Can he still play? While NFL waits, Kosar throws spice into dull season

PRO FOOTBALL

November 14, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

Leave it to Jimmy Johnson and Bill Belichick.

They seem determined to add some spice to what is rapidly becoming a dull NFL season.

With the Dallas Cowboys appearing to be the class of the league and with the Buffalo Bills seemingly destined to become another sacrificial Super lamb, this NFL season was becoming a bore until Johnson, the Cowboys coach, and Belichick, the Cleveland Browns coach, made Bernie Kosar the focal point of a controversy.

Belichick's decision to cut Kosar and Johnson's decision to sign him 24 hours later has raised a question that is being asked around the league: Who is the real Bernie Kosar?

Is he the quarterback Belichick says isn't good enough to be on his team, or is he the quarterback Johnson says is as good as he was when he played for him at the University of Miami?

"It looks like the same Bernie Kosar throwing the football that I saw back in 1984," Johnson said after one practice.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

It's hard to believe that Kosar, who has taken a beating during the years, is as good as he was a decade ago.

With Cowboys starter Troy Aikman sidelined with a pulled hamstring, Johnson will start either incumbent backup Jason Garrett or Kosar.

The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that Kosar told Johnson it would be in the team's best interest to have Garrett start. Johnson said he has decided who will start, but hasn't revealed that choice, saying only that both Kosar and Garrett will play.

Todd Philcox will start for Belichick's Browns against the Seattle Seahawks.

If the Browns win and the Cowboys do behind Kosar, both teams can say they made the right moves. If the Cowboys win with Kosar and the Browns lose with Philcox, Belichick will never hear the end of it in Cleveland.

The Cowboys aren't waiting for the results. They're already needling Belichick.

Johnson, in an obvious reference to Belichick's complaints about Kosar's audibles, said, "At Miami, every time I saw him audible I liked it, because it usually ended up in points for us."

Kosar also was quick to praise the Cowboys' playbook.

"Look at the six drop-back routes on this formation alone. You know what? I'm really starting to have fun again. This is the kind of stuff I really love to get into. This is what it's all about," Kosar said.

Just in case you thought Johnson and Kosar were too subtle, the Cowboys also signed a former Browns tight end named Scott Galbraith. He wasn't subtle. He said the Cleveland players were upset when Belichick got a contract extension from owner Art Modell.

"I think everybody broke out and started crying," he said.

He also said such standout players as Mike Johnson, Eric Turner and Michael Dean Perry want out.

He also knocked Belichick's game plan as consisting of an "elementary and basic offensive scheme."

Belichick counters that Kosar was 5-11 in his past 16 starts while three other starters were 7-4 during the same span: Philcox (1-0), Mike Tomczak (4-4) and Vinny Testaverde (2-0).

Ko$ar

You don't have to feel sorry for Kosar for getting shipped out of Cleveland. He walked out a rich man.

He had a guaranteed contract for $4.25 million this year, and he also got a $1,050,000 signing bonus, so he got more than $5 million for his last eight games in Cleveland.

The Browns get to subtract the $1 million guaranteed he got from the Cowboys for the last eight games, but they're on the hook for the rest. He'll also be free to shop himself around next year as a free agent.

Meanwhile, that Kosar got a guaranteed deal in Dallas didn't go unnoticed by Aikman, who's unhappy owner Jerry Jones hasn't given him a new deal.

"I don't think they can now say to me that this team doesn't guarantee contracts," Aikman said.

Jones replied, "I don't guarantee contracts." He said Kosar got his deal under special circumstances.

Emmitt Smith, who is still annoyed that Jones made him sit out two games before making him the highest-paid running back in the league, noted how fast Jones made the Kosar deal.

"When they need to, you'd be surprised where all the money comes from," he said.

Fighting back

You can give Gov. William Donald Schaefer one thing. He won't take no for an answer.

The NFL has made it clear it doesn't want to put an expansion team in Baltimore, but the governor keeps trying.

He spent last week recruiting Al Lerner, a Cleveland Browns minority owner, to file an application to be a Baltimore owner. He's expected to do it by today's deadline along with the required $20 million letter of credit.

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass isn't happy that Schaefer is bringing Lerner on board, but Lerner brings one thing to the table that Weinglass can't. He's already a member of the NFL lodge. He's been sitting in owner Art Modell's owners box for years and knows many of the owners.

As one member of the joint expansion and finance committee said, "He's already one of us. We know him, and he's squeaky clean. I think he certainly adds to a strong bid."

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