Hall of Famer Dan Fouts Talks Old Cleveland Rival Brian Sipe, Favorite Current Quarterback

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Dan Fouts preferred not to say anything.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback did share some interesting thoughts on quarterbacks after serving as master of ceremonies at a special Hall of Fame event.

Fouts, who was a quarterback for the Chargers when their offense was all the rage, nicknamed “Air Coryell,” smiled when asked to name his favorite current QB.

It was said to Fouts that the the same question was recently asked to Coach Dick Vermeil, a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. Without hesitation, Vermeil mentioned Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.

“I’m staying with Justin Herbert,” Fouts said. Oregon Duck. Chargers.’

12. Chargers (15): Justin Herbert's 35 TD passes are a one-season record for an organization with John Hadl, Dan Fouts, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in the middle.

12. Chargers (15): Justin Herbert’s 35 TD passes are a one-season record for an organization with John Hadl, Dan Fouts, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in the middle.

Burrow, the No. 1 pick of the 2020 draft, took the Bengals into the 2021 AFC Championship. Herbert started every 2021 game for a Chargers team that missed the playoffs after a 1-3 finish left them on 9 -8 had left.

Fouts played college ball in Oregon and then spent his 1973-87 NFL career with the Chargers. His choice of Herbert goes beyond nepotism.

“He’s got it all,” Fouts said. “The physical part is just as good as anyone. It’s the mental part of it. The makeup of the person.”

January 16, 1983;  Miami, Florida, USA;  FILE PHOTO;  San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts (14) in action against the Miami Dolphins during the 1982 AFC Divisional Playoff Game in the Orange Bowl.  The Dolphins defeated the Chargers 34-13.  Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

January 16, 1983; Miami, Florida, USA; FILE PHOTO; San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts (14) in action against the Miami Dolphins during the 1982 AFC Divisional Playoff Game in the Orange Bowl. The Dolphins defeated the Chargers 34-13. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Herbert was a good pick, number 6 overall, but he was the third QB drafted in 2020 behind Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa.

Fouts is an example of how concept pecking order does not dictate career flow. He was the third QB drafted in 1973, at No. 64 overall, behind Bert Jones (No. 2), Gary Huff (No. 33), Ron Jaworski (No. 37), Gary Keithley (No. 45) and Joe Ferguson (No. 57).

Fouts is well acquainted with Brian Sipe, a famous Browns quarterback who fits that subject and his time. Sipe was the 12th quarterback drafted in 1973, ranked No. 330 overall.

Dec 7, 1980;  Cleveland, OH, USA;  FILE PHOTO;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe (17) in action against the New York Jets at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY NETWORK

Dec 7, 1980; Cleveland, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe (17) in action against the New York Jets at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY NETWORK

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In 1980, as field general for Cleveland’s “Cardiac Kids” Sipe was NFL MVP. In that season’s playoffs, Sipe drove the Browns within field goal range of what could have been a last-second win, sending Cleveland to the AFC Championship Game in San Diego, against Fouts and the Chargers.

Brian Sipe of the Cleveland Browns stands next to his award in New York on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 1981 after being named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the 1980 season by the Professional Football Writers of America. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Brian Sipe of the Cleveland Browns stands next to his award in New York on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 1981 after being named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the 1980 season by the Professional Football Writers of America. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Instead, the Raiders defeated the Browns when, on a frozen day that wasn’t conducive to kicks or passes, coach Sam Rutigliano chose to take one last shot at a touchdown. At a play, the Browns shouted: “Red Right 88,” Sipe threw an interception. It was the Raiders who battled the Chargers.

“I know Brian pretty well,” Fouts said. “He lived in San Diego. We played golf together. I admired him.

“He played for Don Coryell in San Diego State before I played for Don Coryell in the Chargers. Brian got into architecture, but he also did a lot of good things as a coach.

Ozzie Newsome (left) and Dan Fouts were presented with their rings of honor during the Professional Football Hall of Fame Game halftime celebration on Thursday, August 2, 2018.

Ozzie Newsome (left) and Dan Fouts were presented with their rings of honor during the Professional Football Hall of Fame Game halftime celebration on Thursday, August 2, 2018.

“We’ve played a lot against the Browns in my career. It was always a challenge, especially against Brian and that attack.”

Sipe’s fateful choice was for Ozzie Newsome, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999. Fouts was elected in 1993.

The first Error vs. Sipe duel, in 1974, was a shooting at San Diego Stadium

Sipe extended Browns lead to 35-26 when he scored in a devious manner. Fouts threw 70 yards touchdown passes to Harrison Davis and 75 yards to Don Woods to take the Chargers to a 36-35 win.

“When you played against a guy like Brian or Elway or Marino, you had to score a lot,” Fouts said. “You had to keep attacking and attacking because that’s what they were going to do. Brian was such a great quarterback.”

Sipe’s last hurray with the Browns peaked early in the 1983 season. His 27-yard TD pass to Bobby Jones gave him a 21-10 lead. Fouts passed the Chargers back into the game. In overtime, Sipe’s 48-yard TD pass to Harry Holt gave the Browns a 30-24 win.

Fouts was in town to add an extra touch to the Hall of Fame’s Awards of Excellence lunch. He sits on the Hall’s advisory board. He is a Hall of Fame voter as part of a fairly recent adaptation in which the Hall has added players to a panel dominated by media members.

NFL Public Relations Officer Joe Browne, left, receives the Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence from Master of Ceremonies Dan Fouts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

NFL Public Relations Officer Joe Browne, left, receives the Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence from Master of Ceremonies Dan Fouts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

He has a player’s appreciation for Class of 2022 Hall of Famer Cliff Takwho played against the Chargers in the 1980 AFC Final.

“He was so fast,” Fouts said. “You just held your breath. He was so fast and he was so gripping.’

As a track man, Branch set an NCAA record in the 100-meter dash in 1971.

“His speed on the football field was also pretty good,” said Fouts. “He had to play on that sod in Oakland. The grass was always wet.

“He had a way of beating everyone. You just never knew when it would be.”

Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch, right, catches a pass from quarterback Jim Plunkett for a 64-yard gain during the first quarter of a playoff win over the Cleveland Browns in Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 1983. (AP photo, file)

Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch, right, catches a pass from quarterback Jim Plunkett for a 64-yard gain during the first quarter of a playoff win over the Cleveland Browns in Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 1983. (AP photo, file)

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch (21) hugs quarterback Jim Plunkett (16) as the Raiders lined up for a team photo before practice at the Superdome in New Orleans., Jan. 21, 1981. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch (21) hugs quarterback Jim Plunkett (16) as the Raiders lined up for a team photo before practice at the Superdome in New Orleans., Jan. 21, 1981. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

The epic year for both Branch and Sipe was 1980. The playoff stunner against the Raiders left the Browns out in the cold. Oakland instead went to San Diego for the AFC final.

in the 1980 AFC final, Branch caught three passes for 78 yards and, as a constant threat, the Chargers defense disappointed.

The Chargers fell behind Oakland 28-7. She quickly collected fouls to within 28-24. The Raiders rallied to win 34-27 and then defeated Vermeil’s Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.

Before their playoff hopes froze in the Oakland game, Browns players enjoyed their chances of reaching the Super Bowl in an AFC title game in San Diego.

These years later, the Browns still haven’t been to a Super Bowl. Fouts knows the feeling. In his 15-year career, the 1980 AFC final against Oakland was as close as he came.

Reach Steve at [email protected]

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

Former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts poses with his Hall of Fame ring during the Hall of Fame Game.

Former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts poses with his Hall of Fame ring during the Hall of Fame Game.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts talks to Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Browns

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