Posted: Thursday June 29, 2006 12:44PM; Updated: Thursday June 29, 2006 4:28PM
Show Us You Mean Business
14. Steve Bisciotti, Ravens; 15. Arthur Blank, Falcons; 16. Woody Johnson, Jets; 17. Paul Allen, Seahawks; 18. John Mara and Jonathan Tisch, Giants
As much as I enjoyed the perverse theater of Bisciotti's emasculation of Brian Billick, doing your coach like that in public might not be the smartest business move. That said, Bisciotti is a marked improvement over predecessor Art Modell, who mixed small-minded passivity on the league front with petty greed on the team level. Like everyone in this group, Bisciotti is capable of being great.
Blank's an engaging guy, and he looks like he might have been a character in Boogie Nights, so I'm inclined to throw him some love. But for all of his talk about turning the Falcons into a model franchise, he has yet to fulfill that vision -- and the Atlanta market, which could be one of the league's most lucrative, remains relatively untapped.
Johnson, who inherited the bulk of his fortune, hasn't wowed anyone with his business acumen. On a positive note, he does seem to want to win and is willing to spend to do so. That said, he got played by Peterson in the Herm Edwards negotiations and ultimately let his emotions (over what he perceived as Edwards' lack of loyalty) get in the way of his best business interests.
Bill Gates, Allen's fellow Microsoft co-founder, has given millions to charitable causes -- while Allen has contributed similar amounts to the bank account of coach Mike Holmgren, who parlayed his first playoff victories in eight seasons into yet another lucrative extension this past offseason. To Allen's credit, he finally got rid of prickly team president Bob Whitsitt (of Jail Blazers fame) after the 2004 season and brought in a strong GM in Tim Ruskell. But Allen, despite his obvious ability to write checks, remains a distant figure who has failed to realize his enormous managerial potential.
The Giants' owners haven't really gone after it in the past, instead running a noble but old-school operation that left a lot of potential on the table. But the next generation has a chance to step it up, and Mara in particular has impressed many of his peers with a desire to invigorate his franchise and an understanding that the league has changed since the days when his late father, Wellington, rose to prominence.
Out to Lunch
19. Alex Spanos, Chargers; 20. Zygi Wilf, Vikings; 21. Randy Lerner, Browns; 22. William Clay and Bill Ford, Lions; 23. Georgia Frontiere, Rams; 24. Wayne Weaver, Jaguars
Spanos seems far more passionate about the Republican Party (his family ranks among the GOP's leading contributors) than winning football games, and his not-so-subtle attempts to creep into the L.A./Orange County market will likely be rebuffed by his more progressive peers. He's currently sitting back and tolerating a feud between his media-repelling GM, A.J. Smith, and coach Marty Schottenheimer, which doesn't bode well for Chargers fans.
Wilf, like a certain high-profile leader with a plummeting approval rating, talks a big game -- he threatened during a locker room rant to cut the players responsible for the Vikings' infamous "Love Boat" party last fall -- but hasn't bothered to deliver. His first big front-office hire, former Chargers scouting director Fran Foley, blew up after three months.
Lerner is intelligent and willing to spend, but it's questionable how much he cares about winning, as evidenced by his decision not to live in Cleveland. The franchise has been through constant front-office turmoil, with last winter's feud between newly hired general manager Phil Savage and then-president John Collins the most blatant example.
If Bill Ford approached his NFL stewardship with the same degree of sincerity he displayed in those folksy TV ads a couple of years back, the Lions might be humming as a franchise, rather than sputtering into the garage.
Frontiere, despite maintaining a plush, three-bedroom suite at the team's training facility, is basically an absentee owner these days, leaving team president John Shaw to run the show. Shaw is smart, personable and savvy, but his indecisiveness helped foster a dysfunctional atmosphere at Rams Park, although he appears to have been reenergized since the dismissal of Mike Martz as coach.
Weaver, rather than giving thanks for his good fortune -- he landed an expansion franchise in overmatched Jacksonville, then charmed his fellow owners into giving him a Super Bowl (the worst locale in history, by far), and thousands of extra tickets to boot, to help fund stadium improvements -- instead spends his time griping. He acts like it's a surprise that generating revenue in Jacksonville is a difficult task; his name should be Whine Weaver.