Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar prepares to throw a pass.

If you’re expecting to come across modern option after modern option when reading through the rankings of the best Cleveland Browns quarterbacks in franchise history, you might want to take a moment and recalibrate your expectations. This NFL organization has experienced plenty of success under center, but that doesn’t mean the success has come in the last few decades.

Maybe Deshaun Watson will change that, dragging along his ostentatious contract all the while. But he has an uphill battle ahead of him, particularly after he returned to the football field looking nothing like his old self during the 2022 campaign.

The Browns opened their franchise history in 1946 with Otto Graham leading the charge during a 44-0 victory over the Miami Seahawks (not a typo), and they’ve since added over 60 more qualified quarterbacks to the mix. Those signal-callers have produced a combined 15 Pro Bowl seasons, split between eight different men — none more recent than Derek Anderson (2007) and Bernie Kosar (1987).

Using the Total Yards Added (TYA) metric I developed for QB Math, which evaluates quarterbacks’ success relative to league average in four facets of the game — rushing, passing, sack avoidance, and fumble avoidance — we’re highlighting each and every one of the 67 Cleveland Browns quarterbacks with at least one qualified game for the organization since ’50. These rankings will be updated continuously and are accurate heading into Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season.

Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Nos. 67-11

Franchise RankQuarterbackQualified GamesTotal Yards Added
67Mike Phipps64-1,682.124
66Tim Couch60-1,363.682
65DeShone Kizer15-1,092.641
64Charlie Frye20-1,007.565
63Colt McCoy22-991.262
62Brandon Weeden22-980.2
61Derek Anderson38-876.88
60Paul McDonald27-655.567
59Doug Pederson8-574.881
58Eric Zeier6-494.329
57Brady Quinn13-482.018
56Ken Dorsey3-481.594
55Mike Pagel12-467.74
54Johnny Manziel12-401.507
53Jake Delhomme5-389.514
52Baker Mayfield62-375.292
51Jim Ninowski25-365.767
50Luke McCown4-365.12
49Robert Griffin III5-361.628
48Austin Davis3-322.596
47Josh McCown13-318.187
46Dorian Thompson-Robinson1-293.266
45Spergon Wynn5-290.444
44Bruce Gradkowski2-266.931
43Deshaun Watson9-249.157
42Tyrod Taylor3-238.703
41Terry Luck3-232.535
40Kevin Hogan5-203.308
39Jeff Christensen2-192.96
38Cody Kessler9-158.432
37Len Dawson2-153.874
36Babe Parilli4-147.72
35Mark Miller4-132.58
34Don Gault1-130.254
33Connor Shaw1-125.347
32Seneca Wallace7-124.529
31Brian Hoyer16-114.775
30Todd Philcox7-111.846
29Jason Campbell8-111.632
28Jerry Rhome2-107.772
27Mark Rypien6-99.983
26Will Cureton1-99.949
25Jeff Garcia10-86.662
24Trent Dilfer11-61.926
23Case Keenum4-51.325
22Thaddeus Lewis1-40.919
21Charlie Whitehurst1-24.648
20Dave Mays8-11.847
19Dick Shiner1-10.422
18Nick Mullens1-9.877
17Gary Lane110.341
16Kelly Holcomb2033.5
15Sam Darnold143.689
14Ty Detmer550.658
13Don Strock496.09
12Jacoby Brissett11118.39
11Tommy O’Connell15155.462

Keep in mind that this is about career production.

Playing in more games usually means moving further away from the league-average score of zero, which is why Tim Couch — objectively not the least-talented of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks — falls nearly all the way to the bottom of the pack despite having a far superior per-game output to other low finishers such as Charlie Frye, Colt McCoy, and Brandon Weeden.

10. Mike Tomczak

  • Years: 1992
  • Stats: 4-4 record, 120-of-211 (56.9%), 1,693 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 262.11

Bernie Kosar broke his ankle and missed nine games during the 1992 season, which allowed Mike Tomczak to step on the field and join the fraternity of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks. A journeyman who rarely spent time as an entrenched starter, the Ohio State product held his own and actually found more success in the win column than Kosar that season.

9. Gary Danielson

Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Cleveland Browns quarterback Gary Danielson | Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images
  • Years: 1985-88
  • Stats: 5-3 record, 153-of-248 (61.7%), 1,879 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 282.755

Gary Danielson joined the Browns at the tail end of his NFL career and was a steadying game manager whenever he stepped onto the field. He functioned as an accurate passer who rarely made backbreaking mistakes, particularly during the ’87 campaign when he made six appearances and completed 75.8% of his passes with four touchdowns and nary a pick.

8. George Ratterman

  • Years: 1952-56
  • Stats: 2-3 record, 128-of-204 (62.7%), 1,688 yards, 15 TD, 11 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 448.914

George Ratterman didn’t start multiple games in a season until his fifth of five years with the Browns, but he consistently played well off the bench. He tended to up the aggression level when he began the game in the starting lineup, resulting in extra interceptions, but he remained an accurate passer who also had a nose for the end zone on the ground.

7. Bill Nelsen

Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Cleveland Browns quarterback Bill Nelsen | Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images via Getty Images
  • Years: 1968-72
  • Stats: 34-16-1 record, 689-of-1,314 (52.4%), 9,725 yards, 71 TD, 71 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 583.687

Bill Nelsen joined the Browns via trade after five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he began his Cleveland tenure as Frank Ryan’s backup. After three games in that role, he joined the starting lineup and never looked back.

Though his lone Pro Bowl appearance came one year later when he threw a career-high 23 touchdown passes, he thrived in 1968, recording 19 touchdown tosses to 10 interceptions and racking up 2,366 yards through the air while refusing to take sacks. That culminated in a third-place finish in the MVP voting, behind only Earl Morrall and Leroy Kelly — his running back all season long.

By TYA, his ’68 efforts rank eighth in franchise history.

6. Brian Sipe

  • Years: 1974-83
  • Stats: 57-55 record, 1,944-of-3,439 (56.5%), 23,713 yards, 154 TD, 149 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 602.051

Shortly after the Bill Nelsen era concluded, Brian Sipe’s tenure began, though it didn’t get going in earnest until he became the full-time starter in 1976.

No. 17 continuously improved throughout his time with the Browns, peaking in 1979 and 1980 when he threw a combined 58 touchdown passes and 40 interceptions to go 20-12 and record two top-three finishes in the MVP voting. He was especially rewarded for his work during an 11-5 campaign in 1980, finishing as the MVP winner, making his lone Pro Bowl appearance, and one-upping Nelsen with the No. 7 season by a Browns quarterback, per TYA.

5. Vinny Testaverde

Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Cleveland Browns quarterback Vinny Testaverde | George Gojkovich/Getty Images
  • Years: 1993-95
  • Stats: 16-15 record, 578-of-998 (57.9%), 7,255 yards, 47 TD, 37 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 671.338

Vinny Testaverde only spent three years as one of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks, sandwiched between stops with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens, but he held his own throughout the brief stay.

Not only did he post a winning record during an era of Browns history that featured little success, but he also played efficient football by earning chunk plays, avoiding sacks, and finding the right moments to scramble for scores. Testaverde was by no means a standout, but consistently good-not-great production can still do some heavy lifting.

4. Bernie Kosar

  • Years: 1985-93
  • Stats: 53-51-1 record, 1,853-of-3,150 (58.8%), 21,904 yards, 116 TD, 81 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 1,240.17

Bernie Kosar only made one Pro Bowl squad with the Cleveland Browns before his tenure ended unceremoniously. Following the 1992 season, during which he broke his ankle and missed nine games, the No. 1 overall pick of the 1985 supplemental draft got benched for Vinny Testaverde, received one more shot, lost 29-14 to the Denver Broncos in Week 10, and was released from the roster.

That doesn’t change the fact that Kosar was both one of the most popular players in franchise history and one of the most effective. His 1987 season, which saw him go 8-4 while completing 62% of his passes for 3,033 yards, 22 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, remains the No. 3 effort by TYA in the Cleveland archives.

3. Frank Ryan

Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan | Getty Images
  • Years: 1962-68
  • Stats: 52-22-2 record, 907-of-1,755 (51.7%), 13,361 yards, 134 TD, 88 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 2,073.404

Hard as it may be to believe given the recent futility of the organization, the Browns were a powerhouse while Frank Ryan was calling the shots. They won a championship in 1964 and returned to the title game one year later on the heels of an 11-3 regular season, ultimately dropping the contest to the Green Bay Packers, 23-12, as Ryan uncharacteristically threw more picks (two) than touchdowns (one).

A three-time Pro Bowler in Cleveland, Ryan twice paced the league in touchdowns, both seasons coming during a three-year stretch in which he recorded 72 scores to 46 picks.

2. Milt Plum

  • Years: 1957-61
  • Stats: 33-16-2 record, 627-of-1,083 (57.9%), 8,914 yards, 66 TD, 39 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 2,105.963

Just before Frank Ryan took over, Milt Plum took snaps for the Browns and thrived more as a game-managing option than a true gunslinger.

The 6-foot-1 signal-caller out of Penn State led all of football in completion percentage for three consecutive seasons and tossed 53 touchdowns and only 23 interceptions during that stretch. His efforts in 1960 were particularly stellar as he completed 60.4% of his throws for 2,297 yards, 21 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a league-best 110.4 quarterback rating. Throw in his two scores on the ground, and he has the No. 2 season by TYA among all Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.

1. Otto Graham

Ranking All Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham | Frank Hurley/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
  • Years: 1946-55
  • Stats: 57-13-1 record, 1,464-of-2,626 (55.8%), 23,584 yards, 174 TD, 135 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 3,795.478

Otto Graham stands well ahead of the pack, which is particularly impressive when the TYA database only goes back to 1950 and doesn’t include some of his best seasons.

From 1946-49, the Cleveland legend was a consistent All-Pro who led football in myriad categories:

  • Completion percentage? Yep, in 1947.
  • Touchdown passes? Yep, in 1946 and 1947.
  • Passing yards? Yep, in 1947, 1948, and 1949.
  • Interception percentage? Yep, in 1946, 1947, and 1949.
  • Quarterback rating? Yep, in 1946, 1947, and 1949.
  • Yards per passing attempt? Yep, in 1947 and 1949.

During that four-year stretch that preceded his trio of MVPs and legendary play in the ’50s, Graham recorded 10,085 yards, 86 touchdowns, and 41 interceptions with his arm and rushed for another 11 scores. His numbers, already off the charts here, should be that much higher.