Most heartbreaking moments in Cleveland Browns history
For much of its history, Cleveland has witnessed some of the most heartbreaking scenes when it comes to professional sports, quite a number of which can be attributed to its football team — the Cleveland Browns.
In this feature, we take a look at five devastating sports moments that will forever be part of Browns lore.
Miracle at the Met
In Week 15 of the 1980 season, the Browns were in good shape to take the road victory against the Minnesota Vikings. They were holding what was seemingly a comfortable 23-9 lead in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
It would take a miracle for Minnesota to overcome the two-touchdown deficit. Apparently though, the football gods heard their prayers.
Quarterback Tommy Kramer led the Vikings’ series of unbelievable plays that led them within just a point with 14 seconds left in regulation. A tipped Hail Mary pass found its way to Ahmad Rashad’s arms and capped off Minnesota’s’ miraculous rally that sent the Vikings diehards at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome into a frenzy and Browns fans seeing red.
Speaking of seeing red…
Red Right 88
The 1981 Divisional Round game between the Browns and the visiting Oakland Raiders was a tightly contested affair all throughout, with neither team leading by more than six points.
Cleveland had the ball at the Raiders’ 12-yard line and trailing 14-12 with less than a minute to go in regulation. Instead of playing it safe and going for a run, quarterback Brian Sipe — after deliberating with head coach Sam Rutigliano — opted to call for “Red Slot Right, Halfback Stay, 88,” a passing play.
The aggressive decision backfired when Sipe’s throw landed right in the waiting arms of safety Mike Davis to seal the Raiders victory.
Oakland would go all the way later in that postseason to win Super Bowl XV over the Philadelphia Eagles.
John Elway is undoubtedly one of the finest players to perform in the clutch, and on Jan. 11, 1987, Browns fans had the unfortunate privilege of witnessing it firsthand.
Cleveland was in prime position to win the AFC Championship with 5:32 to go in regulation when Elway and his Broncos were pinned at their own two-yard line. Elway, however, calmly orchestrated the Denver comeback punctuated by a five-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jackson that allowed them to tie the game.
Denver completed their stunner in overtime when Rich Karlis’ 33-yard field goal just slipped inside the left goalpost as a shocked Municipal Stadium crowd looked on.
The Browns never forced the Broncos to a fourth down in the ensuing comeback.
Browns Nation was raring for revenge at the 1988 AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, the very same team that broke their hearts in their previous postseason encounter.
In what was looking like a complete 180-degree turn of events, it was the Browns that were in the middle of a huge comeback that allowed them to draw within seven points as the clock read 1:12 in the fourth quarter.
The stage was set for a game-tying play when the ball was placed at the Broncos’ eight-yard line. Earnest Byner, upon receiving a handoff from Bernie Kosar, wiggled his way towards the end zone but ran right at Jeremiah Castille at the one-yard lin.
Castille made a crucial stop and stripped Byner and the Browns their dreams of vengeance.
As gut-wrenching as the previous on-field moments were, it was what took place after the 1995 season that still hurts the Browns faithful the most. Owner Art Modell decided to move their beloved football team to Baltimore.
To make the long story short, Modell wanted public funding to renovate the old Cleveland Stadium when he claimed to have lost over $21 million between 1993 and 1994. Despite the city’s best efforts to grant his request, Modell nevertheless rejected Cleveland’s elaborate funding plan and went on to establish the “new” Baltimore Ravens.
Adding to the misery of Browns fans, they watched those Ravens win the Super Bowl in just their fifth year of existence. Baltimore added on another Vince Lombardi Trophy to their collection 12 years later, while the Browns have yet to accomplish the elusive feat.