Bernie Kosar’s Weird Journey to Cleveland – 1986 Topps
As the Miami Hurricanes’ quarterback and a Boardman, Ohio native Bernie Kosar made the bold statement to the NFL community that he wanted to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns.
As everyone knows, Kosar made it to Cleveland and took them to the cusp of the Super Bowl. However, his intricate entrance into the NFL draft is a lesser-known tale.
After just three years at the University of Miami, Kosar was on track to complete his undergraduate coursework in the summer of 1985. At the time, the NFL did not allow underclassman to enter the draft and Kosar would not have been eligible by the NFL’s regular draft. He would have had to graduated in the Spring of 1985 to be eligible for the regular draft.
Kosar used a press conference to announce that he would make himself available for the 1985 NFL Draft and that he would like to play for the Browns. Teams from both the NFL and USFL were interested in drafting the signal caller.
The Minnesota Vikings traded two picks to the Houston Oilers to move up to the second spot in the draft in hopes to snag Kosar. On the same day, Cleveland traded their first round picks in the 1985 and 1986 NFL drafts, their third round pick in 1985 and their sixth round pick in 1986 to the Buffalo Bills for their first round pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, in hopes of using that pick in the NFL’s 1985 supplemental draft. The Bills had already signed Bruce Smith as the top pick in the 1985 regular draft.
Because the Bills had the worst record in the 1984 season, they held the first pick in both the regular NFL draft and the supplemental draft in 1985. If a club uses a pick in the supplemental draft, they forfeit the same pick in the next regular draft.
Minnesota protested the move. They argued Kosar was eligible for the regular draft because he announced his intentions, despite the fact he had not submitted his paperwork to the NFL to be drafted. The league ruled they would hold a supplemental draft for Kosar and other eligible players if their paperwork was submitted after the April 15 deadline.
The Vikings later further alleged that Kosar’s agent and the Browns circumvented the league rules to allow the quarterback to play in Cleveland. The Oilers threatened to sue the NFL if Kosar was allowed to skip the regular draft in favor of the supplemental draft and Kosar’s agent threatened to sue the NFL if Kosar was forced into the regular draft.
In response, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle extended the April 15 eligibility deadline exclusively for Kosar and called a hearing where the four teams involved in the two trades would present their arguments. Rozelle announced that he would leave the decision up to Kosar, but permitted Minnesota to persuade Kosar to enter the regular draft with the condition that they could not negotiate a potential contract with him.
Two days later Kosar reiterated his desire to play for the Browns and would make himself eligible for the supplemental draft. On July 3, 1985, the Browns selected Kosar and signed him to a five-year contract that same day.
Minnesota ended up trading the second pick of the 1985 regular NFL draft to the Atlanta Falcons for the fourth overall pick in the draft and a third round selection. The Falcons used the selection to pick offensive lineman Bill Fralic out of Pitt. Minnesota meanwhile used these two picks to selected defensive end Chris Doleman, also out of Pitt, in the first round and linebacker Tim Member out of Washington.