By Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar had some harsh comments for the St. Louis Rams’ receivers and third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens during Thursday night’s preseason game at FirstEnergy Stadium. On Saturday, Kosar received severe backlash from Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.
Kosar worked the telecast as an analyst for WKYC (Channel 3) alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan. On multiple occasions throughout the broadcast, Kosar called the Rams’ receivers “horrible.” He later said, “I can see why Sam [Bradford] has been struggling watching how bad these receivers are.” At one point, Donovan asked, “What if some of their parents are watching?” Kosar replied, “I’d be embarrassed.”
Kosar went on to say he wanted to make sure he wasn’t a friend of Rams wide receivers coach Ray Sherman, because he wasn’t doing well either.
In the fourth quarter, Donovan told a story of how Clemens signed an autograph for Pope Benedict XVI. Kosar joked, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter.”
Fisher fired back on Saturday.
“First off, let me say this: The Cleveland Browns organization is a first-class organization from top to bottom and it has been that for years and years and years,” Fisher said during a news conference. “I guess I’m a little disappointed — I feel bad for them — that they had someone doing the broadcast feel the need to speak that way about players, specifically on our team and coaches for that matter. I’m just surprised that Bernie has such a lack of respect for players and for this game.
“So, to be honest with you, I lost a lot of respect for him. ... It’s highly unlikely that he knew anything about our football team but felt the need to make those comments.”
When asked about what Kosar said about Clemens, Fisher again blasted him.
“Again, Bernie’s got his issues — they’re well documented,” he said. “Kellen played well.”
Clemens told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his family met the pope, but he didn’t sign an autograph for him. He also addressed Kosar’s criticism.
“He gave us a lot of great examples throughout his career of what it’s like to play quarterback, and how to do it at a high level,” Clemens said. “Unfortunately, he also gave us a couple of examples in his commentating career of what not to do.”
King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, tweeted some pointed questions about Kosar Saturday night.
“My question for Kosar after comments in Cle-StL preseason game: Were you drinking? Good guy. But waaay over the top here,” King tweeted. King later added, “If Kosar’s judgment has been impacted by concussions, then the Browns should be heavily criticized for putting him on a 3-hr telecast. ... Don’t go saying, ‘Bernie doesn’t know what he’s saying because of concussions.’ Doesn’t work that way. If you’re on air, you’re responsible.”
The Browns are reviewing the situation, a team spokesman said.
Helping each other
Browns cornerback Joe Haden has had a strong showing so far in training camp, making life tough for receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon and intercepting several of quarterback Brandon Weeden’s passes.
Haden intercepted two Weeden passes on Saturday. The first came on a deep ball to Gordon that was slightly underthrown. The second was on an out route to wide receiver Davone Bess. Haden jumped the route for an easy interception, and had it been an actual game, he would have taken it back for a touchdown.
Each time Haden gets the best of him, Weeden asks questions. And when Weeden beats Haden on a route, the roles are reversed.
“Weeden comes to me every time I get an interception,” Haden said. “He’ll come right up to me and ask me, ‘Joe, what did you see? What could I do differently? What did you see in that route?’ ... Just letting him know that stuff. And then the same thing, I go up to Weeden, ‘Did you see me? Did you know I was going to jump this route? How did you beat me? Was I looking at you?’ I just like asking him stuff and he comes up to me asking what I saw.”
Haden said the coaching staff has given him some freedom in practice to be aggressive and go after passes with gusto. It’s been working so far.
“I’m in practice now and my coach, he just lets me see what I can get away with, just trying to jump routes and just playing what I see,” Haden said. “I like the way our coach is coaching me and letting me see what I can get away with in practice to move it along to the games.”
Haden reiterated that he wants to become an elite cornerback in the NFL this season. He’s been working on his press coverage during the offseason and in practice, improving his releases when the cornerbacks need to jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage. What also could help Haden is the improvement of the defensive line and pass rush. He liked what he saw against the Rams.
“You could see it, like I was happy that everyone else got to see it, too,” Haden said. “Everybody, all of our front seven getting active so they’re really, really good. They’re really great at rushing the passer. We need to have that little example of it. We probably called two blitzes but they were still getting after the quarterback.”
Haden gushed when asked about rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and his quickness.
“He’s a freak, man,” he said. “This dude, we watch him on film ... I’m trying to figure out why he looks like he’s running so fast but he’s moving. He looks like he’s 4.4.”
The energy defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings to his defenses is well documented. One of the mantras he’s brought to Cleveland: never stop chasing the ball.
“One of our emphasis this year is getting our D-line to the ball,” defensive end Billy Winn said. “Getting there, pursuing and making plays. That’s just one of our emphasis, hustling on every play.”
Winn turned that message into a big hit Thursday night when he leveled Rams running back Daryl Richardson. Winn was originally out of position but recovered to make the play.
“Initially, I had reached on the play, but I was able to fight back across and I saw the guy,” Winn said. “He was headed for the hole.”
It would have been the biggest hit of the night if not for nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who, like Winn, chased down a ball carrier from behind to deliver a bone-crushing hit. Kitchen actually knocked Rams wide receiver Brian Quick’s helmet off.
It’s commonly said some players need to get hit once before they can really “wake up” for a game. Winn wants to be on the other side of that big blow.
“You’re going out there and you’re trying to wake people up,” Winn said. “We want to be the ones laying the wood out there. You’ve already got to be awake already when you hit that field playing defense.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.