It was November 8, 1993 and the move that sent shockwaves across the NFL world and through the hearts of Northeast Ohioans is still felt today.
When Art Modell and Bill Belichick decided to cut Bernie Kosar, the hometown hero and Cleveland Browns quarterback after nine years with the franchise he loved as a child, it made the fans irate and sent the franchise into a tailspin which received the final blow almost two years later when Modell announced “The Move”.
Belichick announced the decision to release Kosar was due to “diminished skills” but in reality, the team saw the immobile quarterback taking a punishment with numerous injuries and the feud between Kosar and Belichick played factors in the release.
Kosar dealt with elbow and ankle injuries during the late 80s and early 90s, breaking his ankle twice during the 1992 season but through it he still was one of the AFC’s top quarterbacks leading the Browns to three AFC championship appearances in a four year stretch (1986, 1987 and 1989).
Belichick took over the Browns head coaching position in 1991 after winning the Super Bowl with the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator. He started molding the Browns into his team and was building an all-star staff behind him with Ozzie Newsome, Nick Saban, Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff among others on the coaching staff and in the front office.
He went 6-10 in 1991 and 7-9 in 1992 and the team was moving in the right direction under Belichick.
The team signed Vinny Testaverde as a free agent before the 1993 season to backup Kosar but after Kosar struggled the first two weeks, Belichick benched him for Testaverde despite the Browns winning the first two games.
Testarverde was injured in the Browns 28-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers so Kosar was able to re-enter as the starting quarterback. His final game as a Brown came against his rival of those AFC championship games, the Denver Broncos on November 7, 1993.
It was reported back then that Kosar was changing plays against Denver and was freelancing due to his criticism of the gameplan offensively.
The infamous play that sealed his fate was the one he “drew up in the dirt” which resulted in a 38-yard pass to Michael Jackson for a touchdown. The Browns lost that game 29-14, Kosar went 16 of 30 for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
The next day, despite the Browns being in first place in the AFC Central division with a 5-3 record and Testaverde sidelined, Cleveland released Kosar. Fans were outraged at the move and turned against the organization for cutting the Northeast Ohio native.
Fans protested outside the team facility in Berea and chanted “Bill Must Go” towards Belichick and things started to spiral out of control for the franchise for the remainder of the season.
With Testaverde injured, the team had to start Todd Philcox at quarterback and his first start against Seattle was a doozy. He went 9 of 20 passing for 85 yards and two interceptions as the Browns lost 22-5 to the Seahawks. The team finished the season 7-9 for the second consecutive season and missed the playoffs.
Kosar signed with the Dallas Cowboys to backup Troy Aikman but he played a key role in the team winning the Super Bowl. In the 1993 NFC Championship Game, Aikman was injured in the second half of the game so Kosar relieved him going 5 of 9 for 83 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 38-21 victory over the 49ers.
After winning the Super Bowl, Kosar signed with the Miami Dolphins and finished his career backing up Dan Marino from 1994-1996.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Browns got it together in 1994 going 11-5 and reaching the playoffs for the first time under Bill Belichick. They defeated Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots in the Wild Card round before losing to Pittsburgh in the Divisional Round.
In 1995, the team was hoping to take the next step and some even predicted they’d make the Super Bowl. The team was 4-4 on November 5, 1995 when the rumors started to circulate that Modell could move the team, they were blown out 37-10 by the Houston Oilers and the next day Modell confirmed the rumors that the Browns were leaving Cleveland.
25 years later, people still talk about Kosar and he is still very beloved in Northeast Ohio.
Outside of Lebron James, Kosar is arguably the most popular athlete in the history of Cleveland sports.
He was originally part of the Browns ownership group with Al Lerner and Carmen Policy when the team came back in 1999 but was quickly removed. For years he was alongside Jim Donovan as the color analyst for the preseason games before he was controversially removed in 2014. He did return in 2018 as a sideline reporter for the preseason games with former Ohio State and NFL player Dustin Fox
He has also been open with his health as a result of the concussions he suffered during his playing career. His slurred speech left many worried that it was a result of alcohol use but Kosar said it was side effects from concussions. Kosar has been undergoing a treatment program to help with those symptoms and has been an advocate to other former NFL players to seek the treatement.