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Deb
07-03-2007, 08:19 AM
1. Robert Kraft (Jonathan Kraft), Patriots

First of all -- and this is an entire column topic for the future -- can we all raise our hands and agree that the switch from Paul Tagliabue to Roger Goodell has been one of the better things to happen to the league in recent memory? Most owners and league insiders would endorse that statement, and Kraft has long been one of the new commissioner's most trusted advisors on big-picture matters ranging from television to labor negotiations.

As for on-the-field matters, even if you believe that Randy Moss is the exact type of player you wouldn't want in a team atmosphere -- as I do -- you have to concede that Kraft got a ton of potential value for relatively little financial risk, even if Moss acts like a jerk and the Patriots cut him. Assuming Brady and coach Bill Belichick hang around for the next five to 10 years, Kraft has a chance to score a record number of Lombardi Trophies for a franchise that barely sniffed a title before he took over. Perhaps even more improbably, he and Jonathan are in the process of making Foxborough, Mass., a nice place to visit, thanks to the $350 million that will build Patriot Place, a retail and entertainment complex in the shadow of Gillette Stadium.

2. Jerry Jones (Stephen Jones), Cowboys

With a new stadium set to open in 2009, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will make his voice heard not only on the practice field, but across the entire league for years to come.
With a new stadium set to open in 2009, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will make his voice heard not only on the practice field, but across the entire league for years to come.

Keeping up with the Joneses is about to become that much tougher for the rest of the owners. When the Cowboys' $1 billion stadium in Arlington opens in 2009, it promises to be the sweetest and most profitable outdoor facility in the land, what with its state-of-the-art architectural touches, sliding roofs and playing fields, monstrous video screens, tricked-out club areas (which players pass through on their way to the field). It'll have a seating capacity of 80,000 for regular season games and more than 100,000 for Super Bowls -- beginning with Super Bowl XLV in 2011, which Jones helped the region land in May. (Jerry's eldest son, Stephen, the team's executive vice president, spearheaded the stadium deal.)

The best thing for Cowboys fans is that Jones will take much of the money that comes pouring in and put it back into his product. He'll do the same with the extra cash he didn't have to pay his former coach after Bill Parcells blinked first last January and resigned without a buyout. (Yeah, I know it wasn't reported that way, but it was a staredown, and Jones won.)

Things haven't been as bountiful on the field for the Cowboys lately as they were in the '90s, but it's not because Jones isn't trying. Besides, how cool is a boss who encourages his emerging-star quarterback to live it up off the field?

3. Jerry Richardson (Mark Richardson), Panthers

Charlotte is a small market, but you'd never know it from the way Richardson runs his business. Unlike so many of his sniveling peers, Richardson doesn't whine about his potential revenue disadvantages. Instead, he finds a way to make it work financially while fielding a habitually competitive team.

While Mark, Jerry's second-eldest son and the team's president, expertly handles the bulk of the Panthers' day-to-day operations (and helped nail down a lucrative naming-rights deal with Bank of America in '04), his dad does a great job representing the team on a league level. It was Jerry, the co-chair of the commissioner search committee (along with the Steelers' Dan Rooney), who expertly drove that process in a way that left no owner feeling disenfranchised. By reaching out and soliciting the input of so many of his peers, Richardson helped ensure that everyone felt good about Goodell's selection. That widespread base of support is already paying off for the new commissioner as he beefs up the league's disciplinary policies.

4. Bryan, Joel and Ed Glazer, Buccaneers

While their father, Malcolm, suffered a pair of strokes and is no longer involved in day-to-day operation of his businesses, the Glazer brothers have honored his legacy as a smart businessman who was willing to spend big money to compete at the highest level. Rather than fight amongst each other for control, as we've seen happen in other situations of this nature, Bryan, Joel and Ed have pulled off a smooth transition at a difficult time.

The Bucs backslid badly on the field in '06, and onetime Golden Child Jon Gruden could lose his head-coaching job if there isn't marked improvement this year -- a sign that the Glazers aren't getting complacent after finally winning their first Super Bowl five years ago. Last year they upgraded the Bucs old training facility -- a glorified trailer next to a jumbo-jet landing strip -- by opening a gorgeous facility that measures nearly 150,000 square feet (or the size of the typical Tampa gentleman's club).

Meanwhile, the family that was roundly blasted in the UK upon acquiring Manchester United two years ago is presiding over a bloody good show: United just won the Premier League and the brand has never been hotter. (While Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms and possibly Jake Plummer battle it out to see who runs the Bucs' flailing offense, there's no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is The Man for Man U.)

5. Daniel Snyder, Redskins

Though he has yet to make the Redskins a consistent winner, owner Daniel Snyder has succeeded in making his team one of the most valuable in all of sports.
Though he has yet to make the Redskins a consistent winner, owner Daniel Snyder has succeeded in making his team one of the most valuable in all of sports.

If anything, Snyder tries too hard to build a winner. In January '06, when Snyder wooed former Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders with a three-year deal worth more than $2 million annually, it seemed like a great move on paper. Instead, Saunders' philosophy clashed with that of head coach Joe Gibbs, which was one reason the team fell from a playoff appearance in '05 to a 5-11 finish last season. Snyder's zealous mentality also enables Gibbs and VP of football operations Vinny Cerrato to overpay for free agents like Adam Archuleta, Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, none of which helps the on-field product.

But hey, at least he's trying. Snyder will get it right eventually, if only because he won't settle for anything less -- a quality far too owners possess. And he is pulling in an enormous profit in the meantime, thanks to his innovative marketing strategies. He's also more of a team player on the league level than you might imagine, as evidenced by his willingness to go along with the revenue-sharing plan that ensured labor peace in the spring of '06.

6. Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles
7. Bob McNair, Texans
8. Wayne Huizenga, Dolphins
9. Dan Rooney, Steelers
10. Pat Bowlen, Broncos
11. Jimmy Irsay, Colts
12. Paul Allen, Seahawks
13. Steve Bisciotti, Ravens
14. John Mara/Jonathan Tisch, Giants
15. Clark Hunt, Chiefs
16. Bob Harlan/Green Bay Packers Inc. (Brett Favre)
17. Woody Johnson, Jets
18. Bud Adams, Titans
19. Arthur Blank, Falcons
20. Al Davis, Raiders
21. Georgia Frontiere (John Shaw), Rams
22. Randy Lerner, Browns
23. Zygi Wilf, Vikings
24. Alex Spanos, Chargers
25. Denise DeBartolo York and John York, 49ers
26. Michael McCaskey, Bears
27. Bill Bidwill (Michael Bidwill), Cardinals
28. Wayne Weaver, Jaguars
29. William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.), Lions
30. Ralph Wilson, Bills
31. Tom Benson, Saints
32. Mike Brown, Bengals