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On This Date in Sports September 19, 1993: Browns QB Controversy

The Cleveland Browns, trailing 16-3 in the fourth quarter, rally to beat the Los Angeles Raiders 19-16 as Vinny Testeverde relieves Bernie Kosar and passes for 159 yards with one touchdown in his first appearance with the Browns. Testeverde signed with the Browns in the offseason after six disappointing seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had previously backed up Kosar in Miami before winning the Heisman in 1986. Over the next six months, the two would battle for the starting job before Bernie Kosar was released in November. 

Bernie Kosar was born on November 25, 1963. He was raised in Northern Ohio as a fan of the Cleveland Browns. Attending Miami, Kosar led the Hurricanes to their first National Championship in 1983. He followed it up by setting school records in passing and touchdowns while finishing fourth in Heisman voting. Wanting to play for his hometown Browns, Bernie Kosar graduated from Miami early and became eligible for the supplemental draft. 

The drafting of Bernie Kosar was not without controversy. At the time, underclassmen were not permitted in the NFL Draft. Following the 1984 season, Kosar began an expedited education plan, taking 18 credits in the spring and six in the summer to make the NFL Draft requirement. The Minnesota Vikings and Houston Oilers had plans to select Kosar, but the quarterback missed the deadline for the 1985 Draft and was made available for the supplemental draft. The Oilers filed a lawsuit to stop the draft and allow Kosar to be available, but it was forced to withdraw when the Vikings refused to join their suit. The Browns would trade four draft picks to the Bills for their first supplemental selection and chose Bernie Kosar. 

Bernie Kosar quickly became a fan favorite in Cleveland. After taking over for an injured Gary Danielson, he led the Browns to a division title in 1985. In his first full season as starting quarterback, Kosar led the Browns to the best record in the AFC. They would win their first playoff game in 17 years before losing a heartbreaker to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. With Bernie Kosar under center, the Browns appeared in the AFC Championship Game three times in four years, losing each to the Broncos. 

In 1990, Bernie Kosar had the worst season of his career, leading to the firing of Bud Carson. New coach Bill Belichick would run a more conservative season as the Browns tried to rebound. Kosar, who threw 15 interceptions in 1990, set a record when he went 286 passes without an interception, a record later topped by Tom Brady. 

In 1992, Bernie Kosar missed nine games with an ankle injury, as the Browns again suffered a losing season. This led Bill Belichick to sign Vinny Testeverde from the Buccaneers. Testeverde was the first pick in the 1987 NFL Draft but struggled mightily on an awful team in Tampa and was written off as a Heisman bust. 

The Browns got off to a good start, winning their first two games, including a Monday Night win over the San Francisco 49ers. Playing at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, the Browns struggled early as the Raiders jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The score was still 10-0 when Bernie Kosar was picked off in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter. It was the third interception Kosar threw in the game while completing 8-of-17 passes for 71 yards. When Cleveland got the ball back, Vinny Testeverde took the field for the first time with the Browns. 

The Browns would get a field goal on Testeverde's first drive, but the Raiders would answer as time began to run out on the Browns. On the ensuing kickoff, Eric Metcalf fumbled, forcing the Browns to start a drive on the ten-yard line. Vinny Testeverde led a 12-play 90-yard drive, completing a big third-down conversion to Eric Metcalf. The drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Lawyer Tillman with 2:26 remaining in the game.

Trailing 16-10, the Browns pinned the Raiders deep and forced a three-and-out. Rather than risk a blocked punt, Art Shell had Raiders punter Jeff Gossett step out of the end zone for an intentional safety. The play backfired when Eric Metcalf had a 37-yard return of the free kick to the Raiders' 45-yard line with 46 seconds left. Vinny Testeverde would get the ball down to the goal line with a pair of passes to Mark Carrier. With six seconds left, Eric Metcalf to an end around and found the end zone to give the Browns a stunning 19-16 win. 

Over the next six weeks, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testeverde battled for the starting job as the Browns struggled. Following a loss to the Broncos on November 7th, the Browns released Kosar, turning the job over to Testeverde. Bernie Kosar would be picked up by the Dallas Cowboys and appeared in the NFC Championship Game after Troy Aikman suffered a concussion. Kosar would get a Super Bowl ring entering the game for the victory kneel-down.