Art Modell, longtime owner of the Cleveland Browns, died on Thursday at the age of 87. Bill Littlefield asked Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer to remember Modell and his impact on professional football.
Modell helped to negotiate the television contracts that brought huge money to the NFL, and he volunteered his team to play in the first Monday Night Football game.
“He definitely thought that [Monday Night Football] would be an event,” Pluto said. “Art Modell wanted people talking about his team.”
In 1995, Modell angered fans when he announced that he would move the Browns to Baltimore, where the team became the Ravens. In 2001, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl.
“It was huge for Art and it was obviously very painful here,” Pluto said. “A lot of us sit here and say ‘that could have happened in Cleveland,’ because that’s the team that should have stayed.”
When he retired in 2003, Modell sold his remaining interest in the Baltimore Ravens for $600 million. Fans left behind in Cleveland did not have nearly as much success.
“The horrible epilogue of the Browns moving to Baltimore and becoming one of the most successful franchises in the NFL is that the re-born expansion team has had a grand total of two winning seasons, one playoff appearance, and a loss,” said Pluto.