After allowing aging quarterback Brian Sipe to leave for the USFL after the 1983 season, the Browns stumbled their way toward a 5-11 season in 1984, firing head coach Sam Rutigliano along the way and quickly realizing that Paul McDonald was not the answer at quarterback.
As luck would have it, a savior was waiting on the campus of the University of Miami.
Quarterback Bernie Kosar was on schedule to graduate early, making him eligible for the annual draft. The Buffalo Bills had the No. 1 overall selection that year signed defensive end Bruce Smith prior to the draft, setting the stage for Kosar to orchestrate his move to the Browns.
The Houston Oilers held the No. 2 overall selection and had quarterback Warren Moon, so the Oilers swung a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for the pick. But Kosar had no desire to play for the Vikings, so with a little bit of assistance from Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi, Kosar waited until after the regular draft to declare for the NFL, making himself available for the Supplemental Draft that summer.
Accorsi sprung into action, trading four draft picks to the Bills for the No. 1 overall selection in the Supplemental Draft and, once NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle overruled Minnesota’s protests, Accorsi selected Kosar.
The plan was to let Kosar sit for his rookie season behind veteran quarterback Gary Danielson, but an injury to Danielson thrust Kosar into the spotlight and he embraced the moment.
Starting in 1985, Kosar would help lead the Browns to the playoffs four times in five years, with three trips to the AFC Championship Game. The Browns were never able to get past the Denver Broncos in those games, and injuries began to catch up with Kosar in 1990, but those years in the late 1980s cemented his place in Browns history.
Kosar’s name is a fixture on the franchise’s record book as he is third in career passing yards with 21,904. fourth in career passing touchdowns with 116, third in single-season passing yards with 3,854, holds three of the top 10 single-season passing marks.
In addition, Kosar’s completion percentage of 58.8 during his nine years with the Browns is better than the franchise marks of such notables as Otto Graham, Brian Sipe, Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen and Milt Plum.
Finally, Kosar’s career interception rate of 2.6 percent with the Browns is better than any Browns quarterback who started more than 15 games with Cleveland.
Kosar’s game transcended mere numbers, however, as he brought a level of confidence and swagger to the team. There was a stretch from 1985 through 1987 where it seemed like Kosar could beat any blitz and that the Browns were never out of the game as long as he had one last chance with the ball.
That is what makes Kosar the clear choice as the best player to wear No. 19 in franchise history.
Who is the best player to wear No. 19 in Browns history?
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