Patriots owner: Art Modell said hiring Bill Belichick would be 'biggest mistake of my life'

Funeral Mass for former Ravens president David Modell was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. (Baltimore Sun video)

Bill Belichick was last to coach the Browns before the franchise relocated to Baltimore, and his record in Cleveland wouldn't be out of place among his eventual successors'.

In Belichick's five seasons as a first-time head coach (1991-95), he went 36-44, with one winning season. He also won a playoff game in 1994, the Browns' last postseason victory. All eight of Cleveland's hired-and-fired coaches since also have finished under .500; Hue Jackson went 1-15 in 2016.


After the 1995 Browns nosedived late in the season and then-owner Art Modell went back on his promise to make Belichick the first coach of his Baltimore franchise, Belichick latched on with the New England Patriots and then the New York Jets as an assistant coach.

When the Patriots fired Pete Carroll as head coach in 1999, owner Robert Kraft was considering Belichick for the vacancy. Another team owner thought Kraft could do better.

"He said if I did it, I'd be making the biggest mistake of my life," Kraft told Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Kraft's voice "taking an ominous tone," according to King.

Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk and kicker Justin Tucker played key roles in the AFC victory in the Pro Bowl.

The owner, of course, was Modell, and, to be fair, he was not the only person warning Kraft. George Young (Calvert Hall), the former general manager of the New York Giants, and fellow NFL executive Joe Browne "thought I was crazy for wanting Bill," Kraft recalled. "It was toxic. Nobody thought it was a good idea. I was getting killed by the media in Boston. Bill had one winning year in five seasons in Cleveland."

Modell, who died in 2012, reportedly had another conversation with Kraft, one more flattering to his evaluation of a future Hall of Fame coach. According to The Boston Globe, Modell called Kraft up after Belichick was hired in 2000 with a more tempered warning.

"You're not getting Prince Charming," Modell said, "but give him some leeway and he'll deliver for you."

In developments consistent with modern NFL history, everyone but Cleveland benefited. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Brian Billick, the Patriots won four (and counting) with Belichick, and the Browns continued to be the Browns.