Cleveland Browns: 5 best trades of all-time
By Thomas Moore
Following the close of the 1984 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns needed a quarterback. (Where have we heard that one before?) As the 1985 NFL Draft came and went, the club decided not to select a quarterback, despite having opportunities to draft Randall Cunningham, Frank Reich and Steve Bono, among others. (Seriously, this sounds oddly familiar.)
But there was still the supplemental draft and Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar.
The Buffalo Bills held the first pick in both the regular draft and the supplemental draft. Buffalo selected defensive end Bruce Smith in the spring draft and, already owning the rights to quarterback Jim Kelly, had no need for another quarterback on the roster.
The Browns made six different trade proposals to Houston, which held the No. 2 pick, but the Oilers had no desire to make a trade with a division rival. So the Browns traded for Buffalo’s pick in the supplemental draft — giving up first-round picks in 1985 and 1986, a third-round pick in 1985 and a sixth-round pick in 1986 – taking a chance that Kosar, who was on schedule to graduate in the summer of 1985, would give up his final two years of college eligibility.
“College football was not challenging,” Kosar said according to Jonathan Knight’s 2006 book, Sundays in the Pound. “With our passing system at Miami, which was head and shoulders above any other college’s, after a while it was just too easy … For me to grow at so slow a pace — what was the point?”
Kosar did not declare for the regular draft on purpose, which got on the tits of the Minnesota Vikings, who had made the trade with Houston for the No. 2 pick that the Browns were unable to pull off with the intention of selecting Kosar. But little did they know that Kosar wanted to play for his hometown Browns.
The Vikings argued that Kosar should be eligible for the regular draft because everyone knew he was not going to return to Miami. The Oilers got in on the action, threatening to sue the NFL if Kosar was allowed to wait for the supplemental draft to declare his intentions, and Kosar’s agent threatened to sue if Kosar was forced to enter the regular draft.
Eventually then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle got everyone together in a room and, in a very Solomon-like decision, told Kosar the decision was up to him.
“Had either Buffalo or Cleveland been so inclined, they could have quietly prearranged such an understanding with the Kosar interests and refrained from making or announcing their trade until after the April 30 draft had passed,” Rozelle said.
After thinking about it for a couple of days, Kosar held a press conference in Miami to announce he would bypass the college draft and enter the supplemental draft, in effect choosing the Browns.
Three AFC Championship Game appearances and countless highlights later, there’s little doubt Kosar made the right choice.
Next: No. 2: An Anchor on the Offensive Line