George Steinbrenner passed away on Tuesday morning of a heart attack at age 80. Whether you like the Yankees or despise them with every ounce of your being (like I do) you still have to respect what the man was able to accomplish. When he purchased the team for $10,000,000 back in the 1970s the Yankees had become a shell of their former selves. As distant a memory as it may seem the idea when Steinbrenner bought the Yankees was to shape them in the image of the best franchise in baseball at that point, the juggernaut Baltimore Orioles.
So with his passing, I’ve ranked the top five current owners in the National Football League. Please feel free to chime in with your own top fives or with your opinions as to why mine is the worst thing you’ve ever read.
1.) Dan Rooney. Pittsburgh Steelers. I know that I am going to catch hell for this, but there has never been a group of owners as dedicated to the art of winning as the Rooney family. Starting in the 1930’s when Art Rooney Sr. Signed Byron “Whizzer” White (Later Supreme Court Justice White) to an unheard of $15,000 a year contract, to the Steel Curtain dynasty of the 1970’s, to the most recent two Superbowl victories of the last decade under Dan, the Steelers are the most successful franchise in football history.
3.) Jim Irsay. Indianapolis Colts. Typing this makes me want to puke my guts out, but Jim Irsay is a damn fine owner of a very respectable franchise. I will never speak a good word about his villainous father, but thankfully it would appear that this apple fell far from the Irsay tree. Since acquiring the team in 1997 following the death of Robert Irsay, Jim has overseen one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. The Indianapolis Colts have failed to make the playoffs just once since 1999. They have won their division six times and recorded a singular Superbowl victory in 2006.
4.) Al Davis. Oakland Raiders. This is perhaps the most controversial pick if for no other reason than it would appear Al Davis has fully completed his long strange odyssey into madness. Despite the fact that he may very well be a dangerously insane human being, the man is still a current owner, is a member of the hall of a fame, and is second only to the Rooney family on this list for most championships won and awards received. There was a time when Al Davis was considered one of the finest minds in the game, and although his reputation has been much tarnished since, he’s still brought a team to the Superbowl in this decade.
5.) Jerry Jones. Dallas Cowboys. There is perhaps no singular owner on this list who has done more to raise the influence of his respective team more than Jerry Jones. Love him or hate him, he has turned his team into the embodiment of professional football. Be it his Superbowls in the 90s, or his Mega-Church Stadium opened last year, Jerry Jones is the Larry Flint of the NFL, probably the league’s best entertainer, marketer and promoter.
Sidebar: I toyed with putting Steve Bischotti on this list (go figure right?) but felt that since he had no Superbowls to his name and has only been majority owner since 2004 that it would tarnish the legacy of Art Modell who truly does deserve to be # 2 second only to the Rooneys.