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Red Right 88

As we head into a new season, let us take a moment to reflect on one of the most infamous plays in football history. Memories like what happened almost thirty years ago seem to haunt the Browns even to this day. It was January 4 in 1981. The AFC playoffs. The Oakland Raiders at our Browns in Cleveland. It was a low scoring game because the weather was awful. It was almost 40 degrees below zero with the wind chill. In fact it was one of the coldest games in NFL history. What was about to happen has become one of the lowest points in Cleveland sports history. The play symbolizes decades of sports misery and championship-free play in the City. The Browns had played fairly well in the freezing cold. They were behind by two points with less than a minute remaining in the game. But they had the football inside the Raiders' 15 yardline. A seemingly easy field goal would have won the game for Cleveland and given the Browns a berth in the Conference championship. But the game had been filled with bad luck on kicks. Browns kicker Don Cockroft had already missed two field goal attempts. He had also had an extra point blocked. A fourth mishap occurred on a bad snap which caused another extra point attempt to be scratched. The cold and wind had played havoc with the football. Further, Cockroft was very injured with two herniated discs. So all of that combined for The Play Call. After a time out to confer with coach Sam Rutigliano, quarterback Brian Sipe returned to the field. He had been instructed to throw a pass in an effort to try to surprise the Raiders defense. The Play was Red Right 88. Sipe was to throw it away if it wasn't there since the Browns could win on a field goal anyways. In fact reports from the day are that Rutigliano specifically told Sipe to throw the football into Lake Erie if the play wasn't wide open. Well the play was wide open. It was open to Dave Logan as the primary receiver running at about the Raiders' 5 yard line left to right across the field. But Sipe for some unexplained reason ignored Logan. Rumour has it that Sipe misread the defense and thought that Logan was covered. So instead of throwing the ball into Lake Erie, Sipe turned his attention to secondary target Ozzie Newsome, the Hall of Fame tight end. Newsome was not wide open. He wasn't open at all. The pass was forced into coverage. It was intercepted by Raiders defensive back Mike Davis. The Browns' season was over. The Raiders went on to beat the Chargers to win the AFC and then to beat the Eagles to win the Super Bowl. Unbelievable. Just writing this I still can't believe it. It could have been the Browns in the Super Bowl. It should have been the Browns in the Super Bowl. I have a suggestion for Mangini - open the new season with a new pass play - Green Left 99. Maybe things will work out.

Tom Landry used to say that misfortune can be turned into success. Does that still apply 28 years later? We can hope.

Go Browns!


1 comment:

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