Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/31/13
John Harbaugh said at the Super Bowl on Thursday that he hopes folks find it in their hearts to vote Art Modell into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during Saturday mornings vote. Dont expect many hearts in Cleveland to feel that way. And if Modells name is announced Saturday night, dont expect many hearts to accept it with a shrug, or without angry protest. Feelings in Cleveland remain rawer than raw over Modell moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltmore in 1995. That was evident when the thought of a mere mention of Modells death before a Browns game last season brought howls of outcry and anger. Inducting Modell into the pantheon of footballs greats at a facility a little more than an hour south of Cleveland would be like pouring burning hot vinegar into a cut. Folks in Baltimore are expressing their opinions, which is their right. Harbaugh weighed in. Ozzie Newsome wrote an op-ed for the Plain Dealer. The sentiment toward a man who died and had a viewing at the teams stadium washes West from the Chesapeake. There are good people within the Ravens organization who remain loyal to Modell, so their feelings are understandable. To his credit, any time Newsome discusses Modell and the Hall he merely lays out his case. Its the same old stuff. TV, the NFL-AFL merger, etc. But at times the proselytizing for Modell comes across as sanctimonious. As if the people in Cleveland arent allowed to remain angry. One big question is whether Modell moving the old Browns disqualifies him from the Hall. Who in Cleveland would say it doesnt? Modell blamed the move on the city and county not helping him with a new stadium, of promises broken and deadlines missed. He and his supporters can lay out a pretty compelling case for the move. But a very candid Modell moment came in 2004 when he admitted at an NFL meeting that he never wanted to move. Why did you then? he was asked. If I didnt move my team to Baltimore, my family wouldve gone to bankruptcy, he said. I had to (move). I couldnt afford it. You declare bankruptcy in the NFL, and its an automatic revocation of your license. They strip you of your ballclub. But when he got to Baltimore he continued to borrow -- to the point he owed 180 million and had to bring in Steve Biscotti to bail him out. This is a Hall of Fame owner? Modell fired Paul Brown, the greatest coach and greatest innovator in NFL history. That move alone changed the fortune of a franchise; imagine if Modell had somehow been able to set his ego aside and keep Brown coaching. Modell won a championship in 1964, yes. But he did that with the team Brown built, and Modell didnt win another in Cleveland. His team never even got to the Super Bowl, though it did play in three NFL Championship games pre-Super Bowl, i.e. the era just after Brown was run off. Modell won his title with Paul Brown disciple Blanton Collier as coach, using Browns players and Colliers approach. But after Collier retired in 1971, Modells record was 187-188. In the 31 years after the Browns won the title, Modell had eight different coaches. This is Hall of Fame worthy? After the 1965 season, Modell hastened Jim Browns retirement by getting into a contract spat with Brown because Modell wanted Brown to return from filming The Dirty Dozen in time for training camp. Modell didnt give, and ran Brown away from the game. This is called the Daily Double: Running off the greatest coach and greatest player in NFL history. Hall of Fame? Then theres the move. Modells supporters, and there are many, will present his side. It will include hiring Newsome, the first African-American to run a team. But Modell has many hurdles to overcome. This Hall class is deep, with four extremely strong candidates up for the first time -- Jonathan Ogden, Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp and Larry Allen. Cris Carter is a finalist. So are Andre Reed and Bill Parcells and Edward DeBartolo (a much more deserving owner) and Jerome Bettis and Charles Haley. That makes it tough, but its not the reason Modell should not be selected. The Hall of Fame is for the best of the best, the most special players and people from NFL history. Its not a Hall of sentimentality or perceived influence. Its the Hall of the greatest. With respect to a lot of good people in Baltimore whose opinions are worthy of respect, Modell doesnt meet the standard. Not for the national Hall of Fame. Folks in Baltimore can induct him in their city Hall of Fame, if they have one. Throw a big party and serve crabcakes. Have at it. No one would begrudge you. But the case does not add up for Canton.
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