A profile of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on NFL.com stopped me dead in my tracks when I saw that he was a coach at little Catholic University right here in Washington, D.C.
The Catholic Cardinals (what else would you call the Catholic team but Cardinals or maybe Bishops) are not big news even in the local papers. The Post has more coverage of DeMatha High than Catholic. I mean, who knew that Catholic beat Gallaudet in a 45-41 thriller earlier this month.
How does a quarterback for Gallaudet call plays?
Jim Belichick (who else?) discovered Schwartz, a Georgetown economics grad, and added him to his Cleveland Browns front office in personnel and, later, to the coaching staff. Even then, Belichick developed his all-encompassing management system that planted the seeds of success for the Browns, later to become the Baltimore Ravens.
Belichick was Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell’s greatest coaching hire. Modell will be remembered as the only man in football history to fire Belichick and Paul Brown, the man for whom Cleveland’s team was named.
Brown incurred Modell’s wrath for his trade of Bobby Mitchell to the Washington Redskins for the Draft rights to Ernie Davis. Brown envisioned pairing Davis with fellow Syracuse alum Jim Brown. That would have been something to see.
Modell fired Brown in January 1963 when the coach resisted the owner’s wish to play Davis in spite of his diagnosis of leukemia that prevented Davis from playing in the 1962 season. Davis passed away from the disease in May that year.
Three decades later, Modell was failing in his effort to convince the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio to do for the Browns what they did for the MLB Indians–fund a new stadium. No one believed that Modell would move the team to accept a better offer, the one from Baltimore and Maryland.
News of the move leaked from a Boston newspaper mid-season 1995 and it hit with the “done deal” finality of Pitt’s and Syracuse move from the Big East to the ACC. Everything unraveled for Belichick’s Browns. The team was 4-4 before the news broke and 1-7 after. The Browns won 11 games in 1994 and looked to do as well for the rest of the decade.
Modell fired Belichick and moved to Baltimore. Refuges from Belichick’s staff populated the league. All of them, including Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, another seed from Belichick’s tree, insist that Belichick set the foundation for success that Baltimore still enjoys.
Modell is as hated in Cleveland as Jim Irsay is in Baltimore. And Modell is as loved in Baltimore as Irsay’s memory is loved in Indianapolis. Cleveland and Ohio did for the new Browns what they would not do for the old Browns—fund a stadium. The same goes for Baltimore and Maryland for the old Colts.
It’s an axiom of human nature and politics that you cannot afford to keep what you have but no price is too high to replace what you lost.
The District of Columbia regrets the loss of the Redskins and will do anything to lure them back. That will be fun to watch considering how the voters turned the Mayor’s office over due to funding for National’s Park. Human nature and politics do not prevent the current mayor and council, who kicked and screamed at the funding, from claiming credit for the benefits.
Schwartz, meanwhile, is leading the resurgent 2-0 Detroit Lions to Minnesota to face the Vikings and short-term quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb’s early play has done as much to stop derision of Rex Grossman as the Redskins 2-0 start. Another man with DC connections, former Redskins DB (1989-’92) and Georgetown Law grad Martin Mayhew hired Schwartz. Improvement in Detroit began then. The Lions haven’t started a season 3-0 in 31 years.
The NFL Red zone package is perfect for a day when your team is not playing and for fantasy owners. I wished I subscribed to it sooner. No. I am not compensated for making this endowsement. Sigh! How long before Redskins-Cowboys?
Enjoy the afternoon. HAIL!