Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

What a week, Browns fans

It’s going to be one heck of a week for fans of the Cleveland Browns.

First off is tonight’s premiere at 8 of the latest 30 for 30 documentary from ESPN, Broke, which looks at the factors that can drain the bank accounts of professional athletes.

And who is one of those athletes, you ask? None other than Bernie Kosar, one of the most beloved players in Browns history.

On ESPN’s site promoting the film, director Billy Corben describes how he came to include Kosar’s story:

In June 2009, we interviewed quarterback Bernie Kosar for the ESPN 30 for 30, The U. Anyone who knows Bernie will tell you, he’s as kind and generous a guy you could ever meet. In fact, he was extremely generous with his time that morning; he talked with us for several hours and, afterwards, took pictures and signed autographs for the crew.

A few weeks later, Dan LeBatard broke the news: Following a series of bad investments and a costly divorce, Kosar had filed for bankruptcy. It was a shock. Beyond football, Kosar was renowned for his business savvy and known to have been even more financially successful after his decade-long NFL career than during it.

Personally, it broke my heart. Other than appearing tired at times, there was little or no indication during the hours Bernie spent with us that he was in the midst of this ordeal.

And if that’s not enough, the NFL Network will Cleveland ’95: A Football Life on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The hour-long show goes “behind the curtain of the first generation Browns during their final season in Cleveland.”

Greg Frith, one of the film’s producers, shared his thoughts on the program at They Call it Pro Football:

It’s amazing when you look at the all star cast Bill Belichick assembled in Cleveland in the early 90s.  The common perception is Belichick was a failure with the Browns, but one look at the men who grew up in the business with him as a role model there will tell you otherwise: Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli, Thomas Dimitroff, Jim Schwartz, Eric Mangini, Mike Tannenbaum, and Phil Savage.  All totaled, nine future NFL head coaches and GMs were in Cleveland between 1991 and 1995.

I flew from Maryland to Alabama, where I was scheduled to interview perhaps the greatest college coach of this generation.  As we set up in the athletic center on the campus of the University of Alabama, I asked Associate athletic director Jeff Purinton if Coach Nick Saban was excited to sit down with us and talk about the Cleveland days.  He said, “Coach doesn’t get excited about too much.”  I asked, “Well, is he not NOT excited?”  He replied, “Put it this way.  I had a stack of interview requests on my desk.  And yours was the one he said he would do today.”  When the normally monotone Saban arrived, I was shocked as he smiled through stories of how he learned more in his time in Cleveland than he learned at any other stop in his career.

This was the tone Belichick set in Cleveland.  The staff worked their tails off for little pay and few wins, but along the way earned their bachelors and masters in the NFL.  They learned from the league’s best teacher, survived the most bizarre season any NFL team has ever experienced, and now, almost two decades later, they have seen that hard work pay off.

Will this be painful to watch ? Of course. Even though the Browns came back in 1999, it has just never been the same.

But it should also be interesting, especially going back to 1995 and watching the coaching staff as it finds its way in the NFL. In some ways that will be more interesting than just a simple rehash of the move itself, especially if the account was filled with the lies that Modell told to justify the move.

If, after watching Cleveland ’95, you want to learn more about the move, we highly recommend these two books: Glory for Sale: Fans, Dollars and the New NFL by Jon Morgan, and Fumble! The Browns, Modell and the Move: An Insider’s Story by Michael G. Poplar.

Buckle up Cleveland, should be a fun couple of nights.

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