No 3: The Forgotten Disappointment
After two seasons in which the Cleveland Browns endured heartbreaking defeats in the AFC Championship Game, the Browns entered 1988 with high hopes. These hopes were elevated when they drafted Michael Dean Perry, the brother of William “The Refrigerator” Perry, in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. It was too bad Perry couldn’t play quarterback because that was the story of the season.
In the first game of the season, a 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, starting quarterback Bernie Kosar suffered an injury to the elbow on his throwing arm. No problem. The Browns had Gary Danielson, the grizzled veteran ready to take the reins. That lasted less than one game when Danielson suffered a fractured ankle courtesy of the New York Jets in a Week 2 loss.
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Undaunted, the Browns still had Mike Pagel, a quarterback that some fans would have preferred to Danielson anyway. Pagel steadied the ship, but then he also went down with a separated shoulder in week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Now sitting at 3-3, Art Modell called Don Strock out of retirement as a golf pro in Florida to take the reins. They say necessity is the mother of invention and that was the case. With only a casual knowledge of the playbook, Strock led the Browns to a Week 7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Week 8 marked the return of Kosar and with it the resurgence of an offense. The Browns went 5-2 and sat at 9-5 entering a Monday night showdown with Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, this game would not only see the Browns lose the game, but also lose Kosar again. This time to a knee injury.
Enter Strock one more time. And despite throwing three (that’s right three) first-half interceptions to the Houston Oilers, Strock led the Browns to one of the most memorable comeback victories in franchise history and propelled the Browns into a wild-card playoff game and rematch against the Oilers. In what was only fitting, Strock got hurt in the playoff game, bringing Pagel back off the bench. A season that ended with the hope of unfinished business ended when the Browns defense once again could not stop a drive at a crucial moment.
After a 10-6 season and a playoff appearance, fans were disappointed but still optimistic. That optimism soon turned to rage when Art Modell forced head coach Marty Schottenheimer to resign over what was only described as “irreconcilable differences.” Schottenheimer had refused to hire an offensive coordinator to replace Lindy Infante who had taken the Green Bay Packers head coaching job to start the 1988 season. Despite going through four different quarterbacks, Modell forced Schottenheimer’s hand and the following year, the window would shut on one of the most exciting eras of Cleveland Browns football.