CLEVELAND - NewsChannel5 sports director Andy Baskin had the chance to sit down with former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. He’s now the president and CEO of the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators.
Andy Baskin: "Where are you living? And what’s going on in your life?"
Bernie Kosar: "Well, it’s going good, you know, being the mister mom part is getting a little better with kids getting older and having some more time. And you know, being here tonight being down at the ‘Q’ and having fun with the Gladiators. And with Mr. Gilbert buying the team, that’s worked out nice and working more with the Browns. And I’ve got a few businesses that I’ve started that are coming online over the summer and the fall. And I’ve really been excited about them, so been really spending a lot of time, a lot more time in Ohio."
AB: “The Gladiators, when you say it’s fun – is it more fun now that Dan has the team? No offense to what happened before. Can you just sit back and worry about other things?”
BK: “I think why it’s more fun and Jim did a nice job getting it here and I’m proud to help to have helped him get the team here. But because it’s getting into the third and fourth year, because me and coach Thonn have worked together now going on our third year, we have a rapport and a chemistry. And we’re starting to develop a little bit of a nucleus within the team that we have some continuity with about half the team was on the team last year.”
AB: “Bernie, you like that going out and finding talent for this team don’t you? Or seeing a guy that you can make a maneuver in the draft trying to make a move? You love that job.”
BK: “That’s been the best, the funnest part of it. I mean, when I was, we brought the team here four years ago doing the trade with John Elway when he was running the Denver team. Getting the first pick of the draft, you know, getting to play against Bon Jovi in the conference finals our first year. Here being in the playoffs, basically three of the four years here and winning the division against Pittsburgh last year. Finding guys is one thing, but also setting the culture and setting the coaching staff and the philosophical thing has been something that’s been fun to do.”
AB: “Bernie, when you see John Elway doing what he is doing in Denver now, is there a part of you that wishes you were doing that for the Browns right now?”
BK: “Well, I always think there’s part of us that always still wants to be involved with football. I mean, that’s why I’m doing this here. That’s why the Browns have been great with me and being able to work more with them. I think the stuff I’ve been doing in and around Berea and the stadium, especially the last year or so, has been increasing. And again I think a lot of times you have to sometimes put your time in for it and I’m looking forward to doing more stuff with them.”
AB: “Is it increasing because you want to or Mike (Holmgren) and the guys in the front office want you around more?”
BK: “I think it’s a combination of both. You know, in sports, if people don’t want you around, you’re not going to be around, so you don’t get the sympathy invitations.”
AB: “But it was kind of with Eric (Mangini), you were around a lot, you change direction and now you’re coming back.”
BK: “Well, me and Eric Mangini got along really good. We didn’t know each other at first when Randy first brought me in and it first started out, but with coaches you really develop a rapport over time and you got to develop that kind of trust and loyalty and respect for each other and again once we got to know each other. I think we got along really great with it. When Mike came here, we never really came up against each other being in the NFC, being in different areas most of our careers, so it just, I think it took some time, like it did with Eric, to really start for all of us to get to know each other and trust each other.
AB: “Bern, the number one thing I hear when I listen to conversations, especially on the radio, people say ‘If you could fix the Browns, would you want to do this’ and all the time they say ‘We want Bernie to be more involved from a fans perspective.’”
BK: “Well, again, I think, I am being more involved, I like to, you know, again with time and doing things the right way and trying to be a team player and develop the royalty and respect, I think more things could evolve.
AB: “Are they doing things the right way now, do you feel like things are going in the right direction for the Browns?”
BK: “Well, I know there’s a lot of debate as to maybe some of the moves last year with the trade. I come from kind of watching Don Shula, the Jimmy Johnson, um Bill Belichick school of drafting. And the best, best drafters aren’t 50 percent. You’re a hall of fame front office or coach if you bat 50 percent on your draft picks. So that means you’re missing more than half of them, so being a finance major and playing the percentages, the more picks you have, the better. And again I’ve been using
this quote a lot, it’s not to plug Terry Pluto, but he wrote a beautiful article that talked about the history of say the last 10 or 12 years of the fourth draft pick and the 22nd draft pick and it’s pretty scary to see some of the names that come up as busts in those.
“So I think the more picks you have, especially say in the top 100, I think the better your chances are and I think we’re going to have a chance now with people wanting that third and fourth pick and 22nd pick, I think there’s a lot of room to maneuver and I think it gives us our best chance to develop core people around us. One of the things we talked about a lot, unfortunately on these radio shows, and it’s true, I don’t think the Browns have hidden from it, is it talked about maybe the lack of maybe playmakers and trying to find some receivers guys who could score points. I think we were 31st in the league in offense last year, in points scored."
AB: "Getting tired of seeing first quarters with no points or third quarters with no points."
BK: "Yeah. And that’s something that again, no disrespect to coaches and systems and this west coast or east coast or old school or new school, but typically good players score good points. And trying to find more people that could make individual plays, like Josh Cribbs has done for us for the last five or six years, trying to put more guys around us that could be playmakers, and still develop that tough core physical presence that our division has.
“I mean, you look at our division with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. All three being playoff teams. All being pretty talented teams. Cincinnati has two picks also in the first round, so they’re probably going to get significantly better. And again, I kind of chuckle at in August of last year, just about all the so-called experts had the Cincinnati Bengals as one of the worst teams in the NFL and here they are making the playoffs and really having a good draft, a fantastic draft. Mike Brown’s really showed that he’s a pretty, very smart football guy and here they are as a team that made a big turnaround. I think, if we could have a draft with three of the first 37 picks, four picks in the first three rounds, an opportunity to move around and maybe get some other guys, that could make a big difference if we come out of this draft with three, four, five different guys who either make plays or start for us.”
AB: “I know it’s a fine line, the player, the fan in you, all these things, when the NFL network comes out and the Browns are going to start the season 0 and 13, does that get you a little fired up?”
BK: “Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t see that. As much as I watch those shows, I’m glad I didn’t take a look at that.
AB: “You didn’t miss much.”
BK: “Yeah, again, it’s incredibly early. They had Cincinnati in the coffin before last season, there’s a lot that’s going to go on even still maybe piecing in a couple of supplemental, maybe free agent-type guys and this draft, it’s way too early to tell. And again, I think Colt McCoy, coming off of last year, where basically it was his first year starting, I know I had the most confidence and made the biggest leap from my first to second year after starting. So I think there’s something, you know, he could come in the season pretty confident and positive about his ability to grow and try to lead this team.”
AB: “How do you do that though when it’s been very public that the team went after RG3? You look at Colt McCoy and there are so many people who say give this guy some weapons and give him a chance to grow and then you see the team was public in saying they went after RG3 – how do you come into that?”
BK: “As a player, you’re going to think about it, so there’s no doubt about it, but you really, we all have to grow up about it and deal with it. Because they’re always trying, everybody’s always trying to get better and find the best type players and that’s just something that is happening. But at the end of the day, we didn’t pull the trigger and we’re not getting him and it looks like he’s going into the year with the ability to have more players around him.”
AB: “What do you think about this whole bounty-gate situation? And guys – and I’ve talked to guys you played with that said ‘Hey, on defense we talked about that stuff all the time.”
BK: “Yeah, it’s, I think it’s incredibly less today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. There’s no doubt it was way more back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, 90s. There’s no doubt there was. I kind of chuckle about, I know when I played, we just anticipated it and I kind of like that they had it out for you, but at least, it meant that you were worth something and they were worried about you and considered you a good player.”
AB: “Let’s just talk about the Gladiators. You’re having fun right now. Is it enough for your football this and just and doing a little bit of radio?”
BK: “Like you said, I’m over at Berea. One of the ways to and working some with the Browns and starting to work more with
them, but one of the quickest ways to not work more is to always talk about when you’re there and what you’re doing because that isn’t how you’re going to move up in the NFL circles to run a team So just because sometimes people don’t see a lot of the things, it doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening.”
AB: “Do you think Randy (Lerner) gets too much criticism for owning this team?”
BK: “Oh, absolutely. Randy Lerner and the Lerner family has done a phenomenal job of their respect and love for Ohio and northeastern Ohio, for Cleveland, for bringing the team. I chuckle because commuting sometimes between Florida and Ohio, playing in Dallas with Jerry Jones, and he’s the owner, Mr. Huizinga, he owned the team down in South Florida, and some people say ‘Oh, they’re too hands on. They do it too much. You gotta just finance the team, try to hire people and let them go.’ And that’s generally the prevailing way of looking at in the NFL and Randy and the Lerner family have consistently done that. They have the best facilities. They treat everybody first class. They try to get the best people to run it and then they let them run it. So it’s up to us football people to really take it to the next level.”
AB: “Some fans would say that it’s interesting now you are back with the Browns doing what you’re doing, but you’re relationship with Dan Gilbert has been outstanding and it also lends more credence to Dan being a better owner in this town. I’m not saying that you have to pit the owners against each other, but Dan understands what it take so to invest in a team and want to win. I mean, look how many people are showing up for a team that set a record number of losses last year. You’re relationship to Dan and how important that is right now.”
BK: “I really have a friendship and almost a brotherhood with Randy and Mrs. Lerner and the family’s been fantastic. I think it’s awesome for Cleveland to have Dan Gilbert and the Lerner family both here in town. I mean, I think it’s just a phenomenal, what Dan Gilbert’s done, not only with just the Cavaliers and the Q, I think he’s up to like 54 companies. What he’s starting with the Horseshoe Casino over here, the investment to put over half a billion dollars in our downtown during this economy the way it’s been and to have the confidence and the love and respect for this area, what he’s done refurnishing and redoing the Q over here, I just think it’s awesome.”
AB: “When the casino won, you spent as much time with him. Was that as powerful the night the casino won as maybe as any victory you’ve ever had on the field?”
BK: “I’m still pretty much a football junkie. So I did enjoy that and I’m really proud to help Dan Gilbert and his family and his organization, but winning games is still, there’s something about that Sunday afternoon, there’s something about one o’clock on Sunday playing games that there’s. It’s indescribable. And that wanting to get that team back into that winning ways is something that really just sticks in my head.”
AB: “I know I’ve asked you this before, did you ever think in a million years you’d be involved in selling baskets?”
BK: “Well, Tammy and the Longaberger baskets, um maybe I had a little say in those Cleveland Browns baskets (laughs)”
AB: “That’s about it?”
BK: "Yeah, I didn’t have as much say in those Ravens and Steelers baskets, though.”
AB: “I’m not trying to say this cause you’re in the room, but clearly she’s been an unbelievable positive experience in your life?”
BK: “Oh fantastic help. An unbelievable influence on my family and for my daughters to see a woman who’s done what she’s done and does what she does and have that type of influence, not only on me, but on my family has been fantastic and I’m having to follow Ohio State Buckeyes a lot more because of her.
AB: “So now do you regret not going to Ohio State because of her?”
BK: “They didn’t recruit me, they didn’t recruit me.”
AB: “If you could prioritize all the jobs you have in your life, put them in order?”
BK: “Keeping my kids healthy and then again, this stuff, all this stuff that I’ve been doing. I’ve really am proud of what I’ve been doing and trying to get the new businesses started, get the teams, helping out, helping out the Browns, helping out Mr. Gilbert, all the stuff that’s going around here. And we have a lot of cool things that are starting in downtown Cleveland and to really be part of a lot of the fiber of the city and, not only just what’s going on with the Horseshoe, with the Medical Mart, with the convention center, and we have so many cool things going. Mayor Jackson has gotten started down here and I think we have a chance to really kind of get out of that tough economy that we’ve been in the past few years.”
AB: “A couple of other things. Can you kind of look back the last couple of years, you did not have the highest highs in your life over the last couple of years and yet you’ve been able to come through this and everything feels like it’s going better for you?”
“Andy, that’s a great way to ask it. Look, and I try to tell my kids this and I always try to live my life like this. It’s not how your successes, but really how you handle adversity. And you’re always going to have things that don’t go your way, and if you don’t fight through adversity, if you don’t keep working, if you don’t, and when I started with the Hurricanes in 1983, Howard Schnellenberger had our team focus on just doing the best you can today and tomorrow will take care of itself. And if you’re able to be honest with yourself, work through issues and not let adversity get you down and do your best today, you’re going to be in great shape tomorrow. And again, quitting never really is an option, and if you really believe in yourself and try to do things the right way, I think God really takes good care of us.”
AB: “Do you get a chance to tell that to people often other than just in an interview. Do you feel you need to spread that word a little bit?”
BK: “Um, no. you know as I get older, I don’t feel the obligation. If people want to talk about it or they want to, but the obligation to just constantly pitch yourself or have to present or talk about yourself, I’m proud of what I’ve done, I’m really proud of it.”
AB: “How do the fans of Cleveland still make you feel, personally?”
BK: “Oh, the fans are unbelievable, they’re unbelievable. I mean, we did an awesome appearance with the Browns and Discount Drug Mart and the new store in Strongsville, and the people that come out, the genuine love and respect that they have for, I think, the team and for the Browns over time. And remember them back in the 80s and remember some of the guys, it makes me feel great. I mean, I’m really proud and honored, and I think when we hear people like LeBron leaving and we hear that maybe free agents don’t want to come here, I’m really proud that I made that decision to want to be here, play here. God, almost 27 years ago now. Hard to believe it’s that long. I’m proud to have done that. I think people respect that and know and the people that stay in our area really love our area and if you give it a chance here and you give the people the chance, you’re really going to see what an awesome spot we have.”
AB: “How is that night when you came back the first time Miami was here and you guys walked out? I have to tell you that was probably one of the most special moments I’ve ever seen in Cleveland sports history when you guys walked out at the Q the night Miami came back.”
BK: “Yeah, that was, other than a football game on a Sunday here with the crowd yelling, I’m not sure I’ve been in an environment that loud and that exhilarating. You know, I still get goose bumps thinking about that night and again it just shows you Dan Gilbert and the stuff he does with the Q and their attention to detail, we’re really blessed in our area to have so many generally great people and good people who love and care about the place.”
AB: “What advice do you have for Browns fans as this team heads into the draft? Because there is a part of this Browns community that’s down. I mean, it’s really down. I think they’re looking for some optimism.”
BK: “Well, this is, the way the draft goes now, this is the best chance for optimism. Whether we like the trade or not last year, we have three of the first 37 picks, four picks in basically the top 75, 77 picks this year. There’s a lot of really good football players, and just because you don’t know them, you know sometimes give them a chance. Because I remember last year some of the pessimism on Jabal Sheard. Not a lot of people knew who he was, he wasn’t a household name. I think just about all Browns fans are glad we picked him and he’s on our team. I think we’d like to see the same stuff transpire this year, having the opportunity to get some more guys to add to the nucleus of this team, because our division, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have had an awesome run for the last decade plus. But hopefully they’re getting older and this is a young man’s game and we can replenish it and rebuild the youth through the draft.”
AB: “Aren’t you looking forward for Browns fans to be able look to a new generation and a new era that doesn’t always have to go back to say ‘Remember when,’ Bernie ‘Remember when the Dawg Pound,’ aren’t, I mean you yourself, aren’t you looking forward to saying I can’t wait for this next thing to come?
BK: “Absolutely. Look, me and you have said the phrase on air and off air a ton, that our Monday morning feelings are a direct correlation between what happens on Sunday between one and four o’clock and you just love talking about winning, wins, team playing good, and there’s no doubt I think that that’s going to be coming.”
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