Modell: Belichick's matured

Ex-Ravens principal owner defends choice to fire coach

Notebook

February 04, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A month before Art Modell relocated his franchise to Baltimore in March 1996, he decided to fire Bill Belichick as his coach and hire Ted Marchibroda.

Belichick has gone on to guide the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl appearances in four seasons and has an opportunity Sunday to move ahead of Vince Lombardi for the best playoff record in NFL history.

Modell, the former principal owner of the Ravens, said yesterday that he could not in good conscience have allowed Belichick to become the Ravens' first head coach.

"It would have been nice to see Bill hang on, but it would have been impossible," Modell said. "He turned out to be a real big problem for not only me but my entire organization. He is a very difficult man to deal with. In those days, he was very weak on person-to-person skills. He has since matured a great deal."

Modell said he spoke with Belichick about trying to improve his communication with the media and others within the organization, but "it just didn't work." There was another problem: Belichick had only one winning season in five years (1991 to 1995).

Asked what he learned from his Cleveland experience, Belichick said with a smirk, "If you're the head coach, you don't want to see the team move in the middle of the year."

After the news broke that the team was going to leave Cleveland, the Browns lost six straight games and finished 5-11.

Owens expected to start

The Eagles' coaching staff said Terrell Owens is expected to start in the Super Bowl. It was originally believed that the injured star receiver would be relegated to being the No. 3 wide-out.

Asked if he believed Owens would start, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress said, "Yes, I do."

Owens practiced for the fourth time this week, participating in 12 to 15 plays in yesterday's workout. Trainer Rick Burkholder said he was bringing Owens along slowly just like he would pace Philadelphia thoroughbred Smarty Jones for a race.

"I guess I'll be re-shoed Friday or Saturday," Owens said.

On whether the Eagles are just using him as a decoy, Owens replied, "That's like Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] being on the court and not giving him the ball."

Brady's grandmother dies

Tom Brady's grandmother died this week at the age of 94, which many of his Patriots teammates said caused the quarterback to seem distant.

Brady, a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, said the death wouldn't serve as a distraction Sunday.

"When I'm on the field, there's not much I think about other than football," Brady said.

Margaret Brady died Wednesday night in the San Francisco area.

Hall election set

Hall of Fame voters will elect their newest induction class tomorrow. A minimum of three and a maximum of six candidates will get in.

Quarterbacks Dan Marino and Steve Young are sure bets to get two of the spots. There is strong support for the two veteran candidates: Fritz Pollard, the first black coach, and quarterback Benny Friedman. Others who should draw legitimate consideration are Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, the late Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, Giants linebacker Harry Carson and the late Baltimore Colts assistant coach and Giants general manager George Young, a Baltimore native.

End zone

There were no changes to the injury report for either team. The only player listed as questionable is Owens. ... A year removed from the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," Super Bowl halftime performer Paul McCartney said there wouldn't be a similar mishap this year. "I can assure you I won't," McCartney, 62, said, "because I'll be naked." ... Terry McAulay will work his first Super Bowl as a referee. McAulay, whose crew was rated the highest by the league during the season, is a senior computer scientist. ... It has been estimated that there have been three hours of sun in Jacksonville since Sunday.

SUPER BOWL

Philadelphia (15 - 3) vs. New England (16 - 2)

6:30 p.m. Sunday

Chs. 45, 5

Line: Patriots by 7

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