-day football.
There were only thirteen teams in the NFL in 1950 and played a twelve-game regular season, and many NFL players of that era are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Graham played in an era of shorter regular seasons, facing a large pool of Hall of Fame talent on every NFL team, and despite falling short of attaining the NFL records and the polished achievements of Peyton Manning, the greatness of Graham is reaching the Championship game ten consecutive years, in two professional football leagues – the equal to the Super Bowl – every season he played, winning seven Championships.
It may be generations before another quarterback like Manning arrives in the NFL, but there will never be another Graham. Ten seasons, ten Championships, seven rings and no other quarterback can lay claim to that achievement. In an era when the game of football was much more physical; had almost no rules protecting the quarterback, and inferior player protection and no expansion diluting the pool of talent. In his ten-year career, Graham never missed a game. In addition, Graham also played one season of pro-basketball, the NBL (Renamed the NBA in 1948) for the Rochester Royals for the 1945 – 1946 season.
If it is true that championships define champions, then Otto “Automatic” Graham is the greatest champion of all-time.