Cleveland Browns: Top 30 moments of all-time
With the AFL-NFL set to take effect for the 1970 season, the two leagues found themselves in a bit of a bind.
The newly formed league needed three teams from the established NFL to join the 10 teams arriving from the AFL to balance out the conferences. Only no one wanted to be the one to make the move.
Finally, after a marathon negotiating session, Art Modell agreed to move the Browns to the new American Football Conference along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts.
The deal was sweetened as each team received a $3 million payment for making the move.
For the Browns this meant cutting rivalries with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, and forming new ones with the Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Oilers.
Modell was reluctant to make the move at first, but let NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle know he would be open to a switch as long as the Steelers joined the Browns in a division with the Cincinnati Bengals, who were run by Paul Brown, the man Modell had fired in Cleveland.
According to a Sports Illustrated story on the merger talks:
"Modell didn’t easily arrive at his decision to make the Browns available to the AFL. After he told Rozelle that the Browns might move (during a dinner meeting), he didn’t touch his food and left the table five or six times to walk the street outside, breathing deeply and fighting off nausea. Later he went to bed but awakened at 3:30 a.m., went to the bathroom and fainted. When he regained consciousness he returned to bed but was sick again in the morning. Rozelle took him to New York’s Doctors Hospital, where it was discovered that he had suffered an ulcer attack."
"When the owners met again from May 7 to May 10, Modell monitored the sessions from his hospital bed. Rozelle labored to find three teams willing to leave the comfortable old NFL, but Modell was the only owner who evinced any willingness to move."
"Art Rooney and his son Dan, who own the Pittsburgh Steelers, met with Modell in his hospital room and, overcoming a sentimental attachment to the NFL that had been nurtured by 35 years in the league, finally agreed to go with Modell. Rozelle then needed to find only one more team that was willing to move and that the AFL would accept. He eventually settled upon the Baltimore Colts, whose owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, had told him that if all else failed the Colts would go."
The move would pay early dividends for the Browns as they would win the division twice in the first three years and the rivalries with the Steelers and Bengals continued to run hot up until the Browns moved to Baltimore following the 1995 season. – TM
Next: No. 5: 1986 playoff game vs. N.Y. Jets