Modell still trying to blame others for Browns move

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Don’t bother calling Columbo or Sherlock Holmes or Adrian Monk. The mystery has been solved.

What mystery? Why Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.

The financially strapped Modell was forced out of Cleveland because former Cleveland mayor George Voinovich, who was governor at the time of the “crisis,” and other community leaders would not help the Browns owner.

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Modell said a leading politician — Voinovich, it is implied — suggested that he move the Browns because no financial help would be forthcoming.

Voinovich said Modell lied.

So who is telling the truth?

As crazy as it may sound, the politician.

You see, the NFL has a list of criteria that allows a team to judge whether it should stay or move. Of the six items on the list, Modell met one and that was a stretch.

The Browns had more than 50,000 season ticket holders. The average attendance was 63,000 and that was during the bad seasons.

The stadium was old, but Cleveland told Modell it would build him a new stadium in line with the plans to build a new baseball park, namely Jacobs Field which is the home of the Cleveland Indians.

Modell told city officials ‘No.’

The only item Modell came close to was the parking and concessions.

As for additional money, each team in the league at that time received something in the neighborhood of $38 million as part of the television contract which Modell himself secured. Each team received additional money for team apparel of which the Browns are among the top three teams in the league.

The money the Browns received doesn’t even include the local advertising revenue the team gets for the stadium, programs, etc.

Since the salary cap at that time was almost the same as the TV revenue, that expense was covered.

Modell’s biggest problem was the extravagant lifestyle spending of his family as well as himself. Also, his son did not particularly want to remain in Cleveland.

Evidently, everyone is supposed to believe Modell because he said it. But Modell’s credibility began deteriorating when he fired Paul Brown as head coach merely because Brown remained more in demand and more popular than he did after buying the team.

Other than the 1964 NFL championship team that was comprised of talent assembled by Brown, Modell’s only flirt with a championship was during the Bernie Kosar era and a couple of season with Brian Sipe.

The Sipe era or “Kardiac Kids” had success due to Marty Schottenheimer, whom Modell ran out of town by controlling the draft with picks like Mike Junkin instead of future Hall of Famer Shane Conlin.

Kosar orchestrated his own deal to the Browns by completing college in three years and making himself available for the supplementary draft of which the Browns had the No. 1 pick.

Voinovich said it was Modell who hasn’t been honest. And even though people say politicians aren’t honest, I honestly believe Voinovich in this case.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.