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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
FOR NINE AUTUMNS OTTO GRAHAM OF THE CLEVELAND Browns has been a clear and present danger to opposing teams—a man who dodged coolly about the backfield as he picked out pass receivers with the unnerving deliberation of a small boy budgeting a dime over a showcase full of candy. Then he would throw the ball with his second great talent—the accuracy of a target rifle.
But there was one thing he could not do. He could not throw a touchdown pass against the Detroit Lions after Buddy Parker took over their coaching. Nor could he and coach Paul Brown find a way to defeat Parker's Lions. In two playoff games, two league meetings and four exhibitions the Browns were unable to win until last Sunday. Then, in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, the Lions and the Browns met for the NFL title.
This was to be Otto Graham's last league game for the Browns, he said. Thereupon the 33-year-old quarterback, a fellow who has studied the oboe, the English horn, French horn, piano, cornet and violin, played a victory march for Cleveland that was a requiem for Detroit. He passed for three touchdowns, ran for three more and pitched out for another. Graham piled on the pressure and up the points until three minutes before the game ended with the score Cleveland 56, Detroit 10. As he came out off the field, the Cleveland fans howled their hearts out in adoration.
In other games Graham, balked in his search for a free pass receiver, has been likely to accept his fate and sit down gently just before the tacklers reached him—too precious a man to risk bone or ligament very often in carrying the ball, too prudent to throw it away and risk interception. But on Sunday he showed an unwonted lithe grace in carrying the ball past tacklers on those occasions when a pass seemed likely to fail. Furthermore, he ran the ball short distances for touchdowns on three plays. Two of these were sneaks and one was a five-yard keep.
There were the customary postgame statements.
"They were great"—Brown.
"What can you say?"—Parker.
"They outplayed us"—Lions QB Bobby Layne.
"Haven't changed my mind about retiring"—Graham.
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, January 3, 1955