Owners rankings drew ire, especially from Pitt fans
Posted: Friday July 7, 2006 11:54AM; Updated: Friday July 7, 2006 1:39PM
After years of near misses, Bill Cowher finally delivered the fifth Super Bowl title to Steelers owner Dan Rooney.
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The first time I spoke to Dan Rooney, in the owner's modest office in Three Rivers Stadium a couple of days before the 1994 AFC Championship Game, I was struck by his utter disinterest in making sure I knew he was the boss. Here he was, a bona fide NFL legend, and yet unlike so many of his peers -- and, let's face it, so many far less accomplished men and women in various contexts, from boardroom to bar door -- he possessed no need to make you feel his power.
Eventually, I fished for and landed the anecdote I needed to translate all of that to the pages of SI, though thanks to the San Diego Chargers' subsequent victory over the heavily favored Steelers, it never actually ran: Rooney, on that Sunday and virtually all others, arrived at the game without pomp or circumstance -- or, for that matter, muscle or entourage.
He merely emerged from the front door of his nearby home, strolled among the tailgaters and football-tossing neighborhood kids and walked right up to the main entrance of Three Rivers Stadium, where he handed his ticket to the usher and proceeded inside.
Hearing that made me want to hug the man. It was part of the reason I admire the Steelers and love the city of Pittsburgh -- and it's one reason I'm not surprised that after releasing my NFL owner rankings last week, many of you reacted as though I'd just rated Oprah as the No. 10 daytime talk-show host.
Today, for the most part, I yield the floor to some of Rooney's many defenders, as well as those readers disputing (or championing) the rankings of the NFL's other 31 owners, many of whom appear to be as beloved as a swarm of hungry mosquitoes.
And speaking of my otherwise awesome camping trip to Lake Tahoe, we begin with an abridged version of an e-mail I received from a longtime Steelers supporter -- we'll call him Deep Primanti, and trust me, he is far from an apologist when it comes to the franchise -- whose missive to my personal account (subject line: "Puh-leeze") was digested, thanks to my brand-new Moto Q, while chilling on a gorgeous beach at Meeks Bay.
"Michael, you know I love you, but those NFL owners' rankings? C'mon. Bob McNair and Jeffrey Lurie over Dan Rooney? Wayne Huizenga? For what -- their great coaching hires? For their influence in getting and then maintaining labor peace? Dan Snyder -- for thinking the way to win is by turning his franchise into a fantasy team and then raping his customers to pay for his mistakes? Or for firing all of those secretaries and other people when he took over the team? Huizenga can't even get a naming-rights deal for a stadium in South Florida, not including the one he had with the company that went bankrupt (Pro Player).
"How long do you think any of those guys -- Bob Kraft, Jerry Jones, Lurie, Snyder, McNair -- could thrive in a market like Pittsburgh, where fashioning marketing agreements with corporations isn't simply a matter of going with the highest bidder? McNair already has hired more coaches than Dan Rooney. He has five Lombardis, and there isn't another owner in the league who can touch that -- and make no mistake it was Dan who identified and hired Chuck Noll, and then who stuck with Noll in a fight with his own brother, and who ran the personnel department. Dan Rooney was running the day-to-day business of the Steelers through the 1970s when the team won four titles in six seasons, and then he was instrumental in formulating the CBA that combined free agency and the salary cap, and then has fielded a team that made the playoffs nine times in 13 years under those new rules.