History

Year by Year Results: 1984

The 1980s were pretty good for the Browns, providing a lot of successful -- and exciting -- seasons.

But 1984 was a rare exception to that rule.

It wasn't supposed to be, however.

Going into the season, the Browns, for a variety of reasons, were the odds-on favorites to win the AFC Central.

They had had a good-but-not-great year in 1983, finishing 9-7 but just missing the playoffs after two bad late-season losses.

Many of the players from that team returned for 1984.

In addition, the division was in a state of flux. The Pittsburgh Steelers had won the crown in 1983, but they finished just one game better than the Browns at 10-6, and had lost at Cleveland in the season finale. In addition, most of the Steelers' great players from the 1970s had already retired or were ready to do so.

In fact, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw had retired after the 1983 season, and Mark Malone, an unknown quantity, was taking over.

The Cincinnati Bengals, three years removed from their first Super Bowl trip, had fallen back to being just a middle-of-the-road team.

And the Houston Oilers, after having played Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game in 1978 and '79, and then making the playoffs again in '80, had disintegrated from 1982 to '83, posting a combined record of only 3-22.

So the Browns, who seemed to have fewer flaws than the other clubs, were the pick.

But things didn't work out for them.

The Browns struggled to score points, lost a slew of close games -- a staggering total of eight by four points or less -- and finished just 5-11, good for only third place.

And, to top it off, following a last-play 12-9 loss at Cincinnati at mid-season that dropped the Browns' record to just 1-7, with a four-game losing streak, head coach Sam Rutigliano was fired. The popular Rutigliano, who had had the job since 1978 and was the architect of the Kardiac Kids, was replaced on a permanent basis by Marty Schottenheimer, the team's defensive coordinator since 1980.

In all but one game, the Schottenheimer-led defense had played well in the first half of the season. It was the offense that was holding the club back.

Brian Sipe, the starting quarterback for the vast majority of the previous eight seasons and the NFL MVP in 1980 when he had the best season, passing-wise, in franchise history, had left after 1983 to sign a lucrative contract with the New Jersey Generals of the rival United States Football League. Incidentally, Sipe's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in his second season of 1985, was Chris Palmer, who would become the first head coach of the expansion Browns in 1999.

Rutigliano didn't want to lose Sipe, but the coach was confident that McDonald could step in and do the job. McDonald, the second of the Browns' two fourth-round choices in the 1980 NFL Draft, had been the No. 1 backup since then, except for the last half of 1982, when he wrested the job from the then struggling Sipe and directed back-to-back wins that got the club into the playoffs.

Otherwise, he had been the holder on extra points and field goals.

But neither McDonald nor the offense as a whole ever got untracked in 1984. Sipe was missed a lot more than anyone, even Rutigliano, had imagined.

In the opener at Seattle, which was moved one day back to Labor Day afternoon because of a Seattle Marines baseball game being played Sunday at the Kingdome, the Browns did nothing right in a 33-0 loss to the Seahawks, getting shut out for the first time in 1977, the year before Rutigliano arrived.

Opening with two games on the West Coast for just the second time in club history, and the first time since 1951, the Browns made it closer in Week 2 but still fell to the Los Angeles Rams 20-17. The Browns led 17-10 entering the fourth quarter but lost on a field goal with 1:28 left.

In the home opener, a nationally-televised Sunday night affair against the Denver Broncos, the Browns were driving for either the tying field goal or the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter when a McDonald pass was intercepted and returned 62 yards for a score. The result was a 24-14 loss and a disastrous 0-3 start, the team's first since 1975.

The first score of the following week's game against Pittsburgh came when a McDonald pass was picked off and returned 69 yards, but he recovered to throw two TD passes in a 20-10 win.

The Browns were hoping that would get them jump-started, but it didn't. They went on to lose 10-6 at Kansas City when McDonald got sacked a club-record 11 times.

Back home the next week against New England, the Browns led 16-3 in the third quarter but lost 17-16. They moved the ball to the New England 21 with 23 seconds remaining before McDonald was intercepted.

The Browns lost to the New York Jets 20-17 after leading 20-17 in the fourth quarter, and despite the fact Ozzie Newsome set team records with 14 receptions for 191 yards. The Hall of Famer would tie the club mark he had set in 1983 by catching 89 passes.

Then came the loss at Cincinnati, suffered on a field goal as time expired.

The Schottenheimer era began much the way the one under Rutigliano had ended -- in excruciatingly painful fashion. The New Orleans Saints edged the Browns 16-14 when Morten Andersen kicked a 53-yard field goal -- the longest in Cleveland Stadium history -- as the clock ran out.

But the snakebit Browns then got it turned around, going 4-3 in their final seven games. It might have been even better had it not been for a pair of three-point losses to the Bengals (in overtime) and the Steelers (on a field goal with five seconds left).

McDonald improved in the second half of the season, but he still threw only 14 TD passes to 23 interceptions. On top of that, he was sacked 53 times, then a club record.

However it happened, the Browns had to get more production from the quarterback position if they wanted to make those pre-1984 predictions ring true in '85. Finding a way to do that was the big challenge facing Schottenheimer and executive vice president of football operations Ernie Accorsi heading into the offseason.

Steve King,
Staff Writer

Year Results
Preseason Results
National Football League: 1-3
Pittsburgh Steelers (47,381) 14-31
at Los Angeles Rams (41,882) 21-10
at Kansas City Chiefs (33,074) 13-31
at Philadelphia Eagles (40,030) 19-20
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 5 11 0 .313 0 0 0 .000 5 11 0 .313
Date Result Opponent Att.
9/3 L0-33 at Seattle Seahawks 59,540
9/9 L17-20 at Los Angeles Rams 43,043
9/16 L14-24 Denver Broncos 61,980
9/23 W20-10 Pittsburgh Steelers 77,312
9/30 L6-10 at Kansas City Chiefs 40,785
10/7 L16-17 New England Patriots 53,036
10/14 L20-24 New York Jets 55,673
10/21 L9-12 at Cincinnati Bengals 50,667
10/28 L14-16 New Orleans Saints 52,489
11/4 W13-10 at Buffalo Bills 33,343
11/11 L7-41 San Francisco 49ers 60,092
11/18 W23-7 at Atlanta Falcons 28,280
11/25 W27-10 Houston Oilers 46,077
12/2 L17-20 Cincinnati Bengals (OT) 51,774
12/9 L20-23 at Pittsburgh Steelers 55,825
12/16 W27-20 at Houston Oilers 33,676
Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 54 81 44 71 0 --- 250
Opponents 61 97 53 83 3 --- 297
Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 295 270
Rushing 89 103
Passing 180 145
Penalty 26 22
3rd Down: Made/Att 89/228 86/217
3rd Down Pct. 39.00% 39.60%
4th Down: Made/Att 6/13 4/13
4th Down Pct. 46.20% 30.80%
Total Net Yards 4,828 4,641
Avg. Per Game 301.8 290.1
Total Plays 1,039 995
Avg. Per Play 4.6 4.7
Net Yards Rushing 1,696 1,945
Avg. Per Game 106 121.6
Total Rushes 489 494
Net Yards Passing 3,132 2,696
Avg. Per Game 195.8 168.5
Sacked/Yards Lost 55/358 43/353
Gross Yards 3,490 3,049
Attempts/Completions 495/273 458/261
Completion Pct. 55.20% 57.00%
Had Intercepted 23 20
Punts/Avg. 76/42.3 77/40.6
Net Punting Avg. 76/35.8 77/36.4
Penalties/Yards Lost 111/928 108/765
Fumbles/Ball Lost 31/16 34/15
Touchdowns 25 30
Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Bahr, Matt 0 0 0 0 25/25 0 0 24/32 0 97
Pruitt, Mike 6 0 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 36
Newsome, Ozzie 0 5 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 30
Brennan, Brian 0 3 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 18
Byner, Earnest 2 0 1 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 18
Browns 10 14 1 0 25/25 0 0 25/35 0 250
Opponents 10 15 5 0 30/30 0 0 29/33 0 297
Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Green, Boyce 202 673 3.3 29 0
Pruitt, Mike 163 506 3.1 14 6
Byner, Earnest 72 426 5.9 54 2
White, Charles 24 62 2.6 8 0
McDonald, Paul 22 4 0.2 10 1
Browns 489 1,696 3.5 54 10
Opponents 494 1,945 3.9 64 10
Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Newsome, Ozzie 89 1,001 11.2 52 5
Brennan, Brian 35 455 13 52 3
Harris, Duriel 32 512 16 43 2
Feacher, Ricky 22 382 17.4 64 1
Adams, Willis 21 261 12.4 24 0
Browns 273 3,490 12.8 64 14
Opponents 261 3,049 11.7 61t 15
Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Gross, Al 5 103 20.6 47 0
Dixon, Hanford 5 31 6.2 18 0
Cousineau, Tom 2 9 4.5 9 0
Johnson, Eddie 2 3 1.5 3 0
Rogers, Don 1 39 39 39 0
Browns 20 236 11.8 47 0
Opponents 23 518 22.5 85 0
Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Cox, Steve 74 3,213 43.4 16 8 69 2
Team, Stat 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Browns 76 3,213 42.3 16 8 69 2
Opponents 77 3,123 40.6 21 7 61 0
Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Brennan, Brian 25 10 199 8 19 0
Harris, Duriel 9 0 73 8.1 13 0
Walker, Dwight 6 3 50 8.3 13 0
Browns 40 13 322 8.1 19 0
Opponents 43 7 489 11.4 42 0
Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Byner, Earnest 22 415 18.9 28 0
Davis, Bruce 18 369 20.5 40 0
Brown, Preston 8 136 17 27 0
Young, Glen 5 134 26.8 36 0
White, Charles 5 80 16 23 0
Browns 61 1,157 19 40 0
Opponents 52 1,159 22.3 46 0
Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Bahr, Matt 3/3 12/12 2/7 6/9 1/1 24/32
Cox, Steve 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 1/3 1/3
Browns 3/3 12/12 2/7 6/9 5/4 25/35
Opponents 0/0 13/13 7/9 7/9 2/2 29/33
Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD Td% Int Int% LG Tkld Rating
McDonald, Paul 493 271 3,472 55 7.04 14 2.8 23 4.7 64 53/345 67.3
Cox, Steve 1 1 16 100 16 0 0 0 0 16 0/0 118.8
Flick, Tom 1 1 2 100 2 0 0 0 0 2 2/13 79.2
Browns 495 273 3,490 55.2 7.05 14 2.8 23 4.6 64 55/358 67.5
Opponents 458 261 3,049 57 6.66 15 3.3 20 4.4 61t 43/353 70