On Nov. 6, 1995, Art Modell announced that he was relocating his team to Baltimore for the 1996 season.
About three months later, on Feb. 15, 1996, Modell fired Cleveland Browns Head Coach Bill Belichick.
The Ravens wanted a fresh start and a familiar face to be the first head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and Modell hired Ted Marchibroda (a former Baltimore Colts head coach) to usher in the new team.
It was the last time Belichick was fired, and he’s since won four Super Bowls as the head coach of the New England Patriots.
So, does Belichick ever think about what would’ve happened had he been retained by Modell and became the first coach of the Ravens?
“That wasn’t my choice,” Belichick said of the firing. “Ted came in there and transitioned that for what they needed at that point in time. But, look, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that, no.”
Belichick did humor the question, however.
“If I would have been the head coach there, I think we would have been competitive,” he said.
“We had a good team, we had a good staff, we had a lot of good players. [Ravens General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] did a good job with that team, made it better, and they won a championship five years later with some of the same players that we started with.”
Belichick and Newsome worked together in Cleveland before the move. It was Newsome’s first executive job after his playing days as a Brown were over.
The Browns were on an upward trajectory under Belichick. In 1990, they were 3-13. Belichick was hired in 1991 and they immediately jumped to 6-10, then 7-9. In 1994, Cleveland went 11-5 and, coincidently, beat the Patriots in the playoffs. The Browns haven’t had that many wins in a season since Belichick left.
Cleveland began the 1995 season 3-1 before rumors of the move to Baltimore grew loud. Modell announced the move at about the midpoint of the season and the Browns crashed to a 5-11 record.
“I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and players that we had at that time,” Belichick said. “[The] ‘95 [season] wasn’t, obviously, a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that; we all know what happened.”
Even though Belichick didn’t become the Ravens’ head coach, he did give them a gift.
Belichick traded the Browns’ 10th-overall pick in 1995 for three picks that year and a first-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. That pick became the 26th-overall selection, which Newsome used to grab linebacker Ray Lewis. The Browns’ awful 1995 season also gave the Ravens the fourth-overall selection, which they used on Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden.
“Made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie did a great job with with Ogden and Ray Lewis, two cornerstones of that eventual championship team,” Belichick pointed out Wednesday.