History

History: 1978


Team Photo

After nearly three years of struggling offensively - and not making the playoffs -- while posting just one winning record under ultra-strict, disciplinarian head coach Forrest Gregg, the Browns in 1978 decided to take a softer approach to liven up their attack - and their team.

They did so by going off the beaten path and hiring a virtual unknown assistant at the time, New Orleans Saints receivers coach Sam Rutigliano, to replace Gregg, who was fired with one game left in the 1977 season. Rutigliano was the fourth head coach hired by Art Modell in his 18 years as club owner to that point, and it marked the first time Modell had not promoted from within the organization to fill the spot.

Although it took a while for things to develop, the idea of bringing in someone from the outside nonetheless worked. With Rutigliano, who was as progressive, innovative and forward-thinking of an offensive mind as there was in the game at the time, running the show, the once-stagnant Browns attack scored 30 or more points four times in eight games in the second half of that season.

More importantly, Rutigliano was able to jump-start the career of quarterback Brian Sipe, which would pay huge dividends for the team two years later when he won the NFL Most Valuable Player award and led the Browns to the AFC Central title. He finished with 21 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in 1978 for a quarterback rating of 80.7, by far his best numbers in his five seasons with the Browns.

The 1978 Browns started well, winning their first three games over the San Francisco 49ers (24-7), Cincinnati Bengals (13-10 in overtime) and Atlanta Falcons (24-16). They then stood 4-2 after beating the Saints 24-16 three games later.

But in the process of the Browns offense getting revved up, the defense soon started to come unglued. Yes, the Browns were scoring a lot of points in those final eight games, but they were giving up a lot, too. In fact, they surrendered 34 or more points in three successive games at the very end of the year.

The result was an 8-8 finish in which the Browns were outscored by 22 points overall, 356 to 334, in the first year that the NFL expanded from a 14- to a 16-game regular season.

With those two point totals so close, it's not hard to believe, then, that the vast majority of the games, regardless if they were high- or low-scoring affairs, were close and exciting - and fun to watch as well, drawing the fans' interest. Three went into overtime. Six were decided by eight or fewer points. Three were decided by four or fewer points.

It all set the stage for the birth of the Kardiac Kids in 1980, when 13 of the 16 games were nail-biters.

A real downer, though, was the way in which the Browns finished the 1978 season. After a 30-19 home win over a Los Angeles Rams team that would go 12-4 and advance to the NFC Championship Game, the Browns had a real confidence about themselves. They were 7-6 with three games to play against teams they felt they could beat in Seattle (which eventually finished 9-7), the New York Jets (8-8) and Cincinnati (4-12).

They edged the Jets 37-34 in OT, but got blown out by both the Seahawks (47-24) and Bengals (48-16) to fail to qualify for the playoffs.

As the 1978 season wound down, it was clear the Browns were getting better under Rutigliano's guidance and that the groundwork for even bigger things had been laid. But even with that, they weren't quite ready yet for prime time on a consistent basis.

Steve King,
Staff Writer


YEAR RESULTS
Preseason Results
National Football League: 2-2
New York Giants (30,636) 7-21
at Buffalo Bills (23,241) 20-10
Detroit Lions (31,345) 14-10
at New England Patriots (42,696) 10-21
 
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 8 8 0 .500 0 0 0 .000 8 8 0 .500

Date Result Opponent Att.
9/3 W 24-7 San Francisco 49ers 68,973
9/10 W 13-10 Cincinnati Bengals (OT) 72,691
9/17 W 24-16 at Atlanta Falcons 56,648
9/24 L 9-15 at Pittsburgh Steelers (OT) 49,573
10/1 L 13-16 Houston Oilers 72,776
10/8 W 24-16 at New Orleans Saints 50,158
10/15 L 14-34 Pittsburgh Steelers 81,302
10/22 L 3-17 at Kansas City Chiefs 41,157
10/29 W 41-20 Buffalo Bills 51,409
11/5 L 10-14 at Houston Oilers 45,827
11/12 L 7-19 Denver Broncos 70,856
11/19 W 45-24 at Baltimore Colts 45,341
11/26 W 30-19 Los Angeles Rams 55,158
12/3 L 24-47 at Seattle Seahawks 62,262
12/10 W 37-34 New York Jets (OT) 36,881
12/17 L 16-48 at Cincinnati Bengals 46,985

Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 50 115 85 78 6 --- 334
Opponents 46 99 60 145 6 --- 356

Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 293 329
Rushing 133 117
Passing 130 174
Penalty 30 38
3rd Down: Made/Att 85/217 96/230
3rd Down Pct. 39.20% 41.70%
Total Net Yards 5,347 5,352
Avg. Per Game 334.2 334.5
Total Plays 1,036 1,083
Avg. Per Play 5.2 4.9
Net Yards Rushing 2,488 2,149
Avg. Per Game 155.5 134.3
Total Rushes 559 563
Net Yards Passing 2,859 3,203
Avg. Per Game 178.7 200.2
Sacked/Yards Lost 35/278 31/232
Gross Yards 3,137 3,435
Attempts/Completions 442/236 489/265
Completion Pct. 53.40% 54.20%
Had Intercepted 21 27
Punts/Avg. 79/39.1 82/38.4
Net Punting Avg. 79/34.5 82/34.5
Penalties/Yards Lost 127/1,165 131/1,110
Fumbles/Ball Lost 50/29 35/18
Touchdowns 40 42
Rushing 17 19
Passing 22 20

Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Cockroft, Don 0 0 0 0 37/40 0 0 19/28 0 94
Rucker, Reggie 0 8 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 48
Hill, Calvin 1 6 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 42
Pruitt, Mike 5 0 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 30
Pruitt, Greg 3 2 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 30
Browns 17 22 0 1 37/40 0 0 19/28 0 334
Opponents 19 20 3 0 36/41 0 0 22/29 1 356

Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Pruitt, Greg 176 960 5.5 70t 3
Pruitt, Mike 135 560 4.1 71t 5
Miller, Cleo 89 336 3.8 18 1
Hill, Calvin 80 289 3.6 21 1
Sipe, Brian 28 87 3.1 35 3
Browns 559 2,488 4.5 71t 17
Opponents 563 2,149 3.8 39 19

Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Rucker, Reggie 43 893 20.8 69t 8
Newsome, Ozzie 38 589 15.5 47 2
Pruitt, Greg 38 292 7.7 26t 2
Logan, Dave 37 585 15.8 44 4
Hill, Calvin 25 334 13.4 53t 6
Browns 236 3,137 13.3 69t 22
Opponents 265 3,435 13 72t 20

Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Darden, Thom 10 200 20 46 0
Davis, Oliver 6 65 10.8 33 1
Scott, Clarence 3 15 5 7 0
Ambrose, Dick 2 46 23 39 0
Irons, Gerald 2 9 4.5 9 0
Browns 27 353 13.1 46 1
Opponents 21 343 16.3 65 2

Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Evans, Johnny 79 3,089 39.1 16 8 65 0
Browns 79 3,089 39.1 16 8 65 0
Opponents 82 3,146 38.4 14 9 56 0

Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Wright, Keith 37 16 288 7.8 42 0
Newsome, Ozzie 2 1 29 14.5 24 0
Browns 39 17 317 8.1 42 0
Opponents 41 5 366 8.9 39 0

Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Collins, Larry 32 709 22.2 41 0
Wright, Keith 30 789 26.3 86 0
Sullivan, Tom 4 90 22.5 27 0
Rich, Randy 2 43 21.5 24 0
Pruitt, Greg 1 31 31 31 0
Browns 72 1,697 23.6 86 0

Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Cockroft, Don 1/2 6/7 2/5 10/12 0/2 19/28
Browns 1/2 6/7 2/5 10/12 0/2 19/28
Opponents 2/2 9/9 5/10 6/8 0/0 22/29

Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD TD% Int Int% LG Tkld Ratng
Sipe, Brian 399 222 2,906 55.6 7.28 21 5.3 15 3.8 69t 29/229 80.7
Miller, Mark 39 13 212 33.3 5.44 1 2.6 4 10.3 44 5/47 21.5
Evans, Johnny 1 1 19 100 19 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 118.8
Pruitt, Greg 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 66.7 0 0/0 0
Hill, Calvin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1/2 39.6
Browns 442 236 3,137 53.4 7.1 22 5 21 4.8 69t 35/278 72.9
Opponents 489 265 3,435 54.2 7.02 20 4.1 27 5.5 72t 31/232 67.1