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Chapter 1

The Birth of the Kardiac Kids

How? When? Where Did It All Begin?

The 1980 Kardiac Kids — Our Untold Stories will take you back to the games and events that led up to the never-to-be forgotten season of 1980.

When were the Kardiac Kids born?

Was it in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium on October 27, 1974, when 60,500 fans witnessed Brian Sipe take over at quarterback in the final quarter, then score two touchdowns to lead the Browns to a 23-21 comeback win over the Denver Broncos?

Three key components in the success of the 1980 Kardiac Kids confer on the sideline during a game at Cleveland Stadium: (l-r) quarterbacks coach Jim Shofner, head coach Sam Rutigliano and quarterback Brian Sipe.


Was it on Christmas Eve of 1977 when Sam Rutigliano received a phone call from Art Modell informing him that he was now the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns?

One thing is certain: Without the play of Brian Sipe, the coaching style of Sam Rutigliano and the influence of assistant coach Jim Shofner, the Cleveland Browns would never have become the Kardiac Kids.

Maybe it was in the 1979 opener against the New York Jets when the Browns came back to tie the score on Don Cockroft's 35-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation play, then won it, 25-22, on Cockroft's 27-yarder with 15 seconds to go in overtime.

Or, maybe it was in Game Two when Sipe hit wide receiver Reggie Rucker on a 21-yard scoring pass with 52 seconds remaining to beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24, or in Game Three when Cockroft's 28-yard boot with 1:51 on the clock defeated the Baltimore Colts, 13-10.

Perhaps it was in Game 12 against Miami when Sipe connected with Ozzie Newsome on a 35-yard touchdown pass to tie it with 1:21 left to play, then hit Rucker for 39 yards in overtime to give the Browns a 30-24 victory.

No one could deny that hearts started beating a bit faster in 1979 as seven of the Browns' nine victories were by seven points or less. The pattern of heart-stopping finales then became the anticipated, if not the expected, during the amazing season of 1980.

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"It started building in ’79 and it carried over into 1980 and built as the season went along. It was just a confidence that we played with that, regardless of what team we were playing, we felt like we could manufacture enough points to win the game."

— Ozzie Newsome

"Sam gets credit for the Kardiac Kids because he recognized that we weren’t strong enough physically to just play smash-mouth football and win a championship. He knew that we had to throw the ball and live on the edge and that’s what characterized the Kardiac Kids."

— Brian Sipe

"When Sam first came in ’78, that sort of opened a new regime and I think a new beginning for success in Cleveland. The Kardiac Kids came about in the ’79 season because we were such an exciting team."

— Ricky Feacher

"The excitement began to come back as we played well in ’79. The coaching staff and the personnel people put together a good team, a team that was exciting, a team that was very competitive."

— Clarence Scott

"I really believe the Kardiac Kids began in the later portion of the 1978 season when we started establishing that we were going to be a competitive team by winning some close games. I believe we may have caught magic in a bottle in 1980."

— Dave Logan


The Kardiac Kids establish their identity in 1979. Above: In the season opener in New York against the Jets, Brian Sipe leads the offense on a 66-yard drive with 30 seconds remaining and no timeouts to set up Don Cockroft's 35-yard tying field goal. Cockroft's 27-yarder with 15 seconds to go in overtime wins it, 25-22. Below: In Game 12 at Cleveland Stadium, excited fans cheer as Reggie Rucker scores the game-winning touchdown on a 39-yard reception from Sipe to defeat the Miami Dolphins in overtime, 30-24.

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