Frank Ryan-Former Browns Quarterback Dead at 87

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A former Cleveland Browns quarterback has passed away. Frank Ryan died on Monday. He was 87. Ryan led the Browns to an NFL title in 1964 over Baltimore. He tossed three touchdown passes to wide receiver Gary Collins as the underdog Browns shocked Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas and the Colts. Ryan threw for over 16-thousand yards and 149 touchdowns and was a career 57-27-and-3 as a starter.

Frank Ryan is a retired American football quarterback in the National Football League who played for the Los Angeles Rams (1958–1961), Cleveland Browns (1962–1968) and Washington Redskins (1969–1970). He led the Browns to their most recent National Football League title in 1964. Ryan spent the first four years of his career primarily in a reserve capacity, making $12,000 per year. He did start a handful of games in competition with Billy Wade and Zeke Bratkowski. In 1961, he and future Hall of Famer Ollie Matson connected on a 96-yard touchdown reception, establishing a new team record. However, after sitting on the bench for the last four games of the 1961 season, Ryan stormed into the dressing room and threatened General Manager Elroy Hirsch that he was going to quit football if he were not traded. He became part of a multi-player deal with the Cleveland Browns on July 12, 1962, his 26th birthday, as the arrival of highly touted newcomer Roman Gabriel made Ryan expendable. Acquired to back up starting quarterback Jim Ninowski, Ryan moved into the starting slot on October 28 when Ninowski broke his collarbone while being tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive lineman Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb. With no other candidates to compete with, Ryan established his leadership and held on to the starting role for much of the next six seasons.

In his first full season as a starter, 1963, Ryan threw for 2,026 yards and 25 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions, helping the Browns to a 10–4 record. Thirteen of those touchdowns went to Gary Collins, who tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns that year. In 1964, Ryan established himself as one of the league's best passers. He threw for 2,404 yards and repeated his 1963 performance by completing 25 touchdown passes, which was enough to lead the league. Ryan had excellent company on the Browns offense: fullback Jim Brown; wide receivers Gary Collins and Paul Warfield; and an outstanding offensive line which included Dick Schafrath, John Morrow, John Wooten, Monte Clark, and future Hall of Famer Gene Hickerson. But Ryan was also a clutch performer during the Browns’ memorable 10–3–1 season. Needing a win in the December 12 regular season finale against the New York Giants to clinch a berth in the NFL title game, Ryan completed 12 of 13 passes for five touchdowns and ran for a sixth touchdown in the 52–20 win. Two weeks later in the championship game against the Baltimore Colts, Ryan hit Collins for three touchdowns to win the title, 27–0. Ryan was rewarded for his performance with the first of three straight Pro Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, on the first play of the second half, he suffered a severe shoulder injury in the game after the combined 800-pound trio of Packer Willie Davis, Lion Roger Brown and Colt Gino Marchetti converged on the signal caller. Speculation persists to this day that Marchetti went out of his way to injure Ryan due to the perception that the quarterback ran up the score in the championship, with Marchetti's statement that he wanted "one more shot" at Ryan also fueling the rumors. However, a study of the film by Cleveland coaches in the weeks after the game exonerated Marchetti.

In 1966, he bounced back with a superb season, leading the league with 29 touchdown passes and finishing second with 2,976 yards despite playing with intense pain. Ryan's output helped alleviate the absence of the legendary Jim Brown, who had retired prior to the start of training camp. His 29 touchdown passes in 14 games ranks second in Browns franchise history to Brian Sipe, who got 30 in a 16-game 1980 season. Despite throwing only one pass during the 1969 season, Ryan returned for the last of his 13 years in the NFL in 1970 with the Redskins before officially announcing his retirement on April 13, 1971.

With his accurate throwing arm, his 14.7 yards per completion still ranks as one of the all-time leaders Frank Ryan played for the following teams: 1958 Rams 1959 Rams 1960 Rams 1961 Rams 1962 Browns 1963 Browns 1964 Browns 1965 Browns 1966 Browns 1967 Browns 1968 Browns 1969 Redskins 1970 Redskins Frank Ryan threw touchdown passes to: Gary Collins Paul Warfield Ernie Green Jim Brown Rich Kreitling Red Phillips Ray Renfro Leroy Kelly Walter Roberts Johnny Brewer Milt Morin Ralph Smith Tom Hutchinson Clifton McNeil Ollie Matson Clendon Thomas Jon Arnett Bobby Crespino Reece Morrison Tommy Wilson Charlie Harraway Carroll Dale Tommy McDonald Del Shofner Lamar Lundy

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