Cleveland Browns: No need to retire Bernie Kosar’s number
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns issued uniform numbers to their new players, sparking a debate about whether or not anyone should wear Bernie Kosar’s No. 19.
The Cleveland Browns will open rookie minicamp on Friday, which means that the team’s 14 draft picks and 11 undrafted free agents (along with veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor) will be sporting new uniform numbers.
According to the team’s website, the draft picks have been issued the following uniform numbers:
- Wide receiver Corey Coleman – 19
- Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah – 90
- Defensive lineman Carl Nassib – 94
- Right tackle Shon Coleman – 72
- Quarterback Cody Kessler – 5
- Linebacker Joe Schobert – 53
- Wide receiver Ricardo Louis – 80
- Safety Derrick Kindred – 30
- Tight end Seth DeValve – 87
- Wide receiver Jordan Payton – 84
- Offensive lineman Spencer Drango – 66
- Wide receiver Rashard Higgin – 81
- Cornerback Trey Caldwell – 31
- Linebacker Scooby Wright III – 50
Meanwhile, the undrafted free agents will be sporting:
- Linebacker Dominique Alexander – 54
- Kicker Brad Craddock – 3
- Defensive back Kenya Dennis – 48
- Defensive back Mikell Everette – 49
- Tight end J.P. Holtz – 49
- Defensive back Tracy Howard – 41
- Defensive lineman Nile Lawrence-Stample – 70
- Center Mike Matthews – 60
- Defensive lineman Kyle Rose – 63
- Fullback Patrick Skov – 48
- Defensive back A.J. Stamps – 39
Finally, Taylor will be wearing No. 27.
The news of the uniform numbers is generally an innocuous event, but this year Coleman threw a twist into the proceedings after his public relations people (most likely) pointed out that his No. 19 was once worn by quarterback Bernie Kosar.
That Tweet led, in turn, to some hand-wringing over whether or not a rookie is “worthy” of wearing Kosar’s former number. (Oddly enough, no such fuss was made when Frisman Jackson wore No. 19 in 2004, but that was a simpler time in the pre-Twitter world.) And, frankly, if Todd Philcox could wear Brian Sipe‘s No. 17, then anything is fair game.
That debate subsequently led by Mark Podolski of The News-Herald to suggest that to avoid any further consternation the Browns should simply retire Kosar’s number.
"Is Kosar the greatest Browns player ever? No way."
"Is he one of the most beloved Browns players? Absolutely, and he might be No. 1 on that list."
"In this town, that means something. That means a lot. To understand the love affair between Northeast Ohio and the Browns in the 1980s is to understand Kosar’s place during that decade."
Podolski makes some fair points, as Kosar represents a golden era for those Browns fans who are too young to have seen the team in its glory days of the 1950s and 1960s.
But if the Browns are going to consider retiring any more numbers, Kosar’s name should be far down the list.
Currently the team only has five retired uniform numbers: Otto Graham’s No. 14, Jim Brown’s No. 32, Ernie Davis’ No. 45, Don Flemings’ No. 46 and Lou Groza’s No. 76. If they decide to add to that list, there are plenty of players that should be in front of Kosar in line, including:
- Hall of Famer Paul Warfield
- Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly
- Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome
- Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli
- Hall of Famer Marion Motley
- Gary Collins
- Clay Matthews
- Walter Johnson
- Jerry Sherk
- Future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas
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Once they work through those guys, plus possibly a few more, then the discussion about Kosar can begin.
Entering into a discussion about retiring uniform numbers also highlights that it is a bit unrealistic to do so. With 53-man rosters and only the numbers 1 through 99 available for use, a team could quickly run out of available number for its players.
The best-case scenario in this would be for Coleman, the team’s No. 1 draft pick this season, to go on to a successful career in Orange and Brown, one that upon his retirement will open a new debate about who was the best Browns’ player to ever wear No. 19.