Jim McMahon has earned a reputation as one of the most colorful players in NFL history. In his crowning NFL achievement — quarterbacking the Bears to a win in Super Bowl XX — McMahon scribbled “PETE” on his headband, an ode to then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle after Rozelle had fined McMahon for wearing an Adidas headband during the Bears’ NFC title game win over the Rams.
Never one to hide his true feelings, the 61-year-old McMahon recently opened up about one of the low points of his 15-year career. In the summer of 1995, McMahon was trying to earn a roster spot with the Cleveland Browns. McMahon said that, upon his release, then-Browns coach Bill Belichick convinced him to move to Cleveland while also assuring McMahon that he would be compensated while he waited to be activated by the team. That conversation led to McMahon uprooting his family to Cleveland. But shortly after settling in Cleveland, McMahon said that things quickly went south.
“He said, ‘It’s probably only gonna be one or two weeks,'” McMahon recently said on 850 ESPN Cleveland, via Pro Football Talk. “So I ended up finding a house … to rent, found a hockey team for my sons. So I called in the first week on a Friday to get my check and get the runaround. I’m thinking first week jitters. The second week I called in for my check, got the runaround again. I sat here for seven weeks doing nothing in Cleveland. … They finally signed me back Week 7 or 8.”
Then, McMahon — after three weeks on the roster, during which he was paid — allegedly asked then-Browns pro personnel director Michael Lombardi about being compensated for his previous weeks in Cleveland. After allegedly being told by Lombardi, ‘Well, maybe we will, maybe we won’t,’ McMahon said he “lost it.”
“I just snapped,” McMahon said. “I grabbed him by the neck and threw his head against the wall and said, ‘You’re gonna pay me my money.’ Then I started realizing what I was doing and I’m looking around the hallway to see if there were any cameras. I stopped hitting him and he slid down the wall.”
McMahon said that he then called his attorney while instructing him to “get me cut right now.” Shortly after their exchange, McMahon got his release.
“I walk back into the QB meeting … and just said ‘Hey boys, I’ll see you all later. I’m outta here,'” McMahon recalled. “The coach said, ‘Have you talked to Bill?’ I said, “You can tell Bill to kiss my ass. He’s a lying piece of sh–.’ Then I was gone. The very next day I was up in Green Bay.”
While he said his time in Cleveland was a nightmare, things certainly worked out for McMahon in Green Bay. McMahon served as Brett Favre’s backup as Favre won his first of three consecutive MVPs. In 1996, McMahon was a backup behind Favre on the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI championship team. His final NFL snap took place against New England in the Super Dome, the sight of his Bears’ 46-10 win over the Patriots 11 years earlier.
The 1995 season was a murky one for Cleveland and Belichick. After a disappointing 5-11 season, Belichick was fired by then-Browns owner Art Modell despite Belichick reportedly being told previously by Modell that he would be the team’s coach upon the franchise’s move to Baltimore. Belichick would quickly catch on with Bill Parcells’ staff in New England in 1996, where the Patriots would enjoy a successful year that ended with a loss to McMahon’s Packers in the Super Bowl. Belichick ultimately became the Patriots’ head coach in 2000, where he has won six Super Bowls while appearing in three more.
This isn’t the first time that McMahon has publicly railed against Belichick. In 2015, McMahon weighed in on Belichick following New England’s “Deflategate” controversy that resulted in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season. While Belichick never faced punishment by the league, McMahon thinks that the six-time Super Bowl champion was probably involved in the controversy.
“I know he’s a liar,” McMahon said on the Dan Patrick Show, “so cheating ain’t far behind, I don’t think.”