Cleveland Browns: Top 10 quarterbacks of all-time
By Thomas Moore
Bernie Kosar was the quarterback the Browns and the city of Cleveland needed.
The Browns had progressively fallen on hard times following the 1980 playoff season, and after the failed Paul McDonald experience in 1984, desperately needed a quarterback.
Enter Bernie the Kid.
Kosar graduated early from the University of Miami, where he led the Hurricanes to their first national championship, and then manipulated the NFL’s rules so that he could be selected by the Browns in the supplemental draft of 1985.
At a time when no one wanted to come to Cleveland, Kosar embraced the challenge of returning the Browns to glory.
While he was not able to deliver a championship, through no fault of his own, Kosar revitalized the Browns and electrified the city over his nine years with the Browns.
Kosar led the Browns to the playoffs five consecutive years and into the AFC Championship Game in three of those years, falling short each time to the Denver Broncos.
A cerebral quarterback who was more athletic than given credit for, there wasn’t a blitz that Kosar couldn’t beat or a defense he couldn’t dissect – especially during the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
His greatest moment may have come against the New York Jets in the playoffs following the 1986 season. Trailing 20-10 with just four minutes remaining and the season in jeopardy, Kosar finally jumpstarted the Browns offense and led the Browns to one of the most memorable (and surprising) wins in NFL history.
On that day, Kosar was 33-of-64 for an NFL playoff record 489 passing yards in leading the Browns to their first playoff win since 1969.
Kosar set an NFL playoff game record that still stands when he passed for 489 yards during the 1986 Browns’ 23-20 double overtime win over the New York Jets at Cleveland Stadium, the team’s first postseason win since 1969. Kosar completed 33 of 64 passes with a touchdown.
If that game wasn’t his best, it may have been the following season against Denver in the AFC Championship Game, when Kosar threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns just feel short against the Broncos.
An injury to his elbow in the 1988 season opener started Kosar’s eventual decline as the injuries continued to mount.
His career in Cleveland came to an end when he was unceremoniously released during the 1993 season, a decision that was right from a football perspective but horrible from a timing and public relations angle.
Fittingly, Kosar’s final pass as a Brown was a touchdown pass on a play that he improvised in the huddle.
Kosar is third on the Browns’ all-time list in passing yards with 21,904, and fourth in touchdown passes with 116.
He was No. 19 in the program, but in the hearts and minds of Browns fans of a certain age he may always be No. 1.
Next: No. 1: Otto Graham (1946 to 1955)