With the Patriots once again in the Super Bowl, there is a lot of looking back at how the Patriots came to be and exposing cold takes about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Added to the list of those who doubted Belichick is Art Modell, the late former owner of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft recalled the process that led to the hiring of Belichick as the head coach of the team back in 2000. During the vetting of Belichick, Kraft was told by Modell that hiring Belichick may not work out very well.
“He said if I did it, I’d be making the biggest mistake of my life,” Kraft said in an interview with Peter King of The MMQB.
Modell had a slightly different take on that particular exchange, but it seems pretty clear Modell had some doubts about what Belichick was going to do in New England.
Of course, Modell was speaking from some experience. Belichick was the head coach of the Browns under Modell from 1991 through 1995. Modell made both the hiring and firing of Belichick in Cleveland. Belichick coached the Browns to a record of 36-44 during his five-year run, including an 11-5 season in 1994 that ended with a AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After going 5-11 the following season, Modell cut Belichick loose.
Things have worked out just fine for Kraft, Belichick, and the Patriots, of course. Belichick has coached the Patriots to four Super Bowl championships and will go for a fifth this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. If only Kraft had taken Modell’s expert advice a little more seriously, who knows how things would look today.