To join gang, Modell must eye firing line


Enough of this honeymoon. If Art Modell wants to be a Baltimore owner, he'd better start acting like a Baltimore owner.

You know what that means.

Bill Belichick, gone.


See ya.

Does Belichick deserve it?

Who knows? Who cares?

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When in Baltimore, make out a pink slip for the coach or manager.

This is the Land of Pleasant Living, but for those in charge of the owners' toys, it's a living hell.

Fire Belichick and get it over with.

Fire Belichick just to make Peter Angelos jealous.

It has been weeks since Angelos fired anyone. He's so depressed, he can't even bring himself to name a general manager.

Modell twice last week said he would retain Belichick, an Annapolis native in his fifth year as Browns coach.

Not to worry, Modell already is backing off, opening that delightful little "window" owners love to throw coaches out of.

By golly, the man shows promise.

"I'm a man of my word," Modell said, trying to reaffirm that he would keep Belichick.

Uh, tell it to Cleveland.

Modell now says he will meet with Belichick at the end of the season for an evaluation of the team, insisting, "I'm not trying to leave myself an out."

Don't sweat it, Art.

Angelos is working on his third manager in three years. The late Edward Bennett Williams fired one manager two years after winning the World Series, and another six games into a 162-game season.

Football, you ask?

Our tradition is no less grand.

Robert Irsay once fired Howard Schnellenberger at halftime. And Ted Marchibroda once was in such trouble, only a player revolt could save his job.

Never mind that Belichick is a local. Cal Ripken Sr. is the father of the Maryland-born, future Hall of Fame shortstop. Can't get much more local than that.

Indeed, being a Baltimore owner means never having to say you're sorry. And Modell should fit right in.

He already shows some Angelos-like tendencies. Eric Zeier apparently is his Leo Gomez, "the Browns' quarterback of the future, come hell or high water."

Vinny Testaverde?

He's Chris Sabo.


He's Johnny Oates.

Modell is a classic meddler, more polished than Angelos, but just as involved. His team doesn't have a GM, either. Mike Lombardi is the player personnel director. But basically, Modell and Belichick run the show.


Angelos will never hire a GM now.

Three major-league teams now feature executives in key positions who were forced out by Angelos -- San Diego, Texas and Arizona.

And the Orioles can't find a GM.

Maybe Angelos will just continue interviewing candidates, with the Million Man Search lasting into eternity.

Or maybe he'll just hire farm director Syd Thrift as his puppet, and pull every string himself.

Modell can serve as his model. Peter Hadhazy was the last Browns employee to hold the title of GM. He was fired in 1981.

Hadhazy said his crime was that he received too much credit for the Browns' success, when Modell wanted it all himself.

Sound familiar?

Doug Melvin took credit for signing Lee Smith. Angelos' sons claimed it was their doing. Melvin left to become GM of the Texas Rangers.

Modell has a son, too -- David, a Browns vice president. Does he play Rotisserie football? If so, he and John Angelos will be fast friends.

Angelos loves to chat up the press; so does Modell. Angelos dreams of winning a title; so does Modell.

Problem is, if you take away the Ernie Accorsi-Marty Schottenheimer era from 1985 to '92, the Browns have won only one playoff game since 1969.

If the Colts hadn't moved, Accorsi never would have gone to Cleveland. And if Accorsi hadn't gone to Cleveland, the Browns never would have gotten Bernie Kosar.

Accorsi didn't hold the title of GM, just the responsibilities. The Browns probably could use another one like him.

Whatever, pretty soon it will be time for Modell to pick a new coach.

Our suggestion is to appoint a four-man search committee, then hire a coach whose only experience was with Barcelona of the tTC World League of American Football, so the Cincinnati Bengals can't get him.

And if he fails?

Hey, happens all the time around here.

You don't officially own the team until you've uttered the words, "You're fired."

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