Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 19
The best No. 19 for the Cleveland Browns is an easy pick
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 19 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 19: Bernie Kosar.
Bernie Kosar appeared to have been born to be the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. But he was not going to leave it to chance, he did everything in his power to ensure that he was the signal-caller to his favorite childhood team. Kosar was born in Youngstown, Ohio, played collegiately at the University of Miami, won a National Championship, graduated early so he could enter the 1985 NFL supplemental draft, and wound up playing quarterback for the team he grew up rooting for.
Kosar’s plan could not have been orchestrated any better. He ended up getting drafted by his favorite team and the Browns secured their quarterback of the future. Their plan was to have Kosar sit behind veteran Gary Danielson and learn the ropes of being a professional quarterback. The football gods had other plans for Kosar.
Danielson went down in week five and Kosar was thrust into action way earlier than the Browns had intended. The 21-year old Kosar, who was lifetimes more poised than his age would suggest, was ready for the moment. He led the Browns to a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots and never looked back.
While his rookie season was filled with some ups and downs, Kosar stayed poised and the Browns snuck into the playoffs. Although Kosar and the Browns were defeated in the opening round by the Miami Dolphins, they made an excellent show of themselves, and their future looked bright.
Heading into the 1986 season, Kosar was able to take the reigns after another Danielson injury in the preseason. With the experience he gained in his rookie year in his back pocket, the now 22-year old quarterback led the Browns to a 12-4 record. Kosar posted the lowest interception percentage in the league and led the NFL with six game-winning drives. The Browns suffered a heart-breaking loss at home in the AFC Conference championship game, but the NFL was officially put on notice.
The strike-shortened 1987 season brought much of the same success for Kosar and the Browns. Once again, the Browns won the AFC Central and made it to the AFC Championship. Unfortunately, they suffered another soul-crushing defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. But Kosar was beginning to get the respect he was due as he was voted to play in his first Pro Bowl.
The 1988 season was one that was marred with injuries and Kosar was not exempt. The four-year veteran missed seven regular-season games but was able to lead the Browns to a 6-3 record in the nine games he did play. Even without Kosar the Browns were able to squeak into the playoffs, but without their leader, they were unable to make a deep playoff run like they did the previous two seasons.
The 1989 season was the last season the Browns had any real tangible success with Kosar at the helm. The Browns ended the year with a 10-6 record and captured their last AFC Central title. After a playoff win against the Buffalo Bills, the Browns fell once again to the Broncos in the AFC Championship game. Kosar would make his last trip to Honolulu to play in the Pro Bowl in 1989.
The following four years would bring a mixed bag of success for Kosar and the Browns. Even though Kosar would go on to set a then NFL record with 308 straight pass attempts without an interception, the team success was simply not there. The roster had lost key components on both sides of the ball, and the offensive coaching staff had undergone multiple facelifts.
In 1993, head coach Bill Belichick lost faith in Kosar’s abilities and unceremoniously cut the nine-year veteran mid-season. Kosar landed on his feet by signing with the Dallas Cowboys. His career came full circle in the 1993 NFC Championship game when starter Troy Aikman went down with an injury and Kosar entered the game and held serve to close out the game and send the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XXVIII and Kosar was finally an NFL Champion.
After finishing out his career with three years in Miami as Dan Marino’s backup, Kosar retired from professional football. His career in Cleveland spanned nine years, with the Browns making the playoffs each of Kosar’s first five seasons. Kosar is in the top three of every single Browns’ career-passing category. His 81.6 career passer rating remains the highest in team history to this day. Kosar was inducted to the inaugural class of the Browns Legends Program in 2001.
Even without all the wins and statistics, Kosar’s impact on the Browns fanbase and the city of Cleveland remains without equal. Kosar is arguably the most beloved player in the history of the franchise and his number 19 jersey is still one of the most heavily worn by fans 27 years after his career with the team ended.
Bernie Kosar is a Cleveland Browns legend and is without question to the best player to ever wear number 19 in team history.