COMMENTARY: The Indians and Cavs have the region buzzing. Thirty years later, the Browns bring back the group that stirred up the last wave of football magic.
Thirty years ago, Game 7 could not have been worse for the Browns.
The 22-year-old quarterback struggled.
The opponent's quarterback was one of the worst in the league, having arrived with a 1-7 career record, on his way to a 4-12 season.
That year in Cleveland, though, Randy Wright and a bad Green Bay team were good enough to beat the Browns.
It was three decades ago, and few can say the 1986 Browns, who will be honored at the stadium Sunday, had zero in common with the 2016 team.
But Game 7 was the extent of it.
This year's Cleveland squad enters Game 8 winless.
The 1986 team entered Game 7 on a three-game winning streak. After the Green Bay hiccup, it played 10 more games, including the postseason, and won eight of them.
The final game, an overtime loss to Denver in the AFC finals, brought epic agony, but it was pain tied to excellence.
Imagine (if you are too young to recall 1986 or were not even born yet) a Browns team so good it has home-field advantage through the AFC title game. Imagine that most of the conference championship game is a wonderland, a tense thriller in which the Browns take a late 20-13 lead and then pin the opponent on the 2.
The flavor of that moment can be appreciated through the new magic stirred by the Indians and Cavaliers.
Game 7 meant one thing to the 2016 Browns. It will be out of this world if the 2016 Indians are in a Game 7 and win it.
Even a Game 7 went reasonably well for the Cavaliers early last summer.
The memory of the Browns providing such a moment is wrinkled. But it happened. And it was big.
On June 16, in their final home game of the 2016 postseason, the Cavaliers wiped up the Warriors to force a Game 7. The electric crowd at "The Q" numbered 20,562.
On Tuesday, a veritable Cleveland Zoo moved to Progressive Field, where a gathering of 38,091 roared into the night en route to a 6-0 win over the Cubs.
In the AFC title game 30 years ago, a late Kosar-to-Brian Brennan touchdown pass forged a palpable sense the Browns were going to a Super Bowl. The roar at the old stadium, uniquely overwhelming at its best, reached a pitch from beyond.
The crowd was 79,915. It felt like there were a million more.
The aura was similar a week earlier, when the Browns made a miracle comeback to beat the Jets in two overtimes. It won't be like that when the Jets drop by Sunday.
But it will be good to see the 1986 team again.
Imagine a Browns world full of good players, lively personalities and wins.
The 22-year-old was Bernie Kosar, who ran like he was 52 and played smarter than quarterbacks who were 32.
The spare running back, in a stable with with Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner, was Curtis Dickey, a world-class sprinter and former No. 5 overall draft pick.
Aging Ozzie Newsome was the rock, rookie Webster Slaughter the spark in the receiving corps.
The defense featured Clevelander Bob Golic and iron man Clay Matthews on the front seven. Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, cornerbacks who barked, patrolled the back end.
The strong safety, Ray Ellis, was from Canton.
The coach wound up with a sport named after him: "Martyball."
They were the Kardiac Kids II, and the 1986 sequel was better than the 1980 original.
The 1980 Kids went 11-5 with a series of wins at the wire and lost a historic playoff game to Oakland.
The 1986 group played five overtimes in its last seven games, went 12-4 in the regular season, and delivered the Browns' first postseason victory since 1969.
The ensuing years have been unkind. The current Browns bottomed out with a one-sided loss at Cincinnati, in Game 7.
Here's to another kind of Game 7, if the Indians find themselves in it. If they win the World Series sooner, who would complain?
Here's hoping the Browns join the parade one of these years.
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP