Quarterback Brandon Weeden and his coach Pat Shurmur did not make many great decisions in the Browns’ Opening Day loss to Philadelphia. But the Browns did save the NFL from making a horrible decision that could have only done harm to the organization and to its fans.
After former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell passed away Sept. 6, the NFL mandated that all of its teams pay tribute to Modell with a moment of silence or some other “appropriate recognition,” Browns president Mike Holmgren and David Modell agreed that it was not necessary in Cleveland.
Until that agreement, the NFL had put the Browns in a very tough position, and while the league realized the problem it almost created, by adding the “other appropriate recognition” to it’s mandate, nothing good would have come of it.
When the news of Modell’s death became public, there was immediate speculation about his legacy, both in Cleveland and around the country. There are nine owners in the “contributor” category in the Hall of Fame in Canton, and moving teams from one city to another hasn’t kept four of them from being selected.
Two members, Charles Bidwell and Al Davis, moved their teams twice. Bidwell, then later his son, moved the Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis, and then to Arizona. Davis moved his Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles and then back to Oakland.
Modell wasn’t even the first Cleveland owner to move a team, and go into the Hall of Fame. Dan Reeves moved the Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles after the 1945 season, making room for the Browns in the All-American Football Conference. Lamar Hunt is the other “mover and shaker,” taking his Dallas Texans of the AFL to Kansas City, where they became the Chiefs.
Modell’s good deeds in this town are well documented, as are his accomplishments with the Browns and Ravens. The Hall of Fame voters put him in the final 15 in 2001, and he was a semifinalist several years after that, but has not been on the ballot since 2009. \
Former beat reporter and voter Tony Grossi gave an impassioned plea against his selection in 2001, and enough voters agreed that Modell should not be elected to the hall. Since Modell’s death, revisionist historians covering the NFL are coming out of the woodwork to have him be reconsidered.
Here is what I don’t get. If he was deemed not qualified for selection over and over again, what has changed, besides his passing? After 34 years of ownership in Cleveland, with one championship, and another one while he was the owner of the Ravens, what makes him a better candidate today? Nothing! If he is good enough today, in the minds of the voters, they should have put him in 10 years ago, so he could have gotten the opportunity to enjoy it. Nobody would have relished his selection to hall more than Art Modell.
Maybe the NFL was afraid to bring him back to Northeast Ohio, where Browns fans would have made their presence known. Maybe they didn’t want to showcase the greed of the league, by rewarding the very symbol of it, because, as we all know, if it can happen to the Cleveland Browns, it can happen to any franchise in any city.
On the other hand, the NFL was grateful for what happened here in 1995. Because of what happened here, they were able to take care of Baltimore (and later Cleveland) with franchises, and each team that needed a new stadium got one. The league was able to get expansion franchises in Jacksonville and Carolina, before Baltimore, which deserved one after the Colts left in the middle of the night for Indianapolis.
Nobody is denying the impact Modell made on the NFL and the cities of Cleveland and Baltimore. And nobody is denying he was not the only one at fault. But his overwhelming desire to turn over the franchise to his son David, along with his uncanny ability to have financial trouble (twice) in the money-printing business of the NFL, brought on the events of 1995. And most of all, he was wrong, when he said, “I had no choice.”
Now the Hall of Fame voters will have a choice, assuming Art is renominated. And, hopefully, their choice will be the same as in the past – NO!
Les Levine can be seen on “More Sports and Les Levine” Mon.-Fri. from 6 to 7 p.m. and 11 to midnight on NEON Ch. 23 on Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at ClevelandJewishNews, or on Twitter @LesLevine.