Making a case for Kardiac arrest
This year’s schizophrenic edition of the Cleveland Browns has left many recollecting the 1980 version, and with good cause. Anyone with half a brain (which leaves me eminently qualified) can see the similarities between today’s Browns and Coach Sam Rutigliano’s version 34 years earlier.
The 1980 team started slowly (sound familiar, Browns fans?) by losing three of their first five games, and critics were calling for the removal of Brian Sipe at quarterback in favor of rookie Paul McDonald. Indeed, the offense had sputtered, scoring only 94 points through those first five contests.
Coach Rutigliano stayed with the veteran Sipe, and the team went on to rattle off wins in eight of the next nine contests. Some of the games featured “miracle” finishes, which left the city of Cleveland thinking that 1980 might be the year. Consider the following:
With only 16 seconds on the clock, the Browns improved their season record to 4-3 when Sipe hit Dave Logan with a 46-yard touchdown pass to beat the Packers, 26-21.
A week later, they were getting trounced by the Pittsburgh Steelers – maybe you’ve heard of them – by a score of 20-7, before coming back to nip them 27-26.
The very next week, a late 56-yard touchdown run by Mike Pruitt gave the team a 27-21 victory over the Bears, boosting their record to 6-3.
It remained that way – in terms of close games – pretty much the rest of the season, including consecutive 17-14 victories against the Oilers and Jets.
However, one of the more memorable games was the last one of the regular season, when the Browns traveled to Cincinnati with the AFC Central Division title on the line. Don Cockroft nailed a field goal with just over a minute left to give the Browns their ticket into the playoffs.
Of course, when one lives by the sword, one also dies by it. A couple of memorable last-second regular season losses came at the hands of the Steelers, 16-13, on a Lynn Swann TD with 11 seconds to play. And, on the next-to-last week of the season, the Browns were in Minnesota, where a victory would have put them in the driver’s seat for the division title. With only seven minutes left, the Browns were trouncing the Vikings, 23-9, and championship corks were already a-poppin’ in Cleveland. The bubbly turned out to be a bit premature after the Browns received a taste of their own medicine, losing on a “Hail Mary” pass by Tommy Kramer as the clock hit zero.
The playoffs? Well, there’s a reason veteran Browns fans refer to the Browns' 1980 season as “Red Right 88.” That was the play that was called when the Browns, on the Oakland Raiders’ 13-yard-line, opted for a final pass attempt before going for a chip-shot field goal which would have given the Brownies a 15-14 victory. You’ll never guess what happened.
Nah, if you’re a Browns fan, you know exactly what happened: A Sipe pass was picked off, and it was sayonara for yet another season.
I remember commiserating with my brother-in-law, wondering if we’d ever see a Super Bowl (which involved the Browns). We agreed that the law of averages just had to work in our favor, and it was only a matter of time.
Yep … only a matter of time.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!