Thanks to the criticism by head coach Jeff Fisher, Peter King, and a few other members of the national media, Cleveland Browns color commentator Bernie Kosar has been painted as some "incoherent, drunken fool who has issues and went way too far with his criticisms of Rams players."
This should already be a candidate for the most absurd story of the year. Anyone who actually listens to Kosar's commentary and the game itself would know that his analysis is top-notch, his criticisms are justified (and sometimes tongue-in-cheek), and he knows just how to bring the right amount of humor to make preseason games watchable late into the second half.
The biggest deals have been made about Kosar calling the Rams receivers "horrible" and poking fun at QB Kellen Clemens. People have misrepresented the context, acting like he just rambled a few of his quotes out of no where. Here, we will present many samples of Kosar's commentary throughout the game, which builds up to some of his critiques. Enjoy.
Part 1 - Good Analysis and Insight
The purpose of Part 1 is to disprove the fact that Kosar is some drunk, rambling fool who offers no analysis. These are just the first couple of plays of the game for the Browns and the Rams, and you can see the type of analysis that Kosar provides is nothing like what you would hear on regular CBS or FOX broadcasts for national games.
This first quote comes when the Browns bring their first blitz of the game on a 3rd-and-7. Bradford completes the pass to the sideline for a first down:
Bernie Kosar: "You could see the Browns, showing blitz there. Sam Bradford, going into his fourth year, should be able to easily read that that was a bluff on the blitz by the way the safety and the cornerbacks. Safety was way off, cornerbacks had outside techniques on both outside receivers. The linemen were fooled, as they usually are."
Many people have acted like that Kosar isn't aware of the fact that this is just a "preseason game" and that things can and will play out differently during the regular season. Kosar acknowledges this fact early on, just like he's done for years:
Bernie Kosar: "Both defensive coaches, and this is for the first preseason game, won't be like this in the regular season. You can very easily read these coverages, so both Brandon [Weeden] and Sam Bradford should have a very good feel before the snap as to what the coverage is and where your open receiver could be."
The Rams convert a successful screen play on the Browns, and Kosar describes what went wrong defensively. On the next play, the Rams fumble, and Kosar describes why he feels the play had no chance of working:
Bernie Kosar: "You can get away with this in preseason. That's man coverage -- in the NFL in the regular season, that guy is going to be tight on him, not typically letting the back get free like that. But, like D'Qwell had pass protection there, in man coverage, everybody just runs off. So if [Jackson] misses him, it's clear sailing to the second level of running."
Bernie Kosar: "Yeah, definitely a fumble, as I was trying to say before the break, to see the overhead view, they're basically on the left hash, and into the boundary they put all of the receivers. In the NFL, every defensive guy is going to scrape and run right to that. That has no chance of success."
With the Browns on offense, Kosar again goes into more detail on a few plays, first crediting Brandon Weeden for turning a called run play into a quick pass to a receiver, and then pointing out the usage of Gary Barnidge in a tight end competition:
Bernie Kosar: "That was actually a running play to the left. This is eye contact between the quarterback and the receiver. When you have a defensive back off 8-10 yards like that on your receiver, you can get the ball up and down to him quick before the linemen get down field and the refs call illegal man downfield on the running back."
Bernie Kosar: "Also here, notice that Barnidge is in. He comes over with Chud from Carolina. He's probably one of the better blocking tight ends that we have. And, Jordan Cameron drops that ball (brief laugh) in the red zone. Now he's not in the game and Barnidge is."
On these next two plays, first Kosar praises the Browns' coaching staff for having a similar look on the play the Rams fumbled on earlier, but doing it the correct way with a screen. Then, he breaks down Jordan Cameron's big 30-yard catch-and-run:
Bernie Kosar: "That was the formation I was just complaining about with St. Louis. But here, you see Coach [Norv] Turner calls it the way you're supposed to -- the ball is on the left hash, you have all the receivers to the right. St. Louis is thinking the ball is going to be coming to the right, then you do a little playaction pass screen back to the right side, catches St. Louis undisciplined in the rush lanes. That's why you see a big play like that."
Bernie Kosar: "Nice timing on just a basic crossing route here. You can see St. Louis and Coach Fisher's a man-coverage, pressure team. They've been playing a lot of base cover-3 today, they just don't have the discipline and structure to play zone coverage and blow the slot flat coverage lane. Cameron's able to catch the ball, and not only catch it, but turn it up and make a big play."
Part II - Dropped Passes
This next part is a combination of Kosar's takes on QB Sam Bradford, some drops by Rams receivers, and a few other nuggets. What has been portrayed is that Kosar offers no praise toward the Rams' players and is only interested in slamming them. We'll see.
On this first case, the Rams' running back who just fumbled almost makes a huge mistake by taking a kickoff out of the end zone. He drops to a quick knee about one centimeter away from coming out of the end zone, while looking up the whole time. Very risky:
Bernie Kosar: "Well, look at his head (laughing), look at his head the whole way. He must be very religious, or he needs to be. That was very fortunate to stop that quick."
Here goes the first drop by a Rams receiver. Kosar praises Bradford for the throw and understands where he's at in his career. He doesn't harp on the receivers yet, because this is just the first drop. That's fair. Well, there was actually a drop by a wide open running back on the previous possession which Kosar also let slide by, so we'll put the tally at two drops so far:
Bernie Kosar: "Just basic cover-3, only rushing four. Horrible job by the offensive line, and a BEAUTIFUL throw by Sam Bradford under pressure. "
Jim Donovan: "Do you like Bradford?"
Bernie Kosar: "I like that play right there. I haven't seen enough of him. He's really at the crossroads of his career. Does he take that next step to get into the level that his athleticism says he should be?"
Next up, on a third-down play, WR Tavon Austin has a chance at making a third-down catch, but can't catch the pass. As a former quarterback, Kosar offers some sympathy for Bradford. It's justified, too -- the Rams receivers have been notoriously bad for the past few years. It's not like he's going out on a limb here:
Bernie Kosar: "Again, nice job by Bradford standing in there. I really think that he didn't overthrow him, and that Austin has to make that catch in the NFL. And I see why Sam's been struggling watching how bad these receivers are for him. Those are two outstanding throws, those last two."
Bradford then completes a bomb on our secondary, and Kosar again praises Bradford for a great throw:
Bernie Kosar: "There's going to be a lot of grumpy defensive coaches here. That's just base cover-3, that's a zone coverage. There should be a weak safety in the middle of the field there. Beautiful throw by Sam Bradford there, that's awesome."
Lastly, Bradford finishes off the drive with a touchdown pass, and Kosar again compliments him for a fantastic series, in spite of what his receivers did:
Bernie Kosar: "Sam had the guy wide open in the flat for the easy touchdown. He purposely throws this high to get it over the linebacker's head. This is perfect accuracy. I loved watching him throw the ball, that was a fantastic series. That'll be the last we see of Sam tonight."
We're only in the second quarter here, and this is when one of Kosar's most criticized quotes takes place. This early in the game, he has already seen four drops by receivers, all of which were pretty open and would have moved the chains. What is wrong with being critical? As for the joke at the end, Kosar was asked about it and just responded in an amusing way. Players are going to face criticism their whole career. This was nothing, yet for some bizarre reason, Kosar is being painted as the most vile commentator in the history of all of football? If you're looking for over-the-top reactions, that falls on the shoulders of some Rams fans, Peter King, and Jeff Fisher:
Jim Donovan: "Davis, throwing, incomplete, off the hands of his intended receiver, Nick Johnson, who was free out over the 35-yard line. St. Louis will have to give the ball back on a punt."
Bernie Kosar: "Yeah, a blitz to the top of the screen. It's actually not a bad throw...these St. Louis receivers are horrible. That's a drop there on the out-and-up on the go. The guy does his break four yards in front of the DB."
Jim Donovan: (laughing) "What if some of their parents are watching?"
Bernie Kosar: "(laughing with him) I would be embarrassed."
Again, a funny remark that helps make preseason games entertaining for the audience, rather than a snooze-fest:
Bernie Kosar: "I'm checking through the itinerary of guys and coaches to see who the receivers coach is, to make sure I don't know who this guy is, because he's not doing very good either."
To dispel the belief that Kosar never criticizes Cleveland players, here is a critique he had for WR Cordell Roberson on the Browns. There were other quotes regarding the Browns, but I did not transcribe all of them. This one represented my point well enough:
Bernie Kosar: "I'm not trying to be a homer to take care of our quarterback here. This young receiver's been doing a nice job in camp on the outside routes. Here he is coming out of a six route, coming out of a square in, he came out, but he didn't get out of it sharply. Actually, Brian Hoyer's pass was perfect if the receiver runs the route the way an NFL receiver is supposed to run routes."
Here is yet another drop by a Rams receiver, again right in his hands. We can't allow Kosar to be critical of poor receiver play? Why wasn't he more critical of the Browns in this game? Because there might have only been one drop by our unit the whole game. We're already up to about six dropped passes by the Rams:
Bernie Kosar: "Again, I've been harsh on these receivers. This is a very nice throw, it's where it's supposed to be. God (sigh). Geez, he puts it in his pocket, what more do you want? Although I do like the way Trevin Wade stuck in there and hit his arm a little early to throw his balance off. But still, you have to catch that ball."
Part III - Kellen Clemens
Now we get into the fun of ragging on QB Kellen Clemens. Kosar explains his pre-formed opinion about Clemens, but that part (of course) gets left out by the critics. Kosar starts off by criticizing the Rams' No. 2 quarterback (not Clemens) for making a throw into double coverage, and wishing he had a telestrator. That's when his play-by-play man chimes in, and Kosar retorts about his desire not to have to watch Clemens soon:
Bernie Kosar: "I'm going to trade any amount of money I get to announce these games for a telestrator. For that read (laughing) to be thrown into double coverage like that, I mean that's blatantly man underneath, safety over the top. No good coordinator wants that on film that that's how you coach things."
Jim Donovan: "(laughing) Now if you're a good boy the rest of the night, maybe we'll get the telestrator."
Bernie Kosar: "(laughing) I won't be because the next quarterback in [Clemens], me and him haven't done too well with each other too."
Before we get to the Clemens talk officially, here's one more humorous situation:
Bernie Kosar: [pre-snap] "They've got press coverage outside. St. Louis hasn't taken advantage of it all day." [QB turns and hands the ball off] "And they still don't."
Here is the explanation of why he has a negative opinion on Clemens already. Remember, he had seen Clemens five years earlier face the Browns in 2008:
Jim Donovan: "Kellen Clemens is in at quarterback."
Bernie Kosar: "I've been waiting for this one all day. The last time I was a bad boy and I was punished (laughing) to watch him play quarterback, was the day Brett Favre was traded to the New York Jets. The Jets were playing the Browns in the preseason game. Kellen Clemens was supposed to be their starting quarterback and I saw why they traded for Brett Favre."
Kosar's commentary is nothing new, so why is a big deal being made of it now? Because Fisher and the Rams fanbase is soft? I went back to my DBN archives in 2008, and I actually made a bullet point note on Kosar's commentary from that Jets game:
Bernie Rules: All hail Bernie Kosar again for his beautiful work in the announcer's booth Thursday night. His constant bashing of the Jets' plays, intelligence on plays that were/should be run, and all-around wit made the game worth watching until the final seconds. One thing though: his man-crush on Ken Dorsey remains, even though the guy went 0-for-12 in his last 12 attempts and was sacked numerous times in between.
It doesn't take long for Kosar to soften up a bit on Clemens, saying that he wants to see if things have changed:
Bernie Kosar: "He's been in the league for quite a few years. I hope things have progressed. That day, he was playing with the first-teamers against the first-teamers. Now, as a veteran quarterback, playing against the third- or fourth-string guys, he should have an opportunity to steal completions like the veteran quarterbacks for the Browns have the last few quarters."
Here is the context of what was said regarding the Pope:
Jim Donovan: "Now I want to throw a trivia question at you. Who is the most famous person who Kellen Clemens has given an autograph to? I don't think you'll ever guess."
Bernie Kosar: "(laughing) I don't think I'd ever want his. Geez, we've got press coverage here, please throw the ball up the field."
Before the trivia question is answered, Kosar explains why he thinks Clemens made a bad decision, despite lucking out a first down completion:
Bernie Kosar: "Even though that pass is completed, even though its a first down, you see all that traffic in there. There's freed up linebackers and the extra safety in there. There's double coverage, in and outs, on all that underneath stuff. And there's two single receivers, both on the outside, and he throws the ball in the middle. You can't make a living doing that."
And now the stuff on Clemens:
Jim Donovan: "The most famous person who got an autograph from Kellen Clemens? Pope Benedict is the answer."
Bernie Kosar: "(laughs) Bless me father, for I have sinned. I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter."
Jim Donovan: "He was at a mass celebrated by the Pope at Washington National Stadium. The Pope reached out and grabbed his child and kissed his child, and he signed the Pope's mitar."
Bernie Kosar: "God, you're killing me. My Catholic guilt here, I'm talking that I can't stand watching him play and he does such a nice thing like that. That's great...but he still can't play quarterback."
Less than three seconds later, Clemens throws a pass that gets tipped at the line and intercepted. Poetry at its finest, folks.
A little bit later, Clemens makes a good, strong throw one play after he also avoided a sack. Kosar backs off on his earlier jabbing and gives him his props:
Bernie Kosar: "Ok, I've been rough on Clemens here, but you see why he gets drafted high in the second round and people like him. The play before, he does have the physical strength to get rid of the sack, and then the arm strength to make that throw."
Oh, boy. The Rams have a chance to tie the game in the final minute, and we have another drop by a wide open Rams receiver on a deep pass:
Bernie Kosar: "That's the man coverage I was just talking about. You give him an opportunity for a big play like that. This is absolutely perfect (the throw), after the comment about the Pope on [Clemens], some divine intervention is helping out. He does a beautiful throw, that kid [Radway], if he wants to make the team or any team, you just can't do that."
Lastly, on the final Hail Mary attempt of the game, the Rams' receiver has the ball at first, but a Browns linebacker rips it away for an interception.
Bernie Kosar: "That's so appropriate for the game to end like that. On a Hail Mary, the Rams receiver Blake -- it hits him right between the 1 and the 6, he has it in his chest. That's really bad if you're a St. Louis fan."
There you have it. Kosar was at his finest again, but he wasn't drunk and he wasn't incoherent. He catered to a Cleveland audience, but was justified in his criticisms or explained some of his pre-formed opinions. I'd listen to Kosar call Browns games every week if I could, and I hope he doesn't change a bit for the rest of the preseason and moving forward in wake of the criticisms by people who, quite frankly, either don't know what they are talking about or jumped the gun without actually giving Kosar a fair listen.