So it looks like Cleveland-hates-Lombardi will be a thing for a bit. That’s fine, it lets Kanick save some bullets. There won’t be much college basketball here and sparse pre-season baseball content… and god help me if I’m doing another seven round mock draft like last year.* No. But.. How bout an Oscar preview?!! And I surely wish to record my opinions on two new-found favorite movies, Beer League and Goon… how did I miss those until now?
But I digress. We’re gonna beat the Lombardi horse a bit more. I saw an angle worth looking at on The Reboot:
“… THEN, there is his connection to Belichick and dumping Kosar, etc. These are things that still sting Browns’ fans – even though most Browns fans need to let it go.” —Kolonich.
THIS. Makes me nuts. It’s more than ‘let it go’ Dave; Bernie fans need to recalibrate entirely. This Belichick-cut-Kosar thing is the number one issue I have with Browns fans. This is the one. Molto rispetto to my bros wearing orange on Sundays.. except for this. Love my Browns fans but Kosar is your Herpes flare-up. Your bad sweater. Your eighth Jim Beam. Really sometimes makes it hard to co-exist.
You want to like Bernie for coming home and for having a couple good years in the 80s? Fine by me. Let’s face it, it’s better football than anything we’ve seen lately. We’re also as tribal a community as there is and that’s a good thing; it’s good that our impulse is to close ranks for our extended family.
You want to say Bernie’s leadership and defense reading were intangibles that can’t be measured? I’ll buy that. Kinda ironic that calling his own plays was one of the things that killed him with Belichick… fair to say that, in this case, Belichick didn’t adjust to his personnel back then.
But for now and for the rest of this post, let’s try to get real on Kosar. A case can be made that he was never that great. That’s actually NOT the case I’m making today. Today is about the lay-up of whether or not Belichick should have cut Kosar and corollary on Kosar’s diminishing skills.
So here’s the home-town hero. Here’s that never-imitated release point:
Here’s Bernie’s greatest play. The picture at right doesn’t do it justice. Here’s a video clip. I start the clip from the preceding play because that pocket collapsing sack is the lasting Kosar memory for me. Don’t forget this signature win included a pick in the 4thQ to give Jets a 10 point lead. But it was his gangly awkward-ness helped him make his seminal play: drawing a [soft] roughing call on Marc Gastineau on a 2nd/24.
And here’s the stats. Quick look-see reveals one pro-bowl (no all-pro), lots of 4th qtr comeback drives, nice low int rate at the beginning, an 81 QB rating (max of 95 in 1987), averaged 200 yds/game (tops of 252 in 87), and a mind-blowing 11% sack percentage in his last two years in Cleveland. (We’ll come back to that sack issue.)
Digging deeper, there’s only three years where Kosar started all 16 games. Wonderful, because we can see how the substitutes did. It’s a little more mining than I’m up for but if you want to see the data, it is here. But I score it like this:
- 1985: Danielson’s w-l is 4-2 vs Kosar’s 4-6. GD QB rating higher, 85-69.
- 1987: Kosar’s best year, though the one game GD started was a 34-0 masterpiece vs Bengals.
- 1988: Strock was 2-0 with slightly better rating. His injury early in the Oilers playoff game was contributor in that 24-23 loss.
- 1990: Kosar was better than Pagel and team went 3-13.
- 1992: No big difference between Tomczak, Kosar, and Philcox except Bernie’s remarkable 12% sack percentage.
- 1993: With both starting six games, Testaverde doubles Kosar’s numbers in yardage, triples his TDs, and Bernie’s sack pct soars to an amazing 13.2%.
Review of this data says Bernie’s subs in the 80s weren’t demonstrably better. Reviewing my eye-ball observations at the time, I always wanted Danielson, Strock, or Pagel. I maintain the eye-ball test is important. There’s no stats for most batted balls for 6’5″ QBs but I damn sure saw a lot of them in that era.
But let’s move to 1991 and enter Bill Belichick. 28 year old Kosar and Belichick go 6-10. Decent Kosar year: 88 QBR, low ints. 1992 is where the ‘diminishing skills’ can start to be measured. Sack percentage of 12% reflects not only the immobility but also that his quick release and/or defense reading is gone. Belichick signs Testaverde for 1993.
1993 is what’s being debated here and let’s take a hard look on whether Belichick was nuts to cut him. Here’s all the 1993 games, thank you cleveland.com. Browns start 2-0 with Kosar. Kosar got yanked after 3 int in Raiders game, Testaverde enters in 4th quarter, gets all 19 points in miracle 19-16 win. Kosar starts next week, no points in first half, Testaverde starts 3rd quarter, no miracle this week. Belichick starts Kosar AGAIN vs Miami, ineffective, even when Miami loses Marino (popped ACL on Municipal Stadium divot) Testaverde comes in in 4th qtr, no win, but is named starter for next week. Testaverde beats Bengals, is injured in Steelers game (Kosar ineffective replacing Vinny, game won on Metcalf punt return TD). Move to bye week.
[still with me? i know this is a little dense, but it’s important therapy. you bernie fans need to unlock these repressed memories.]
Coming off bye week, at home, ‘Browns turned in worst performance of the season.’ Then this (pictured) happened. Kosar is cut, Philcox sucks against Seahawks. In Oiler game PD sees fit to report that ‘Bill Must Go’ chants were heard (by the Herpes-afflicted of the Browns community). Philcox loses again to Falcons (with more trolling reporting by the PD, none other than MKC!). Finally Testaverde comes back, wins vs Saints, loses by two at Houston, by three vs Pats, beats Rams by 28, and loses season ender.
And somewhere along the way from there to here, the Plain Dealer started hiring idiots to re-write history by presenting partial data. For an example, here’s Starting Blocks cheap page-hit take on 1993. See if you can spot the part where Bernie couldn’t manage a point in three quarters vs Raiders; couldn’t manage a point in a half at Indy. See if you can find in the PD reporting any acknowledgement of Testaverde’s play and his injury. No, that would require work. Either the PD is too stupid to put forward the case I just did, or they think you’re unable to read it.
Any mention that Testaverde stayed in the league FOURTEEN YEARS after Kosar was cut by the Browns? With two pro-bowls? Any mention that Vinny Greenballs has the last fucking playoff win for the Browns? Hell no. Belichick cut Kosar. End of story.
The only mistake Belichick made was not cutting Kosar in pre-season and naming Vinny the starter at the beginning of the season. The other mistake was not having a good backup (although in signing Testaverde, he thought he had tended to that.). Both are lessons he would learn well.
The question is: when will we learn that he was in the right.
* Before busting me on the Blackmon/Adams first round selections; I picked Cousins in the 3rd round bitches. And wow, didn’t realize this but I *did* take Alfred Morris in the 6th. So that’s what I’m talking about with calling shots Mr. Nantz.