Prepare to be surprised.
No, wait. Not surprised — shocked.
Prepare to be shocked.
I know I was. Still am.
I decided to crunch some numbers. Historically, I am much better at crunching potato chips, corn chips and pretzels. But I woke up the other day feeling dangerous, so I put on my numbers-crunching hat, went into the lab and put my phone on mute.
You can thank me later.
Since the Browns currently seem to be in the middle of, shall we say, a quarterback quandary, I was quandarying if, in the spirit of context, I could find a way to throw some light on the subject.
Prepare to be blinded by the light.
Since their founding in 1946, the Browns have had 13 quarterbacks who have been the consensus “starting quarterback” for two or more consecutive seasons. There are 13 such quarterbacks that qualify. Among the many who don’t are, for example, all six in the parade of “he’s not the guy” one-year-onlys — Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer — who made huddle cameos in the six-year span from 2012-17.
Many other such failed experiments have passed through the huddle as well, but for the purposes of this study, what we’re talking about are, as we shall see, the 13 best quarterbacks in Browns history.
In trying to find a fair way to evaluate these 13 quarterbacks, I decided to rank them from 1 to 13 in the following nine career statistical categories: passing yardage, completion percentage, winning percentage, touchdown passes, percentage of touchdowns thrown when attempting to pass, percentage of times intercepted when throwing a pass, yards per completion, average passing yards per game and passer rating.
Each quarterback was then ranked from 1 to 13 in each of the categories, based on where they ranked vs. the other quarterbacks in each of the nine categories. For example, the leader in the category got one point, the second-place finisher got two points, etc. Each quarterback’s final score was based on the total number of points each quarterback had in all nine categories.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the 13 quarterbacks who were ranked:
Derek Anderson, Tim Couch, Otto Graham, Bernie Kosar, Baker Mayfield, Colt McCoy, Bill Nelsen, Tommy O’Connell, Mike Phipps, Milt Plum, Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe and Vinny Testaverde.
Here’s the shocker. The quarterback with the best (i.e., lowest) score was Graham, with a total of 34 points.
The quarterback with the second-best score (41) was … Mayfield.
If you saw that coming, your eyes are the envy of mine.
So in this admittedly unscientific study — nobody will ever refer to me as “Mr. Analytics” — from a group that I would argue contains the 13 best quarterbacks in Browns history, the only one that is better than Mayfield is the only one of the group in the Hall of Fame: Otto Graham.
Mayfield finished first in the group in career completion percentage (61.6) and passing yards per game (.235.4). Mayfield’s career passer rating of 87.8 is second in the group behind Plum’s 89.9.
Graham ran away from the field with a winning percentage of .802, and he led in touchdown passes.
For the record (I’m sure you’ll cut this out and keep it in your wallet or purse for the rest of your days), here is how the 13 ranked overall, with their total score in parenthesis: Graham (34), Mayfield (41), Kosar (46), Plum (49), Ryan (50), Sipe (52), Testaverde (58), Nelsen (67), Couch (72), O’Connell (81), Anderson (83), McCoy (84) and Phipps (101).
Kosar led the group in lowest interception percentage, Sipe led in passing yards, Ryan in highest percentage of touchdown passes and O’Connell in yards per completion.
Of course, the greatest measure of a quarterback’s value is how many championships did he win? This group of 13 combined to win eight championships. Graham won seven and Ryan one.
The lack of championships beyond that suggests that this group of 13 is hardly a who’s who of Hall of Fame candidates. Some might even argue that it’s merely Otto Graham and a bunch of other guys.
I would argue that Sipe and Kosar were, on their best days, elite quarterbacks. Sipe is still the only Browns player in the last 56 years to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award. Kosar nearly took the Browns to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1980s. And Frank Ryan is the only Browns quarterback in 65 years to win an NFL championship.
So the top half of this list is filled with some high-caliber quarterbacks. But Baker Mayfield finished higher than almost all of them in my little nickel-and-dime science project.
What are we to make of that?
If you’re a football player and you finish second only to Otto Graham in anything, that must mean something, right?
Or maybe this is why nobody’s ever called me “Mr. Analytics.”