Browns' Accorsi resigns as GM

April 30, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Ernie Accorsi is coming home.

Accorsi, the last general manager of the Baltimore Colts, resigned yesterday as executive vice president of football operations of the Cleveland Browns.

Accorsi plans to return to Baltimore -- though a native of Hershey, Pa., he has lived much of his life here -- while he looks for another job. One that would have to be at the top of his list would be running an NFL expansion team in Baltimore.

"I don't want to make it seem like I'm campaigning for the job, but obviously I'm open to any possibility, including caddying at Caves Valley Country Club. That was my first job, and I can always go back to it," said Accorsi. "At least I'm going to live in Baltimore for now."

If the league goes ahead with its schedule of naming two expansion teams this fall to begin play in 1994 and if Baltimore gets a team, the timing would be perfect for Accorsi to step into an NFL job here.

Accorsi, who resigned as Colts general manager Feb. 7, 1984, less than two months before the team moved to Indianapolis, would be a logical candidate. He would probably still be available, because he wants to take his time to find the right job.

"I'm going to give it time," said Accorsi, 50. "I don't want to take a bad job."

Bryan Glazer, the son of Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer, who heads one of the three groups bidding to own an expansion team in Baltimore, sounded receptive to the idea of hiring Accorsi.

"If we get the team, we'll look at all the available candidates, and he'd be one of the top ones. He's always been a great general manager," Bryan Glazer said.

The other two men heading potential Baltimore ownership groups, businessman Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and author Tom Clancy, were unavailable for comment.

The next step in the expansion process will be an owners meeting in Pasadena, Calif., May 19-20, when the expansion field is supposed to be cut by at least two more cities. The owners also are expected to discuss the price of an expansion franchise.

But the league has said expansion could be delayed if its labor problems with the players aren't resolved. A delay seems possible unless the league wins the antitrust trial starting in Minneapolis on June 15.

Explaining why he decided to leave Cleveland, Accorsi said: "I feel life is a matter of runs, and we had a great run in the mid-1980s. It was a great time, and my only regret is we didn't win the whole thing. The electricity in this town was unbelievable."

The Browns made the playoffs five straight years, 1985-89, and the AFC title game three times. They lost all three to the Denver Broncos.

It fell apart for the Browns in 1990, when they fell to 3-13. Bill Belichick was hired as head coach after that season to start a rebuilding program.

"It's a new era now, and I wanted to leave in 1990 after hiring the coach," said Accorsi, a former sportswriter who once worked for The Evening Sun. "It was time to start fresh, but Art [Modell, Browns owner] didn't want me to leave, and I hated to walk away when things were that bad. Now, we're headed in the right direction, and I came to him several times early in the off-season, but he wouldn't accept my resignation. After the draft, he did.

"I enjoy a wonderful relationship with Art, and I expect it to remain the way for the rest of my life."

Modell said: "In my mind, there is no better executive in the NFL. I've known Ernie for 23 years, and he's my friend and will continue to be my friend. . . . He is a man accustomed to taking risks and new challenges, and I understand his decision."

In Cleveland, Accorsi's resignation might be viewed, in part, as a victory for Belichick in a power struggle.

But Accorsi said: "There's a lot more to that in appearance than fact. We haven't had any disagreements in the draft. This is a coaches' game. The GMs take the heat, and the coaches get the credit."

Accorsi got the heat for drafting linebackers Mike Junkin and Clifford Charlton on the first rounds in 1987-88, even though former coach Marty Schottenhiemer had a lot of input in those moves. He also got heat for trading running back Earnest Byner to the Washington Redskins for Mike Oliphant in 1989, although Byner needed a change of scenery after his fumble in the 1987 season's AFC title game cost the team a Super Bowl berth.

On the other hand, Accorsi pulled off a coup by engineering the trade in the supplemental draft with the Buffalo Bills in 1985 to get quarterback Bernie Kosar. The league subsequently changed the rules of the supplemental draft.

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