Mark Rypien went 2-1 as a starter for the Cleveland Browns in 1994, filling in for Vinny Testaverde when Bill Belichick was the coach.
In 1991, Rypien had earned a Super Bowl ring, in the same backfield with ex-Brown Earnest Byner. That was great to see because Byner had been unfairly maligned after one critical fumble versus the Denver Broncos. Supposedly he was the kiss of death for any team with playoff aspirations, but not so.
He put up absolutely gaudy numbers. The washed-up ex-Brown rushed for 1,219 and 1,048 yards in 1990 and 1991, making the Pro Bowl both times. He also threw in 587 receiving yards and blocked for the other running backs, Ricky Ervins and Gerald Riggs.
For his part, Rypien was efficient if not spectacular, with 3,564 passing yards and 28-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio in a run-first offense. The team went 14-2 during the regular season and faced the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl. Rypien was the offensive star, going 18 for 33 for 292 yards, and 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. Rypien was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
However, after reaching the pinnacle of success, his TD/INT ratio deteriorated to 13/17 the next season, and he never made it back. With the Browns, he was reunited with Byner, who had returned to Cleveland for a second gig. Rypien posted a winning record at 2-1 but completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.
Bernie Kosar earned a Super Bowl ring, reuniting with coach Jimmy Johnson, who was head coach of the Cowboys in 1993. Kosar played for Johnson one year at the University of Miami, and had helped them win a national championship under Howard Schnellenberger.
But by 1993, Jimmy Johnson was head coach of the defending world champions.
If you are one of the Browns fans that don’t believe in trading for draft picks, that’s exactly what Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys did. Their most controversial moves included trading Herschel Walker and blowing two first-round draft picks on quarterbacks: Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh.
Walsh would later be traded for a first, second, and third-round pick. Cowboy fans and media were furious. To make a long story short, Johnson got a lot of hate for every move he made, but getting Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland and Darren Woodson led to the Super Bowl in 1992.
Kosar was let go by Browns coach Bill Belichick in midseason, making him available to the Cowboys. Belichick felt that Vinny Testaverde was the better quarterback, and was very blunt that Kosar, who would turn 30 on November 25, was not the same player as he had been a few years earlier. Browns’ fans were totally outraged at the move. We loved Kosar because he was a local kid who chose the Browns.
If you haven’t heard that story, the academically gifted Kosar was able to graduate after his junior year, making him eligible for the NFL supplemental draft, and the Browns were able to make a move to get the top pick). Kosar was hard-nosed, tough, and very, very football smart. That made him a top quarterback even if he was not the most graceful quarterback the Browns have ever had.
In retrospect, however, we can see that Belichick was right about some things. Bernie had taken a lot of hits and especially concussions. He would never complain or itemize his injuries, but you could tell from the way he took his stance under center that some parts of his body were not working right. Being a backup probably allowed him to heal up a little bit. The Cowboys needed him in the playoffs against San Francisco when Troy Aikman went down. He responded with five completions in nine attempts, plus a touchdown pass and no interceptions.
Hence the Cowboys faced the Bills in the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. The Bills took the early lead on an excruciating 17-play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Thurman Thomas. At halftime, it was 13-6, Bills.
But the Cowboys were the better team and it showed the second half. Early in the third quarter, Leon Lett caused Thomas to fumble, and safety James Washington took it in for a 46-yard score. On the next possession, Emmitt Smith pounded the Bills with seven carries and 61 yards, ending with a 15-yard touchdown run. In the fourth quarter, Washington intercepted Jim Kelly and Smith eventually converted it into six points. In all, the Cowboys scored 24 unanswered points in the second half and prevailed 30-13.
It seems like some form of cosmic justice that Kosar got his ring, after coming close so many times with the Browns but never quite making it. Kosar was allowed to down the ball on the game’s last play, getting his name in the record books for one rushing attempt.