Sometime in January the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce the 15 Modern Era Finalists for the class of 2013. Baltimore is well represented with 3 hoping to make the cut from the semi-final list of 25 to the final 15. Jonathan Ogden spent his entire career in Baltimore and has a strong chance to make it to Canton in his first year of eligibility.
Baltimore native George Young helped build 2 Super Bowl championship teams as GM of the New York Giants. Young, who prepped at Calvert Hall and coached at City College and the Colts, has been a finalist in the past. He died in 2001.
Several times before his death earlier this year I told Art Modell that he was a Hall of Famer and it was just a matter of when Canton would make it official. Here’s a copy of the letter I recently sent to the other 45 members of The Board of Selectors:
Art Modell has been a finalist and this is the 8th time he’s made our semi-final ballot. No one that we’re considering this year, or in recent years, has made more semi-final cuts. Three things stand out: winning football, key contributions to the NFL’s booming success and opportunities for others. His teams won NFL championships in Cleveland and Baltimore.
Art Modell’s teams were in the post season 18 times and won 12 division titles. In the past 14 years the Browns have won only 33% of their games and zero in the post-season. The organization Art brought to Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV, and since 2000 have made the playoffs nine times.
His contributions include Chairman of the Labor Committee that negotiated the NFL’s first CBA. He was part of the Merger Committee and helped break the impasse when he moved the Browns to the AFC. As Chairman of the NFL’s Television Committee for 31 years, Art Modell negotiated the deals that made the NFL America’s game.
Former NBC President Dick Ebersol recognized his impact, “I believe very strongly that Art Modell is one of the most important figures in the history of the modern NFL.”
Modell also helped establish NFL Films (NFL Films first Chairman) and was key to the creation of Monday Night Football.
One of his finest hours was naming Ozzie Newsome the NFL’s first minority GM. Art Modell opened the door and did what the NFL hadn’t done in 75 years. While we may see it as a great football hire Ozzie has a broader perspective, “The opportunities he gave me are historic, and I will be forever humble and grateful.”
Some may reject all of the above because of his move from Cleveland. Having watched moving vans pull out of Baltimore with the legacy of John Unitas and the Colts I understand the pain but can’t ignore the contributions. If moving a franchise is a deal-breaker then Canton would be missing some busts. Five of the 12 owners in the Hall of Fame relocated their franchises. Make it six if you consider Charles Bidwill Sr, the Bidwill family moved the Cardinals from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona following his death.
Joe Browne, the longest serving employee in the league office recently said he hopes
Modell’s time has come, “not as an emotional reaction to Art’s death, but as a rightful reflection of his longtime contribution to the NFL.” As longtime Lions Owner William Clay Ford Sr. put it, “I believe that Art did as much as any owner to help make the NFL what it is today.” Could you write the history of the NFL without Art Modell? Maybe, but I wouldn’t recommend the book. Thanks for your consideration and Happy Holidays.
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The 15 Modern Era Finalists will be announced shortly, the 15 plus senior nominees Curley Culp and Dave Robinson will be discussed and voted on Super Bowl Saturday in New Orleans. A minimum of 4 and maximum of 7 will make up the Hall of Fame class of 2013.