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Money men (cont.)

Posted: Monday July 2, 2007 12:15PM; Updated: Monday July 2, 2007 4:42PM
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25. Denise DeBartolo York and John York, 49ers

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Did someone say dreadful stadium situation? Welcome to John's World... Hi, I'm John York. I'm discouraged by negotiations with the city of San Francisco on a new stadium deal, and even though it's all tied to the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics -- and its bid group is meeting RIGHT NOW with USOC officials (after having invested $350,000 and tons of time and energy) -- I'm going to derail everything by pulling the plug and announce that I'll negotiate instead with the city of Santa Clara. What's that? You say I obviously must have a pre-existing arrangement with Santa Clara? Uh, no. Oops, there goes my leverage...

Of all the people in the Bay Area you'd want to rile, Ronnie Lott might be at the bottom of the list, but York managed to do so: Lott was involved in the Olympic bid and, shall we say, didn't appreciate it being abruptly short-circuited. On a positive note, York spent big money on free agents over the offseason, and I'm told he's been less cheap and condescending, in general, than in the past. That sounds promising, but his team still plays in a stadium that a man not very near-and-dear to his heart -- former owner Eddie DeBartolo, York's brother-in-law -- famously described as a "pigsty." More than 20 years ago.

26. Michael McCaskey, Bears

Just as the Yorks don't seem capable of parlaying the nearby Silicon Valley wealth into big-picture endeavors that buoy the franchise, McCaskey is a massive marketing underachiever. He has a storied team in the nation's second-most-populated market where pro football is played; a team, mind you, coming off its first Super Bowl appearance in 21 years. Yet the biggest buzz coming out of Chi-town over the offseason has been:

a) The team's cheap stance toward underpaid coach Lovie Smith, who finally signed a contract extension after his agent announced it wasn't likely to happen?

b) Smith's curious decision to cut loose highly regarded defensive coordinator Ron Rivera -- and, a cynic would note, remove a potential candidate to replace Smith as his own contract situation played out?

c) The organization's hard-line stance toward franchised playmaking linebacker Lance Briggs, to whom they have no intention of offering a long-term contract, and apparently aren't open to trading, likely ensuring he'll miss more than half of the season?

d) Troubled defensive tackle Tank Johnson's jail stint, traffic stop in Arizona and subsequent release, with Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo acting utterly stunned by his misbehavior?

The answer is, Who cares? It's McCaskey's world; the rest of us just laugh at it. Chicago fans should be less stressed about Rex Grossman and more appalled at the performance of this signal-caller.

27. Bill Bidwill (Michael Bidwill), Cardinals

Like George Jefferson, Bill Bidwill (31st last year) is movin' on up -- largely because he has ceded much of his management responsibilities to son Michael, a lively dude who is hell-bent on reversing the team's miserable legacy of failure and isn't averse to dipping into his wallet once in awhile to do so.

Also like Jefferson, the elder Bidwill is a funny man -- though not intentionally so. When the owners were getting ready to vote on who would host Super Bowl XLV, my spies tell me that Bidwill was so blown away by the Cowboys' proposal, he blurted out, "Wow, that Dallas bid is really rich! There's a lot of money there." It was a curious statement, given that Dallas was competing with Indy and Arizona for the bid.

The Bidwills are still semi-chintzy, as evidenced by the fact that they won't fly in prospects before the draft, but it's getting much better. The decision to fire coach Denny Green, who essentially quit midway through last season anyhow, and hire potential superstar Ken Whisenhunt was a great one; then the Bidwills cut a $200,000 check to upgrade the weight room at the team's training facility to the new coach's liking.

28. Wayne Weaver, Jaguars

Last year the man I nicknamed Whine Weaver couldn't crack the bottom eight, but he gets more annoying by the week. First and foremost, he fought to put an expansion franchise in a lightweight town, yet he can't stop crying about his status as a small-market owner and demands revenue-sharing as though it were his birthright. Weaver also, as one owner says, "constantly denies his team is for sale when everyone knows full well it is."

Hey, I just came up with a solution to the L.A. problem: Weaver sells the team to a non-whiner like, say, Larry Ellison or Casey Wasserman, who moves it to the Coliseum (and, soon after, to a newly constructed, Jerry Jones-style palace) and hires Pete Carroll. Any objections coming from outside of Jacksonville's 9,456-mile city limits? Didn't think so.

29. William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.), Lions

Which genius auto magnate is responsible for the disaster in Big D? That depends on whom you talk to -- though I'm told that Ford Jr., if he had his way, would have fired team president Matt Millen long ago. Either way, there's no disputing that this franchise runs like the Edsel.

Let's forget, for a moment, the team's addiction to drafting receivers high in the first round (hey, Calvin Johnson may indeed be a difference-maker) or Millen's obsession with men whose last names start with the same letter as his, and focus on one, unforgivable sin. You are the Fords, and you (via Millen) just brought in a first-time coach, Rod Marinelli, who is selling himself as a disciplinarian that will transform the culture of the team. He is the new sheriff in town, no doubt about it. But then one of his assistant coaches, Joe Cullen, gets pulled over twice in one week -- once for DUI (driving under the influence), and once for DUE (driving with unit exposed). And you, as Marinelli's ultimate bosses, allow Cullen to keep his job. Gee, I'll bet that really helped Marinelli's respect quotient in the locker room.

30. Ralph Wilson, Bills

Here's a question for you: What business owner voluntarily and conspicuously takes his complaints to Capitol Hill, thereby bringing the spotlight on the perceived failings of his partners and forcing the man who represents them (Goodell) to come rushing to a Senator's office like a chastened schoolboy to explain himself?

That's right, it's Rabble Rouser Ralphie, who in April '06 met with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to rail against the revenue-sharing agreement that was adopted to appease Ralphie. Goodell was then summoned to Washington last January to discuss, according to Schumer's website, "how to keep the Bills in Buffalo, better ways to protect small market teams, and the current NFL blackout rule and its ill effects on fans in Buffalo, Rochester, and across Western New York."

Somewhere in heaven, John Lennon was singing, "Hey, Buffalo Bills, what did you kill, Buffalo Bills?" Way to help the brand, Ralph.

31. Tom Benson, Saints

Last year, with the arrival of marvelous rookie coach Sean Payton, Benson was luckier than a guy who stumbles out of Pat O'Brien's, hops aboard a Mardi Gras float full of buxom coeds and gets dropped off at Harrah's, where he slips on a slot-machine handle and hits the jackpot.

I believe Benson would have gladly moved the Saints to San Antonio or L.A. both before and after Hurricane Katrina, which makes it even harder for me to stomach all the healing-the-city propaganda that he and members of his family spewed during last year's stunning run to the NFC Championship game. Still, I'll make Benson a deal: I'll stop ripping him if he gives Payton a huge contract extension immediately and promises to stop doing that insufferable dance.

32. Mike Brown, Bengals

Boy, Brown has sure done a fantastic job of bringing the Bengals into the 21st Century. Once known merely as a pathetic football team whose on-field ineptitude mirrored management's cheap, clueless approach -- the Bungles -- Brown's team has now become a national punch line, his players the poster children for malfeasance. Welcome to Sin City, or Cinci for short.

Until very recently, Brown sat back and watched as clowns like Chris Henry did incomprehensibly stupid things like get arrested for handgun charges while wearing his own jersey and kept their roster spots. You'd think someone who employs so many miscreants (10 Bengals players have been arrested in the last 14 months) would be careful about invoking the names of certain notorious villains, but this is what Brown did in front of more than 50 of his peers at last March's owners' meetings. In the midst of a complaint about the current stadium-building plan that is part of the league's revenue-sharing arrangement, Brown was reminded by a fellow owner that he had taken advantage of the same plan (and a provision that allowed him to waive the club-seat premiums that normally go to visiting teams) upon opening Paul Brown Stadium several years earlier. According to a witness, Brown replied, "Look, it seemed like a good thing in the beginning. A lot of people think a lot of things are good in the beginning. A lot of people thought Hitler was good in the beginning."

And on that tasteful note, I respectfully sign off.

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