In the past, I've been outspoken in my opinion that former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar didn't deserve a position in the team's personnel department, especially as general manager.
Those strong feelings came mostly from the fact that Kosar distained opportunities to move up the ladder in the NFL in a conventional manner after he retired and from the erratic behavior he displayed, most notably at the funeral of linebacker Eddie Johnson.
But in the wake of Broncos general manager John Elway's coup of luring quarterback Peyton Manning to Denver, I'm softening my stance on Kosar. That's not only because of the way Kosar has appeared to get his life in order since he met girlfriend Tami Longaberger, putting behind him a messy divorce and bankruptcy, mainly due to his heavy investments in the Florida real estate market.
But I'm also reconsidering on Kosar because of the failings of the Browns' current regime. Not only are the Browns still seeking a franchise quarterback with president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert going into their third full seasons, but they have missed out on undrafted rookies and street free agents that other teams have used to succeed. Players like Giants' receiver Victor Cruz (undrafted out of UMass in 2010) and linebacker Chase Blackburn (an ex-Giant from the University of Akron re-signed on Nov. 29 who went on to star in the Super Bowl) immediately come to mind. The only player who joined in the Browns in such an unauspicious manner and made such an impact was Pro Bowl return man Josh Cribbs in 2005.
I'm not advocating Kosar taking Heckert's job. It's possible that Browns owner Randy Lerner, a friend of Kosar's, is trying to find a role for him. Kosar attended the NFL Combine, although the Browns insisted Kosar was merely a guest on their daily radio show. I find it hard to believe he came to Indianapolis for that.
But the Browns need all the help they can get to find a quarterback who can do what Kosar nearly did three times -- take them to the Super Bowl. I have never doubted Kosar's football intelligence. It was his ability to draw plays in the dirt -- ie., insubordination -- that got him cut by coach Bill Belichick in 1993. (I agreed with Belichick on the "diminishing skills'' part, but not when Vinny Testaverde has his arm in a sling. And the Browns bore some of the burden for Kosar's decline because of their failure to draft offensive linemen to protect Kosar.)
For all the programs recently begun to embrace the Browns' storied tradition -- such as starting a ring of honor, the opening of Heritage Hall at the stadium, the reinstatement of the Legends program and bringing in honorary alumni coin toss captains -- some ex-Browns still wonder if they're welcome in Berea. Even the Browns' dealings with season-ticket holders, even though each now has a representative, is not nearly as personal as that of the staffs of the Indians and Cavs. Kosar could help on both of those fronts.
At Manning's press conference Tuesday, Elway spoke of his "second life."
"This is the biggest day of this career," said Elway, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Earlier Elway said, "My goal is to make Peyton Manning the best quarterback who ever played the game."
When the Manning-to-Denver news was official, Kosar tweeted his congratulations to Elway, who beat him in those three AFC Championship games. Kosar had to be watching the Manning festivities and thinking he could pull off the same blockbuster Elway just had. And I'm starting to feel the same way.
In terms of football acumen and talent evaluation, Kosar and Elway might be equals. Although it's probably just a pipe dream, I'm starting to envision Kosar and Elway competing again one day. This time in suits, not shoulder pads.
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