The 1980s Cleveland Browns: Success, Heartbreak & The Last High Point For A Proud Franchise

The 1980s Cleveland Browns were the high point in the modern era of a franchise that hasn’t enjoyed much success since winning three championships in the first half of the 1950s and again in 1964. When the Super Bowl era arrived in the NFL, the Browns disappeared from its biggest games. But in the 1980s, Cleveland consistently got close and this compilation provides a detailed narrative of the six seasons where the team gave its proud city real hope.

You’ll read about the following…

*In 1980 they were “The Cardiac Kids” and Brian Sipe enjoyed an MVP year at quarterback before one bad decision in the bitter cold of the playoffs undid the season.

*After four years of mediocre-to-poor teams, Marty Schottenheimer took over and in 1985, the Browns were still mediocre—at 8-8, but good enough to win a division title. They had Dan Marino’s heavily favored Miami Dolphins on the ropes in the playoffs before a rally broke their hearts.

*That success—and the heartbreak—was just an appetizer for what was ahead in 1986 and 1987. In both years, the Browns were among the best teams in football. Schottenheimer oversaw an excellent defense and Bernie Kosar was one of the most accurate passers in the league. There was just this little hurdle named John Elway in their way. Cleveland lost to Denver in consecutive AFC Championship Games, both of which rank among the best playoff games in NFL history.

*1988 was marred by injuries, especially at quarterback. It took all of Schottenheimer’s coaching guile—along with a memorable comeback orchestrated by a veteran backup QB with a history of doing such things—to get the Browns back to the playoffs. Management rewarded the coach by firing him.

*That was the beginning of the end, but there was one last hurrah under new coach Bud Carson. Cleveland won a thrilling finale to secure the division title and a playoff victory over Buffalo was no less dramatic. There was just this Elway guy in their way in the AFC Championship Game and another loss ended the Browns season.

Each season is an article previously published on They have been edited for this compilation.

The franchise hasn’t been anywhere close to prominence since the 1980s. Perhaps in a new era where the city has overcome its championship drought thanks to the NBA’s Cavaliers, and baseball’s Indians nearly did the same, the Browns time will come too. For now, the 1980s Cleveland Browns are what brings about the warm memories in this era of frigid exile.

The names of that era are all here. Everyone from Marty to Bernie to the Hanford Dixon & Frank Minniefield combo at cornerback, to Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner in the backfield to the game-breaking explosiveness of Webster Slaughter. Read their story and take a trip back into the Dawg Pound of the 1980s.