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Let's Take a Moment to Celebrate the Fact Bill Belichick Once Put a Player on the Pro Bowl Just to Cost His Mortal Enemy $1 Million

Focus On Sport. Getty Images.

One of the great myths, one that's been told and repeated so many times over the years that the public actually believes it despite the fact it's total horseshit, is the simple lie "Bill Belichick failed in Cleveland." It takes about 30 seconds of research to know he didn't fail; he was failed. By an NFL owner so reviled his named can't be mentioned in polite company in parts of Ohio without someone spitting on the ground. 

Credit where it's due to NFL Films for telling the accurate story of how Art Modell undermined everything Belichick had built in their excellent A Football Life episode, "The '95 Cleveland Browns." After two 7-9 seasons, Belichick had taken the Browns to the '94 playoffs and beat Bill Parcells's Patriots in the Wild Card round. And had assembled a virtual Round Table of sharp football minds on his coaching and personnel staff. Nick Saban. Ozzie Newsome. Jim Schwartz. Scott Pioli. Michael Lombardi. I'll even be nice and include Eric Mangini. Then in '96, Modell ordered the moving trucks to back up into Camelot and reduced the entire castle to rubble. 

Cued up to the 20:10 mark, when it all came crashing down. Warning, this is profoundly sad. Particularly the 21:10 mark, when Belichick opens up about how "very emotional" he got. Not intended for young children, those suffering from depression, and other sensitive viewers:

What followed was, as you'd imagine, chaos. The team imploded, on and off the field. Fans were resentful to the point they not only burned Modell in effigy, but Belichick as well. Which never made a lick of sense. He was Modell's employee, same as all the players, and staff. As I've said before, blaming him for the move was like finding out the Cinnabon at the mall is closing and taking your anger out on the high school girl working the register. He could not have been a bigger victim of circumstances beyond his control. All his years of hard work, all he'd built, ruined by the greed of a man who already possessed generational wealth. 

And this week, we find out Belichick got at least some measure of revenge. Because thanks to the Manningcast of all places, we got our second incredible Belichick Pro Bowl story. First the one about him putting a long snapper on the 2006 roster simply because he was dating America's It Girl:

Which overshadowed this other, shorter story about the time he used his powers to screw Modell out of a million bucks:

As well as I can figure it, Peyton Manning must be talking about the 1998 Pro Bowl, because Belichick was the DC for the Jets then. They lost the conference championship game, and so therefore their staff would've been coaching the AFC team. And knowing Parcells, he had no interest in any of that roster selection bullshit, because it cut into his time wintering at the racetracks of Florida. 

That would've been Peter Boulware's second season. He'd won the Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie with 11.5 sacks, but dropped to 8.5 in Year 2. And arguably hadn't been in the league long enough at that point to be earning the Pro Bowl nods that were to come for him. (He made it to four in all and is on the Ravens Ring of Honor.) But it seems Belichick loved the idea of bringing him to Honolulu, just as long as it would cost that old thieving weasel Modell a million bucks. 

I'm on record as saying I love all the many facets of this man's character. But perhaps out of all of them, my favorite is the rarely seen but still celebrated Petty, Vindictive Bill. The one who said of the Jets VP he quit on in 2000, “I can't think of anybody in professional sports – and certainly in my 30 years of professional football – who has said more and won less than Steve Gutman.”   Who told Tom Jackson to go fuck himself right after winning Super Bowl 38. Who read his team Philadelphia's plan for the Super Bowl 39 victory parade. And responded to Eagles wideout Freddie Mitchell's shit-talk by saying, "We were happy when he was in there." Who ran up the score on a doddering, past his prime Joe Gibbs. And who's targeted any opponent who dared guarantee wins against his team. We don't get enough of that Belichick in public. And I for one can't get enough. 

As the old Klingon proverb goes:

Giphy Images.
Giphy Images.

Given everything he suffered in Cleveland at the hands of the man whose franchise he was in the process of saving, I wish he'd filled his entire roster with Ravens who had Pro Bowl bonuses. Just quit blaming the mid-90s Browns failures on him already.