I too used to think Modell was a scumbag. After the 2000 AFC Championship game I left the room rather than watch him be given the Lamar Hunt Trophy. I even rooted for the Giants in that Super Bowl.
Then I read the book Fumble!: The Browns, Modell, & The Move
, written by a former employee of Modell. Truth is, if you believe the author as I do, the move wasn't motivated by greed so much as incompetence. He kept pouring money into a crumbling stadium, and never really caught up with the rest of the league when player salaries went up after the strikes in the '80s. And then he really screwed up by betting the house on a big free agent deal with Andre Rison, of all people.
And when Cleveland up and built a new stadium for the Indians, that took away a major source of income for the Browns. Modell borrowed and borrowed until he owed money to just about every big bank in that city. Finally in 1995 he got to a point where he was on the verge of bankruptcy, and if he sold the team the best he could hope for was to break even.
Then Maryland comes along and says that not only will they give him a brand spankin' new stadium and practice facility, but will pay off all his outstanding debts. What would you do???
I still don't like the Ravens, but that's because of Ray Lewis.
Modell, I really can't blame him. And I'm the last person you'll ever hear argue in favor of corporate welfare for NFL owners.
But look at it this way, friends... if Modell hadn't moved his club to Baltimore, maybe he doesn't fire his head coach... and then that coach never comes to Foxboro... and drafts Tom Brady...