On Monday night’s ManningCast, Peyton Manning said Bill Belichick once found an unusual way to get revenge on Art Modell, the owner who fired him as head coach of the Browns.
According to Manning, Belichick once added Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware to the AFC Pro Bowl team because Boulware was due a $1 million bonus if he played in the Pro Bowl. Belichick wanted to force Modell, who moved the Browns to Baltimore and changed their name to the Ravens after firing Belichick, to pay up.
“He picked Peter Boulware because he knew that Art Modell would have to pay Boulware a million-dollar bonus if Boulware made the Pro Bowl. Belichick hated Modell,” Manning said.
The Pro Bowl in question was after the 1998 season. Belichick was the Jets’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator at the time, and he coached the AFC Pro Bowl team that year after Jets head coach Bill Parcells stayed home, citing health reasons.
Boulware was, indeed, added to that year’s AFC Pro Bowl team as the AFC’s “need player.” After the AFC and NFC coaches were determined, each chose one player they felt they needed on their teams, and Boulware said at the time that he was surprised to learn he was the AFC’s need player.
“I’m kind of shocked. I had really given up on the Pro Bowl,” Boulware told the Baltimore Sun in January of 1999. “I was just focusing on the off-season, working out, getting ready for next season. I had put the Pro Bowl out of my mind. I take this as a blessing. I take this humbly. I’m just thankful to go.”
It’s worth noting that it’s not like Belichick chose Boulware out of the blue: The coaches could only choose a “need player” who had been named a first alternate at linebacker or defensive end in the initial round of Pro Bowl voting, so Belichick chose Boulware out of only a handful of options.
But once he saw that Boulware was one of his options, it’s certainly possible that Belichick was thinking about sticking it to Modell in making his decision. That’s exactly what Manning says happened.