With a handful of the NFL’s team owners in headlines lately for reasons ranging from stripper pictures to a hilariously stubborn defense of a slur, we thought a definitive and not at all arbitrary ranking of their likeability is needed.
The criteria for a high ranking is pretty simple: run a respectable NFL operation, and be someone who we’d like to share a beverage with at a local establishment. Preferably both.
The best facial hair among the league’s current owners leads things off.
(Quick note: the Bills were excluded because of the ongoing sale process, and the Broncos were too after Pat Bowlen recently stepped aside to deal with his Alzheimer’s.)
1. Shahid Khan: Jacksonville Jaguars owner since 2012
How did he get rich?: Truck bumpers. Well, sort of. Khan started Bumper Works, which is exactly what it sounds like: a company that makes bumpers. Then he bought Flex-N-Gate, an automotive manufacturing company, and paired it with Bumper Works. When the company grew enough to supply bumpers to America’s three main automakers, Khan was a happy mustachioed man.
Why to like him: Seriously, that mustache…
Why not to like him: He almost fed the Tebowmania machine, flirting with a trade that would have brought the former messiah from Denver to Jacksonville.
2. The Rooney family: Pittsburgh Steelers owners since 1933
How did they get rich?: The family fortune is rooted in, well, football and getting into the game on the ground floor (started from the bottom…). Like the champion he was, Art Rooney originally bought the team after scoring some sweet cash on a parlay at a horse racing track, or so the legend says.
Why to like them: So much loyalty. The Steelers have had all of three head coaches since 1969.
Why not to like them: You can hate the team, but not liking the Rooneys is challenging. Dan Rooney introduced the Rooney rule to the NFL, which brings diversity to head coach hiring (or at least attempts to). And any group of individuals who hired Chuck Noll is deserving of close to saint status.
3. Robert Kraft: New England Patriots owner since 1994
How did he get rich?: Like many rich, gracefully aging men, Kraft’s money now comes from several pots of sweetness. But it originated in the packaging industry, with the Rand-Whitley Group. He later founded International Forest Products and merged the two together.
Why to like him: Kraft was able to avoided a conflict between America and the great nation of Russia by “gifting” one of his Super Bowl rings to Vladimir Putin. What a nice man.
Why not to like him: His, um, immense acting talent. Actually, this is just another reason why Robert Kraft is the best.
4. Pretty much all of Green Bay: Packers owners since 1923
How did they get rich?: Umm…not applicable?
Why to like them: Because they’re awesomely crazy people who will line up for hours just to get a chance to shovel snow.
Why not to like them: There are limits to crazy. If you ever find yourself flipping through the Packers fans dating site late on a Friday night, you’ve crossed that rubicon to never return.
5. Steve Bisciotti: Baltimore Ravens owner since 2004
How did he get rich?: Bisciotti knows how to hustle. From a basement office he started Aerotek with his cousin, an aerospace and technology staffing company. That grew into the Allegis Group as dollars filled Bisciotti’s ample pockets.
Why to like him: He’s the second youngest NFL owner this side of San Fran’s Jed York, so Bisciotti is always rocking that really cool uncle vibe.
Why not to like him: While he’s provided solid leadership after football was brought back to Baltimore (yay!), Bisciotti is the ownership face of a franchise that was removed from Cleveland (scum?).
6. Arthur Blank: Atlanta Falcons owner since 2004
How did he get rich?: If you’ve ever spent a Saturday afternoon in Home Depot looking for the perfect shade of blue paint to match those shower curtains your wife just fell in love with, thank Blank. He co-founded the place.
Why to like him: Blank had the appropriate harsh words for Bobby Petrino after he bailed on the Falcons before even one season as the head coach, saying he felt a sense of betrayal. Even with both that mess in 2007 and Michael Vick’s sudden spiral, the Falcons still made the playoffs four out of the next five years.
Why not to like him: He signed off on a new stadium that looks like a modernized Death Star.
7. Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys owner since 1989
How did he get rich?: Oh, oil of course. You’re about to notice a pattern here: strike that black gold, invest in all things NFL before the league becomes wildly popular, then drink all the margaritas.
Why to like him: He’s a guy who talks about glory holes, and can do so in front of a microphone while keeping a (mostly) straight face.
Why not to like him: His looming, forever meddling presence.
8. John Mara and Steve Tisch: New York Giants co-owners since 2005
How did they get rich?: Mara is all about those deep Mara roots. His grandfather Tim founded the Giants in 1925, when he was a bookie at a hourse racing circuit. Tisch is a film and television producer.
Why to like them: Two championships since this partnership formed is pretty alright.
Why not to like them: It doesn’t seem fair to hold this against John Mara since he can’t control the career choices of his niece, Rooney. But Youth in Revolt really sucked.
9. Tom Benson: New Orleans Saints owner since 1985
How did he get rich?: Benson was a car czar, and he still owns several dealerships in and around New Orleans and San Antonio. He took the money made there and dumped it into local banks, and eventually funded Benson Financial.
Why to like him: The man knows how to make a strong beverage.
Why not to like him: Benson did what he could to shut down the Saints’ now notorious bounty scheme. Still, much like spygate in New England, for some that stain won’t fade.
10. Paul Allen: Seattle Seahawks owner since 1997
How did he get rich?: He’s the co-founder of something called Microsoft. You may have heard of it.
Why to like him: He saved the Seahawks from the clutches of California.
Why not to like them: Paul Allen is quite a likable, multi-talented, and rather rich man. But if you’re not into thumping guitar twangs, this is your dislike fuel.
11. The Glazer family: Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners since 1995
How did they get rich?: Malcolm Glazer, who recently passed away, built his fortune through various investments, starting with real estate and the management of mobile homes, and eventually three TV stations.
Why to like them: Prior to the Glazer’s ownership and money dumping, the Bucs were a consistent clown show, winning only 87 games over 19 seasons, and they hadn’t been to the playoffs for 12 straights years. Since? Tampa won the Super Bowl in 2002, and seven of the franchise’s 10 post-season appearances have come under the Glazer’s ownership.
Why not to like them: The Glazers also have ownership in the other football. Football diversity goes against core American values.
12. Jed York: San Francisco 49ers owner since 2008
How did he get rich?: Family gold is a wonderful thing. York is the nephew of former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo Jr., and the son of John and Denise York, who transitioned him into the role of CEO late in the 2008 season.
Why to like him: He’s the sort of guy who will say his team is going to win their division, even when the 49ers’ record at the time of that bold statement in 2010 was 0-5.
Why not to like him: There’s always something inherently unlikable about someone born into a life of riches and leisure. I am a small, spiteful man.
13. Jeffrey Lurie: Philadelphia Eagles owner since 1994
How did he get rich?: Having ties to a once mighty chain of movie theaters, and then involvement in a film company puts a lot of dollars into a man’s pocket.
Why to like him: He can grow a next level, face encompassing grizzly bear beard.
Why not to like him: For many the reason here is easy. Lurie is the NFL owner who gave Michael Vick employment after the former Falcon served his dogfighting time.
14. Woody Johnson: New York Jets owner since 2000
How did he get rich?: He’s an heir to the Johnson & Johnson company.
Why to like him: His team communication methods on important matters can be pretty cool.
Why not to like him: He was at least partly responsible for feeding the Tebowmania beast.
15. Zygi Wilf: Minnesota Vikings owner since 2005
How did he get rich?: Wilf’s pockets began filling when he started to purchase and rent apartment units with his brother. Eventually that grew into a business that develops homes in 39 states.
Why to like him: His name is Zygi.
Why not to like him: He became the latest owner to fleece the public for a new stadium, dumping a nearly $500 million bill on Minnesota.