Since Art Modell, the former owner of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, passed away at the age of 87 on Thursday, folks around the league have been reflecting on his impact. Most of this reflection has been based around the two franchises he had the most impact on: the Browns and the Ravens, of course. But Modell also had an impact on the birth of another NFL franchise: the Cincinnati Bengals.
With a fine spot of fact-finding and storytelling, Josh Kirkendall of SB Nation's Cincy Jungle breaks down the relationship between Modell and then-head coach and general manager Paul Brown. Modell eventually fired Brown due to extreme differences in opinion, and after his contract expired (he continued to be paid his salary), he got back into the football fray.
Eventually Brown's retirement ended when his contract in Cleveland expired, becoming instrumental in bringing an AFL team in Cincinnati. In late May 1967 the American Football League awarded Cincinnati the league's tenth franchise. At the time there were five different ownership groups seeking to become owners, but there were really only two groups with a realistic shot. One was headed by Paul Brown, who had been actively promoting football in Cincinnati for some time and a lawyer named John Wiether, who was a former guard for the Detroit Lions and former coach for the University of Cincinnati basketball team.
Due to the AFL needing a new team as part of the NFL-AFL merger, Cincinnati and Brown were awarded the franchise. As the piece notes, there will always be differing feelings when it comes to Modell, who was equal parts rabid fan and shrewd businessman. Browns fans may feel some resentment, but there's no doubting the effect that Modell has had on the entire landscape of the NFL, including the birth of the Cincinnati Bengals.
For more on the Bengals, head on over to Cincy Jungle.