of the major surprises of the 1971 season was Bill Nelsen's return as
Cleveland's No. 1 quarterback despite the fact young Mike Phipps was
handed the job during the exhibition season.
But the only reason Nelsen ever is overlooked is because his knees have
more surgical scars than Joe Namath's. For in rating him, the scouts
rated him high enough to leave him just outside the outstanding
And the high rating is totaled up despite the fact that Nelsen has
limited tools. But the 31-year-old Californian never has lacked
character- he has outstanding leadership traits and reacts almost
flawlessly under pressure.
Nelsen, who also has physical limitations beyond the state of his knees
stands just 6 feet, received a total of 9.5 points in leadership and
reaction under pressure, second only to Unitas in the scouts' ratings in
That Nelsen is able to capitalize on those characteristics is obvious
when his other three marks are examined since he rates no better than
average in set-up speed, throwing ability and reading defenses.
Now a nine-year veteran, Nelsen likely can hold the No. 1 spot for the
Browns for at least another year or two while Phipps continues to
develop, if his knees can withstand the pounding every quarterback