SI's Best & Worst Owners in NFL

SI's Best & Worst Owners identified the five best and five worst owners in each of the four major team sports. The method was not scientific but based on numerous factors, some of which are indisputable and some of which are intangible. Among the criteria used to evaluate owners was the willingness to spend money to improve the team; the stability and capabilities of the front office and management; the amenities at the team's venue; and the club's culture and interactivity with fans. Of course, weighing heavily in the decision was the team's success or failure on the field. (Note: Records are through 2008 season.)
Five Best NFL Owners
5 Steve Bisciotti Baltimore Ravens
Purchased 2000
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$325M $1,062M 81-61 .576 5 1
As much as Art Modell was reviled in Cleveland, Bisciotti has become beloved in Baltimore as the local kid who made good and has turned the Ravens into one of best-managed franchises in the NFL. He showed guts in firing Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick and his entire staff following the disappointing '07 season and replacing him with hard-nosed John Harbaugh. Bisciotti also knows when to back off; he has let Ozzie Newsome, one of the best GMs in the business, do his job. In striking the right balance, the 48-year-old Bisciotti has become the epitome of the young, engaged owner who goes about his business the right way and puts a perennial winner on the field.
4 Jeffrey Lurie Philadelphia Eagles
Purchased 1994
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$195M $1,116M 131-104-2 .554 9 0
Lurie has brought consistency to one of the more historically volatile franchises in the NFL (one of his predecessors nearly went bankrupt and another nearly moved the team to Phoenix). Under the Boston-born Lurie, the Eagles are financially secure and have a modern stadium that will guarantee the team continued self-reliance. The Eagles have also had the most success in franchise history, reaching five NFC Championship Games in eight years and appearing in their second Super Bowl.
3 Mara & Tisch Families New York Giants
Purchased 1925
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$500 $1,178M 617-509-33 .532 30 7
How much pressure must John Mara and Steve Tisch have felt in late 2005 when their famous fathers, Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch -- the men who have made the Giants into one of the best-run organizations in professional sports since 1925 -- died within three weeks of each other? Yet the heirs did their fathers proud in continuing the family tradition of class and success, even if they had to make bold moves to do so. That included sticking with often unpopular coach Tom Coughlin, promoting Jerry Reese to GM and believing in Eli Manning as a franchise quarterback. The end result is the success of the current Giants regime, which shocked the undefeated Patriots in 2008 to win Super Bowl XLII, one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
2 Robert Kraft New England Patriots
Purchased 1994
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$175M $1,324M 156-84 .650 10 3
In today's revenue-sharing, egalitarian NFL where everyone has a chance, it's almost impossible to create a long-standing dynasty. Unless you're Kraft. Under his regime, the Patriots have been a model franchise by locking down star players while replacing the moving parts to keep the team competitive every season. The end product is the most successful team over a 12-year period, with three Super Bowl titles in five appearances. Kraft is also the most influential owner in the commissioner's ear and a big part of the reason why the NFL has become the top American sporting league.
1 Rooney Family Pittsburgh Steelers
Purchased 1933
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$2,500 $1,015M 519-487-20 .506 25 6
The NFL's most decorated franchise has been under one family's control since its inception in 1933. Since Art Rooney's death in 1988, the Steelers have been run by Art's son Dan (pictured) and, in recent years by Art Jr., the patriarch's son and the third generation of Rooney. Through the years, one thing has remained consistent: the class with which the organization is run. The Rooney family's influence over the NFL has also resulted in breakthroughs in diversity -- hence the "Rooney Rule." But at the end of the day, the Rooneys have won a record six Super Bowl trophies and have given Pittsburgh, an industrial town that always seems to be hit hardest in tough economic times, its biggest source of civic pride.
Five Worst NFL Owners
5 Denise DeBartolo York 49ers/">San Francisco 49ers
Took control 2000
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
N/A $865M 53-75 .417 2 0
Niners fans long for the days of Eddie DeBartolo, who was once the envy of the NFL and produced five Super Bowl champions. Following his part in a riverboat-corruption scandal, DeBartolo's sister wrested control of the proud franchise in 2000 and handed the reigns to her husband, John York. Since then the 49ers have become one of the biggest train wrecks in the NFL. Many believe York's curt style is the reason the city of San Francisco isn't willing to work with the team to provide a new stadium within city limits, which is forcing the Niners to look south to Santa Clara County.
4 Mike Brown Cincinnati Bengals
Inherited 1991
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
N/A $941M 99-186-1 .351 1 0
Brown did his legendary father proud by refusing to sell the Bengals' stadium naming rights and keeping it Paul Brown Stadium. But that's about the only tribute he has paid to dad's legacy. For some teams, operating without a general manager works -- take New England, for example. It doesn't in Cincinnati. Despite 17 non-winning seasons in the past 18 years, the junior Brown refuses to hire a GM, a stubborn stance that's the first target of scorn from the long-suffering fans. The scouting department is also notoriously the most understaffed in the NFL, while under Brown's reign, Bengals players have made the news for criminal acts off the field almost as often as for their failings on it.
3 Dan Snyder Washington Redskins
Purchased 1999
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$750M $1,538M 70-74 .488 3 0
Snyder is a good businessman and spares no expense with one of the most profitable franchises in sports. But maybe that's the problem: The young billionaire runs the team more like a first-time fantasy-football manager. Among the most expensive outlays: nearly $225 million committed to LaVar Arrington, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Laveranues Coles and Adam Archuleta. Though those mistakes were at beginning of Snyder's tenure, Washington still hasn't come anywhere near the Super Bowl and has had five head coaches during his decade of ownership. Think Snyder learned his lesson? This past offseason, he locked up three players -- Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall and Derrick Dockery -- for a combined $162M.
2 William Clay Ford Detroit Lions
Purchased 1964
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$5M $917M 281-374-13 .411 9 0
That the Lions became the first NFL team to go 0-16 last season is just the beginning of the team's problems. Detroit has become the league's laughingstock since the auto magnate bought the team 45 years ago, making the playoffs only nine times and winning just one postseason game. Ford blindly stuck by his player-turned-top executive Matt Millen for seven years despite the team's greatest stretch of incompetence. Under Millen's reign, the Lions didn't post a single winning season, never finished higher than third in the NFC North and never came within a sniff of the playoffs. Yet he was rewarded with a multi-year extension at the start of the '05 season before Ford finally fired him three years later.
1 Al Davis Oakland Raiders
Purchased 1966
Purchase Price Current Value W-L Winning % Playoffs Championships
$180,000 $861M 368-264-8 .569 21 4
It's hard to knock three Super Bowl titles, one AFL championship and 21 postseason appearances since Davis bought into the former AFL franchise. Problem is, the game has passed the Hall of Famer by and he seems to be the only one who doesn't know it. Since the Raiders were blown out in Super Bowl XXVII, they've gone a league-worst 24-72 and have blazed through five head coaches since '01, including the fiasco over is-he-or-isn't-he-fired Lane Kiffin this past season. All this ignores the real problem: that Davis is out of touch, refuses to adapt and continues to be infatuated with speedsters (this year the team inexplicably drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey with the No. 7-overall pick) instead of building a deep roster that can compete.
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