The push for Art Modell to get into the Hall of Fame may be gaining momentum.
The man who brought football back to Baltimore is a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the first time since 2001.
Along with Modell, former Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden is also one of the 15 modern-era finalists. This is the first year that Ogden, the team’s first-overall draft pick, is eligible for the Hall. He is expected to be enshrined on his opening ballot.
For Modell, who passed away on Sept. 6, 2012, the road to this point has been bumpier. After his year as a finalist, the former Ravens and Browns owner was as semifinalist seven times before getting back to this point.
The push for Modell to gain entry has grown in recent years, and the calls increased after he passed away.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, who purchased the team from Modell, has been one of Modell’s top advocates.
“It’s not a true Hall of Fame until they put Art into it,” Bisciotti has said on numerous occasions. “You can’t write the history of the NFL without mentioning Art.”
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has also spoken in support of Modell.
"It is often said about those inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame: 'Can you write the history of the league without him?'” Harbaugh said. “The answer with Art Modell is resounding. He was a great leader, but more importantly, he was truly a good man."
Along with owning the Ravens and Browns, Modell had an instrumental role in the development of the NFL. He was a key player in the AFL-NFL merger, chaired the negotiations for the league’s first collective bargaining agreement in 1968 and was perhaps most notably the NFL’s broadcast chairman. During his 31-year run as the league’s broadcast chairman, Modell helped establish NFL Films and Monday Night Football, which are two of the most successful television entities in league history.
"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. “I hope in death Art is placed where he should be – in Canton in the Hall of Fame."
The roadblock for Modell’s entry to the Hall of Fame is widely considered to be the fact that he moved his franchise to Baltimore in 1996, which has kept some of the voters from enshrining him.
“Why should he not be in the Hall of Fame?” Former Browns running back Jim Brown said. “I say that he should be, regardless of what the people of Cleveland think. You just don't deal with revenge or animosity to a man that has done so much for the game."
The last time Modell was a finalist for the Hall of Fame, Cleveland media member Tony Grossi reportedly made a passionate speech against Modell’s entry.
Grossi told BaltimoreRavens.com in 2010, “It was my responsibility as the representative of Cleveland to do that because it’s been made clearly aware to me that the fans of the Browns do not want this man in the Hall of Fame.”
Grossi was previously a beat reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but he temporarily lost his Hall of Fame vote last year after being taken off the Browns beat by the paper. Grossi then took a new job with the ESPN radio affiliate in Cleveland and has since regained his vote.
The next step in the voting process is a meeting by the selection committee in New Orleans on Saturday, Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl. During that meeting, each finalist will be discussed, and the Hall of Fame rules stipulate that between four and seven people gain entry each year.
The other finalists are Larry Allen, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Kevin Green, Charley Haley, Bill Parcells, Andre Reed, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams.
The honorees will be announced at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 2.