CLEVELAND — Between coaches and quarterbacks there is a special bond; Bernie Kosar knows that better than any, having played for some of the game’s best — Belechick, Shula, Jimmy Johnson — but in his heart, there will always be a special place for his first head coach with the Browns: Marty Schottenheimer.
"Absolutely to come as a 21-year-old kid from the University of Miami growing up in Northeastern Ohio and still to be one of the youngest players to be a starting quarterback in the league, you remember your first head coach,” Kosar recalled.
Schottenheimer's first full year as head coach in 1985 was Kosar's first as starting quarterback. Together they would turn around a team that started 1 and 7 the year before and turn it into a franchise that would go to two straight conference championships. Kosar said Schottenheimer, a former player himself, brought toughness, grittiness and discipline to the job and also an attention-to-detail drive that made players look forward to Sunday.
“Practices were actually harder than the games, the two-a-day, the three-a-day practices, the amount of contact that you went through for practice actually made Sunday not as tough going against other teams,” he said. “Probably shortened a lot of players' careers but in the short run of playing, our teams were tough, disciplined and every Sunday we knew we were ready to play.”
Schottenheimer would leave Cleveland in 1989 for Kansas City where he would do for the Chiefs what he did for the Browns, a testament, Kosar says, to his legacy.
"For him to put the structure, organization together for two organizations that weren't winning football games and winning playoff games before he got there to put those two teams and those two organizations together within a decade to get to multiple AFC Conference Championship games is absolutely not an easy feat to do."
Schottenheimer was in the early stages of Alzheimer's in 2016 when he returned to be honored with his '86 team. Kosar knows how proud he'd be today to see his two most successful franchises battling in the playoffs.
"It's really a shame that a man who's had such a massive influence on so many of us isn't really able to understand, really know the magnitude of a Browns-Chiefs game where he had such a major influence."
Schottenheimer went on to win 200 games as a head coach, putting him in the top ten of all time, just behind Paul Brown and ahead of Chuck Noll; a journey that started in Cleveland, and, Kosar believes, needs to end down the road in Canton.
"When you talk about the history and tradition of the Cleveland Browns and going back to the great Paul Brown and Otto Graham and to have Marty Schottenheimer mentioned in the same breath in that type of organization is absolutely confirming to our previous statement of his earning the right to have a house in Canton, the Hall of Fame,” he said.