Profile of Brian Sipe
Old-school Cleveland Brown fans often talk up players like quarterback Otto Graham as among the greatest players of all time.
But, many who remember Brian Sipe, remember a player that was definitely among the greatest Browns of all time.
Many fans remember Brian Sipe, a former MVP player that many casual football fans have forgotten.
Sipe nearly brought the Browns to their first Super Bowl in 1980.
Let’s take a look at the history of Brian Sipe and his historical career with the Cleveland Browns.
Sipe’s History With the Browns
Brian Sipe was not a hotly contested player during the 1972 NFL Draft: he was picked up by the Browns in Round 13 and remained on the reserve squad for two years.
His first start came in 1974 after he came on the field against the Denver Broncos and staged a 12-point come-from-behind win.
However, he went 1-4 during this period and was put back on the bench until 1975.
Sipe started three games that year after the Browns lost three straight games while being outscored 124-26.
Sipe lost his three games, as well, but kept the score down.
By 1976, Sipe was the best starter choice, and he went 9-5 and then 5-2 in the first seven games of the next season before a season-ending injury took him out.
The Browns then went 1-3 the rest of the season.
Sipe came back the next two years, and, in spite of vigorous efforts, the weakness of the Browns in other areas kept them inconsistent.
However, the team finally pulled together in 1979, during which the Browns earned the nickname “Kardiac Kids” for their thrilling come-from-behind wins.
Sipe led the team to eight comebacks and 11 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime during these two years.
His biggest moment came in the 1980 divisional playoff game against the Raiders.
The team trailed 14-12 with 49 seconds left and were on their 15-yard line.
A field goal would win the game, but Browns’ head coach Sam Rutigliano called for a pass.
The call made sense – the day was cold and windy – but an interception in the end zone ended the team’s season and their best chance at Super Bowl glory.
In 1974, Sipe played 10 games and completed 59 out of 108 passes.
These were good for 60 total yards and a touchdown.
However, Sipe’s accuracy was questionable, as he threw seven interceptions and was sacked 15 times during these 10 games.
By 1976, he played 14 games and completed 178 out of 312 passes for a completion rate of nearly 58 percent.
He threw for a total of 2,113 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per pass. His touchdown rate jumped considerably: after throwing just two touchdowns in the last two years, he connected for 17 in 1976.
However, he also threw 14 interceptions.
Sipe improved even further until he hit his stride in 1978. It was his first year with 16 games, and he stepped up to the occasion: he connected on 222 passes of 399 for a completion rate of 55.6.
His 2,906 yards were a career-best, at the time, as were his 21 touchdowns.
He also earned his best record up to that point, with eight wins and eight losses.
The Browns were nearly back to their former glory but needed two years to reach those peaks again.
When he finally retired after 1983, Sipe had connected on 1,944 of 3,439 passes for a completion rate of 56.5 percent.
He had earned 154 touchdowns for a TD rate of 4.5 percent. However, he’d also thrown 149 interceptions for an interception rate of 4.6 percent.
In a career with 57 wins and 55 loses, Sipe mounted 17 comeback wins and 23 game-winning drives.
Comparisons to Otto Graham
Although Brian Sipe is the Browns’ all-time passing leader and a player who helped push the Browns to their last period of dominance so far, many Cleveland fans still consider Otto Graham the best quarterback in Browns’ history.
The distinction is understandable, as Graham brought the team championships while Sipe did not bring any.
On a pure statistics level, though, the two are startlingly similar.
Let’s take a look at how both stack up statistically in Brown’s team history and compare them.
Sipe played 125 games from 1974 to 1983 while Otto Graham played 126 from 1946-1955: nearly identical playing periods.
During that time, both players won 57 games (though Sipe lost 55 compared to Graham’s 13) and had completion percentages of 56.5 (Sipe) an 55.8 (Graham).
As you can see, these numbers are very close to each other.
Closer still are their total yardage counts: 23,713 for Sipe and 23,584 for Graham.
Graham’s total yardage numbers are particularly impressive, especially when you consider they came at a time when passing was not as frequent in the league.
Breaking down their stats even further reveals even more similarities.
Sipe had 154 touchdowns and 149 interceptions.
Graham had 174 touchdowns and 135 interceptions.
As a result, there will likely always be a debate between Brown’s fans on both players.