In some ways, 1988 was about as disastrous of a season as the Browns have ever had.
But in other respects, it was one of the best.
It all just depends on how you look at things.
The 1988 Browns had more injuries at quarterback than they've had not just in one year, but in any group of five years combined in their history.
Get this: Bernie Kosar went down twice. Gary Danielson, Mike Pagel and Don Strock, who was coaxed out of retirement and signed on a golf course by the desperate Browns, each went down once.
By the end, the Browns were about to the point where they would begin checking on the status of Brian Sipe, Bill Nelsen, Frank Ryan and Otto Graham.
Losing that many players at any position would be devastating for any team. But losing that many players at quarterback, the most important position on either side of the ball, is the ultimate death knell.
The Browns were so good at all of the other positions, however, that they managed to overcome those problems and finish 10-6, good enough for second place in the AFC Central, two games behind the Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) -- and, more importantly, good enough to earn them a wild-card playoff berth.
They punched their ticket to the postseason in dramatic fashion, beating the Houston Oilers 28-23 at Cleveland in the regular-season finale after trailing 23-7 in the third quarter and appearing to be hopelessly out of it.
The fact the Browns returned six days later to lose 24-23 to the Oilers - again at Cleveland Stadium - in the wild-card playoffs, is almost inconsequential in the big picture. The tremendous accomplishments of that regular season were already cast in concrete.
What is sad, though, is that Marty Schottenheimer, despite doing unquestionably his best job as a head coach in Cleveland, was fired three days after the season ended.
Kosar got hurt for the first time in the season-opening 6-3 win at Kansas City, and his absence caused the Browns, picked by many to make it to the Super Bowl after losing to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game in heartbreaking fashion the previous two seasons, to start a lackluster 3-3.
Then came a three-game winning steak in which the Browns played their best - and most consistent - football of the season. They manhandled eventual NFC East champion Philadelphia 19-3, turned back the Super Bowl-bound Bengals 23-16 and handed a 29-21 loss to a Cardinals team that was all revved up about its first year in Phoenix after moving from St. Louis.
Another three-game winning streak later in the year also helped immensely. Included in that was a 17-13 road decision over the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins. Despite the revolving-door situation at quarterback, the Browns passed for nearly 3,700 yards and 19 touchdowns with just 17 interceptions.
To further illustrate just how much of a wacky season it was, Earnest Byner led the team in rushing yards (576) and receptions (59), yet was traded to Washington in the offseason for running back Mike Oliphant.
But you can't, because 1988 was unbelievable.
|9/4||W6-3||at Kansas City Chiefs||55,654|
|9/11||L3-23||New York Jets||74,434|
|9/25||L17-24||at Cincinnati Bengals||54,943|
|10/2||W23-9||at Pittsburgh Steelers||56,410|
|10/23||W29-21||at Phoenix Cardinals||61,261|
|11/7||L17-24||at Houston Oilers||51,467|
|11/13||L7-30||at Denver Broncos||75,806|
|11/27||W17-13||at Washington Redskins||51,604|
|12/12||L31-38||at Miami Dolphins||61,884|
|AFC Wild Card|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||294||301|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||92/213||67/197|
|3rd Down Pct.||43.20%||34.00%|
|4th Down: Made/Att||4/15||8/17|
|4th Down Pct.||26.70%||47.10%|
|Total Net Yards||5,011||4,767|
|Avg. Per Game||313.2||297.9|
|Avg. Per Play||4.9||4.7|
|Net Yards Rushing||1,575||1,920|
|Avg. Per Game||98.4||120|
|Net Yards Passing||3,436||2,847|
|Avg. Per Game||214.8||177.9|
|Net Punting Avg.||67/33.9||69/34.7|
|Perry, Michael Dean||1||13||13||13||0|
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