Belichick shows Kosar who's boss Browns coach asserts his power, sends quarterback packing

November 09, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

The three-year battle between Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Bernie Kosar is over -- and Belichick is the winner.

Belichick put the popular quarterback on waivers yesterday, saying that Kosar had lost his skills, but Kosar said -- and most of his teammates agree -- that Belichick felt Kosar was a threat to his control of the team.

Kosar, a native of Boardman, Ohio, took the Browns to five straight playoff appearances after he joined the team in 1985, including three AFC championship games, but Belichick refused to run an offense that featured his ability to read defenses.

"I've known for a while that I don't really fit into their plans," Kosar said. "Bill has his way of doing things. That's been shown by the way they've been getting rid of the players who were here before he got here."

Of the 52 players on the Browns roster, only 11 were there when Belichick was named head coach in 1991.

Another indication that Belichick simply wanted Kosar out is that with Vinny Testaverde sidelined with a shoulder separation, he has to start Todd Philcox, 27, who has been in the NFL five years and started one game.

Even Philcox was stunned to find himself as the starter.

"I never imagined anything like this happening," he said. "I was completely shocked. I didn't find out until this [Monday] morning when the coach told me. He said he felt I could play and he has felt that way for the last three years."

Philcox was waived by the Browns at the end of training camp and re-signed a few days later.

As soon as Kosar, 29, clears waivers, he'll be free to sign with any team in the league, but he'll probably have to take a reduced salary. He recently signed a $27 million deal, but it wasn't guaranteed.

The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs are among the teams that could be interested.

How much Kosar's skills have diminished is a matter of some debate around the league.

Belichick said: "This is the most difficult decision I've ever been a part of. Basically, it came down to his production and a diminishing of his physical skills. I'm not going to bad-mouth and bash Bernie. He's done too much for this organization."

Since suffering an elbow injury in 1988 and two broken ankles last year, Kosar isn't the player he was, and Belichick wanted an offense featuring a more mobile quarterback than Kosar.

Belichick also wanted to call the plays and clashed with Kosar when he called audibles. They had their latest confrontation in the locker room after Sunday's 29-14 loss to the Denver Broncos. Kosar completed 16 of 30 passes for 226 yards in that game.

"It's almost ironic that my last play with the Browns was a 40-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jackson on a post pattern," Kosar said. "We had five possessions using the two-minute offense and we scored two touchdowns and missed a field goal. I don't feel I have to defend myself or my production."

In the two-minute offense, Kosar could call his own plays.

Owner Art Modell said: "I can't say enough about Bernie Kosar. He has been like a son to me."

Belichick started easing Kosar out when he signed Testaverde as a free agent and then benched Kosar during the season. When Testaverde was injured, Belichick had to go back to Kosar. Benching him for the untested Philcox would have been awkward, so Belichick cut him instead.

Kosar's teammates said the move showed that Belichick is in charge.

"Bill's the man," defensive end Rob Burnett said. "He's got the last word, period. He has been given a lot of power, and he's using it. It's Bill's show. Obviously, it's his way or the highway."

The players also said they think Kosar can still play.

Running back Leroy Hoard said: "I don't think he's lost his skills. I don't think this is about diminishing skills. This is about Bill wanting to go a certain way, and so that's what he chose to do."

Defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry said: "It doesn't matter what I think, what the media thinks, what the fans think. The only thing that matters is what Bill Belichick thinks. He's the head man. He has the power, and if he feels like Bernie's skills have diminished, then it's his decision. There's nothing I can say or do to change that."

In the past two weeks, Belichick has cut three veterans who were widely respected by the players -- cornerback Everson Walls, linebacker David Brandon and now Kosar. All three were starters who made big money.

Tackle Tony Jones, who has been a starter on the offensive line since 1990, said: "All I know is that he can play. He's a warrior, he's a player, he's a close friend."

Kosar was the most popular player the franchise has had since Jim Brown, and fans carried picket signs outside the team's training complex in Berea, Ohio, that read, "Cut Belichick, Keep Bernie."

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