Who are the biggest power brokers in the NFL? My list ...
1. Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner
Presiding over the most popular sport in America, with the NFL's annual revenue topping $9 billion, there's no one remotely in the same league with Goodell when it comes to his far-reaching impact and influence. Entering his eighth season on the job in 2013, Goodell has become a controversial and authoritarian figure in the game and has been in the middle of every significant issue that the NFL has faced since he assumed office in the summer of 2006.
2. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner
Kraft not only has turned the Patriots into the league's model franchise since his purchase of the downtrodden team in 1994 -- earning 14 playoff trips, 12 division titles and three Super Bowl rings in his 19 seasons -- but also he serves as the chairman of the NFL's powerful broadcasting committee, and received considerable credit for helping bridge the gap between players and owners in the divisive 2011 labor negotiations.
3. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner
Though they own just one playoff win since 1996, the Cowboys remain the most valuable pro franchise in American sports, worth an estimated $2.1 billion. That's in large part due to the ubiquitous Jones and his tireless efforts to promote his iconic franchise, as well as his team's 100,000-plus seat Cowboys Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2009. Jones is chairman of the league's NFL Network committee and a member of the broadcasting committee.
4. DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director
In leading the 1,800-plus-member NFL players union, often in confrontational style, Smith was the point man for his side in the 2011 labor negotiations that produced a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. The former trial lawyer and counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice was first elected in March 2009 as a virtual unknown in the sports world. But Smith was re-elected by the union in 2012 and has proven his willingness to contest any issue the players have with Goodell or the league.
5. Tom Condon/Ben Dogra
Long considered the most powerful agents in the NFL, Condon and Dogra head up the football division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and their roster of A-list clients reads like a who's who of the league: Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo among them. With so much influence over so many star players, the clout that Condon and Dogra wield in any negotiation is considerable, and there aren't many owners or general managers who haven't discovered that the hard way.
6. John Mara, New York Giants co-owner
Well-respected within the league for his family's long history in the game and above-reproach style in successfully running the Giants' franchise, Mara now heads the NFL's powerful Management Council Executive Committee/Labor, the league's primary labor committee. Mara's influence is also felt on the league's Competition Committee, which decides on any rule changes or on-field points of emphasis in officiating.
He's still the most recognizable, commercially-bankable name and face on an NFL roster, and his late-career change of teams in 2012 (from Indianapolis to Denver) only drove his Q rating all the higher, if that was even possible. With a league-record four MVP awards, 12 Pro Bowl berths and one Super Bowl ring, Manning resides in rarefied air, even by NFL superstar standards. When he talks, the league and its players listen.
8. Bill Belichick, New England head coach
Though his most recent Super Bowl victory was eight years back, the man in the hoodie still sets the standard in his high-profile profession, with 10 division titles and five Super Bowl trips in his 13-season tenure in Foxboro. Belichick and his coaching innovations still inspire imitation league-wide, and his game-planning and tactical skills are considered among the best in NFL history.
9. Eric Grubman, NFL executive vice president of NFL Ventures and Business Operations
The former Goldman Sachs executive joined the league in 2004, and if there's a big-money issue at stake, he's involved, helping play the role of a deal-maker in the sale of franchises, stadium construction and the league's relationship with its many business partners. If the NFL does indeed expand into Europe at some point in the near future, Grubman likely will be the league's point man.
10. Howard Katz, NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations
Katz routinely does the impossible, overseeing the formation of the NFL's 256-game regular season schedule while keeping all five of the league's TV partners -- CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network -- reasonably happy. He and Goodell personally choose the league's all-important prime time games, and in recent years Katz has become one of the commissioner's most-trusted advisers on a wide range of issues.