March 15, 2014

MVP Profile: Otto Graham, 1955

Quarterback, Cleveland Browns

Age:  34 (Dec. 6)
10th season in pro football & with Browns
College: Northwestern
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 205

A single-wing tailback in college, Graham chose to sign with the Browns of the new AAFC rather than the NFL Detroit Lions, who had drafted him in the first round in 1944, after coming out of the Navy. An outstanding athlete, he first played pro basketball before joining the Browns for the 1946 season. Mobile and an accurate passer, Graham threw for 1834 yards as a rookie and led the AAFC with 17 TD passes as the Browns won the league championship. He was the league’s MVP for the first time in ’47 as he led the AAFC in overall passing as well as completion percentage (60.6), yards (2753), TD passes (25), and yards per attempt (10.2). Graham was co-MVP with San Francisco’s Frankie Albert in ’48, a season in which he once more led the AAFC in passing yards (2713) while tossing another 25 TD passes and the Browns went undefeated. The Browns won the AAFC title for the fourth straight year in 1949, and Graham led the league in passing yards (2785) and yards per attempt (9.8). While no MVP was awarded by the league, he was a consensus first-team All-AAFC selection. Graham and the Browns moved to the NFL in 1950 and kept up their winning ways by achieving another championship. Graham was selected to the Pro Bowl. He was named league MVP by UPI in ’51 as the Browns went 11-1, although they lost the Championship game to the Rams. In 1952, Graham led the league in pass attempts (364), completions (181), yards (2816), and TD passes (20), as well as interceptions (24), and was once again named to the Pro Bowl. He received MVP honors from UPI again in ’53 after leading the league in passing yards (2722), yards per attempt (10.6), and completion percentage (64.7) and, while the Browns lost the NFL Championship game for a third straight year, they returned to the top in 1954 as Graham again led the NFL in completion percentage (59.2). He retired at that point, although when the Browns had difficulty in the 1955 preseason, he was coaxed back into action for one more year.

1955 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 185 [10]
Most attempts, game – 31 at NY Giants 11/27
Completions – 98 [8, tied with Charlie Conerly]
Most completions, game – 17 at NY Giants 11/27
Yards – 1721 [6]
Most yards, game – 319 at NY Giants 11/27
Completion percentage – 53.0 [1, tied with Bobby Layne]
Yards per attempt – 9.3 [1]
TD passes – 15 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 3 at NY Giants 11/27, vs. Chi. Cardinals 12/11
Interceptions – 8 [12]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Washington 9/25, at Philadelphia 11/13
Passer rating – 94.0 [1]
300-yard passing games – 1
200-yard passing games – 2

Attempts – 68
Yards – 121
Yards per attempt – 1.8
TDs – 6 [4, tied with Ed Modzelewski & Lew Carpenter]

TDs – 6 [17, tied with four others]
Points – 36

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at LA Rams)
Pass attempts – 25
Pass completions – 14
Passing yardage – 209
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 3

Rushing attempts – 9
Rushing yards – 21
Average gain rushing – 2.3
Rushing TDs – 2

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: UPI, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
2nd team All-NFL: NEA

Browns went 9-2-1 to finish first in the NFL Eastern Conference while leading league in scoring (349 points) and touchdowns (45). Won NFL Championship over Los Angeles Rams (38-14).

Graham retired for good following the 1955 season. Altogether, over 10 seasons (four in the AAFC, 6 in the NFL) he averaged 9.0 yards per attempt (a record 8.6 in the NFL alone) while throwing for 23,584 yards (10,085 in AAFC, 13,499 in NFL) with 174 TDs (86 in AAFC, 88 in NFL). He also ran for 882 yards and scored 44 TDs, with a high of 8 in 1954. Graham was a first-team All-league selection three times in the AAFC as well as three more times in the NFL and was chosen for the first five Pro Bowls. Perhaps most significantly of all, he quarterbacked Cleveland to a championship game in all ten years, winning seven of them. The Browns retired his #14 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1965.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).