An NFL owner must be comfortable with contradiction. In what other industry is a CEO’s most important job staying out of the way? For an owner, nothing is more essential than knowing what you don’t know. Usually, this is football. This means billions are staked on the expertise and whims of others. Unless, of course, you decide you do know football. Occasionally, this works (pre-2000s Al Davis). Almost always, it doesn’t.
This is why it can be rather difficult to discern what makes a good owner and what makes a bad one. Their reputations are largely shaped by other people. No one knows how the Robert Kraft era of Patriots football would have turned out had Bill Belichick not taken a sixth-round flier on Tom Brady. So we judge this group of 32 billionaires based on the crumbs they throw our way. Do their hires pan out? Are they patient? How much do they meddle? Do they milk their fans for every last cent? Are they literally criminals?
It is with that acknowledgement of the gray area that we try to cut through it.
Tier I. Of the best of the best, these are the very best.
1. Robert Kraft, Patriots
Is Kraft the league’s best owner or its luckiest? After all, his visionary head coach is a Browns retread, while his franchise player was a sixth-round draft pick. In an exercise as imperfect as ranking 32 billionaires behind the curtain, it’s not terribly difficult to conflate luck for skill. The truth is that we don’t know. Maybe Kraft is just a run-of-the-mill owner who happened to bungle into two era-defining talents. But whether it was luck, skill or black magic, find Brady and Belichick he did, and no one has won more than Kraft’s Patriots since the 20th century became the 21st. A franchise that was an also-ran — a franchise Kraft almost moved to Hartford — is now one of the league’s best, and it’s hard to imagine Kraft isn’t a big reason why.
2. Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles
You know the Philly-fan stereotype. These are battery whippin’, Santa Claus booin’ hooligans. Win, or else. The truth is far less sinister, of course. Yes, Philly fans have had their share of regrettable incidents, but name a major American city without regrettable fan incidents, and you’re naming a major American city that doesn’t exist. Philly phanatics are not the boogeymen years of confirmation bias have made them out to be. All that being said, Philly is a tough place to play. One of America’s oldest and most populous cities, it has won just two world titles since Ronald Reagan was first elected president, neither of which came from the Eagles. These are proud people hungering for trophies. It is in this climate that Lurie has displayed remarkable patience, sticking with Andy Reid through thick and thin, and sticking with his most recent coaching search until he got the man he wanted. That man, Chip Kelly, could easily prove to be the league’s next Belichick. Lurie may not have a Super Bowl to show for his patience and home-run hires, but playing under the microscope of the fishbowl NFC East, he does have seven division titles in the past 13 seasons. Even in a knee-jerk environment like the NFL, good things come to those who wait. Sooner or later, Lurie will get his title, and it will be deserved.
3. Pat Bowlen, Broncos
Bowlen has owned the Broncos for 30 years — and overseen just five losing seasons. Denver is 289-189-1 under Bowlen’s guidance, and has gone to six Super Bowls. Inheriting John Elway certainly helped, but then again, so did hiring him to be general manager. A passionate man who nevertheless avoids unnecessary tinkering, Bowlen is willing to cut checks. Like the ones that lured Elway into the front office, and Peyton Manning under center. Loyal when you’ve earned it (Mike Shanahan) and decisive when you haven’t (Josh McDaniels), Bowlen provides the kind of level-headed management all owners should aspire toward.
4. The Rooney Family, Steelers
For as long as there’s been Steelers football, there’s been a Rooney at the helm. For as long as there’s been a Rooney at the helm, there’s been winning. Owners of a record six Super Bowl titles, the Steelers have also been the employers of astonishingly few head coaches — just three since 1969. Think about that. Three. When the Steelers’ third-most recent coach (Chuck Noll) was hired, we had yet to land on the moon. Richard Nixon was three years away from re-election. Division-rival Cleveland, meanwhile, has had three head coaches since 2012. Every team, even the Steelers, has rough patches. The difference is that, the Rooneys have the patience to see them through. The Steelers will eventually escape their current stretch of uninspiring football by doing what they’ve always done: Staying the course they set decades ago.
5. John Mara/Steve Tisch, Giants
Tom Coughlin’s Giants may be known for their ups and downs, but as a franchise, the G-Men have had only nine losing seasons since 1984. No other team has won a Super Bowl in each of the past four decades. At the top are the Maras, one of the NFL’s first families. A familial dispute led to the Tischs acquiring half the club in 1991, but only the masthead changed, not the winning. Surprisingly workmanlike for a team in the city that never sleeps, the Giants experience the occasional valley, but another peak is always just around the bend.
6. Packers Fans (CEO Mark Murphy)
Despite its tax-exempt status, the NFL practically defines “big business.” If there’s a buck to be made or a loophole to exploit, the NFL will find it. That’s why it’s so surprising that The Shield boasts the only fan-owned team in major North American sports. Even more surprising is that it’s one of the league’s most successful franchises, winning 13 championships since its inception, including four in the Super Bowl-era. So passionate they’re willing to be seen in public with these on their heads, the Packers’ fan owners gobble up stock to help the team — even when it’s worthless. By the fans, for the fans, the Packers have model ownership.
7. Paul Allen, Seahawks
It wouldn’t be accurate to say a lot has changed for the Seahawks since being purchased by Allen in 1997. That’s because everything’s changed, from the stadium to the conference to the perception. Long one of the NFL’s most listless franchises, the defending-champion Seahawks now roll up near-perfect home records in one of the league’s most intimidating stadiums. Seven of the Seahawks’ eight division titles have come on Allen’s watch, as have both conference championships. A team that was once mocked is now feared. Rarely has an ownership change fostered such a complete transformation.
Tier II. Among the best, but perhaps not as tenured or successful as Tier I.
8. Steve Bisciotti, Ravens
Bisciotti acquired his majority share of the Ravens in 2004. Since, he’s won a Super Bowl, employed only two head coaches and overseen a team that’s won 59.4 percent of its games. The Steelers may be Baltimore’s bitter rival, but Bisciotti’s best move as owner was adopting Pittsburgh’s model. Bisciotti has done the Rooneys one better, however, by entrusting his faith in a general manager who’s not afraid to make tough decisions. While the Steelers face an uncertain future with an aging and over-leveraged roster, the Ravens have a unit that isn’t burdened by the glories — and signing bonuses — of yesteryear. Bisciotti may do little more than set the tone, but he’s set the right one. More often than not, that’s all a good owner needs to do.
9. Arthur Blank, Falcons
Blank’s transformation of the Falcons hasn’t been quite as stark as Allen’s remaking of the Seahawks, but it comes close. When Blank purchased the Falcons in 2002, he was taking the reins of a team that had never had back-to-back winning seasons. That’s quite a feat for a club that had been playing football since 1966. Of course, in the intervening 12 years there’s been some typical Falcons heartbreak. Failures as a No. 1 seed. Last year’s tumble to the bottom of the league. The whole Michael Vick thing. Bobby Petrino. But Blank has instilled two qualities that were only a dream before his arrival: Credibility, and an expectation of winning. They should remain for the entirety of his reign.
10. The McCaskey Family, Bears
When George Halas died in 1983, the Bears lost not only their owner and founder, but one of the greatest men the league had ever known. Halas was the proverbial “impossible act to follow.” You could argue that the Bears haven’t lived up to their tradition since Halas’ passing, but that would be to ignore: Two Super Bowl appearances, 10 division titles and, ohh, just the greatest season in the history of professional football. There’s no question that the Bears have often come up short of expectations since Halas’ death, particularly over the past 20 years. But so is life in a 32-team league with a salary cap. The Bears will be back, but then again, they never really went away.
11. The Hunt Family, Chiefs
Without the Hunt Family, there’d be no NFL as we know it. So why do the Chiefs have only one Super Bowl title, one that came before half of today’s fans were born? Most of the time, you’d point the finger at ownership. But an examination of recent Chiefs history reveals a franchise that’s almost always followed the right process, but simply hasn’t been rewarded with the right results. The greatest coach never to win a Super Bowl title, Marty Schottenheimer, spent his formative years in Kansas City. Dick Vermeil oversaw some of the greatest offenses in league history, but couldn't win a playoff game. Bill Belichick’s right-hand man, Scott Pioli, came to whip the roster into shape, but couldn’t answer the big questions (coach and quarterback). Now there’s Andy Reid, an elite runner up if there ever was one. The Chiefs want to win and know how to win. They just haven’t won. Sometimes it’s that simple. As long as the Hunts are at the helm, however, next year could always be the year.
12. The York Family, 49ers
Jed York’s track record as the 49ers’ CEO is two things: Short and great. Promoted by his parents at the tender age of 28, York had questionable credentials, but apparently sound judgement. He’s overseen the 49ers’ return to relevance under GM Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, as well as the team’s move into a gleaming new stadium in Santa Clara. He’s made the most of an opportunity of a lifetime, and there’s little reason to believe that won’t remain the case in what could be a decades-long tenure atop one of the league’s most storied franchises.
Tier III. Great with a touch of gray.
13. Jim Irsay, Colts
Here are the facts of Irsay’s ownership. 1. The Colts are 168-104 since he became principal owner in 1997. 2. In that time, the Colts have had the No. 1 overall pick two times, 1998 and 2012. 3. In 1998, they used it on one of the greatest players of all time, Peyton Manning. 4. In 2012, they used it on his heir apparent, Andrew Luck. 5. That’s not a bad way to make a living. So yes, Irsay’s caught some lucky breaks during his time in the owner’s box. Which brings us to our next point: Who cares. Life is not fair, something the Colts almost learned the hard way when they nearly accidentally won their way out of the right to select Luck. Frequently described as “offbeat,” Irsay has always seemed an affable gent, one deserving of the good fortune that’s come his way. That’s why it was so shocking when rumor turned to truth in March, and Irsay was arrested for DUI and drug possession. Roiling beneath the facade of the NFL’s most happy-go-lucky owner were demons that manifested themselves in ways dangerous to both Irsay and the general public. What once appeared to be comedy now has all the hallmarks of tragedy. This doesn’t change the fact that Irsay is a winning owner with a devotion to his team and city. It’s just the latest reminder that the truth is rarely as simple as two draft picks or two personality ticks. Narratives are nice, but don’t be so surprised when the lines get blurred.
14. Tom Benson, Saints
You’re unlikely to hear many Saints fans complaining about their owner these days. Long the laughingstock of the NFL, Benson’s team won its first Super Bowl in 2009-10, and has reached the playoffs in five of the past eight seasons. Outside of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, there isn’t a better coach/quarterback combination than Sean Payton and Drew Brees. But if Super Bowl XLIV and Brees/Payton are Benson’s two miracles, there’s one major stumbling block on his path to canonization. Hurricane Katrina was one of the lowest moments in recent American history. It was New Orleans’ darkest hour, one whose reverberations are still being felt today. What did Benson do in Katrina’s immediate aftermath? Leverage his ravaged hometown for stadium money by threatening to move the team San Antonio. In the history of sad, cynical stadium ploys, Benson’s has to be the most sad and cynical. It’s a black eye on what’s otherwise been a remarkable turnaround. Benson is a Crescent City hero today, but there was once a tomorrow 550 miles to the West. It’s a sin not easily forgiven.
Tier IV. Solid, but unspectacular or unproven.
15. Bob McNair, Texans
Since earning the rights to the league’s 32nd franchise in 1999, McNair has largely stayed out of the spotlight. He’s made solid hires, and remained patient. His team just hasn’t accomplished much of anything. The Texans’ first-ever playoff appearance in 2011-12 was marred by the loss of quarterback Matt Schaub, while McNair’s 2012-13 unit fell off a cliff after looking like one of the best teams in the league for the season’s first three months. McNair is now reloading after a lost 2013. With an epochal talent in J.J. Watt and a highly sought-after new coach in Bill O’Brien, McNair has the right pieces in place. It’s just a matter of those pieces regaining the franchise’s forward momentum. McNair’s reign has been nondescript, but that’s not a bad thing for an owner. McNair’s tenure should ultimately bear fruit.
16. Shad Khan, Jaguars
As far as rebuilding projects go, the Jacksonville Jaguars are particularly challenging. A tradition-less team situated in one of the league’s smallest markets, the Jags have made two playoff appearances since the first “Harry Potter” movie was released. When Khan took the reins from Wayne Weaver in late 2011, he had neither a coach nor a quarterback. Former GM Gene Smith left behind a roster populated with college team captains, but not many guys who could actually play football. As such, the Jags haven’t done a whole lot of winning on Khan’s watch. What they have done is set the table for the future, making the right hires at coach (Gus Bradley) and general manager (David Caldwell). Khan’s men refused to reach for a quarterback in last year’s draft, and have taken a more analytical approach to roster construction. This kind of slow burn could lead to a few more losing seasons, but is the right way to remake a broken franchise. The only question is Khan’s loyalty to Jacksonville. At the very least, he thinks London is a nice city. At worst, his master plan includes eventually hopping across the pond. Wherever he’s playing his games, however, Khan has a team that he’s rounding back into competitive form.
17. The Spanos Family, Chargers
When you think of great NFL franchises, you do not think of the San Diego Chargers. When you think of bad NFL franchises, you do not think of the San Diego Chargers. Since Alex Spanos took control of the team in 1984, the Bolts’ primary function has been to exist. As fans of the Raiders or Redskins might tell you, this is not necessarily a bad thing. There have been AFC Championship years, losing years and Norval Turner years. Mistakes, like drafting Ryan Leaf and firing Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season, have been made. But the Bolts have been largely competent on the Spanos’ watch. That is not something that can be said for many of the owners farther down this list.
18. Malcolm Glazer, Buccaneers
When Glazer bought the Bucs in January 1995, he was purchasing a team with an 87-204-1 all time record. That’s a .298 winning percentage over 19 seasons. In the 19 seasons since, the Bucs have gone 146-158 (.480), winning their first and only Super Bowl in the process. Glazer and his sons have taken a laughingstock and turned them into your normal, everyday NFL franchise around the block. But since Glazer seized control of the Premier League’s Manchester United in 2005, his focus on the Bucs has waned along with their play. Only three of the Bucs’ past eight seasons have been of the winning variety, while a 50-78 overall record has produced just one playoff appearance. Glazer is a solid owner who rescued the Bucs from the depths of American professional sports, but not a particularly passionate or memorable one.
19. Jerry Richardson, Panthers
You probably didn’t know that Richardson played in the NFL. This is because his career was undistinguished. In two years as a Baltimore Colt, Richardson caught just 15 passes. “Undistinguished” can also be applied to Richardson’s ownership career. In the 21 years (19 seasons) since the Panthers’ founding, there have been only five playoff appearances, and little consistency. Before 2013, the Panthers had won 11 or more games four times. All four times, they won eight or fewer the following season. As a person, Richardson’s humble persona is sometimes belied by surprisingly vicious actions. He infamously fired his own sons before even more infamously insulting Drew Brees and Peyton Manning during 2011’s CBA negotiations. Throughout the talks, Richardson was billed as the “least flexible and most pessimistic” of the owners, and didn’t seem to want to mediate with the union so much as break it. Finally, there’s Richardson’s stadium machinations. Despite Bank of America Stadium’s relative youth, Richardson has already ransomed the fine people of Charlotte for $87.5 million, and a favorable lease. With the team instructed to be sold within two years of Richardson’s death, it’s conceivable it could jump town. Richardson is to be commended for bringing football to the Carolinas, and seemingly doing his best to field a competitive team. But his actions in recent years have suggested that his ego comes before all else.
Tier V. Toeing the line.
20. Woody Johnson, Jets
A baby-lotion heir, Johnson has helmed the Jets since 2000. Of the franchise’s 12 playoff victories, half have come on his watch. That’s good. What’s bad is that the unending sound and fury that’s marked Johnson’s reign. There was the ill-fated dalliance with Brett Favre. There was the 13 insufferable months of Tim Tebow. There’s everything coach Rex Ryan has ever said. The buck stops at Johnson, and his Jets have been as much soap opera as football team. The good news is, Johnson seems to have gotten the message. Tebow’s been waived, Ryan muzzled. A new no-nonsense general manager in John Idzik has restored order to what was a crumbling and incoherent roster. Johnson’s Jets are once again in position to win. Now he just needs to keep the chaos at bay.
21. Jerry Jones, Cowboys
If the sole criteria for this list were printing money, Jones would be without equal. The Cowboys were already America’s Team when Jones came aboard in 1989, but it was under ‘ol Jer that they became a worldwide behemoth worth north of $2 billion. Valley Ranch is practically a mint, while Jones has turned the Cowboys into an iconic American brand on par with Coca Cola and Chevrolet. If only he could get out of his own way on the football side of things. It’s not just Jones’ flair for making money that sets him apart from the other men on this list, but his insistence on serving as his own general manager. Truth be told, Jones has been a better GM than given credit for. Widely perceived as a disaster, Jones have nevertheless overseen nine .500 or better campaigns over the past 11 seasons. The problem is, .500 seasons aren’t the benchmark in Dallas — championships are. And Jones is getting worse, growing more incoherent on draft weekend while habitually overpaying his own players. If Jones were the general manager of any other team, he would have been fired long ago. But since he won’t fire himself, he’s dooming the league’s preeminent franchise to T-shirt sale championships instead of football ones.
22. Stan Kroenke, Rams
It would be incorrect to call Kroenke an NFL owner. He is a sports magnate, a man who amasses professional sports franchises the way you or I might collect Buffalo Nickels. Flaunting the NFL’s cross-ownership rules, Kroenke is the de facto owner of the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Rapids. If that weren’t enough, he became majority owner of the Premier League’s Arsenal F.C. in 2011. Nicknamed “Silent Stan” by his Arsenal “supporters,” the only thing Kroenke is more famous for than hoarding sports teams is his refusal to comment on them. In St. Louis, this has led to great anxiety about the Rams’ future in Missouri. A billionaire many, many times over, Kroenke is (rightfully) dissatisfied with the state of the 19-year-old Edward Jones Dome, but has no plans to fund upgrades or a new stadium himself. Instead, he appears to have his eye on skipping town, which he could theoretically do after the 2014 season. Some in St. Louis believe it’s far too early to worry about relocation. Others say it’s time to panic. All the while, Kroenke says nothing. This may make him a shrewd businessman, but also the archetype of the modern owner who cares not about wins, losses or — God forbid — fans, but only the bottom line. It’s a business, as they say, and no one epitomizes that more than Stan Kroenke.
23. Zygi Wilf, Vikings
As a football man, Wilf is perfectly ordinary. The Vikings have been a .500 team during his reign, and come within a hairbrained Brett Favre interception of a Super Bowl appearance. As a business man? Let’s just say “systematically cheating” his partners is Wilf’s game. He’s been ordered to pay $84.5 million in damages for over two decades of fraud. But it’s not just business partners Wilf is comfortable cheating. There’s also the people of Minnesota, who are paying for roughly $500 million of Wilf’s $976 million new stadium. Wilf, as you may have guessed, is a billionaire. Shady business dealings and leveraging his fans hardly makes Wilf unique amongst NFL owners, but the seeming comfort with which he does so is. Of course, none of this will matter to the diehards if he brings home a championship. And though Wilf has proven to be a man with a dubious moral compass, he seems to know his way around a football team. He’ll never be mistaken for an asset, but he won’t stand in the way of his team’s ability to win.
24. The Ford Family, Lions
William Clay Ford Sr. — who died in March and left the team to his widow, Martha Firestone Ford — was an eminently decent man. He was not afraid to spend money, and rarely interfered. The problem? He may have been too decent for his team’s good. The NFL can be a league of knee-jerk, hair-trigger firings. Many worthy men have been let go too soon. Matt Millen was not one of those men. Alas, he was allowed to destroy the Lions for not one, not two, but eight years. And not just any eight years, but eight of the worst years the NFL has ever seen. Millen’s tenure culminated with literally the worst year the NFL has ever seen, the Lions’ 0-16 2008. That, in a nutshell, was Ford’s reign as owner, 53 years where the Lions won one playoff game and finished 123 games under .500. The nice guy finished last.
25. Mike Brown, Bengals
Although the Bengals have reached the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, “winning” is something Brown has only recently decided is worth doing. In his 23 years at the top, the Bengals have gone 145-222-1 (.395), winning zero playoff games. This, after the Bengals made two Super Bowl appearances in the ‘80s. A cheapskate of the highest order, Brown doesn’t employ a general manager, leaving himself as the team’s de facto roster manager. This arrangement has worked out inexplicably well in the past half decade, but is not a viable long-term model. The Bengals remain amongst the league’s lowest-spending teams, letting premium talent walk in free agency while refusing to replace it with anything other than veteran spare parts. Brown is the son of a football genius, one of the true pioneers of the game. That’s why it’s such a shame the only thing he’s willing to pioneer is more ways to save money.
26. Bill Bidwill, Cardinals
Bidwill’s move to the desert wasn’t just literal, but figurative. A team that didn’t win much in St. Louis never won in Arizona, producing one winning season and playoff victory in its first 20 years out west. It was only after the Cardinals moved into University of Phoenix Stadium and acquired Kurt Warner that Bidwill decided winning might be more fun than losing. No longer as cheap as the reputation he’ll die with, Bidwill has himself a perfectly-fine football team. That doesn’t make up for the 45 years' worth of football crimes that came before, however.
Tier VI. For sale/in transition.
27. The Bills, For Sale
The Bills didn’t just lose their owner and founder when Ralph Wilson died on March 25, but one of the men who shaped the NFL as we know it today. Wilson may have never won the big one, but he’s one of the reasons the NFL is now the big one of American sports. It’s in this irreplaceable void that you’ll find major questions about the Bills’ future in Buffalo. The Bills play in one of the league’s smallest markets and oldest stadiums. In theory, their lease keeps them in Buffalo through at least 2020, but the vagaries of NFL language appear to leave open the possibility of a move to Toronto. Here’s to hoping the Bills not only find a worthy replacement for Wilson, but one committed to keeping them on the shores of Lake Erie.
28. The Titans, Tommy Smith
Bud Adams had more franchise moves than Super Bowl titles. That’s generally not a good thing if you own a team for over 50 years, but Adams had his club in position for championships multiple times. It just never sealed the deal, despite coming as close as one yard in 1999-2000. Adams could be patient (Jeff Fisher), but also rash (Vince Young, his ill-fated courtship of Peyton Manning). He was a complicated man, one who stole football from his hometown and gave it to another. To younger fans, he’ll be most remembered for an unfortunate double bird. Little is known about Adams’ replacement, son-in-law Tommy Smith, though we do know that, like Adams, he’ll run the team from afar. It’s a brave new world for a franchise that’s only ever known one man at the top, but Smith seems poised to chart a sensible course.
Tier VII. Trending the wrong way.
29. Stephen Ross, Dolphins
Ross means well, he really does. But meaning well doesn’t get you very far in a pool with 31 other sharks. Having struck out on every coach he actually wanted, Ross has decided to remain blindly loyal to his consolation prize, Joe Philbin. It’s a strategy that netted him two years of Mike Sherman calling plays, and the most embarrassing locker-room scandal in recent memory. Three steps slow on every move he makes, Ross will undoubtedly prove three years too slow on firing Philbin. It’s why he couldn’t give his general manager job away last winter, and why the Dolphins haven’t made up any ground on the Patriots in Ross’ six years at the helm. Ross is a nice guy, but as William Ford showed you, they usually finish last in the cutthroat business of NFL football.
30. Mark Davis, Raiders
Mark Davis is not his father. This is both good and bad. Good because Al — visionary though he was — was no longer fit to oversee the day-to-day operations of an NFL football team when he died in October 2011. Always impatient, Al had grown paranoid, and prone to disastrous personnel decisions. A brilliant executive the first 35 years of his career, Al was a dismal one for the final 10. It should be a relief to Raiders fans everywhere that Mark is not this man. The problem is that, where his father wore every football hat known to man, Mark appears to know less about the game than some of his fans. For the most-important decision of his tenure — who would replace Al as general manager — Mark interviewed one man. That man, Reggie McKenzie, has proven woefully overmatched, stunning colleagues with his decisions and perplexing everyone else. But instead of trading in his family’s trademark impatience, Mark has become the rare Davis to be too patient, throwing away another season as McKenzie throws things at the wall in the hope something sticks. Davis was never supposed to be his father, but he wasn’t supposed to be as bad as him, either.
Tier VIII. Alone at the bottom.
31. Jimmy Haslam, Browns
Haslam was gifted with a unique opportunity when he purchased the Browns in 2012: Deliverance. Outside of the Chicago Cubs, the Browns are the most-tortured fanbase in American sports. Haslam could have been the savior, the man who erased Tim Couch, Art Modell and “The Drive." He could have been a new lease on life for a Dawg Pound that’s sick and tired of the jokes and the losses. Instead, he’s become subject of a federal investigation, and employed as many head coaches in 18 months as the Steelers have in 45 years. Haslam isn’t just more of the same in Cleveland, he’s everything that’s wrong with the modern owner. Haslam is an arrogant, rash, amoral man who believes the law doesn’t apply to him. Someone who will cut as many corners as necessary to ensure he gets as many dollars as possible. Someone who — allegedly, of course — spent years ripping off the exact kind of people who make up the bedrock NFL fandom, a bedrock that is gradually being priced out of attending games. Maybe Haslam will beat his federal rap. He is, after all, a billionaire with more lawyers at his disposal than the average man will ever meet. But Haslam will never beat back the impulses that have made him a(n alleged) criminal and clueless owner, for that would require two things he could only dream of: Humility and empathy. Even if he eventually wins, Jimmy Haslam is not a winner.
32. Daniel Snyder, Redskins
Every NFL team has a Wikipedia page. They are quite long, and partitioned by era. Say “1992-2007: The Brett Favre era” for the Packers, or “1979–1988: Fouts and Air Coryell” for the Chargers. For the Redskins, the Snyder years get a drab “Daniel Snyder ownership (1999–present).” Anyone, fan or otherwise, who’s followed Snyder’s reign of error and terror knows that doesn’t do it justice. The Snyder era would be more accurately termed as “The Insult Years: 1999-present.” Aside from losing, insult has been the one recurring theme of Snyder’s ownership. He insults his fans’ intelligence by embarking on misguided rebuild after misguided rebuild. He insults their pocketbooks by making them pay for things like parking even when they walk to the stadium. He insults Native Americans by refusing to change his team’s offensive and antiquated nickname. He insults us all by pretending his ownership is about anything than his own ego gratification. In 15 years on the job, Snyder hasn’t built a football team, but an edifice to ignorance. A study in how little regard an owner must pay his fans in sports’ gilded age. A hollowed-out shell of what used to be one of the NFL’s proudest franchises. Snyder has never won a thing, but we know at least one win is coming. That’s because the day Snyder finally sells his team will go down as the biggest victory in Redskins history.