NEW ORLEANS - The Ravens could have two of their franchise icons elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Class of 2013 is announced early this evening.
Longtime left tackle Jonathan Ogden, the first draft pick in Ravens history, and late owner Art Modell both made the cut to the list of 15 finalists. But while Ogden seems close to a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Modell’s inclusion in this class is unlikely with the depth of the group of finalists.
Modell’s credentials are strong, as he put together a successful run of 43 seasons of NFL ownership. He won the NFL championship in 1964 and appeared in three other league finals with the Browns before moving them to Baltimore in 1996. The Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV and played in three AFC championships during his tenure.
Modell, who died on Sept. 6, also had key roles in the AFL-NFL merger and building the television brand of the league.
Several members of the Ravens organization believe Modell should get in now.
“The National Football League wouldn’t be the same. Isn’t that the measurement, how much better they made our game and the National Football League?” coach John Harbaugh said. “By any measurement, it wouldn’t be the same and it wouldn’t be as good as it is right now. He changed football. He changed the way that it was perceived. He helped make it the popular game that it is today.
“He had a vision that very few people had in his time. The minute you got to know Art, we really became such good friends because he wanted to be your friend. He wanted to get close to you and your family, my wife and my daughter. Pat Modell, Pat Modell drove Art. Pat was the driving force I think in that partnership. But they became great friends with Joe (Flacco), with Ray (Lewis), with all our players.
“And then Steve Bisciotti is that same type of person. And Rene Bisciotti, they have the same type of partnership that they had. I would hope at this point after what we’ve been through with Art and Pat in this last year. What it’s meant to our team, the focus that it’s put on our success and what they’ve done, I hope people would find it in their hearts to do the right thing and vote Art Modell into the Hall of Fame. There’s no question he belongs there, there’s no question he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. Why wait? Let’s just do it right now. Let’s do the right thing.”
Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome played for the Browns and then was hired to the organization’s front office by Modell.
Newsome said Modell had a significant influence on his life.
“No. 1, he was a great boss. And then, he gave me the opportunity to stay within the franchise and start to work,” Newsome said. “If you look at the game, he was a pioneer in just about everything that this game is about right now. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be alive when he gets the chance to go into the Hall of Fame. That’s a shame.”
But does Newsome believe Modell deserves to be enshrined in Canton?
“What they have to do, like in any decisions you have to make, you have to look at the positives and the negatives,” Newsome said. “With him, I think the positives outweigh the negatives - the negative of the move. That’s how I go about making decisions and that’s how I hope the voters do it.”
Linebacker Ray Lewis, the second player ever drafted by the Ravens, knew Modell well and made his sell on his former owner.
“You can only tell them about the man who I knew myself - a true legend in his own way, a real visionary who changed thousands and thousands of lives,” Lewis said. “For the impact he’s had on this business and what he’s done for so many in this business, for me - I am a little biased - I would say, ‘Why wouldn’t he be in the Hall of Fame?’ Like I said, however they vote, they vote, but he is already in my Hall of Fame. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.”