Sipe was a 13th-round draft choice out of San Diego State, where he played for Don Coryell. Unheralded and, as he puts it, "unburdened by potential," he spent two years on the taxi squad before being promoted to a backup job behind Mike Phipps. Like Bartkowski, Phipps was supposed to be the future of his team. "The ones who come in with great things expected of them generally flounder for a while," Sipe says. "The few who have been able to pick up the pieces come back better for the experience. But with Phipps, every time he did something good, the fans thought, 'It's about time.' Every time I did something good, they were pleasantly surprised. I've enjoyed sort of a nine-year honeymoon with them as a result."
By modern standards, Sipe is small (6 feet, 195) and his arm isn't overpowering. "Sipe and Bartkowski are diametrically opposite," says Rutigliano. "Bartkowski's a drop-back-and-throw-it-into- Lake Erie type of guy. When he steps onto the field, he reminds me of Clark Kent coming out of a phone booth." At 6'4", 213 pounds, Bartkowski is the model of a pro quarterback in physique, but he is quick to defend the smaller Sipe. "Brian's got much more talent than he's given credit for," he says. "A strong arm and a large body are not as important as gameness and belief in yourself."
Self-belief is Sipe's long suit and, according to Rutigliano, "In the last two minutes of a game the Browns have come to feel that somehow, someway, Brian will move the ball up the field." That's the same sort of inspiration that George Blanda gave his Oakland teammates in that impossible year of 1970, so it seemed appropriate that Sipe was on display the day Blanda entered the Hall of Fame. Sipe and Bartkowski both played the first half in Canton and acquitted themselves well. Sipe was 13 for 25 for 140 yards, while Bartkowski was 10 for 21 for 139 yards. "Everybody's asking if I can repeat last year," says Sipe. In fact, he thinks he can do better. So does Bartkowski. They want to get together for the last game of the season as well as the first.