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BRAINY BROWN
Rick Telander
August 29, 1988
BERNIE KOSAR'S BAD BODY AND SIDEARM DELIVERY MAKE COACHES WINCE, BUT HIS QUICK MIND HAS OPPONENTS OF THE BROWNS FEELING BLUE
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August 29, 1988

Brainy Brown

BERNIE KOSAR'S BAD BODY AND SIDEARM DELIVERY MAKE COACHES WINCE, BUT HIS QUICK MIND HAS OPPONENTS OF THE BROWNS FEELING BLUE

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Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly hosts a charity golf outing each June in upstate New York, and the night before the golf game he throws an elaborate barbecue for a few special guests. The high rollers, naturally, demand entertainment, and tonight, for their viewing and betting enjoyment, there's the Celebrity Football Toss.

In a Buffalo millionaire's backyard, Kelly and some NFL buddies stand 20 yards from a whitewashed car tire that's suspended in front of a canvas tarp. One after the other the players attempt to throw a football through the center of the tire.

Kelly, nursing a sore elbow, misses by a mile. Boomer Esiason misses. So do Don Strock, Dan Marino, Frank Reich and Jay Schroeder, NFL quarterbacks all. Tommy Kramer of the Vikings misses badly.

"Bernie," somebody calls, tossing the ball to the gangly, curly-haired young man who has been gabbing away, not even following the football toss. The kid turns and whistles the ball through the rubber circle, touching nothing.

Somebody else misses, then the Colts' Jack Trudeau rattles the ball through the target. There will be a sudden-death playoff. Spectators have time to lay down bets on the two finalists. Trudeau steps up for his throw. He smacks the ball off the side of the tire.

Bernie Kosar, the Cleveland Browns' 24-year-old gawk of a quarterback, the kid with the accountant's body and altar boy's face, takes the football. He's wearing street clothes like the other contestants; unlike them, he didn't warm up. But his eyes have a look to them. He has already won the earlier contest from 15 yards. Touched nothing. The crowd grows silent.

Kosar half smiles. A football is about seven inches in diameter; the center of this tire about 16 inches. Plenty of room. Kosar doesn't lob the ball. He doesn't aim it. He brings it. Sidearm.

Bull's-eye.

The next day at the golf course Marino laughs. "It's unbelievable," he says. "Three in a row, and the ball was never above his shoulder. It's sickening."

To the Browns' opponents it is more than sickening. It is maddening, disgusting and, well, just plain wrong. That this callow youth, already a three-year NFL veteran, could have led his team to three straight AFC Central titles and earned the highest quarterback rating in the entire AFC last season (95.4 rating, 62% completion rate, 7.8 yards per passing attempt) while looking and throwing like a damned astronomer or something, it's just not fair.

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