CLEVELAND — Frank Ryan, the quarterback who led the Cleveland Browns to their last NFL title in 1964, has died. He was 87.
The team said Ryan died Monday at a nursing home in Connecticut. There was no immediate cause of death given, but Ryan’s son, Frank Ryan Jr., told Cleveland.com that his father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ryan threw three touchdown passes to Gary Collins as the Browns shocked Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas and the favored Baltimore Colts, 27-0, on Dec. 27, 1964. Cleveland hasn’t won a football championship since and remains one of four teams never to make the Super Bowl.
However, with Ryan and Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, the Browns were a perennial power in the early to mid-1960s.
Following his playing career, Ryan, who earned a doctorate in mathematics at Rice, worked for the U.S. House of Representatives.
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Browns, Ryan spent seven seasons with Cleveland, compiling a 52-22-2 record as a starter.
Although Cleveland rode Brown and later Kelly on the ground to many wins, Ryan was one of the league’s top passers and threw at least 25 TD passes in three seasons. He also played for the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins before retiring after the 1970 season.
Ryan worked on his Ph.D. from Rice while playing for the Browns. He taught at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and later served for 10 years as athletic director at Yale, where he also taught math.
After playing for Washington, Ryan stayed in the nation’s capital and worked as director of information services for Congress and helped develop the body’s first electronic voting system.
CORRECTION (Jan. 2, 2024, 7:30 p.m. ET): A photo caption in a previous version of this article misstated whom the Cleveland Browns defeated in the 1964 NFL championship game. It was the Baltimore Colts, not the Indianapolis Colts.