Super Bowl LVI contenders created by Paul Brown after Modell fired him
The Cincinnati Bengals only exist because Art Modell ran off Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown prior to the 1963 season, which caused him to start anew in Cincinnati with an expansion team in the American Football League.
Good old Art ran Jim Brown out of town in 1966 because Brown’s Hollywood film career caused him to miss some training camp time. Modell ran Paul Warfield out of town in 1970 so he could draft an exciting young quarterback with a first-round draft pick. That was great, except there was nobody to throw to when Warfield was gone. Eventually, Modell ran the entire team out town in 1995.
The fundamental problem was that Modell believed that he was a football genius, and questioned coach Brown’s playcalling. Wow, does that sound familiar?
Many of the players were unhappy with Brown’s cold, disciplinarian style (think Bill Belichick). Modell wanted to have a reputation as an owner/genius like Al Davis of the Raiders, but this could not be the case as long as it was the Cleveland Browns rather than the Cleveland Modells.
Brown also angered Modell by trading for Ernie Davis, a fabulous running back who became afflicted with leukemia and died without ever playing a down. Of course, fans understand that everything is the coach’s fault, so Brown was beyond redemption when Davis passed away.
Hence Brown had to go.
Brown turned down numerous coaching offers until agreeing to launch the Cincinnati Bengals as an expansion team in the American Football League in 1968. That was really the perfect fit, given that he had started the Browns from scratch in a rival league. Brown built the team into a contender very quickly despite the fact the team lost Greg Cook, its stud young quarterback, after his rookie season due to a rotator cuff injury.
Cleveland fans did not hate the Bengals at first. We had no reason to hate Paul Brown, and many fans were not all that thrilled with Art Modell even at that time. For those of us who were kids in the 1960s, it meant twice as much football. They wore the same colors as the Browns and played the same rugged style. Bengals fans, however, hated the Browns from the get-go. It was a weird relationship.
The Bengals were magically able to win the division title in the first year after the merger, in 1970, though it took a few years before they became consistent winners. Ken Anderson eventually replaced Greg Cook as their stud quarterback, and the Bengals acquired talent on both sides of the ball.
Still, they were usually the runner-up to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns began to crumble under the guidance of their meddling owner, a process that would not be reversed until Marty Schottenheimer became head coach.
Super Bowl LVI marks the third time that the Bengals have been to the Super Bowl. The first two times, they lost to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers, coached by Bill Walsh, who was a quarterbacks coach under Paul Brown in Cincinnati. Funny how that works. They too can thank Art Modell for helping to spread that talent around the league.