Few cities love their NFL team and players more than Cleveland, and few players were more popular there than former quarterback and Ohio native Bernie Kosar. Despite his unorthodox sidearm release and inability to move around much in the pocket, he became one of the most successful and respected quarterbacks of his generation and left a lasting impression on fans.I couldn't have said it any better myself.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and my father was (and is) a Cleveland Browns' season ticket holder. His seats in old Municipal Stadium were at about the 32-yard line, upper-deck, a few rows back, with the Dawg Pound way off to the left and the Steelers contingent (when they came) just to our right. I still remember my first game, in which the Browns shut down the Steelers 13-3 in the freezing cold.
While there are many great memories of those years and games, one of the most memorable trips to the Stadium was the week after Bernie was released. Cleveland was in an uproar - the week before, they had played in Seattle, and Todd Philcox had fumbled the first snap, resulting in a touchdown return for the Seahawks. I still remember Terry Bradshaw saying the only smart thing I've ever heard him say. Bill Belichik (before he was a genius, he was an idiot) said that Kosar's skills had diminished. Bradshaw quoted him, then responded, "That's bull. And I would add another word to that, but we're on national TV." Kosar was such a talent, he was picked up on that very Thursday by the Cowboys, and not only learned the playbook in just 2 days, he led them to a huge win over the Cardinals.
One of my memories of that first game A.B. - after Bernie - was the countless people with paper bags, on which were printed a Browns' helmet on one side, a Cowboys' on the other. People would cut out the middle, and either put their own head in between or a cardboard cutout of Bernie which everyone seemed to have. There were signs all over the place about Bernie, and a few about Belichik and Art Modell, including, "Jump Art, land on Bill!", encouraging Modell to crush Belichik in a belly-flop from his box. There was also a helicopter overhead which had a message trailing behind saying, "Don't jump Art - call Kevorkian! 555-####". For all the humor, there was a lot of sadness and bitterness over the fan favorite. There were cassettes made that were all about the Browns, especially Bernie - including "Bernie, Bernie" and "Bernie's back".
If there is any consolation, it is that Kosar's last, memorable play as a Brown was typical Kosar - and many say the reason he was cut by Belichik. The Browns were down at home to the Broncos by less than a touchdown, and there were about 5 minutes left in the game with the Browns at the Bronco 35-yard line or so. Belichik called in a play, but Kosar ignored it. He had played the Broncos in big games for years, and knew their players well. He told Michael Jackson to run out about 15-20 yards, start as if to do a square-in (cutting across the field as if to form a square), Kosar would pump-fake, then Jackson would go straight up to the endzone. The Broncos safeties, Bernie attested, were aggresive safeties, and would immediately bite on the first fake. They broke the huddle, Bernie called hike, Jackson went up and started to cut across. Bernie faked, Denver safety Steve Atwater broke toward the middle, Jackson cut up, and was wide open for the game-winning touchdown. Classic Bernie. Belichik was furious - despite the touchdown, his quarterback had completely ignored his playcalls. Hence, the immediate release. The only nice part of his being released was that he went out exactly as he should have - beating the Broncos with not only his arm, but more importantly, with his mind.