Nearly 17 years after the original Browns left Cleveland, their exodus remains a painful wound for the city. It was re-opened last month when former team owner Art Modell died. And it likely will be again Wednesday night when Cleveland ’95: A Football Life premieres on NFL Network.
This latest documentary in the NFL Films series focuses not so much on what was as what might have been.
The Bill Belichick-coached Browns were coming off an 11-5 playoff season in 1994 and seemed perched to further buoy a city that saw the Indians reach the World Series in 1995.
Instead, the civic psyche was scarred when financial challenges and the lack of a new stadium led Modell to announce the franchise’s re-location to Baltimore.
“You could see that good times were ahead, and it all fell apart,” said Mary Kay Cabot of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
The Super Bowl trip that has forever eluded the Browns seemed near in large part to the talent Belichick amassed on his staff, one that included nine future NFL head coaches and general managers and three major college head coaches. Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, Thomas Dimitroff, Jim Schwartz, Nick Saban, Kirk Ferentz and Eric Mangini are among the names.
“What was Bill looking for in people? Bill was looking for Bill, and he found a lot of little Bills,” recalls Newsome, who’s quick to credit Belichick’s philosophies for his own subsequent success with the Baltimore Ravens.
“When I won in 2000, owe a lot of that to Bill Belichick.”