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Brown Out

by Robb Reel

I am going to invoke a name most have forgotten and many young, though die-hard, football fans don't even know:

Otto Graham

The pride of Waukegan, Ill., is too often left out of the discussion of greatest quarterbacks.  The Northwestern University product and US Navy veteran made it to the championship game in all 10 of his professional seasons, winning all four titles in the history of the All-America Football Conference and another three in the NFL after its absorption of the former.  He won his respective league's MVP five times and was first-team All-Pro seven times.  Despite retiring nearly 60 years ago, the late Graham is still the NFL's career leader in passing yards/attempt.  Oh, and he won a title in another pro sport; capturing a championship with the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League [precursor to the NBA]... in 1946... the same year as his first title with the Browns.

I tell you that to tell you this:

Brian Hoyer will start today for the Cleveland Browns.  You may remember the former Michigan State Spartan and undrafted free agent starting one game last season as metaphorical duct tape for the Arizona Cardinals, this after spending two games as the backup cork in the Pittsburgh Steelers' bottle for Charlie Batch.  Prior to that, Hoyer carried Tom Brady's clipboard and man-purse filled with hair product in New England.  After last Sunday's thumb injury to Brandon Weeden, Hoyer -- a Cleveland-area native -- is uniquely qualified step in and perhaps step up against the Minnesota Vikings.

Remember when Art Modell pulled his Bob Irsay move, holding northeast Ohio hostage before running off to [not so coincidentally, based on the aforementioned Irsay] Baltimore?  Remember how the NFL granted Cleveland a [second, see: history of the now-St. Louis Rams] do-over in 1999?  Remember the great promise of drafting Tim Couch out of Kentucky with the top overall pick?

I bet you don't remember this long, and not necessarily distinguished, list of names:

Ty Detmer
Doug Pederson
Spergon Wynn
Kelly Holcomb
Jeff Garcia
Luke McCown
Trent Dilfer
Charlie Frye
Derek Anderson
Brady Quinn
Ken Dorsey
Bruce Gradkowski
Jake Delhomme
Colt McCoy
Seneca Wallace
Thad Lewis

That's the list of guys who have started for the Browns between Couch and Weeden opening the 2013 season.  A few times, with a few of those guys, it was touted as a "new era" for the team.  Unfortunately, the results were much the same.  It's not all horrible: Anderson nearly led the team to the postseason in 2007, narrowly missing on a tiebreaker, and ascending to the Pro Bowl as an alternate for Tom Brady.  Still, the majority of the time has been as bleak as one of the city's winters.

It's not been limited to this recent revival of the Browns brand either.  With all due respect to Bernie Kosar and Brian Sipe, the NFL MVP in 1980, the team has never found a leader who could carry the great mantle of Otoo Graham.  Maybe one day it will, but I sincerely doubt it will be Brian Hoyer.