1981 Cleveland Browns season
|1981 Cleveland Browns season|
|Head coach||Sam Rutigliano|
|Home field||Cleveland Municipal Stadium|
|Division place||4th AFC Central|
|Playoff finish||did not qualify|
The 1981 Cleveland Browns season was the team's 32nd season with the National Football League. In a highly disappointing season filled with a number of key injuries at different stretches during the campaign, the Browns finished the year with five straight defeats, their longest losing streak since 1975, and dropped seven of their final eight games. By contrast, in 1980, the Browns enjoyed a five-game winning streak, their longest since 1976, and won eight of nine during one stretch.
In 1980, the Kardiac Kids reached their zenith with last-second win after last-second win–13 of the 16 games were decided in the final two minutes—they finished 11–5 and captured the AFC Central crown. Every time the Browns needed to make a play, they did so. Every time they needed something good to happen, it did.
As much of a storybook, magic season it was, it was even more so for quarterback Brian Sipe, as he set a franchise record for touchdown passes with 30 en route to being named the NFL MVP. The season came to an abrupt halt in dramatic and disappointing fashion with a 14–12 divisional playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders when Sipe's ill-fated pass into the end zone in the waning seconds on a play called Red Right 88 was intercepted. But rather than an end, that game was looked upon at the time as being simply a beginning, and the Browns and their fans fully expected to take the next step in 1981 and get that elusive first appearance in the Super Bowl—or the "Siper Bowl", as it was referred to in Cleveland.
As it turned out, the Browns did indeed have a similar kind of season in 1981—eight of the games were decided by six points or less, and five were decided by three points or less. Only this time, the Browns were on the losing end of things. Every time they needed to make a play, they didn't. Every time they needed something good to happen, it didn't. In 1980, Sipe broke nearly every club passing record, throwing, as mentioned, for 30 TDs with just 14 interceptions while completing nearly 61 percent of his passes, good for a 91.4 quarterback rating. In 1981, he threw more interceptions (25) than TDs (17), his completion rate fell to just over 55 percent and his quarterback rating plummeted to 68.2.
As the quarterback goes, so goes any team, which explains the rise and fall of the Browns in 1980 and '81. FB Mike Pruitt rushed for more than 1,000 yards (1,103) for the third straight year in 1981, and caught 63 passes for the second season in a row. Tight end Ozzie Newsome set a team record (since broken) for receptions with 69 and had the second-most receiving yards in Browns history at the time with 1,002. HB Greg Pruitt established a personal best with 65 catches.
The following were selected in the 1981 NFL Draft.
|1||22||Hanford Dixon||Defensive back||Southern Miss|
|4||92||Mike Robinson||Defensive end||Arizona|
|6||160||Ron Simmons||Defensive tackle||Florida State|
|10||271||Dean Prater||Defensive end||Oklahoma State|
|11||298||Larry Friday||Defensive back||Mississippi State|
|12||325||Kevin McGill||Offensive tackle||Oregon|
|1||September 7, 1981||San Diego Chargers||L 44–14||
|2||September 13, 1981||Houston Oilers||L 9–3||
|3||September 20, 1981||at Cincinnati Bengals||W 20–17||
|4||September 27, 1981||Atlanta Falcons||W 28–17||
|5||October 4, 1981||at Los Angeles Rams||L 27–16||
|6||October 11, 1981||at Pittsburgh Steelers||L 13–7||
|7||October 18, 1981||New Orleans Saints||W 20–17||
|8||October 25, 1981||Baltimore Colts||W 42–28||
|9||November 1, 1981||at Buffalo Bills||L 22–13||
|10||November 8, 1981||at Denver Broncos||L 23–20 (OT)||
|11||November 15, 1981||at San Francisco 49ers||W 15–12||
|12||November 22, 1981||Pittsburgh Steelers||L 32–10||
|13||November 29, 1981||Cincinnati Bengals||L 41–21||
|14||December 3, 1981||at Houston Oilers||L 17–13||
|15||December 12, 1981||New York Jets||L 14–13||
|16||December 20, 1981||at Seattle Seahawks||L 42–21||
1981 Cleveland Browns roster
Rookies in italics
- Season summary and statistics at Cleveland Browns.com
- "1981 NFL Draft Listing – Pro-Football-Reference.com". Archived from the original on 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2009-07-24.