By Stan Charles
For his part, Art Modell, who passed away early this morning at the age of 87 came to Baltimore out of need plain and simple. However, he and his wife of 42 years, Patricia both came to love their adopted city, and showed that love in many large-scale philanthropic endeavors. His moving of the Browns to Baltimore, was part shot-gun romance, and part big-time transaction. The move left one city scorned and made one city deliriously happy.
The end result played out in chapters, as Modell left the Browns team name, colors and records behind, to start with a clean slated franchise, which was named by the fans. Hence the Baltimore Ravens were born in time for the NFL draft in 1996. The unimaginable move of one of the NFLs signature franchises the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, led to the building of what was originally called Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards in time for the 1998 season. After just one season, PSINet signed on as naming sponsor of the stadium. In 2002, the stadium reverted back to being called Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards, when PSINet was unable to make payments on their rights deal. M&T Bank has held naming rights since continually since 2003.
The Ravens in their early days were run on a shoestring, and it showed on the field. Yet, GM Ozzie Newsome parlayed two brilliant first round picks in that 1996 draft- LT Jonathan Ogden at No. 4 and linebacker Ray Lewis at No. 22 to respectability, then greatness. Both Ogden, who retired in 2009 and Lewis who is still active will be first round Hall of Famers when eligible.
After three benign Baltimore seasons 96-98 under grand-fatherly head-coach, Ted Marchibroda, a change in the coaching ranks was made. Modell, his son David, along with GM Ozzie Newsome vetted the candidates and decided upon an audacious young Offensive Coordinator Brian Billick. Within two years, Billick along with an amazing defense had returned Baltimore to the top of the NFL heap, for the first time since Jim OBriens FG with just :05 left on the clock, won SB V 16-13 for the then Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys in January 1971.
The Ravens amazing 2000 regular season, which culminated with the Ravens 34-7 Super Bowl victory over the NY Giants in Tampa, Florida was not without its share of obstacles to overcome. In fact, at one point during that season, after the Ravens bested the Cincinnati Bengals 37-0, the team would not score a single touchdown for 5 games. After that Bengal game, which had run the team to the record of 3-1, the team would win two low scoring row affairs over Cleveland 12-0 and Jacksonville 15-0 to get to 5-1. After those three games, the Ravens would lose 10-3 to Washington, 14-6 to Tennessee and 9-6 to the Steelers. However, the Ravens would go on an amazing 7-0 roll, in which the defense allowed just 67 points. In four subsequent play-off victories, the Ravens allowed to just 23 additional points, stamping them as one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
Their was a bitter irony in Arts winning his first ever Super Bowl with that Ravens team of 2000-01 in Tampa, Florida. The Modells, as was alluded to before, needed Baltimore to be able to take the family out of the tremendous debt it had incurred playing in Clevelands outdated and dilapidated Municipal Stadium.
Consequently, Arts Superbowl season was also the first season he had taken on a partner, who would soon become majority owner. Steve Biscotti, who had come on board in March 2000 as 49 owner, with the option to purchase the remaining 51 from Art by 2004. That option was ultimately exercised by Biscotti, who did allow Modell to stay active as a minority owner.
Biscotti often alluded fondly to his nearly 4 year apprenticeship under Art Modell as the key to his now successful stewardship of the Ravens, which has gone on for 8 years now.
Modell and his family were able to come out with heads held high, and coffers filled, enough to allow them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. Arts wife of 42 years, Pat Modell passed away in July of 2011.
The trade-off Modell made, in moving the Browns to Baltimore did deny him his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. However, his death will now lead to renewed efforts to enshrine him in Canton.