Staring wearily at my computer screen, scrolling through hundreds upon hundreds of emails reacting to my third annual NFL owner rankings, I'm starting to get a little sleepy. Suddenly, I am dreaming, and the action on the inside of my eyelids is quite intense.
Having written a pair of columns rating the lower and upper tiers of the people who control the league's 32 franchises, I now take the unusual step of compiling a similar list of paying customers. Only instead of rating each team's fans as a whole, I pick a specific supporter of each franchise and assess his or her credentials before unveiling my first annual NFL fan rankings.
The outpouring of hostile feedback in the days to come is unnerving. And, in my dream, each time I pay a subsequent visit to an NFL stadium, an enraged multimillionaire – Ralph Wilson, Wayne Weaver, Denise DeBartolo York – is there to greet me with a right hook to the jaw. "That fan is part of our family," the owner invariably hisses. "And I'll do what I must to defend his honor!"
All right – back to reality. Before I treat you to a small sampling of the frothing-at-the-mouth flurry that fills my inbox, let me address one absurd assumption made by more than a few respondents: Like any self-respecting journalist, I never, ever have made up a quote, anonymous or otherwise. And if, in a temporary fit of insanity, I ever were to do that, I'd respond by punching myself in the face, over and over, "Fight Club"-style, and pouring grain alcohol on the wounds.
Are we clear? Fantastic.
Now let's get ready to rumble…
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL):
"My question is what in God's name did Wayne Weaver do to you to make you want to write such hateful crap about him? You put him at 32? Below Al Davis? Shame on you, Silver. Wayne Weaver has been a terrific owner and your horrible portrayal of him is just plain mean. It's either extremely personal for you or you're secretly representing somebody else as a weapon against Weaver. Somebody who really wants to see a team in L.A. maybe? You are from California, are you not? I'm guessing we're both Jewish but you actually remind me of an Arab terrorist trying to plan the destruction of Israel. Except in your case, Jacksonville as an NFL city, seems to be your Israel."
Yeah, yeah, yeah – I hate you for your freedom. Or more likely, I simply have a different opinion about Weaver's ranking as an owner than you do. For the record, I don't have anything against Weaver personally, and while I'm not a big proponent of the Super Bowl ever returning to Jacksonville, I'm going to stop short of calling for the city's annihilation. I'm especially protective of the Lynyrd Skynyrd bar on the beach.
"if i see you on the street i'll be punching you in the face, this is not a joke, all do the 6 months for beating you retarded ass."
Your apparent familiarity with the Florida penal code is impressive.
"I personally think you are FOS and could care less what you think of this town and the the fact that you are some geek writing for yahoo can't get a real job writing for a newspaper . I have never read Yahoo and the only reason this time is due to you personal vendeta against our owner our town and our team. What matters is the team is here and you are not welcome. If you do plan come to this area please do so in your alias or you will get your ass kicked by some of the Redneck Hooters Boys, it is a southern thing keep your opinions to yourself wrighter boy. Yahoo whatever. Bring it to the field."
Orange Park, Fla.
Right, with a capital W.
"John Silver your an idiot. Thats all."
That's "Long John" to you, pal.
"Wow your an idiot"
The use of the word "wow" seldom has been more appropriate.
"You always diss the Jaguars every year! You must be a clots fan. Your a homo!"
Daytona Beach, Fla.
I am most certainly not a clots fan. And, if necessary, I will take blood thinners to prove it.
"Please go jump in front of a bus thats moveing really fast, cus we will protect this house!!!!!!!"
J from Jacksonville
Is that the halfway house?
"The people I spoke to today said you are a weirdo and was hungup on selfcenterness and was on medication good luck man"
Hey, I resent that – I'm most certainly not on medication.
"You're completely right about Whine Weaver. When he first talked about bringing an expansion team to Jacksonville, there were some of us who believed he chose Jax because he would be more likely to be awarded a team here than in another, larger metropolitan area. We predicted that given time, he would find a reason to move the team and therefore make a profit, leaving the taxpayers stuck. Over the years he's made some of the worst decisions imaginable – bad enough to think he was trying to ruin the team's popularity which would lead to a decrease in ticket sales which would give him an excuse to go. One major example of this was firing Tom Coughlin who then went on to win a Super Bowl (good going, Mr. Coughlin. You deserved it after the garbage you had to endure with Weaver.). Weaver's worthless. His house has been for sale. If only he could sell it and get out of town. Good riddance."
I know Jacksonville is the nation's largest city in terms of square miles, and that's a good thing, because it means you have a decent chance of avoiding Bryan, Jeremy Love and some of the other upstanding citizens who might react angrily to such an opinion.
"You are so obvious in your dislike of our team and our community. So much for unbiased reporting. Oh well I for one could care less what you think. When we go to the superbowl this year you can eat your words maybe, if we are lucky, you will choke on them."
When your parents named you, Joy, they had incredible foresight. (And for what it's worth, I regard the Jags as very legitimate Super Bowl contenders. If they win it all, they'll do so with a lousy owner. It won't be the first time a team has, either.)
"Well since apparently Ralph Wilson bitches and moans I guess I'll bitch and moan to you. Hmmm no mention of his foresight on what the CBA would lead to. And don't ever put Jerry Jones in the same paragraph as Ralph Wilson. Jones is ruining the sport of football with his ridiculous ticket prices. Buying a license just to purchase season tickets … hmmm I hope you mention his sheer greed when giving your assessment of him. Ohh and by the way your a (expletive) little bitch and I hope I see you at RW stadium one sunday. I spit on little bitches like you at the Ralph."
That's charming. It would be wonderful if you would at least be so kind as not to ralph on me at the Ralph.
"Wow … you are a true dumb ass. How can you write such pure (expletive) about Ralph Wilson. First off … it's great that you forget he was one of only two owners to vote against the now failing CBA. I heard the same crap, he' just a whiner … no. ..he was pretty much the only owner with the foresight to see what the CBA would lead too. Second … now he has the foresight to do something to try and keep the Bills in Buffalo by playing 2 games a year in Toronto and your bashing him for it with (expletive) reasoning like Jerry Jones in Mexico city? Dont compare the Dallas market with the Buffalo market! (Expletive) Dallas! Wilson is dooing everything in his power to keep the Bills in Buffalo, and (expletives) like you in the media, who go their job through a friend, should be kissing his ass for his foresight and success! LIKE BEING THE ONLY ORIGINAL AFL OWNER TO REMAIN IN THE CITY HE FOUNDED THE FRANCHISE IN BITCH!"
I don't believe that Wilson's rejection of the CBA was an act of foresight; I think he simply felt it didn't provide enough of a revenue boost for his team. Many other owners, like Jones, subsequently voted to opt out for very different reasons.
"Regarding the Buffalo Bills having the 27th worst ranked owner: I couldn't possibly agree more. As a blue and red bleeding Bills fan, i must mention that you left out the most important part: That he won't sell any part of the team to local investors so that we can keep the team in Buffalo after he dies (his family wants no part of it). So after supporting the team for 4 decades, the thanks he shows us back is to put the team up for auction, to the highest bidder, after he passes. Thanks Ralph, your name makes me do just that."
Oops, I guess my Ralph joke wasn't all that original. But I do appreciate the input.
"You obviously don't know Buffalo, the Bills, or Ralph Wilson so shut up. What's your part time job??? Disney character???"
Conneaut Lake, Pa.
You want Goofy? Here's a little story about Wilson, from sources who were in the draft room: In 2007, the Bills were on the clock in the fourth round and deciding which player to take, when the owner suddenly blurted out, "What about the running back from Fresno State? Is he available?" The team's personnel men looked at one another; they had already used their first-round pick on a halfback, Cal's Marshawn Lynch. One of them bit his tongue and informed Wilson that, yes, Dwayne Wright was still on the board. "We're taking him," Wilson said, and that was that. He's currently third on the team's depth chart, behind Lynch and fellow second-year back Fred Jackson.
"Hey Mike! Just a comment on your worst owners piece. Though well researched and insightful of owners and how their peers perceive them, I really had to strike back about Ralph Wilson of the Bills being so low on the list. First, yes I am a Bills fan. But seems like you may discard most of Ralph's impressive resume in favor of the last year or so. The man has a right to complain--particulary about the CBA and other league policies – the former in which the league is now reconsidering because it makes no sense as Ralph complained when they voted on it. In a city so depressed and lacking of ANY financial strength and investment whatsoever, Ralph is looking for answers to keep his franchise viable for its hardcore fans--and yes that means looking at Toronto---an hour and half down the road. As for naming rights, the man's preserving his legacy. Selfish, perhaps, but he earned it. If you worked for 50 years to achieve all that success and wealth--getting your team to 4 consecutive super bowls - you might want to name something after yourself as well. He's not a sell out, and he's a blue collar guy in a blue collar town. Give him more credit for being old school. Thanks again, great piece!"
Ralph Wilson as a blue-collar guy? That may be the single funniest sentence I have read this summer. However, you make some good points about the difficulty of sustaining a team in Buffalo.
"You son of a motherless goat! I can't believe you didn't rank (insert NFL team owner name) at the top of your list! Go (insert team name)! Seriously though, I'm surprised you didn't rank Ralph Wilson closer to #32. The only thing worse than that dinosaur owning the team I love is knowing that the next owner(s) will likely relocate them."
Scarily, son of a motherless goat is among the nicer things I've been called lately.
"I know you are going to get a lot of flack for making Robert Kraft the number one owner in the NFL, but it is soooo the right decision! (i swear i am unbiased!) He is everything you stated in your article and more. He is just a good man that loves football and he has done so much for boston and new england with creating a great team and all the charitable work he and his family do for us. Ok i am gushing now which is grossing me out but i cant help it! You made the right choice! (you know unlike last year or was it 2 years ago????) :-) Glad you are back! I need my silver fix every week!!!"
For the record, Kraft has been No. 1 all three years, with Jerry Jones at No. 2 each time.
"Let me get this straight – the owner and apologist for a bunch of cheaters is the #1 owner. Are you serious? If I was your boss I'd cheat and fire you without cause."
San Jose, Calif.
Kraft didn't cheat, and I believe him when he says he didn't know his coach was violating NFL rules by taping opposing teams' signals. He was penalized and has since taken steps to insure that such behavior won't be tolerated. Not that it justifies Bill Belichick's actions, but the Patriots also have evidence of other teams having committed similar offenses in games against them. With all that said, Kraft sucked it up and apologized in front of his peers. If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
"You're an idiot. You place Kraft and Jones 1-2 in your coaches ranking?!? And Dan Rooney 16? Put the bottle back on that rubber cement bottle you left open before your remaining two braincells join the rest. Who in their right mind thinks that Kraft had no idea what his coach was doing? Rooney would have canned his coach immediately if that happened with the Steelers. That's what an ethical owner does. But an owner in bed with Goodell can play innocent while his Commissioner buddy destroys all evidence for him. Convenient. And Jones? The most interfering and disruptive owner to ever live? Bisciotti at 12? The only team that hires more thugs and criminals is Cincinnati. But not for lack of effort. Take a good hard look and you'll see that the Steelers might get a guy every now and then that gets into legal trouble but then see how quickly he's disposed of. Then look at guys brought in with questionable reps like Santonio Holmes and see how they mold him into the kind of upstanding citizen they demand of their players. Belichick disgusts me and most other fans, and any owner who wants or accepts that kind of leadership is showing his true character despite his "heartfelt apology" that apparently put a tear in the collective NFL eye drawing forgiveness for the Pats indiscretions. So apparently the person you want most to be in charge of your team is one who will continue to employ a coach that goes to any length to win. Nice. Good morals you display."
I sincerely like and admire Dan Rooney, and I don't want to cast doubts upon his ethics. But to rebut your argument, consider that Rooney elected to retain an offensive line coach, Larry Zierlein, who inadvertently forwarded a pornographic email to all NFL employees, including Goodell's secretary (and those of other higher-ups).
"Jerry Jones single handedly destroyed a dynasty that Jimmy Johnson built. Then he fires Johnson because of jealousy and he then becomes a GM that hasn't won a playoff game in 13 years. His GM skills are on par with the Lions, Cardinals and Isaih Thomas. I don't get it. Build a big stadium and that makes you a good owner?"
Here's how I look at it: Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys, fired a legend (Tom Landry) and had the guts to hire a college coach, albeit a brilliant one, that no other NFL owner had seen fit to woo. Johnson's coaching and eye for personnel played a major role in those first two Super Bowl championships of the Jones era, but the owner was the one who facilitated the high-risk environment that led to big moves such as the Herschel Walker trade. All in all, I give him as much credit for the dynasty (which included another title under the underappreciated Barry Switzer) as any owner could possibly receive.
"No offense bro but I am a little shocked you have Snyder 3rd? What was the basis of your article? Because if its revenue then great he's 3rd but if its actually being a good owner? Not even close. Good story to offset the Sean Taylor and Todd Collins story. Guy I work with's wife was fired after 5 years in 03 by ole Danny Boy for saying ‘hey Danny' as he walked past her in the hall. Yeah class guy that Mr.Snyder."
I have no idea if that story is actually true. But I do notice that you called him "Mr. Snyder." My personal view? If the big boss wants to be called "Your Holiness," that's what I'm calling him, at least until a better gig comes along.
"RE: Owner rankings, Part 2: Kraft's no joke It's good to see that Dan Snyder bought Yahoo! Sports with his revenue generation from the Redskins. For the individuals that suit-up on Sundays in a Redskins uniform, he's an awesome dude. That is beyond question. Great paycheck, access to the corporate jet, and you never have to worry about getting injured in the playoffs. For the individuals that are wearing jerseys in the stands of FedEx Field, Snyder's a bitter pill to swallow. A winning percentage of approximately .500 since he became owner in 1999, his relentless marketing (who the hell has a 70th Anniversary? ), his hiring and firing without any regard for chemistry or continuity, and his insecure need to be called ‘Mr. Snyder.' There is no question he wants to win. Every which way he goes about trying to win is what should be questioned."
Dan … er, Mister Snyder bought Yahoo! Sports? Ahem. …
"I live in the Redskins market, though I root for the Stillers. What you wrote about Dan Snyder. … I' m sure I'll be able to drive home at night by the light of your burning effigy. I'll miss your columns. Please remember me in your will."
I'll make sure to revise it before my next trip to Jacksonville or Buffalo.
"You can say all you want about the Raiders You are still a sorry writer, from some broke back mountain town. The Raiders have the same owner that created them and will die with them how many other teams can say that, from start to finish just win baby."
I lived in Oakland for 13 years. If "Brokeback Mountain" is your thing, perhaps we could meet at The White Horse Inn.
"Really??!! I have been a Raider fan all my life, so it is very difficult to picture an owner that is worse then Al Davis. I don't think the Jags have even been around long enough to dethrone Al from that post. Let the Jags owner make bad moves for a couple more decades, before we ask Mr. Davis to stand down. Yes we have some Superbowls, but we would have had a couple more if he would have let Johnny stick around and do his thing. Even more reason why Al should hang on to this title a little longer. Anyway, those are my thoughts, GO RAIDERS!!!!! Hopefully J-RO and MC-FAD will really really be worth the money. Also GO CAL!!!!"
So many awful owners, so little time. …
"As a transplanted Cincinnatian I take exception to your ranking Mike Brown as the 30th out of the 32 best owners in football. He is a solid number 32, and you should stop your ratings at 31, and just make him the permanent #32. He is kinda like a college professor who is given a chair which can only be vacated at death. In support of my contention you did not mention how this Dartmouth lawyer, who along with his Dartmouth lawyer/daughter, and Duke law school son- in-law Bengals' braintrust, were too lazy to understand the CBA thereby botching the Shaun Rodgers trade. If it were important, all of us would cry. We can only laugh."
The college professor line definitely made me laugh. …
"Michael, how could you possibly produce a list of NFL owners that doesn't rank the Yorks last? Denise and Dr. John are so hated in the Bay Area they got booed at Bill Walsh's memorial service."
Now that's cold. …
"Mr Silver, I love your weekly columns, and you couldn't be more right about Mike McCaskey of the Bears unless maybe you ranked him too high. The cheap bastard has done nothing but run his grandfather's proud franchise into the ground, and he's despised by Bears' fans with a hatred usually reserved for child molesters and Packer fans. I can only hope that one day the good people of Chicago will rise up and publicly tar-and-feather the greedy pig and dump him in Lake Michigan with a nice pair of cement wingtips. Thanks."
New Port Richey, Fla.
Is New Port Richey near Jacksonville?
"Mike (if I may call you that), I'm sorry but I have to COMPLETELY disagree with your assessment that the Cardinals' owners, the Bidless' (see how I did that?) are not at the very VERY bottom of your list. I mean, they would probably be at the bottom of the list of the worst XFL owners. I grew up in Phoenix and all my life I've rooted for a team that has squandered talent only to see that same talent perform well on another team. Larry Centers, Garrison Hearst, Simeon Rice, and Ricky Proehl just to name a few, all had much better seasons after the Cards let them go. With that said, I do have to applaud them for holding onto Fitz and Boldin. Lets hope it stays like that. Also, I should remind you that we have been to the playoffs one time, barely squeaking by as a wild-card team. The other owners listed below the Bidwills have all enjoyed more success over the past 20 years than my Cards. And look what division we are in, for crying out loud. Ok, that's all I have to say. I hope you can reconsider and put the Bidwills at the bottom of your worst owners list, a place they deserve. Or create an XFL worst owners list and put them at the bottom of that one. Thank you."
What's that I see inscribed on the back of Bill Bidwill's tweed sportscoat? "He Hate Us"? (And you may definitely call me Mike, if only because I'm not your boss. …)
"Sorry, but your recent article on the worst owners in football is way off the mark. The Lions are the most pathetic sports team in history, 1 playoff win in over 50 years! In all that time there have been countless GM's, coaches, QB's, RB's, and players of every position and skill level. Yet still the Lions have stunk. The only consistent theme throughout that time has been the owner. To not rank William Ford as the worst owner in sports history is an insult to all the long suffering Lions fans out there."
Please accept my humble apologies for adding to your misery.
"Michael, Good call on Tom Benson being one of the four worst owners in the NFL. It seems everyone forgave him for his attempt to shanghai the Saints to San Antonio moments after the levee breech from Hurricane Katrina. And, as the Saints became media darlings in 2006, everyone got amnesia in regards to his attempts to move the team during one of the worst crises to hit a U.S. city since probably the SF earthquake in 1906 (sorry, but as tragic as 9/11 was, it didn't destroy NYC, New Orleans has YET to recover from Katrina). Add to that his continual blackmailing of the state of Louisiana to subsidize his residency in the Superdome, to the fact that the NFL and FEMA rebuilt his stadium to a point where he can now gouge New Orleanians for club seat prices (seriously, the new FEMA/NFL funded club level of the Superdome is gorgeous, and he's reaping ALL of the profits from it). I just wish Terry Bradshaw and his group of investors had been successful a few years ago when they tried to buy the team from him. Quick story, to tell you what a joke of an owner Benson is: back before the Ditka era when the Saints were looking for a new GM, I told my boss at the time (the son of former 49ers GM John McVay) to have his dad apply for the job with the Saints. Mr. McVay called the Saints front office indicating his interest in the job and they faxed him an application … an application that Benson used for his car dealerships. One of the questions on the application: Are you willing to work weekends?"
I have no idea if this story is true, either. But I so want it to be.
"Ahhhhhh HELLO! The Chargers @ 17? Are you as big an idiot as your post would document? You're going to be eating your words again about the Chargers this year you East Coast biased DINK! And the Jags @ 30 something? Question? Do you actually KNOW anything about Pro Football? Thought not!"
RAW from Oakland
Given that my opinion differs from yours, it's obvious that I know nothing about pro football. As for where I'm based, I repeat – Oakland, 13 years, still in The Promised Land, still up for a date at The White Horse Inn.
"Michael, I've always enjoyed reading your column. Even when I disagree entirely. And I applaud belatedly your decision to stand by Reading as they fight to return to the Premiership before their parachute payment collapses. But I have to suggest that putting Zygi Wilf that low on your list was a tad unfair. He's in a bad lease he inherited when he bought the team. And the Twins campaigned for almost a decade to get a new stadium. The Minnesota Legislature is remarkably tight-fisted when it comes to sports. Hence the loss of the old North Stars when it was a top 5 attendance team in the NHL, though Norm Green and his two-faced antics had a lot to do with that as well. Throw in the I-35 bridge disaster and the resultant reshuffling of the legislature' s spending priorities, and Wilf would've had to been able to sell snowballs in the infernal regions to the resident ruler to pull off a new stadium in the near future. I don't think anyone could say he's not spent money on the product. Multiple high profile free agent acquisitions, better drafting than in the past, and a willingness to let his football people do their football business. Is he the perfect owner? No. But he's a lot better than where you have him, IMHO. Thanks for your time."
Upon further review, I probably was somewhat unkind to Wilf in the rankings. Thanks to you and many others for pointing that out in a very polite and unthreatening fashion.
"I appreciate your writing and am an avid reader of your column, but I found the shot taken against Cleveland pretty classless. I'm sure you'll probably get more of these, as Clevelanders are incredibly proud and vociferous in their defense of our city, so I'll just keep it at that. And most cities would kill to have a fan base as devoted and knowledgeable as the Browns have. So while we may not have the swankiest downtown or the nicest weather, we have pride and devotion. Thanks."
I'm sorry, Cleveland – you didn't deserve that. Call it my Mistake by the Lake. …
"I just wanted to let you know that Aston Villa the English Premier League Football/Soccer team that Randy Lerner owns is located in Birmingham not London. One thing you do not want to do is confuse the two cities, tends to make the Aston Villa fans a little randy."
Thanks for the clarification on my regrettable Mistake By The Lake II. And behave, baby!
"Nice backhand compliment about Paul Allen, (expletive)-for-brains. I look forward to the day when Yahoo fires you for being the incompetent jackass you show yourself to be with every post."
Cool. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.
- Ralph Wilson