There are several different styles of ownership in the NFL. Some are hands-on, some hands-off, some warm and fuzzy and others sterile and rigid. Some owners give themselves full access to the players while others insulate themselves from football operations. Some owners see players as widgets and others as extended family.
Coaches, front office staff, and scouts around the league, have even stronger opinions (privately of course) of whom the best owners are to work for. Since this group works more years than the players, and the owners make decisions on their perks, working conditions, contracts and retirement benefits, they are even more in tune to who cares about them and who doesn’t. In the majority of cases, the players, coaches and front office people will share similar opinions about the owners.
I have represented close to 200 players in 27 years so I have a good feel of what the players’ opinions are about owners. Additionally, I reached out to both active and retired players, coaches and execs and got their opinion as well.
Once again, the question is: Which owners do players, coaches and front office people love working for the most?
This is what I came up with in no particular order:
Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore Ravens: Steve is hands on, personal, understands people and is a clear communicator. Players feel as if they can talk to him and he is in tune to his players and coaches. I’m told that he makes his working environment straight black and white; no grey areas are allowed to exist in his organization. Ozzie Newsome reflects his type of personality and what he demands. His organization has low turnover across the board and the blueprint is always well defined. He does a great job in setting the tone for balancing the demands of the football operations, family and even making it fun. He also goes above and beyond in doing classy things for his players, coaches and employees.
John Mara, New York Giants: Everybody I ask around the league put John Mara on their list. I believe players always want to know where they stand with a team and Mara and his hires have created an organization that gives it to you straight. He is very in tune to the big picture and is even highly respected by all the other owners. Mr. Mara is high on placing old fashioned values before all decisions and wants his coaches and execs to do the same. John is a little tougher than his father but he always treats everyone around him fairly and with respect. Many people don’t realize it but John is extremely approachable.
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys: Whether you love or hate Jerry, or whether you think he is too hands on, his employees and players love him. He is fun, gregarious and extremely personal. He won’t hesitate to pick up the phone and ask a player if they need something. As busy as he is he still makes time for the little people and treats them well. His sincere competitiveness, respect for the game and the love of his Cowboys, is appreciated by all those around him.
Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons: This billionaire is as down to earth as they come. The building of Home Depot into a mega company wasn’t done by chance. Arthur understands people, is an egoless communicator and always wants to know what he can do to improve the working environment for all his employees. Any player that played for him for a while can call Mr. Blank like they’re calling their grandfather for help or advice. He’s a people person, forgiving, understanding and solution oriented when problems arise.
The Rooneys, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers may have the lowest turnover in the league for players, coaches, scouts and front office employees. People don’t want to leave. The Rooneys have created a blueprint where they are committed to drafting, developing and keeping their own players. They also like to hire from within. Thus, the entire organization is very close knit and I am told it has a mom and pop feel to it. For as much turnover as there is in the NFL, the Rooney’s strive to create a culture of hard work, stability and support of for one another.
Other owners who made honorable mention: Bob McNair (Texans), Pat Bowlen (Broncos), Paul Allen (Seahawks), The Krafts, (Patriots), The Spanos (Chargers), The Fords (Lions), and Dan Snyder (Redskins).
The Green Bay Packers: The Packers don’t have a singular owner but everyone loves playing and working for them. As one player put it to me, “I feel like I am one of the owners, like it’s my team”. It has a true club feel like the FC Barcelona where everyone is on the same page which is, “team first”.
For those owners who stay out of football operations and hand all decision making to the football people, players and coaches may have very little interaction with them. Therefore, these owners didn’t make the cut, which doesn’t make them bad owners. Then there are some owners who are involved with the daily operations of running the team but prefer to keep themselves insulated from getting to really know their employees. Needless to say these owners are not listed.
An interesting parallel about this list is that these owners have teams that have been highly successful over a long period of time. However, all style of owners, whether it would be personal or sterile, cheap or generous, or hands-on and off, have had their share of Super Bowl trophies.
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