CLEVELAND — The Raiders and Cleveland Bronws, rivals who will meet again in the regular season and who will, thus, show nothing more than the most basic basics, meet tonight in their long-awaited exhibition finale.
As an attraction, it's an exhibition.
On the Cleveland side, there is the season's bright new face, Bernie Kosar, the next quarterback-of-the-1980s candidate, having just graduated from the University of Miami with two seasons of eligibility left, which enabled him to pick his draft.
Surprise! The native of nearby Boardman, Ohio, picked the supplemental draft, where the Browns had cannily acquired the top pick, rather than the regular draft, in which the lowly, bad-paying Minnesota Vikings would have taken him.
The Vikings gave up their Nos. 1 and 2 picks to get a shot at him. They settled for Pitt's Chris Doleman, who is not going to be the quarterback of any decade.
Commissioner Pete Rozelle said it was OK, causing eyebrows to rise in the Raider front office.
"What do you expect?" asked a Raider official. "Art Modell."
Modell, the Browns' owner, and Rozelle are on cordial terms. Among the Raiders, there are worse crimes, but not many.
Kosar recently got the obligatory Sports Illustrated cover, but this is nothing like John Elway's first season. The Browns, fearing an Elway-type rush, limited the press to one mass interview with Kosar weekly. The first one lasted 22 minutes, the second 11.
The Browns have vowed not to rush Kosar. "It's like the wine commercial," Modell told the Washington Post's Gary Pomerantz. "I will not play Bernie Kosar before his time."
Free to develop at his leisure, Kosar has completed 14 of his 40 passes for no touchdowns and one interception. That's a lot worse than Elway did in his rookie exhibition season.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer says statistics are misleading. Misleading or not, he also named veteran Gary Danielson No. 1.
Schottenheimer said, however, that Danielson will play a half or less tonight, with Kosar going the rest of the way. At $1 million a season, Kosar's time cannot be too far off.
And until the Browns shore up the offensive line that got Paul McDonald sacked 40 times in last season's first eight weeks, which of the two would they rather feed to the Lions, not to mention the Steelers and Bengals? Thanks for coming, Gary.
Over the Raiders hovers the specter of their first winless exhibition season.
Or they could rally, win this one and wind up with their third straight 1-3 record. Bear in mind that the others were followed first by a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl championship, then by an 11-5 season.
While their public stance hasn't changed--how many times can you listen to, "Of course it's only preseason, but you always want to win"--this time they really want to win. Several Raider players alluded to increased pressure from the coaching staff this week.
The players' consensus is that, aside from mistakes, the first-string offense has played better this exhibition season than it has in the last few.
"A thousand times better," said one Raider.
That is some indication of just how grisly the last few were.
Of course, taking out mistakes is taking out a lot, like the seven fumbles, five of them lost, last week.
That, however, is not necessarily an exhibition phenomenon. The Raiders were a minus 38 in giveaway-takeaway in their most recent Super Bowl season. They improved all the way to minus 14 last season. They're minus 7 in exhibitions, which projects to minus 32, which would be about par for their recent course.
They're trying to clean things up, but only to a point.
Said Coach Tom Flores: "You don't want to get your team paranoid. Then it becomes a disease. It takes away from some of the aggressive style, the recklessness that's necessary. You can't take that away.
"Our record won't change our approach. It hasn't changed our approach yet. We're usually not a dominating team in preseason. We want to see as many people as possible.
"But I would like a win. (Smiling) Just so we could have a taste of it again."
Taste notwithstanding, Flores is leery of getting anyone hurt. He noted that the 45-man roster limit, which the Raiders fought from the beginning, has led to quicker cutdowns. Last season, there were 60 players available for the last exhibition. Now there are 50, one more than a full squad last season. The regulars will have to bear increased playing time, which increases chances of injury.
So he'll continue to show some restraint. Hurt feelings from exhibitions heal quicker than hamstrings.
The Browns are 2-1 in exhibitions. . . . Coach Marty Schottenheimer says that Paul McDonald, formerly of USC, is the No. 3 quarterback, and his chances of making the team depend on whether the Browns decide to keep three. McDonald has thrown 11 passes in the exhibition season. . . . The top Brown runner is Kevin Mack, formerly of the Express, who has a 6.7 rushing average and six pass receptions for a 16.2 average and two touchdowns, one on a 54-yard play. Schottenheimer said: "I've got to be candid, he has performed better than we anticipated. He's been outstanding." . . . Mike Pruitt, a 10-year veteran for the Browns who was hurt much of last season and gained 506 yards, his low since becoming a starter, has been rumored as coming to the Raiders. Schottenheimer said