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Browns release Kosar

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns Monday released quarterback Bernie Kosar because of his 'declining physical condition,' owner Art Modell announced.

'I met with the entire coaching staff this morning,' Modell said, 'offensive, defensive and special teams. I asked each coach to express himself about the situation in hand. It was unanimous ... that we should go in a different direction.'

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Modell said Coach Bill Belichick and he met with Kosar about 11:15 a. m. Monday and then, at Kosar's request, Modell met privately with the quarterback.

'I can't say enough about Bernie Kosar,' said Modell. 'Bernie Kosar has been like a son to me. He often refers to me as his surrogate father. I can't say enough about what he has done for this franchise, both on and off the field.

'He has been a contributor to the welfare of this team, the likes of which haven't meet seen since, perhaps, the 1960s.

'But,' added Modell, 'I concur 100 percent with Bill and his staff that a new direction must be taken. My support for Bill Belichick and his staff is unwavering.'

The Browns and Kosar have struggled since 1990, failing to make the playoffs in the decade after a string of success in the 1980s that saw the Browns play for the AFC championship three times in four years.

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Kosar completed 16 of 30 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in Cleveland's 29-14 loss to Denver Sunday. His lack of mobility coupled with sub-par pass protection enabled the Broncos to register six sacks. Kosar has struggled this season, completing 79 of 138 passes for 807 yards, but has passed for only five touchdowns with three interceptions.

He lost his starting job to Vinny Testaverde after five games this season. Kosar was ineffective and yanked by Belichick in favor of Testaverde in games against the Los Angeles Raiders, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins.

Testaverde started two games, but suffered a separated right shoulder in Cleveland's 28-23 win over Pittsburgh Oct. 24 and Kosar regained the starting job.

Belichick said the decision to release Kosar was 'the most difficult decision I have had to make.'

'I have the highest respect for Bernie, his competitiveness ... but it's for the good of the football team. It came down to ... his overall performance and the diminishing of his physical skills. It's very hard to say that. It was a very difficult meeting at moments with Bernie this morning.'

Belichick would only say he plans to sign a third quarterback and that Todd Philcox will become the Browns' starting quarterback until Testerverde recovers from a separated shoulder.

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Kosar, an Ohio native from Boardman, played for the Browns for nine years. The 29-year-old came into the league with much fanfare after leading the Miami Hurricane to a National Championship in 1983 and to the Fiesta Bowl in 1984.

His best season for the Browns was 1987 when he led the AFC in passing with a 95.4 quarterback rating. He threw for 3,033 yards in 12 games, the most by a Cleveland quarterback in that number of games.

He led the Browns to the AFC Central Division title in 1985, 1986 1987 and 1989. The Browns lost the AFC championship game to Denver in '86, '87 and '89 failing to give Modell his long awaited shot at a Super Bowl ring.

'He brought us the closest to the promised land,' said Modell. 'He was magnificent in '86 and '87. He was a brilliant performer in the mid- 80s. But time takes its share of life with all of us.'

Asked why, if he planned to release Kosar, only a month ago he signed the quarterback to a $27 million contract, Modell replied tersely: 'That contract was made a year and one-half ago. The contract signing was only a formality about the salary cap.'

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Modell acknowledged he expects a backlash from angry fans.

'All I can say to the fans is bear with us. We feel this is the right move and only time will tell if our judgment is correct.'

The Browns and Pittsburgh are tied for first-place in the AFC Central with 5-3 records.

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