(BALTIMORE) — One of the NFL’s most influential owners, Art Modell, passed away at the age of 87 on Thursday. Modell moved his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.
Modell received much criticism for the move and spoke about it in 1999.
“I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move,” Modell said. “The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me.”
Modell played a critical role of getting the NFL on television after striking a contract between the league and ABC in 1970 to televise games on Monday night.
“I believe very strongly that Art Modell is one of the most important figures in the history of the modern NFL,” former NBC-TV president Dick Ebersol said. “He and Pete Rozelle developed the magic formula that married the potential of television to the game.”
“Art Modell’s leadership was an important part of the NFL’s success during the league’s explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell posted on Twitter. “Art was a visionary who understood the critical role that mass viewing of NFL games on broadcast television could play in growing the NFL.”
In 43 seasons of ownership, 24 teams had winning records, 18 made the playoffs, 2 won NFL championships (Browns in 1964 and the Ravens in 2000) under Modell’s tenure.
“You couldn’t spend five minutes with this man that you just didn’t fall in love with him,” former Ravens head coach Brian Billick who guided the Ravens to the 2000 NFL Super Bowl championship told ESPN Radio on Thursday. “Quick with a smile, always had a joke, really genuinely was more concerned about you and how you were doing than he was doing.”
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John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN