Modell looks to complete long pass in last draft

Nfl Draft

April 26, 2003|By MIKE PRESTON

ART MODELL HAS only two goals to fulfill in his last NFL draft as majority owner of the Ravens. He wants to leave the franchise in great shape for future owner Steve Bisciotti, who takes over at the end of the 2003 season, and he would like to draft a franchise quarterback.

A quarterback who has charisma. One with leadership abilities. One who can throw the quick out to the far side of the field as well as the intermediate passes over the middle. He wants someone with toughness, touch and the potential for greatness.

Modell wants what his organization has not given Baltimore since it moved here from Cleveland for the 1996 season.

"That's the one area we have not delivered in, that's the one area where we have failed," Modell said. "We plead guilty. We've had enough quarterbacks here to start another roster. Stoney Case? Hell, I'd rather have had Pebble Case. Who was the kid we brought in from Detroit [Scott Mitchell]? Oh my.

"I don't want any more failures," Modell said. "I want to get the situation solved so when I do turn this franchise over, it will be in tiptop shape from top to bottom."

So, there is the game plan.

Get Marshall University quarterback Byron Leftwich unless the asking price is too much to move up from No. 10 overall. If the Ravens have to stay at No. 10 or settle with Cal quarterback Kyle Boller, that's fine, too, but the main mission today is to get a franchise quarterback.

"We'll have to get what we want to go up," Modell said. "In that scenario, at least you know you're getting a quality player. I'm not a big fan of trading down because it's a gamble. You don't know what you're getting. I've said this for years, that sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make."

Modell will not have much impact on the draft unless he has to step in to mediate a stalemate between the coaching and front office staffs. That little dispute, though, seems to have been settled with general manager Ozzie Newsome and Phil Savage, the team's director of scouting, winning out with their preference for Leftwich over Boller, who was the choice of coach Brian Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.

But as Modell looks back over 43 years in the draft room, he doesn't remember intervening much in Cleveland or Baltimore.

"If there is a difference of opinion, then I will judge accordingly," said Modell, smiling. "Everybody will have their say. We run a democratic society headed by a dictator. I can only remember once in recent years where I had to step in.

"There was debate over nose guard Michael Dean Perry," Modell said. "The coach said Perry was too smart, and his arms were too short. As he slammed his fist on the table, he said no 5-10, 265-pound tackle was ever going to play for him. I said you're right, but a 5-10, 265-pound tackle can play for Art Modell."

The Browns selected Perry in the second round of the 1988 draft. During a seven-year career, Perry was selected to the Pro Bowl squad four times. Perry, though, is just one of many draft memories for Modell.

He can remember when there were only 12 teams, and 30 rounds. Or about the time Pittsburgh coach Buddy Parker once traded away eight consecutive draft choices.

"We once had a PR man in the early 1960s, Nate Wallack, and he loved to eat," Modell said. "He took care of all our food arrangements on the road and I think the guy was a gourmet cook. He always had food orders on his desk. Well, after one draft, a reporter asked Nate to sum up the draft and Nate told him the information was on his desk.

"The reporter came back and said, `Hey, you took three RBs and two CBs. How do you explain that?' Nate had to tell him that the RBs stood for roast beef and the CB was abbreviations for cheeseburgers."

And then there was time ...

"We took this cornerback named Lawrence Johnson in the first round [1979]," Modell said. "It was and still is a tradition for me to be the first to call the player and welcome him followed by the head coach. I told Lawrence we were thrilled to have him, and I loved his speed, change of direction and cover ability, and couldn't wait for him to come to training camp.

"He said he didn't have a lot of speed but thanked me for taking him because he didn't think he would go until the last round or become a free agent. We found out that this was another Lawrence Johnson, an offensive tackle from some other school. We eventually phoned the right one."

Modell says he hasn't felt any emotions about this draft or the upcoming season being his last. According to Modell, Bisciotti has indicated he also would like to make a change at president, which would mean this most likely is the last season for his son, David Modell.

"He may keep David on as a consultant," Art Modell said. "David is very accomplished in this league, he might go work with another team in the league or another professional team. He may want to join me in some other venture. Whatever happens, we have some things in mind.

"The emotions might set in on opening day. It might come on the last game. I can't eradicate 43 years of my life. But I think the Modell family has done a lot of good things. We're proud of what we've done in Baltimore and proud of what we accomplished in Cleveland. I'm optimistic about draft day because I believe we have assembled the best people in the business. We're going to have a good draft. We need to get this organization in tiptop shape before we hand it over."

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