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The Legend of QB Browns

You have five seconds: name the top five QBs of the 1980s. GO!

Not a difficult task, right? Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Boomer Esiason… The real trouble is choosing just five. But for all the names, many etched on bronze in Canton, one poor soul is often overlooked. It can’t be helped. He did play in Cleveland, after all.

Yes. We’re talking Mr. QB Browns[1] himself, Bernie Kosar.Dan-and-QBBrowns

I can feel your red-hot incredulity even from my little basement of the internet, “Bernie friggin’ Kosar?! Sure he’s top five…in Jheri Curls!”

But if we’re talking Tecmo Bowl–and you’re here, of course we’re talking Tecmo–QB Browns isn’t just good, he’s great. In Tecmo Super Bowl, Bernie beats Dan Marino. Let that sink in for a second. Bernie Kosar is better than first-ballot HOF’er Dan Marino.

Why? The answer boils down to right place, right time. Let’s push our DeLoreans past 88 mph and blast back to 1987. The Legend of QB Browns starts before Tecmo Bowl became Super, when QB Browns was still Bernie Kosar and NES football verged on nonexistence.

Tecmo released a Tecmo Bowl arcade machine to modest success in 1987. It’s 9-on-9 action suited to home consoles, Tecmo obtained license from the NFL Players Association and worked on an NES port. Tecmo Bowl (TB) for NES hit American shores in February of 1989. Compared to 10 Yard Fight–the only other American Football game available at the time–TB was like having sex after an adolescence of masturbation. OH MY GOD IT FELT SO GOOD. The game had pick-up-and-play mechanics, big, gorgeous graphics and real NFL players. Who cares if Walter Payton played for the Chicago Emperor Penguins or Joe Montana chucked passes for the San Francisco Bird-Man-Things? Even without real team names, TB sold like hotcakes. The NFL, hearing cash registers cha-ching!, quickly granted Tecmo full license. Tecmo Super Bowl (TSB), with all 28 NFL teams, became the #1 jam of Christmas ‘91.

From 1986, when Tecmo began coding their arcade machine, to 1991’s TSB, Cleveland saw more gridiron success than the previous 20 years combined. If not for John Elway, a Drive and a Fumble, the Brownies would have certainly won Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV. I SAID THEY WOULD HAVE WON! Bernie Kosar, Cleveland’s first pick in the 1985 Supplemental Draft (a whole story unto itself), guided the team with a steady hand, winning All-Pro honors in 1987.

It makes sense, then, that In crafting TB, and by extension TSB, Tecmo would have the Browns be a top-5 team. And where does QB Browns rank among TSB hurlers? You guessed it, no. 5, right below QB Bills (Jim Kelly) and above the aforementioned Mr. Marino. Without All-Star receivers, (WR1 Webster Slaughter ranks an unimpressive 44th among WRs), Tecmo endowed QB Browns with stats perhaps outpacing his real-world counterpart.

Tecmo Super Bowl-0

Though QB Browns’ 44 Passing Speed puts him in the illustrious company of Cody Carlson, Babe Laufenberg, and Anthony Dilweg, he compensates with quickness and touch. Only the devastating QB Eagles (Randall Cunningham), Rodney Peete, and (for some unexplained reason) Vinny Testaverde can outrace QB Browns’ 25 Maximum Speed. And when it comes to putting the biscuit in the basket? Forget about it. QB Browns’ 75 Pass Control rating sits only behind QB Bills and Joe Montana at 81.

Tecmo Super Bowl, you see, captures the Cleveland Browns at their NFL apex. From 1986-1989, the Browns went 41-21 with three appearances in the AFC Championship game. In the four years following, with TSB well into development, Cleveland stumbled to a .395 winning percentage. Frustrated management brought in coaches, fired them, brought in more coaches, and fired them, too (sound familiar?).

The Legend of QB Browns ended with a whimper on November 7th, 1993[2]. Following a brutal loss to–who effing else?–the Denver Broncos, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick handed Bernie Kosar his walking papers. Bernie signed in Dallas the next day, where he won a Super Bowl XVIII ring backing up Troy Aikman. Bill Belichick, of course, currently reigns as Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. The Browns, meanwhile, haven’t had a reliable owner, coach or QB since.

Is Bernie Kosar better than Dan Marino? Of course not. But is QB Browns better than Dan Marino? You’re damn skippy he is. Just like the film Major League keeps a perpetual winner in Cleveland, so does TSB’s QB Browns. Somewhere, even if it’s on an old CRT TV, Bernie will always beat John Elway. It’s just another reason why TSB still kicks so much ass.


[1] Why “QB Browns” instead of “Bernie Kosar?” Bernie opted out of the NFL Player’s Association Licensing Agreement in dispute over the amount of money being made off his name and likeness. Kosar, fellow TSB “QBs” Randall Cunningham and Jim Kelly, in concert with others like Steve Young and Troy Aikman, later went on to form their own licensing entity called “The Quarterback Club.” More on that later.

[2] Fun Fact: I was actually at Bernie Kosar’s final game in Brown and Orange, freezing my ass off in the upper deck of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. In the 4th quarter, the game already lost, angry Browns fans turned to taunting John Elway with the repeated chant of “Bucky sucks!” A gentleman a few rows ahead of me drank himself back into the past, slurring angrily that Belichick needed to put Lou Groza into the game.

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Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by one of the Tecmo Browns. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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