The thoughts around the NFL this week was the health of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson who had been hospitalized. The team would release no information on his condition leading many to speculate bad news was ahead. Yesterday, Wilson was released from the hospital and went home. Today, the NFL mourns the loss of one of it’s more influential former owners, Art Modell. Modell died this morning at the age of 87.
Modell is probably best known for his move out of Cleveland to Baltimore following the 1995 season. Ripping the soul out the Cleveland fan base, the fans rallied and petitioned the league to retain the teams history, branding, and name and succeeded. When Modell and the “Browns” players arrived in Baltimore, they became the Baltimore Ravens. The players retained their personal statistics but the franchise no longer held any of the former Browns entitlements.
The loathing of Art Modell never waned and to this day, perhaps the only name that receives more hatred is Lebron James. In truth, Modell was one of the major figures in the NFL. The sole owner of both the Browns and Ravens for 43 years and a pivotal member of the NFL’s broadcast chairman and was the driving force alongside then Commissioner Pete Rozelle in bringing the fans Monday Night Football.
Modell saw his “Browns” win the 1964 Championship but the same team never played in a Super Bowl coming close twice against Denver that ended with “The Drive” and the “Fumble”. Modell would win the elusive Super Bowl only after moving from Cleveland to Baltimore.
Some will see Modell as a pioneer and a prominent member of the NFL ownership community and while he was part of making the NFL what it is today, the move of the team to Baltimore will always be what most talk about. Loved in Baltimore and despised in Cleveland. Likely right up until this morning.