Skip to comments.Graham's greatness is easy to see (R.I.P. Otto Graham)
Posted on 12/20/2003 9:33:24 AM PST by Chi-townChief
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Peyton Manning does, and Dan Marino did late in his career. But it is the exception and not the rule.
Trivia time: Which three teams from the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950? (No fair looking this one up, that would be too easy.)
So true. I'm watching the Bucs-Falcons game right now, and a few minute ago Tampa QB Brad Johnson was blasted by an ATL defensive lineman a second after he released the ball (and threw an INT for a Falcon TD). I was a borderline late hit, but that didn't prevent the ultra-sensitive fella in the booth from claiming that the D-lineman should not only have been penalized for the hit, but he should've been tossed from the game.
That's because back then, professional football was comprised mostly of white players.
Akron Beacon Journal
Graham a champion in life
By Terry Pluto
He met me at the door, wearing a shirt that read: PAUL'S GUYS.
He had a huge smile, a warm handshake, and all day to tell stories.
That's what I remember about Otto Graham.
He was more than a Hall of Fame quarterback, the best in the history of the Browns.
He was a good man.
Graham died Wednesday at the age of 82 of heart problems. If Paul Brown was the man who invented the Cleveland Browns as most of us know them, it was Graham who made Brown perhaps the greatest coach in the history of pro football.
Graham and Brown were together for 10 years, four in the old All-American Football Conference and the next six in the NFL.
In all 10 of those years, they went to the title game.
Seven times, they won.
It's a record that might never be matched again.
But that's not what Graham talked about in Sarasota, Fla., that Sunday afternoon, when he invited me to his nice home in a modest neighborhood.
He talked about the fun he had as a football player.
He talked about the strong personality of Brown.
He talked about how autographs had become an industry.
``I never would believe you could charge for an autograph,'' he said.
``Do you?'' I asked.
``If you want me to sign it for yourself or your Uncle Harry, no problem,'' he said. ``I'll personalize it for you. But if you just want me to sign my name on 10 things and nothing else, then I know you'll sell it. So I expect a little something.''
That's classic Graham, sizing up a situation.
Always a good guy
He then talked about being the coach of the Washington Redskins from 1966-68, his record being 17-22-3.
``You've got to be part SOB to be a good NFL coach,'' he said. ``I was too nice of a guy. In one game, I had a rookie who dropped a punt. On the sidelines, I put my arm around him.''
``People booed,'' said Graham. ``I couldn't help it. I felt bad for the kid.''
Vince Lombardi replaced him.
``He could be an SOB,'' Graham said. ``Like Don Shula, Paul Brown, all of them.''
He was most comfortable coaching at the little Coast Guard Academy, where, for seven seasons, he could work with Cadets without having to worry about winning always being the bottom line.
The day I visited him, he had Graham, his pet black Labrador, at his side. He enjoyed taking walks and talking to strangers. He said that he never made more than $25,000 as a player and that he never was obsessed with money.
He was the kind of guy you'd have wanted as a neighbor, a person who believed you treated people just as you wanted to be treated.
I liked him very much.
Veteran Cleveland sportswriter Hal Lebovitz knew Graham well.
``He played the piano,'' Lebovitz said.
``I first saw him play pro basketball,'' he said.
It was in the old National Basketball League in the early 1940s, Lebovitz said. He said Graham was a gritty point guard for the Rochester Royals, where his teammates included Red Holzman and the forward-turned-actor Chuck Connors.
Lebovitz was an official in that league and, later, covered Graham with the Browns.
``He and Paul Brown would really butt heads,'' Lebovitz said. ``But after Otto became a coach himself, then he turned into Paul Brown's biggest fan.''
Graham told me that his teams won five consecutive titles with him calling the plays, then Brown decided he'd take over the offense.
``I didn't like it,'' Graham said. ``But he was Paul Brown, so I did it.''
``They had a big game with Detroit,'' Lebovitz said. ``The night before, several key players met with Otto at the old Pick Carter Hotel in Cleveland. They told him that he had to call the plays. Otto did, and they won.''
Graham discovered something that day.
``If I changed the play and it worked, I didn't hear anything,'' he said. `'If it didn't, I never heard the end of it.''
So he picked his spots.
Graham was a running back at Northwestern. Brown converted him to quarterback. Lebovitz said Graham credited former Browns assistant Blanton Collier with teaching him the nuances of the position.
How were his passes?
``Perfect spirals,'' Lebovitz said.
``I never saw him throw a really bad ball,'' Lebovitz said.
Or say a really unkind word.
Messages for Terry Pluto can be left at 330-996-3816 or firstname.lastname@example.org Sign up for Terry's free weekly e-mail newsletter at www.thebeaconjournal.com/newsletter/
In God We Trust......Semper Fi
To put that into perspective, can you imagine Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb playing safety today?Tim actually might be able to, he's a very good athlete and is proven tough. He'd have to bulk up some though. Still, the point is made.
Graham or Montana was the best QB ever to play the game.
San Francisco 49ers
New York Yankees
The Browns defeated the Seahawks in the first AAFC Contest, 44-14. The Miami Seahawks folded after the end of the 1946 season. The franchise was transferred to the city of Baltimore following the season.
San Franciso 48ers
Los Angeles Dons
New York Yankees
Buffalo franchise modified their name to the "Bills." Baltimore Colts had been Miami Seahawks during the previous season. The Yankees and the Dodgers franchises both had affiliations with their baseball counterparts.
San Francisco 49ers
Los angeles Dons
New York Yankees
The Bills and Colts tied for first in the Eastern Division, with the Bills winning the playoff game. The Cleveland Browns went 14-0 in league play and won the championship game for a perfect season.
Automatic Otto was a class act all the way.
The Brooklyn and New York franchises merged, with the Yankees picking up nine Dodger players. Chicago changed the franchise name, picked up a few unclaimed Dodgers, and posted their best season result since 1946. The Colts were 1-11 in the final AAFC season, after finishing 2-12 in 1948 and 2-11-1 in 1947.
San Francisco, which had finished second to Cleveland in the Western Division the previous three seasons, finally got to play in post season. They defeated the Brooklyn-New York Yanks and played in the Championship game. The 49ers then lost to Cleveland 21-7. Thus ended the AAFC.
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