1978 Cleveland Browns season

1978 Cleveland Browns season
Head coach Sam Rutigliano
Owner Art Modell
Home field Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Record 8–8
Division place 3rd AFC Central
Playoff finish did not qualify

The 1978 Cleveland Browns season was the team's 29th season with the National Football League (NFL). After nearly three years of struggling offensively – and not making the playoffs—while posting just one winning record under ultra-strict, disciplinarian head coach Forrest Gregg, the Browns in 1978 decided to take a softer approach to liven up their attack – and their team. They did so by hiring a virtually unknown assistant at the time, New Orleans Saints receivers coach Sam Rutigliano, to replace Gregg, who was fired with one game left in the 1977 season. Rutigliano was the fourth head coach hired by Art Modell in his 18 years as club owner to that point, and it marked the first time Modell had not promoted from within the organization to fill the spot.

Although it took a while for things to develop, the idea of bringing in someone from the outside nonetheless worked. With Rutigliano, who was as progressive, innovative and forward-thinking of an offensive mind as there was in the game at the time, running the show, the once-stagnant Browns attack scored 30 or more points four times in eight games in the second half of that season. More importantly, Rutigliano was able to jump-start the career of embattled quarterback Brian Sipe, which would pay huge dividends for the team two years later when he won the NFL MVP award and led the Browns to the AFC Central title. He finished with 21 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in 1978 for a quarterback rating of 80.7, by far his best numbers in his five seasons with the Browns.

The Browns started well, winning their first three games over the San Francisco 49ers (24–7), Cincinnati Bengals (13–10 in overtime) and Atlanta Falcons (24–16). They then stood 4–2 after beating the Saints 24–16 three games later.

But in the process of the Browns offense getting revved up, the defense soon started to come unglued. Yes, the Browns were scoring a lot of points in those final eight games, but they were giving up a lot, too. In fact, they surrendered 34 or more points in three successive games at the very end of the year. The end result was an 8–8 finish in which the Browns were outscored by 22 points overall, 356 to 334, in the first year that the NFL expanded from a 14- to a 16-game regular season. The Browns top draft choice that year, future Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome, fresh off of a NCAA National Championship with Paul "Bear" Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide team, had a solid rookie season, snaring 38 passes for 589 yards and two TDs.


NFL draft

The following were selected in the 1978 NFL draft.

Round Overall Player Position School/Club Team
112Clay MatthewsLinebacker USC
123Ozzie NewsomeTight end Alabama
239Johnny EvansPunter North Carolina State
367Larry CollinsRunning back Texas A&I
368Mark MillerQuarterback Bowling Green
4103Pete PullaraOffensive Guard Tennessee-Chattanooga
5122Keith WrightWide receiver Memphis St.
6149Al PittsCenter Michigan State
8205Jesse TurnbowDefensive tackle Tennessee
9234Jon KramerGuard Baylor
10261Brent WatsonOffensive tackle Tennessee
11290Larry GillardDefensive tackle Mississippi State
12317Leo BiedermannOffensive tackle California




1978 Cleveland Browns staff
Front office

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

  • Special Teams – John Petercuskie


1978 Cleveland Browns roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Rookies in italics


Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 3, 1978 San Francisco 49ers W 24–7
2 September 10, 1978 Cincinnati Bengals W 13–10
3 September 17, 1978 at Atlanta Falcons W 24–16
4 September 24, 1978 at Pittsburgh Steelers L 15–9
5 October 1, 1978 Houston Oilers L 16–13
6 October 8, 1978 at New Orleans Saints W 24–16
7 October 15, 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers L 34–14
8 October 22, 1978 at Kansas City Chiefs L 17–3
9 October 29, 1978 Buffalo Bills W 41–20
10 November 5, 1978 at Houston Oilers L 14–10
11 November 12, 1978 Denver Broncos L 19–7
12 November 19, 1978 at Baltimore Colts W 45–24
13 November 26, 1978 Los Angeles Rams W 30–19
14 December 3, 1978 at Seattle Seahawks L 47–24
15 December 10, 1978 New York Jets W 37–34
16 December 17, 1978 at Cincinnati Bengals L 48–16


AFC Central
Pittsburgh Steelers(1) 14 2 0 .875 5–1 11–1 356 195 W5
Houston Oilers(5) 10 6 0 .625 4–2 8–4 283 298 L1
Cleveland Browns 8 8 0 .500 1–5 4–8 334 356 L1
Cincinnati Bengals 4 12 0 .250 2–4 2–10 252 284 W3

Game Summaries

Week 3: at Atlanta

Week 3: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Browns 0 17 0724
Falcons 3 7 0616

at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

  • Date: September 17
  • Game time: 1:00 p.m. EDT
  • Game weather: 79°F, relative humidity 70%, round (wind) 6 MPH
  • Game attendance: 56,648
  • TV announcers (NBC): Jim Simpson (play–by–play) and Paul Warfield (color commentator)
Game information

First Quarter
  • ATL – Steinfort 24 yard field goal
    Falcons 3, Browns 0
Second Quarter
Third Quarter

No scoring

Fourth Quarter
  • ATL – Strong 2 yard rush (kick failed)
    Browns 17, Falcons 16
  • CLE – Sipe 2 yard rush (Cockroft kick)
    Browns 24, Falcons 16

Top passers
Top rushers
Top receivers
  • CLE – 3
  • ATL – 4


  1. "1978 NFL Draft Listing – Pro-Football-Reference.com". Archived from the original on 2009-07-25. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  2. "1978 Cleveland Browns starters and roster". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 11, 2014.

External links

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