- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bernie Kosar hit all the high notes with the community in a statement he released saying he wanted back on the Cleveland Browns' preseason broadcast team.
He also took the decision to another level by saying he was taken off the preseason broadcasts because of his slurred speech impairment, which is “a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL.”
That simple sentence fragment on the decision by the Browns and WKYC-Channel 3 had to raise the eyebrows of many, including concussion attorneys, the NFL and the team. Because Kosar is now saying that concussions led to problems that are keeping him from staying in a job.
And well beyond the decision to remove Kosar, though that alone caused some ripples in Cleveland and among fans -- a reaction that should surprise absolutely no one.
The decision no doubt can be attributed in part to the combination of Kosar making some harmless but critical statements of the Rams in 2013 -- which angered coach Jeff Fisher and the outrage police -- and a DUI that Kosar received in October of 2013. (He pled not guilty.)
The team could be thinking if there is an issue, then perhaps the next mistake Kosar makes on the air could be more serious.
But in sacking Kosar and bringing in Solomon Wilcots, the team did not really recognize the local audience. Instead of adding an ex-Brown who connects to the community, the team went the “national” route when another ex-player might have eased the sting.
Browns fans enjoyed having Kosar on the broadcast, for his acumen and his insight into the game. Kosar was adept at breaking down a play before the play, and explaining what went right and what went wrong. Fans also liked him because of who he is; Kosar’s popularity in Cleveland remains strong.
Kosar played right into that popularity with his statement, which in part read:
“I believe that this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL. This is very unfortunate, as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans. I love to put the personal touch, the pride in the Browns, and the pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast.”
He added that “I still bleed Brown and Orange.”
Call it Kosar’s version of a two-handed backhand down the line.
The response from the TV station was that there was no going back, the decision was made, and it was made because as the Browns change the broadcast should change.
In most cases a change like this would draw a yawn.
But not when it comes to Kosar. Not in Cleveland.
Which is why it doesn’t seem like a change was really necessary. The Browns had a guy who connected with the community, who was insightful and football savvy, and they replaced him with a guy with no connection other than he’s connected to the league.
Bottom line: For whatever reason, the Browns and the station clearly decided the risk-reward ratio with Kosar was no longer in their favor.
9hEric D. Williams