Art Modell, the owner who brought the Ravens to Baltimore, and Jonathan Ogden, the team's first-ever draft pick, were among 15 modern-era finalists announced Friday for the 2013 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The announcement, which came four months after Modell's death at age 87, was a significant milestone for the late owner's Hall of Fame candidacy, though the final verdict won't be announced until the day before the Super Bowl.
Modell was an NFL owner for 43 years and played a major role in helping the league become a television superpower. But his Hall of Fame chances have languished in large part because he moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, deeply wounding one of the league's most loyal fan bases in the process.
He hasn't made the list of finalists since 2001, though Modell has been among the semifinalists most years. It's a key leap, because unlike the semifinalists, who are winnowed down through a mail-in vote, all 15 finalists will be actively discussed by the panel of media members that picks the Hall of Fame class. That means Modell supporters, such as Baltimore broadcaster Scott Garceau and USA Today columnist Jarrett Bell, will have a chance to make their case to skeptics.
"We're just overjoyed," said Modell's son, David, in a Friday interview. "We obviously feel it's well-deserved and we're very excited and now we just get to sit on pins and needles for all kinds of reasons between now and the Super Bowl."
Ogden, by contrast, sailed into the final group in his first year of eligibility. Long considered a likely Hall of Famer, Ogden made 11 Pro Bowls as the prototype left tackle of his generation. He was the Ravens' first-round pick out of UCLA in 1996, part of a remarkable haul that also included linebacker Ray Lewis.
A publicist for Ogden said he was traveling with his family Friday and unavailable for comment.
The selection process in football is more arcane than the straight vote conducted for the Baseball Hall of Fame. A group of 46 media members -- one representing each of the NFL's 32 teams, 13 at-large delegates and one representing the Pro Football Writers of America -- will pick the honorees at a closed-door meeting Feb. 2 in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII. A candidate needs 80 percent support to make it, and just five will be selected from the 15 "modern-era" finalists.
The 2013 class will be announced that afternoon at 5:30 on the NFL Network.
The biggest obstacle for Ogden and Modell might be thick competition on the ballot, which also includes dominant defenders Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan, prolific offensive players Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Cris Carter and one of the league's most famous coaches, Bill Parcells.
In describing the selection debates, Garceau has said that it's often hard for non-playing candidates to crack the top five when so many great players are in the mix. Parcells, for example, didn't make it last year despite his unquestioned coaching resume.
In the days after Modell's death, many current and former NFL executives, including Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome, called for his induction. Several voters also said his death should spur new discussion of his candidacy.
"As the coaches say, 'He played all three phases of the game,' " David Modell said in making his father's case. "Well, Art played all three phases of the game, not only as a league guy, but as an owner of a sports team that was generally more successful on the field than not, and was a champion of his community. Art was a three-way star, actually, so it's an overwhelming body of evidence that indicates he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
Other voters, however, have said their reservations about Modell remain strong.
He moved the Browns from Cleveland after the 1995 season, and many fans never forgave him, despite the arrival of a new Browns franchise in 1999. Clevelanders have long campaigned to keep him out of the Hall of Fame in nearby Canton, Ohio. And the NFL even canceled a planned moment of silence at Cleveland Browns Stadium the Sunday after Modell's death, fearing that fans would boo.
"I think his passing has caused a lot of people to reconsider his candidacy," said Newsday columnist Bob Glauber, a member of the selection panel. "Personally, I will go in with an open mind out of respect for the process. But it's going to take some convincing for me, mostly because of the move [to Baltimore]."
Glauber said he expects Ogden to make it, referring to the left tackle as a rare "lock" selection. "I just think he was one of the dominant players at his position for a long time," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.
The full list of finalists:
--- Edward DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers
--- Kevin Green, linebacker and defensive end for four NFL teams, most notably the Rams and Steelers
--- Charles Haley, defensive end and linebacker for the 49ers and Cowboys
--- Art Modell, former owner of the Cleveland Browns and Ravens
--- Jonathan Ogden, offensive tackle for the Ravens
--- Bill Parcells, former coach for four NFL teams
--- Warren Sapp, defensive tackle for the Buccaneers and RaidersCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun