Sam Rutigliano was fired today as coach of the Cleveland Browns and replaced by the defensive coordinator, Marty Schottenheimer.

Rutigliano, 52, who had coached the Browns since 1978 and was a vice president of the National Football League team, was asked by owner Art Modell to remain with the front office.

"I think I was treated fairly," said Rutigliano. The Browns were 1-7 after Sunday's tedious 12-9 loss to the 2-6 Cincinnati Bengals. "The only advice I have for Marty is, make sure you can kick field goals."

Schottenheimer, 41, in his fifth year with the Browns, has transformed a once weak defense into the top-rated unit in the American Football Conference, second overall in the NFL. Schottenheimer previously was a defensive coach with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants.

Modell, who said he considered no other candidates for the job, gave Schottenheimer a contract running through 1986 because "a coach coming on in midterm requires a term in which he can put his imprint on the team."

Rutigliano had a contract through the 1988 season. He said he will let Modell know by January whether he will stay with the team.

"It is a bittersweet moment but I'm excited about the opportunity," Schottenheimer said. "I'm positive that I'll be good at what I'll do. We are looking to start a streak . . . we want to win one in a row. I don't see any major changes."

Schottenheimer said he will discuss with the team's offensive coaches this week whether adjustments are needed in that unit, which is averaging fewer than 13 points a game.

Schottenheimer's defensive duties will be assumed by the linebackers coach, Dave Adolph.

Rutigliano, the fifth coach in Browns' history, replaced Forrest Gregg after the 1977 season. Rutigliano was the first head coach hired from outside the organization, coming over from an assistant coaching position with the New Orleans Saints. He was an assistant at the University of Maryland in 1966.