Posted: Thursday June 29, 2006 12:44PM; Updated: Thursday June 29, 2006 4:28PM
25. Al Davis, Raiders
Raiders chief executive Amy Trask says her boss, who turns 77 on the Fourth of July, "is as vital and vibrant as ever." Unfortunately, his franchise is in ICU, with dubious talent and a miserable stadium situation made worse over the years by lawsuits, Davis' aversion to marketing (because, after all, they're the Raiders, and everybody loves them) and an initial miscalculation of a once-rabid fan base's collective fervor. The good news is that Davis cares about nothing besides the Raiders; the myth, however, is that he wants to win at all costs. That fallacy was exposed when Marcus Allen mysteriously disappeared on third downs and in goal-line situations in the early '90s, and it suffered another blow when Davis decided not to try to extend Jon Gruden's contract after the coach led the team to the AFC Championship Game in his third season.
26. Bud Adams, Titans; 27. Ralph Wilson, Bills; 28. Denise DeBartolo and John York, 49ers; 29. Michael McCaskey, Bears
Adams is so obsessed with one-upping Houston, the town from which he moved the franchise a decade ago, that he essentially mandated the drafting of native son Vince Young with the third overall pick. However that works out in the long run, Adams is likely to blow it after this season by getting rid of Jeff Fisher, one of the best coaches in the business.
Wilson, perhaps the league's least progressive owner, whines so much he makes Weaver look like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. Even after big-market owners like Kraft and Snyder, in a quest for labor peace, embraced a compromise that would transfer some of their revenues into Wilson's coffers, Wilson threw a public tantrum and voted against the proposal.
We have devoted plenty of Open Mike real estate to the Yorks' failings, from John's condescending managerial approach to the couple's unwillingness to spend the money it takes to compete for a championship, so we'll keep this short: To borrow from Jeff Spicoli ... No stars, no stadium, no dice.
McCaskey, who once did so miserably as a manager that his mother banished him to lawn duty, has the distinction of serving as chairman of the board of what one owner called "the most undermanaged outfit in the league."
Think about it: All that tradition, the nation's No. 3 media market, and the Bears are still living off a Saturday Night Live sketch and a lone Super Bowl title from more than two decades ago.
The Killer Bs
30. Mike Brown, Bengals; 31. Bill Bidwill, Cardinals; 32. Tom Benson, Saints
The Bengals like to claim that their image as a chintzy operation is outdated, and it's true that Brown's hiring of Marvin Lewis -- and the accompanying decision to give the new coach more power than his predecessors -- ushered in a new era of competitive viability in Cincy. But the numbers don't lie: From the start of free agency in 1994 through 2005, the Bengals, out of the 28 franchises who've existed that long (excluding the Jaguars, Panthers, reformed Browns and Texans), rank 27th in actual cash spending with $747 million paid out -- ahead of only the Cardinals at $735 million. "And that," says the league source who gave me the numbers, "is like being ahead of a dead relative." Brown was also the one who recently questioned the salary of Paul Tagliabue, complaining in a league meeting that the outgoing commissioner makes too much money and that no one had checked with Brown before signing off on Tags' deal.
Bidwill, like Brown, is hoping that his recent decision to hire a good coach with increased power (Denny Green) will lead to on-field satisfaction, and he should be commended for signing off on the sizable deal that landed halfback Edgerrin James via free agency. But again, we defer to the body of work. Oddly enough, Bidwill, who after moving the franchise from St. Louis in the mid-80s immediately alienated his new fan base by charging the league's highest ticket prices, went the other way upon the construction of the team's soon-to-be-opened stadium: He offered some season-ticket packages for as low as $100, or $10 a game. "Then he brags about selling out the stadium," one owner scoffs. "Talk about undervaluing your product." Adds a former NFL owner: "He should give away hot dogs, too."
Last and least is Benson, the car salesman who both mismanages his franchise and doesn't appear all that stressed about adding to the misery of a suffering region. Before Tagliabue stepped in and decreed that the Saints would return to New Orleans -- at least for now -- Benson seemed content to remain in San Antonio, where he coincidentally has a home, while casting a wistful eye toward the L.A. market. So for the time being Benson will be bringing his ridiculous "Boogie" back to the Superdome and hoping that karma doesn't actually exist.