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He Said, He Said: Is Art Modell a Hall of Famer?

  • By Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler
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Art Modell passed away early Thursday at the age of 87, leaving behind a legacy that's difficult to define for NFL fans.

Modell was an influential figure in NFL history, but the decision to move his Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore in 1995 is generally seen as an immovable stain on his reputation.

Modell is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Should he be in Canton?

In their latest edition of "He Said, He Said," Around The League's Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler offer two opinions on a hot-buzz topic in the NFL.

Hanzus: Look at big picture

Art Modell's own version of "The Decision" once rocked Cleveland in a way LeBron James couldn't approach on his worst day.

Modell never managed to detach the Scarlett letter stitched to his designer suit after relocating his franchise to Baltimore in 1996. Such was the traumatic nature of the demise of the original Browns, and we can only wonder if Modell would do it again knowing how he'd be portrayed the rest of his life.

But Modell shouldn't be defined by one fateful decision. He was a pioneer in the game, a hands-on owner for two championship teams and a driving force in building the NFL brand on television. "Monday Night Football" doesn't happen -- at least not when it did -- without Modell's guiding hand.

He was one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and a semifinalist seven times between 2004 and 2011. It will be interesting to see if Modell's death will affect voter habits next year -- don't be surprised if they do.

The NFL is America's most popular sport, and Modell was a key figure when the roots were planted. His Browns deserved to stay in Cleveland, but one choice shouldn't wipe out a career of important contributions.


Sessler: Modell misses out

Art Modell was a passionate leader, and that passion will be missed.

There's also a healthy Hall of Fame argument for Modell based on his accomplishments and what he meant to football over 42 years as owner of the Browns and Ravens.

Men like Al Davis, Wellington Mara and Dan Rooney were inducted into Canton for the visionary paths they cut as owners -- and Modell's career hovers on the fringes of that group -- but the stigma of the move from Cleveland to Baltimore will prevent him from the Hall. The move hangs over Modell's memory like a shadow.

Modell wasn't the first owner to relocate a football team and he certainly wasn't the last. "The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me," Modell said in 1999, but the people of Cleveland can't see it that way. Their hearts were ripped out.

You can argue semantics and politics. The city of Baltimore can howl for Clevelanders to finally get over it, and this debate can rage in darkened taverns forever, but Modell's legacy was shaped by that one decision. His chance for the Hall? As Edgar Allan Poe wrote in "The Raven" -- "Nevermore."

Marc Sessler and Dan Hanzus write for Around the League. Sessler has a time share in the Dawg Pound.


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