Much was made at the time of the 1985 Browns winning the AFC Central title with just an 8-8 record.
But what many people probably don't remember is that the Browns' last playoff team before the one in 1985 did that club one better -- or in this case, one worse.
The 1982 Browns, despite finishing a game below .500 at 4-5, managed to get into the postseason. It marked the first -- and only -- time in Browns history that a team made the playoffs with a losing record.
That oddity seems to fit, for 1982 was definitely a one-of-a-kind season.
Seven of the scheduled 16 regular-season games were lost due to a players' strike that began three weeks into the year and lasted nearly two months. Because of that and the subsequent inability to balance out the schedule enough to make division races possible, the AFC and NFC dissolved division play and combined all of their respective teams into two large groupings. At the end of the season, the eight top teams in each conference qualified for what was called the Super Bowl Tournament.
The teams were seeded one through eight in each conference based on their record, and the Browns, by virtue of tie-breakers, edged out the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, also both 4-5, for the No. 8 spot in the AFC.
Their reward for that was a place opposite the top-seeded Los Angeles Raiders (8-1) in a first-round playoff game. The Raiders, with former Browns Lyle Alzado and Greg Pruitt helping to lead the way, broke a 10-10 second quarter tie and scored 17 unanswered points to win 27-10 in the Coliseum and eliminate Cleveland from the postseason for the second straight time.
The Raiders, then based in Oakland, also held off the Browns 14-12 in the famous Red Right 88 game in the 1980 AFC divisional playoffs.
But that 1982 contest, because of the strangeness of the season, is almost a footnote to everything else that happened.
The 1982 Browns were kind of an in-between bunch -- the last vestige of the Kardiac Kids of 1980 before the club began to make the transformation to the Bernie Kosar years in the last half of the decade. Although quarterback Brian Sipe was still the kingpin of this era, he lost his starting job to third-year pro Paul McDonald late in the 1982 season after having thrown twice as many interceptions -- eight -- as touchdown passes (four).
To be sure, McDonald wasn't much better, with eight picks and five scoring throws, but Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano, in trying to find a spark for his struggling team, especially the sputtering offense, surprisingly -- and probably reluctantly as well, since he was a big Sipe fan -- started the Southern Cal product in a key late-season home game against Pittsburgh. McDonald was good enough to help engineer a 10-9 win -- the biggest of the year for club, thus cementing his place as the starter for the rest of the year.
Although Sipe would re-gain his job in the 1983 training camp, his last with the Browns before jumping to Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals of the USFL the following year, he was on the downside of his career, as were most of the rest of the Kardiac Kids.
After floundering in 1981 with a 5-11 record, the Browns came out in '82 trying to recapture the magic they had had in that memorable 1980 campaign, when they went 11-5 and claimed the AFC Central crown for the first time in nine years. They seemed to be on track to doing just that, finishing the 1982 preseason with a 4-0 mark before winning at Seattle 21-7 in the regular-season opener.
Even though they suffered a last-second 24-21 loss the next week to a Philadelphia Eagles club that had been to the Super Bowl just two years before, the Browns were still feeling very positive about themselves. But that was the last game before the strike.
That they did not play for two months, along with the fact their players were very active and involved during the strike, caused the Browns to lose their focus -- and that momentum. They returned to the field in November a shadow of their former selves, edging the so-so New England Patriots 10-7 the first time out and then losing three straight games -- to the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals - by a combined 84-37 score.
They never really recovered from that, although the win over the Steelers pumped some life back into the Browns temporarily and helped catapult them into the playoffs, where their stay was short-lived.
|9/12||W21-7||at Seattle Seahawks||55,907|
|11/21||W10-7||New England Patriots||51,281|
|11/25||L14-31||at Dallas Cowboys||46,267|
|12/5||L13-30||San Diego Chargers||54,064|
|12/12||L10-23||at Cincinnati Bengals||54,305|
|12/26||W20-14||at Houston Oilers||36,559|
|1/2||L21-37||at Pittsburgh Steelers||52,312|
|1/8||L10-27||at Los Angeles Raiders||56,555|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||176||189|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||43/127||52/106|
|3rd Down Pct.||33.90%||49.10%|
|4th Down: Made/Att||5/6||3/8|
|4th Down Pct.||83.30%||37.50%|
|Total Net Yards||2,708||3,141|
|Avg. Per Game||300.9||349|
|Avg. Per Play||4.4||5.3|
|Net Yards Rushing||873||1,292|
|Avg. Per Game||97||143.6|
|Net Yards Passing||1,845||1,822|
|Avg. Per Game||205||202.4|
|Net Punting Avg.||48/34.8||40/35.5|
Spots available for two different sessions
The 2nd-year player out of Washington State wants to play a bigger role next season
NFL Network documentary dives deep into former Browns coach's innovation, influence
Third-year DB ‘responding’ to defensive coordinator Ray Horton
Cleveland’s 2nd-year kicker taking the ‘next step’