The Cleveland Browns have had more than their share of trouble over the decades when it comes to drafting a quarterback.
But there have been times when the team’s front office has gotten it right, with one such case coming in the spring of 1972 when the Browns selected quarterback Brian Sipe in the 13th round of the draft.
Sipe spent a decade with the Browns and earned the league’s MVP award in 1980 after leading the team to its first playoff appearance in eight years. Despite having played his last game in a Browns uniform on December 18, 1983, (a four-touchdown performance in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers), Sipe still holds franchise records for career passing yards (23,713), single-season passing yards (4,132) and touchdown passes in a season (30).
Those numbers help explain why Sipe was chosen by Doug Farrar at Touchdown Wire as the greatest draft steal in franchise history:
Sipe played well for Don Coryell at San Diego State, so you’d think the NFL would have been higher on his prospects. But he lasted until the 13th round of the 1972 draft, and he spent the first two seasons of his NFL career on the practice squad. Once he got a real shot, he did decently enough — he led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1979 with 28, though he also led the league in interceptions with 26. Injuries, a brutally competitive AFC Central through the 1970s and a jump to the USFL limited Sipe’s ultimate NFL prospects, but that’s not a bad bargain for a 13th-round flier pick.
Sipe was never able to bring the Browns a championship, and only had one playoff appearance, but he was the leader of the Kardiac Kids offense that kept fans on the edge of their seats by leading 17 fourth-quarter comeback wins.
While his passing numbers seem destined to fall now that quarterback Baker Mayfield is running the Browns offense, Sipe will always hold a special place in the hearts of older Browns fans.
And if the Browns are looking for inspiration for the upcoming uniform redesign, they need to look no further than the Sipe-era teams for inspiration.