Would you like yet another reason to think very little of how the Cleveland Browns manage their football team? If your answer to that question was yes, then I have some good news for you. Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently reminded us of the fact that Bill Belichick was the Browns’ coach until he was fired following the 1995 season.
And when Kraft sought the advice of former Browns under Art Modell on Belichick, he told Kraft that he would be making the biggest mistake of his life if he hired him. Kraft provided us with this anecdote recently courtesy of Peter King.
By that time, the old Browns no longer existed and Belichick was no longer a head coach—that is until he managed to secure the head coaching position for the Jets for a day. After a few weeks of back and forth and a bit of court-wrangling, The Hood found his new home in New England, from which post he is making his seventh appearance in the Super Bowl as a head coach.
Belichick was the head coach of the Browns for five seasons after inheriting a 3-13 team following the 1990 season. But they did got 40-24 in the four full seasons coached by Marty Schottenheimer from 1985 to 1988. They also went 9-7 in 1989 before falling off the cliff a year later.
Belichick never won more than seven games in his first three seasons in Cleveland, but he did take the Browns to the playoffs once in 1994 after an 11-win campaign. That remains the last season in which they won a playoff game. But the Browns won just five games in Belichick’s final season before he was fired.
He did spend the following season with the Patriots, which is a fact that many might not recall, serving as the defensive backs coach in addition to being an assistant head coach under Bill Parcells once again. He then followed Parcells to New York and served as defensive coordinator in addition to the role of assistant head coach.
The rest of his legacy is a matter of NFL history. He has posted a 201-71 record with the Patriots since taking over that job in 2000, an astounding winning percentage of .739. He has appeared in more Super Bowls than any head coach in NFL history and could become the first head coach to win five on Sunday.
The Browns had him. And then they fired him. And then their former owner sincerely advised Kraft that it would be a mistake to hire him. That pretty much sums up the Browns.
To be fair, Michael David Smith points out on Pro Football Talk that Modell’s own recollection of that conversation was a bit different. He said in a 2007 interview that he was warning Kraft against the abrasive sort of personality that comes along with the coach. “You’re not getting Prince Charming, but give him some leeway and he’ll deliver for you”. For Kraft’s sake, however, his version obviously sounds better.