The Cleveland Browns meeting up with the Oakland Raiders brings up memories of the infamous Red Right 88 play, but it’s time to put that to bed
Whenever the Cleveland Browns play the Oakland Raiders, the painful memory of Red Right 88 resurfaces. It’s time to put that painful memory to bed. Yes, the Browns lost a tough one, but football has more tough losses than championship wins, and anyway it was the RIGHT PLAY CALL and Oakland just played better than the Browns did.
For those who are too young to recall, the Browns hosted Al Davis’ Raidahs for the AFC semifinal game in subzero snowy conditions in old Cleveland Stadium. It was one of the coldest games in NFL history, with 20 mph winds, and a wind chill of -20 degrees at game time, and it got worse as the game went on.
Perfect conditions for Cleveland football, right? The Browns Kardiac Kids were coached by Sam Rutigliano and led by quarterback Brian Sipe and Pro Bowl receivers Dave Logan, Reggie Rucker, and Ozzie Newsome. But in the ultracold conditions, the game was a brutal struggle. The Browns let 12-7 in the fourth quarter when the Raiders put together a late drive culminating in a touchdown by Mark van Eeghan to take a 14-7 lead.
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But the Kardiac Kids had won game after game in the last two minutes that year. They put together a drive of their own and pulled to the Raiders’ 13 with less than a minute to go, second down and nine yards. The play call was “Red Right 88” which was a pass play. But Oakland DB Mike Davis cut in front of Ozzie Newsome and made a game-sealing interception. The Raiders would go on to win the Super Bowl.
At any rate, you probably heard your Dad cry about this game and dumb old Coach Rutigliano, and if he had just let Don Cockroft kick a field goal in that AFC Championship game, the Browns would have won the Super Bowl.
Well, your Dad is wrong. First of all, this was only the semifinal game. Had the Browns won, they would have had to have faced future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and the San Diego Chargers, which was not exactly an automatic win. Dad may have forgotten that Don Cockroft, though a fine kicker in his day, had torn cartilage in his left knee. And in fact, that game was the last of his illustrious career.
He had already missed two field goals and an extra point in that game. Has your Dad ever tried to kick a field goal on an ice rink during a minor hurricane? It might not be as easy as he thinks. No such thing as an easy kick in this situation.
This fan remembers that game vividly, and at the time it was 1000% obvious that it would be much better to trust Brian Sipe and the Kardiac Kids rather than an injured kicker on a totally frozen field with the worst weather conditions this side of the Ice Bowl. Moreover, there were still 49 seconds left in the game, so it is possible that the strong-armed Plunkett might complete a Hail Mary so that the Raiders could kick a field goal of their own. It is absolutely ridiculous that the Coach should give up on Sipe, kick the field goal and then depend on the defense to contain Jim Plunkett’s Hail Mary.
As it was, Sipe threw the pass to a guy who would eventually make the Hall of Fame, and Mike Davis, a superb player, just made a great play. This Browns fan has no complaints about the play call, no complaints about the players involved. The only regrettable part of the play is that it didn’t work. That happens in football. It’s time to move on and exorcise the ghosts of the past.
That infamous play is part of the team history. The pain is never going to completely go away. Even though it happened before any of the current Browns were even born, it would be extra sweet if Baker Mayfield and the gang could write a new chapter in the story of the Browns-Raiders rivalry.
It’s easy to hate the Raiders anyway, but now they intend to move the team to Las Vegas. It’s very easy to hate teams that abandon their fans. All in all, a victory on Sunday would be awesome.