Like the Orioles Hall of Fame, the Ravens Ring of Honor is meant to celebrate the best of the best who have worn the uniform of the hometown team. As such, there is no clear-cut directive or mandate that says loudly or clearly, “This guy belongs in the Ravens Ring of Honor.”
In fact, if you go to the Ravens web page and the exact page for the Ring of Honor, you’ll see that the team cites seven specific yet vague attributes that a Ring of Honor member should possess, along with a write-up of each. The attributes are character, gratitude, vision, passion, faith and courage, competitive spirit and humility.
Ironically, the first name missing from the Ring of Honor — and I’d feel this way if he were still alive — is David Modell, who passed away last January. I don’t know with certainty, but in my minds those seven attributes are “pure David Modell.”
When the Cleveland Browns announced their move to Baltimore on Nov. 6, 1995, Art Modell, the team’s longtime owner, was already 70. Not exactly the age one should be running around to radio and TV stations, making sales calls and negotiating radio and TV rights deals. And oh, did I mention run the public opinion contest to rename his family’s beloved football team, while resurrecting the old Colts’ marching band?
Instead, Art let his then-36-year-old adopted son, David, do all the heavy lifting. Arrogant is too strong and pejorative to describe David’s managerial style. No, rather he was brash, passionate and colorful. He had a heart the lion from “The Wizard of Oz” would have envied.
He made the Ravens the behemoth they became in Baltimore. My favorite David Modell story is the one in which he chose to stake a flag in the ground by buying those dozen or so billboards in Tampa to declare the site of the 2000 Super Bowl Ravens town.
OK, so humility was not one of David’s chief characteristics, but his worthiness to belong in the Ring of Honor should not even be debatable. Let’s hope the team he helped found and loved so dearly does the right thing quickly on deciding his worthiness.
The other person who should be in already is their sometimes fiery and bombastic coach who led them to a Super Bowl XXXV victory on Jan. 28, 2001 — Brian Billick.
It would actually be oh-so-fitting if Billick were selected and enshrined along with David Modell, the man who made the selection to hire him to replace Ted Marchibroda as the team’s second coach in January 1999.
Current head coach John Harbaugh is entering his 10th season in charge of the Ravens. His predecessor, Brian Billick, lasted nine years. Through those seasons, Billick went 80-64, a .556 winning percentage. He won the one SB and otherwise was 5-3 in the postseason. The one area Billick runs behind Harbaugh is in the nine years he made it to the postseason — four times and five seasons missing the postseason.
Harbaugh in his nine seasons is 85-59, a .590 winning percentage and a single SB victory and a 10-5 postseason record. Harbaugh has made the postseason six times, while only missing three times.
While Harbaugh has had the great benefit of having had a single starting QB in Joe Flacco, Billick could never seem to get the QB position settled but clearly benefitted by coming in just as the defense was about to emerge as one of the greatest of all time. One player in particular, Ray Lewis, was one of the most spectacular athletes who coupled leadership skills almost unseen in the annals of the NFL.
As was the case with David Modell, the humility card was not one played often by Billick. Clearly, Brian left the Ravens with a bitter taste in his mouth. And I’ll even grant you that history has shown that Steve Bisciotti made the right call, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens owner handled it with the finesse Brian deserved.
Just a couple weeks before he was let go, Billick was up on that Ravens’ dais talking tough and assuredly about his Ravens’ future. That wouldn’t be fun for anyone who lives in the rarefied air of such a lofty position in any company.
The two men have made peace with one another. While it won’t be as cozy as it once was, Billick clearly is thought highly enough by his former team to have been brought in to add some sizzle to the pre-season broadcasting team.
David Modell and Brian Billick belong inside, not outside, the Ring of Honor. If the Ravens take the honor seriously, the Ring’s credibility requires their inclusion.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is the founder and publisher of PressBox.
Top photo: David Modell (Photo courtesy The Baltimore Ravens)
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