Bernie Kosar, What He Said! A Question of Browns Leadership

downloadIf you haven’t heard, Bernie Kosar did what Bernie Kosar does: Spoke openly.

Kosar’s speech may be slurred at times, but his words are always succinct. He seems to have no filter and says whatever is on his mind. In a culture where everything said in public has to be completely sterilized, I find this sort of thing refreshing. Add to it that it’s Cleveland’s favorite son and the last franchise quarterback we had in Cleveland, it means even more.

Kosar caused a storm on Monday when, on WTAM 1100’s Mike Trivisanno Show, he ripped into Browns management – past and present – for the handling of the quarterback position and for all of the losing.

Some people are breaking down everything he said and analyzing it like we’re vetting the guy to be the next U.S. President. (I’d totally vote for him) “Is he right about this?” “Is he right about that?” Sports-talk radio will break it down into bites like that because they need it to fill air time, but I think the message as a whole is more important.

There’s been a lot talked about the culture of the Browns since they’ve returned. We’ve had football saviors in here in different capacities that just couldn’t get the team winning: Butch Davis as head coach. Mike Holmgren as President. Draft pick after draft pick. We’ve taken from the Bill Belichick tree (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini) and the Ozzie Newsome tree (Phil Savage, George Kokinis). None of those guys are still here, except our latest football saviour: Johnny “Football” Manziel.

With what he showed on Sunday, he may not be here much longer, either.

The losing continues. After so many high draft picks. In a league built on parity.

Look, the team is currently 7-7, with little hope of finishing with more than eight wins, meaning they lost five of their final six games. And it’s a success! For Cleveland? Kings of the four-to-five win seasons? Absolutely. No one expected them to be worth anything this season. And they came out and won. For a while.

When the losing started, it became an avalanche.

Three in a row. Changed starting quarterbacks. Cut your place kicker. All this in a playoff race that officially died with Cincinnati in town a couple of days ago. Nobody showed up for that game. The biggest hit on Bengals running back Jeremy Hill came from the fans when he tried leaping into the Dawg Pound!

We talk about the “organization” as we would any big business. It makes sense, nothing is more corporate than the NFL, especially since Roger Goodell became the commissioner. The Browns have a business leader as an owner. Jimmy Haslam’s family built a business winner, all scandals aside. While I agree that structure and management and leadership is very important in sports, I think it needs something else that a normal business has to be wary of: A hunger to win NOW.

How many times have we heard a Browns front office talk about building a sustainable winner? That’s business-world logic. When you have a business, you have to think that way because if you can’t sustain success, you’ll be out of business.

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Now THAT is wanting to win!

But not in sports. You don’t lose your team because it performs badly. They give you a chance to pick the top guys and try again next year. Heck, with TV contracts and all of the licensing, they aren’t even going to lose money. If they do sell, they’ll turn a great profit on their initial investment. (That’s what makes Art Modell a bigger loser: Not only did he move the team, but he couldn’t make any money in the NFL.)

This is what makes me crazy about the Cleveland Indians; the Dolans’ first commitment seems to be balancing the budget. Great for running a government (or so rumor has it) but not for sports. In sports, winning should be the top priority. If it’s too rich for your blood, if it’s too hot for you to handle, then go find something else to invest your money in.

Everyone questioned how much Randy Lerner wanted to win. Sure, he wanted the team to succeed, but he didn’t seem to need it to. He did the honorable thing, in my opinion: He got out. In came Haslam. How much does he need to win?

Judging by the turnover, it seems pretty badly, which is good. Now, the desire to win isn’t enough. Al Davis proved that. You have to also be able to identify and get talent that can also identify and get talent. Does Haslam have that? So far he’s not proven that he does, but his latest group hasn’t had a chance to really prove otherwise. We’ll see.

That is what Kosar was talking about when he was ranting about text messages from quarterback coaches to the owner and comments about people in the organization being excited to see what Johnny Manziel can do. They should be focused on winning, and not just sit there star-struck.

We see that this current team can do some things when nobody is watching, but once the spotlight came on, they wilted. That, as Kosar was pointing out, is a lack of leadership. You get your men ready for battle. They started the season hungry, but after getting a few bites of winning, they became complacent and suddenly the quarterback couldn’t throw and the blockers could block, the receivers couldn’t run routes and the kicker couldn’t kick.

The team has had impactful injuries, it’s only fair to point out. But you cannot let it allow your team to fall apart like that. Why did the team suffer big losses the week after experiencing big wins? Why are there games where the guys don’t show up? Some fans did what fans do: They blamed everything on the quarterback. And when the switch was made and all of these good things were supposed to start happening, the team laid the biggest egg of this season, and maybe the biggest one in years.

This team needs leadership that would chew through steel girders to get to winning. This is what Kosar was talking about.

And in my opinion, he is right.

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