Bisciotti told Modell, “I don’t know if I can do this without you”

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The passing of former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell has generated plenty of compelling observations and recollections regarding one of pro football’s dominant figures of the last 50 years.

One of the most fascinating accounts comes from Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne.

Byrne, who spent more than 20 years working for Modell in Cleveland and in Baltimore, writes about the farewells said by several Ravens officials to their former boss.

Current Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti reluctantly shared his final words to Modell, who served as Bisciotti’s mentor for four years as Bisciotti ascended from minority to majority owner.

“Don’t go – I don’t know if I can do this without you,” Bisciotti told Modell.

Byrne also shared one of the funnier moments of Modell’s career.  Speaking to the media after a big loss, former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano said, “There are 800 million Chinese who didn’t even know we played today. We’ll get over this.”

When Modell saw Rutigliano’s quote, the owner called Byrne with the following observaion:  “You tell your head coach that there may be 800 million Chinese who don’t care that we lost yesterday, but there is one Jew in Cleveland who cares a lot.”

Football fans throughout the country should care that Art is gone, and they should always remember that he had an important role in the growth the sport has enjoyed over the past 50 years.

48 responses to “Bisciotti told Modell, “I don’t know if I can do this without you”

  1. Why should Browns fans care that he is gone? He sold the browns behind their back, took a superbowl from the browns with the NEW (Ravens) Browns all the while causing nothing but misery for Browns fans all over Ohio and Cleveland.

  2. I can’t stand the Clowns/pumpkin Heads but I have the utmost respect for Mr. Modell. If it were not for him we mat not have known Monday Night Football. I truly believe it broke his heart to move the franchise to Baltimore. If you follow pro football he is certainly a legend and always will be. God bless Mr. Modell .

  3. The man moved a football team. That he owned. He didn’t murder anyone driving drunk. He didn’t electrocute dogs. He didn’t try to become a drug kingpin. He didn’t rape co-eds. Let the man rest in peace and give him his due for his accomplishments.

  4. He gutted cleveland when he stowed away in the night, it’s not as if browns fans weren’t showing up. Not everyone should pay homage. How are dyed in the wool old school browns fans haters? Baltimore Colts ring a bell?

  5. when he said he couldnt do it without him did he mean he couldnt have purchased a stolen team without him. he should have asked Art how did you live with yourself stealinf the Browns from Cleveland because of your Greed for money

  6. Very kind words Mike and I think as football lovers, we all need to cherish what Modell did for this game. You would not have your blog, we wouldn’t be playing fantasy football, and you’d never be able to watch another teams game during a Sunday. NFL is better for Art and we should all be thankful.

  7. it’s very simple–he refused to sell the team to local (CLE) investors because he wanted to pass the team onto his kids.
    That didn’t work out too well did it?
    Moved the team, and ultimately had to sell his majority share because..
    1. he was $150+ Million in debt
    2. he was a horrible businessman
    3. he basically was a Ponzi owner–he had no ‘real’ money, it was all bank loans
    For all the good he did for the NFL, it pales what he did to CLE
    no sympathy here

  8. It’s time to move on Cleveland. Yes, Modell moved the original Browns to Baltimore, but that was 16 years ago.

    It’s sad that the move is what Modell will be remembered for the most.

  9. The Browns never had to leave Cleveland. Tremendous fan support, 4th in attendance and a proud history. Modell was a horrible businessman and his greed did him in.

    For those who want to give him all the credit for the NFL on TV, do you think we’d be watching badminton and lacrosse on ESPN all winter? THE NFL would have achieved its prominence on television without Art Modell. When the cameras were moved down to the field and slo-motion replays came into being, the game became a natural fit.

  10. Unless you live in a man’s shoes you cannot understand the man. How many people would do the something the only thing this man Mr. Modell did that is criticized. Think about this he hired Ozzie Newsome and Bill Belchick in Cleveland. They might still be there if the politicians listened. HOF.

  11. Unless you live in a man’s shoes you cannot understand the man. How many people would do the samething the only thing this man Mr. Modell did that is criticized. Think about this he hired Ozzie Newsome and Bill Belchick in Cleveland. They might still be there if the politicians listened. HOF.

  12. Model was a giant in the NFL for over 20 years. He – along with several other owners and Commissioner Rozelle – helped pave the way for the NFL to become the most popular televised sport in the land. He was a hands on owner and a dynamic personality.

    But his dishonest decision to leave Cleveland – in essence keeping the team for himself and his sons while stealing it from the millions of Browns fans who made the Modells rich and famous – was motivated by greed and pride. He spent lavishly and refused to alter his opulent lifestyle and even as he faced bankruptcy, insisting on private planes and caviar in his palatial box at Cleveland Stadium right to the end.

    He lied to the city and the fans when he claimed to “have no choice.” He did. He chose to take Maryland’s money to enrich himself rather than give Cleveland a chance to vote on a bill which eventually funded the stadium the new Browns play in today. Modell announced the move just days before election day, depriving the fans the opportunity to even vote on giving Modell more of their money so the Browns could stay. Why? Because Modell knew that even if the taxpayers built him a new stadium, they could not possibly match Baltimore’s offer of 500 million plus a $50 million cash payment payable to Art Modell himself.

    Modell was a great owner for a long time, and he did many good things for the NFL and for the Browns and the city of Cleveland. But just like OJ Simpson will always be remembered for his great crime, so too should Art Modell forever be remembered first and foremost as a greedy man who broke the hearts of a million fans for 50 million cash. And he still lost control of the team by 2004. What a shame.

    Some have criticized Browns fans for not letting go; some blame Tony Grossi and others on the HOF Selection Committee. But the only person on whom blame can truly be placed is Art Modell himself. He alone is responsible for tarnishing his own sterling reputation. May he rest in peace, and may we remember his legacy – the good and the bad – with clear heads and truthful memories.


  13. I cannot understand how a Ravens fan can possibly worship Art Modell whilst profaning the Irsays. Does hypocrisy release endorphins or something?

    Being a Ravens fan requires a deficit of self-awareness, an inability to understand irony, and a lusty embrace of hypocrisy.

    Robert Irsay is evil, but we should be putting Art Modell in the HOF?

    Talk about cognitive dissonance.

  14. The blame for Modell moving from Cleveland to Baltimore should be squarely laid at the feet of the league. They should have placed a franchise in Baltimore instead of Jacksonville. Maryland had a lucrative offer of the table to bring a franchise to Baltimore. When the league decided to snub Baltimore for a franchise in favor of Jacksonville, they knew that some NFL franchise would take the deal. Modell recognized a great deal and jumped on it.

    As far as Cleveland fans feeling that they were “robbed” of their franchise and “their Superbowl”‘ they should just get over it. They still get to root for their Browns on Sundays. Cleveland was treated with more respect than Baltimore ever was when the Colts left town. The 2000 Superbowl was won with a Ravens team that was built in Baltimore. Cleveland can get their own Superbowl and stop jonesing on ours.

    I love and respect Cleveland. I love and respect Art Modell for what he meant to what has become one of the best organizations in the NFL. rest in Peace Art Modell. Thank you!

  15. Don’t think the waaaaaaaambulance is big enough for all you Cleveland whiners… I love how you think you would have won a SB if the team had stayed in Cleveland. That town can’t sustain a winner…when was the last time you won anything?

  16. Well… Frontiere moved the Rams from Los Angeles, she kicked the bucket, Al Davis screwed Oakland and Los Angeles, he kicked the bucket, Now Modell, who screwed Cleveland has kicked the bucket..

    I guess that means Bud Adams is next..

  17. Hey Browns fans, how long did you have to go without a team, a few seasons? We’re going on 18 years without a team here in L.A. A lot of Angelinos hated Georgia Frontierre for moving the rams in 1994, but I’d say most of us are over it now seeing as it’s all done and in the past.You lost your home team but be thankful that you got one back so soon, even if they are and will continue to remain abysmal for the foreseeable future. Life is too short, let go of your bitterness and cheer on the team you have now.

  18. If you didn’t live in Cleveland as a Browns fan in 1995, you have no idea what he did and what fans went through. He robbed us. You talk about what he did for the NFL, well, he took all of that from us. we only have a team because we fought him and won, we literally have a team in spite of Modell.

    You guys can have your moments of silence on Sunday. We, the Browns fans, had a moment of silence that lasted years because of Arta. We’re good for awhile. I’m not giving this man one more second of thought let alone a tribute. May he rest in peace, and may my anger die with him.

    He is gone, but not forgiven.

  19. You tell fans not to judge and “unless you live in a mans shoes”. Now reverse it and start seeing it from the other side.. If Rooney pulled a snake move in the middle of the night on Pittsburgh I can guarantee there would be no Sympathy or judging them for not wanting this shoved down their throats. Did Baltimore stand and pay homage to Robert Irsay when he died? I wouldn’t judge Cleveland..People will act how they act. They are put in a bad position and mandating that they pay tribute is a slap in their face.. It’s a lose lose situation. trying to paint a nice picture but not the whole story.

  20. I really am disgusted that this has turned into so much discussion about how CLEVELAND LOST A TEAM OMG, and not about the wonderful things this great man did for this great sport filled with great personalities. We should be celebrating that instead.

    Moreover, let me add some much needed perspective to all you brownies:
    CLEVELAND’S years without NFL team=3
    BMORE’S years without NFL team=12

    If ANYONE should even bring up the “move” (which does happen when you suck and don’t draw fans), it should be our Ravens.

    Browns fans-your team waited a quick THREE years, got ALL of your records, history, uniforms, colors, and name. Guess who owns Jonny Unitas’ BALTIMORE records and uniform? INDY. Modell, rest in peace. You rightfully didn’t deserve these browns fans.

  21. OK, so he moved to Baltimore to become even richer, but he still ended up having to sell HIS team. The whole point is – he obviously waited too long to move HIS team. Even with the sweet deal he got in Baltimore, he was going bankrupt. At least he had the class to leave the name and colors for Cleveland’s next sorry a$$ excuse for a franchise, unlike Bob Irsay. If Baltimore had been treated as well as Cleveland was treated after they lost their team, and was handed a replacement team after 3 years, he might have instead moved to Jacksonville or Carolina. Oh wait, those cities were awarded NEW expansion franchises, in place of Baltimore. You may not agree with me, but Baltimore got royally screwed when the Colts left. Cleveland got treated like royalty. They can suck it, as far as I’m concerned.

  22. Robert Irsay was a great man and a great owner. When he stole the Colt’s from the city of Baltimore they should have named a street after him and gave him the key to the City. What a great guy! He’s a legend and a hero in the hearts of NFL fans everywhere.

  23. Apparently when people die only the good things that person did get remembered all the bad things are forgotten.

    He stole a championship from Cleveland. He was a bad business man, he made countless mistakes that put him into debt, and when the city wouldn’t bail him out he took his ball and went to Baltimore.

    Yup he helped create Monday Night Football and did countless other great things for the league but the name Art Modell will always have a black mark next to it.

    Not to mention since Canton is 60 miles or so from Cleveland he’s never getting into the HOF.

  24. I thought the 800 million chinese line was funnier than Modell’s. Dick move taking the Browns from CLE, but he was still a dude with a family. We all make bad decisions. RIP, sorry to the fam.

  25. The Clowns couldn’t even win with Belicheck. The best thing to happen to that franchise was for it to leave Cleveland,just like LeBron. Notice both won championships soon after leaving that dump. The best thing about Cleveland is watching that comedian make fun of Cleveland.Factory of sadness.

  26. I’m really not trying to speak ill of the dead here. But does anyone know that Al Lerner helped Modell move the team to Baltimore? And that when Lerner was trying to bring a team back to Cleveland, Modell voted to block the move? That’s pretty much a d*ck move there. What a great guy. Also, the story of Modell creating MNF is false. I am a Bears fan, but I live in NE Ohio. This crap has been on the radio since his passing.

  27. 1. He fired Paul Brown.
    2. He moved the team.

    Those are his two biggest acts as an owner. Not Hall of Fame credentials.

  28. Rest in peace Mr. Model, you were a fine gentleman and a great owner. As a Baltimorean, I can empathize with the pain of losing a franchise. However, I do not accept under any circumstance Mr. Model was vile for leaving Cleveland.

  29. Cleaveland fans need to let that one go…. There was no way if that team stayed in the Cleave, the organization would have won the SB the Ravens did… They won 3-4 years after they moved… would have been a totally different team… do you even know if they would have drafted Ray Lewis if they stayed in the Cleave??? I could understand if they had won it the following year but camon people, you sound like whiney little girls and theres no crying in football. Unless your David Wilson

  30. From two Browns fans: Always taught if you have nothing good to say, say nothing…SO:

    Rest in peace Art Modell. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Art was always entertaining, humorous, and generous.


  31. Yeah. I keep hearing Ravens fans saying that they had to wait 12-13 years for a team, but Cleveland only had to wait 3! You know what that tells you? That the NFL thought that football in Cleveland was way more important than a team in Baltimore! The NFL needs teams like the Browns, that have a loyal following! Cleveland has, and will have way more tradition than the Ravens! Have fun with your male cheerleaders and marching band!

  32. To those of you who think that Cleveland fans had to wait only three years, think again. We’ve been waiting for 16 years for an NFL team to return. Impostors have been wearing the orange helmets, not NFL players.
    This team has sent more and more people in NE Ohio outdoors on Sunday afternoons to rake leaves.

  33. Clevelanders who bust on the Ravens fans ought to get a clue. How long has it been since Cleveland won ANYTHING or even qualified for the playoffs in the NFL? Keep your loser mentality and that may stretch out for a L-O-N-G time!

  34. For those who think 3 years without football and then starting from scratch isn’t a long time, remember the NCAA felt that was too big a penalty for even Penn State. Also, I’m tired of hearing that it was so much worse for Baltimore volts fans because it was longer. The Browns had attendance few other teams had. Northeast Ohio fought tooth and nail for the name, colors, history, and right to sell out every game in all of our disappointing seasons in the hopes that one day we will catch a glimpse of the team that was taken from us.

    Go Browns.

  35. If there was a mandatory moment of silence for Robert Irsay, would Baltimore fans stick up for him like they do for Art Modell?

    Didn’t think so. Why? Because they’re self-deluded hypocritical sheep – that’s why.

    I think I can explain the hypocrisy of Ravens fans: they HAVE to believe the BS version of history – that Modell “had no choice” and that somehow Cleveland is responsible for Modell’s move. Ravens fans have to believe this revisionist version of history or else they could never look themselves in the mirror knowing that they’re embracing a team and an owner who in 1995 did to Cleveland EXACTLY what Bob Irsay did to Baltimore in 1984.

    In fact, what Modell did was far worse. In the late 70s, attendance at Colts declined and by 1983 the Colts were playing to a virtually empty Memorial Stadium. Irsay threatened to move the team many times but the fans still stayed home.

    In Cleveland, the Browns were wildly popular – a guaranteed sell-out for every home game regardless of the team’s record. Attendance was NEVER a problem, and Modell never once leveled with the city or fans about his dire financial situation. So even if Irsay did a vile thing, he definitely had better reasons for doing it than Modell ever had.

    Don’t forget too that in 1994 the Browns were a playoff team under Belichick, and Sports Illustrated picked the Browns to go to the Super Bowl in 1995. The Browns were tied for first place in their division when Art announced the move. You could say that Modell took not 1 but 2 potential championships away from Cleveland – one in ’95 and the other in 2000.

    So you see Ravens fans HAVE to lie to themselves and everyone else. The only way they can root for the Ravens and not feel like the biggest hypocrities in the world is to claim that Art had “no choice.” Right. Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

    But it is a necessary fiction. The whole foundation of Ravens fandom is hypocrisy and lies.

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