It is my favorite time of year. It is time once again for the annual NFL organization rankings on FOXSports.com.
I was once challenged by an NFL head coach to “crunch the numbers” on what makes a “great” organization. This is the third year we’ve ranked every team. The New England Patriots, ranked No. 1 in 2009 and 2010, have been knocked off of the top spot.
Remember, this is NOT a power ranking. We grade each team on six vital categories — owner, quarterback, head coach, front office, coaching staff and intangibles, which include facilities, fan support and public relations.
I was surprised by many of the results. And there are way too many "bad teams" in the NFL.
The Super Bowl was vindication for general manager Ted Thompson. But truth be told, he never needed it. Thompson has the golden touch in assembling a young championship core with staying power. Mike McCarthy is a great coach. QB Aaron Rodgers took that major step up in class. CEO Mark Murphy is sharp and has the perfect demeanor and experience for this job. The Packers fans are amazing.
Even during a work stoppage, the Saints have sold every ticket for next year. Owner Tom Benson has provided the club with stability and staying power in New Orleans. I never thought I would write that in 2004. Mickey Loomis is an aggressive, savvy general manager. Drew Brees is not only a great quarterback, but the ultimate team leader and representative in the community.
“Steelers Nation” factors heavily into the perfect score for intangibles as Pittsburgh seemingly plays 16 home games with its omnipresent fans. The Rooney family is outstanding. GM Kevin Colbert and his staff are smart and know how to pick players for their system.
The Patriots, no surprise, totaled a perfect 30 points in the categories of owner, head coach and quarterback. Bill Belichick was the only head coach to get a 10. Defections through the years in the front office and the coaching staff prevented total perfection and contributed to the fall from the top spot they held in 2009 and 2010.
Andy Reid, Joe Banner, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie are excellent and united. Reid scored a coup when he hired Howard Mudd to coach the offensive line and Jim Washburn to coach the defensive line. The Eagles’ public relations staff just gets it when it comes to the media, fans and players.
What owner Jim Irsay has done in Indy, from the beautiful new stadium to the consistency of the franchise over the last 10 years, is remarkable. Bill Polian is the best general manager in football. Even without Tom Moore and Howard Mudd, John Teerlink helps the grade for the coaching staff. Jim Caldwell wins but surely doesn’t dazzle as a game coach. Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning.
Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta head a brilliant front office that is seemingly always a few steps ahead. What coach John Harbaugh has accomplished in a short period of time is incredible. He never gets the credit he deserves. Steve Bisciotti is a great owner. Give him credit for changing his mind on cutting the pay of employees during the lockout. The Ravens’ public relations department is excellent, both media and player friendly. The coaching staff has taken some hits.
Coach Rex Ryan has successfully changed the culture with the Jets. The "same old Jets" are buried, replaced by Ryan’s boastful guarantees. Mike Tannenbaum is an active and creative general manager who has built teams that have gone to the AFC title game in back-to-back years. QB Mark Sanchez, while still erratic at times, is a proven winner just two years into the league, with a whopping four playoff wins on the road. The facilities in Florham Park, N.J., are beautiful. The Jets’ act of cutting salaries of football operations employees and imposing mandatory furloughs during the lockout is ugly.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: 41.5
Front office: 9.5
Coaching staff: 8
The Chiefs at 11? How about that? Look mom, I’m on TV! The Chiefs have four primetime games this year, showing that they are back in business. Scott Pioli is a great general manager. Todd Haley did a great job last year as head coach, but needs to learn not to be so aggressive on fourth down while in field-goal range. And with Charlie Weis out, it is going to be interesting to watch the Haley/Matt Cassel relationship.
The facilities are state of the art. The home-field advantage with the “12th man” is significant. Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider inherited a total mess. They were super-active last season, bringing in different combinations of players, leading to a street free-agent gem like Mike Williams. Hiring Tom Cable to coach the offensive line was a great move. Seattle, finally, has a good structure in place.
One year ago, I bashed Tampa’s direction. The Bucs proved me wrong. Head coach Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik are good at what they do. I think young QB Josh Freeman could one day win a league MVP. He is that type of clutch player and leader. Tampa gets knocked down on owner and intangibles. Fans aren’t happy they once again lose a home game to a game in London. And there still is a lack of public trust in ownership.
Last year I blasted the Bears assistant coaching staff. For the first half of the season, offensive coordinator Mike Martz proved me correct. Then he remembered to run the ball. Now let’s see it for a full year.
The Cards cut pay for employees across the board during the lockout. That smells of the Cardinals in the past. But Arizona’s track record of churning out excellent drafts under Rod Graves and Steve Keim is sensational. Ken Whisenhunt is the perfect coach for the Cardinals. The stadium is beautiful. The Arizona public relations staff knows how to promote the product and is regarded as top-notch. I give the Cards only a 4 at quarterback because right now Kevin Kolb is a very educated guess. If it wasn’t for that potential, it would be a minus-4.
Qualcomm Stadium will require nearly $80 million in maintenance and repairs over the next seven years. The stadium situation is a mess. Nobody is totally sure where they will be down the road. GM A.J. Smith’s ego cost San Diego playing with Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill for a full year. Greg Manusky is a great defensive coordinator and a nice addition to Norv Turner’s staff.
Bob McNair is a good owner who badly wants to win and puts a lot of money into the team. Gary Kubiak got the lowest grade of any head coach. His underachievement and goofy in-game decisions cost him. And you wonder aloud if McNair regrets the contract extension he gave Kubiak after the 2009 season. The Houston public relations staff is superb.
John Elway has infused a ton of needed energy and confidence into the building and the fan base after Josh McDaniels zapped it. I think head coach John Fox is the right guy at the right time in Denver, akin to Rex Ryan replacing Eric Mangini.
This was the single toughest team to grade. Dan Snyder is fine when you lock him in the closet and let the football people spend his money. I love Mike Shanahan, but last year was so messy. I think Bruce Allen knows what he is doing. I do not think Kyle Shanahan, who orchestrated the Rex Grossman for Donovan McNabb circus, is the coach his father is. “Redskins Nation” has turned into a skeptical fan base. The quarterback situation is a total disaster.
23. Detroit Lions: 28
Front office: 4
Coaching staff: 7
Jim Schwartz really has this team headed in the right direction after winning the final four games of last year. But I worry the lockout will set them back. And I hate seeing mandatory two-week furloughs during the lockout. Forget the classic line of these are the “rebuilding since 1957” Lions. I think you will fondly remember the “rebuilt since December 2010” Detroit Lions. It would be nice if Matthew Stafford could stay healthy.
24. San Francisco 49ers: 28
Head Coach: 6
Front office: 4
Coaching staff: 7
It appears that the Niners have cleared redevelopment hurdles in preparation of their move to Santa Clara in 2015. And not a moment too soon. Jim Harbaugh, Jed York and Bob Lange are major upgrades for head coach, owner and PR director in recent years. The Niners have done a nice job this year with social media. Mike Singletary was a train wreck, more punchline than coach, and Harbaugh will live up to the hype.
The Vikings aren’t out of the woods yet on getting a new stadium with questions about the volume of public money. Owner Zygi Wilf and GM Rick Spielman got burned badly by Brett Favre in Year 2 and the return of Randy Moss.
26. Oakland Raiders: 24
Front office: 2
Coaching staff: 5
For the record, I really believe in new head coach Hue Jackson. For the record, owner Al Davis firing Tom Cable after sweeping through the AFC West shows that change and chaos always rules in Oakland. I love how the Raiders aren’t cutting coaches’ salaries, but asking them to sell tickets during the lockout. “Raider Nation” helps the intangibles. The stadium hurts the grade.
The Jags coaching staff is solid with Dirk Koetter, Mel Tucker, Andy Hecht and Earnest Byner. Owner Wayne Weaver would be considered the exact opposite of solid. I think this is it for QB David Garrard in Jacksonville. If the team misses the playoffs, it could be it for coach Jack Del Rio as well. Fan support still remains a major issue. So do the rumblings of a move.
Owner Steven Ross showed how clueless he is by chasing around head-coaching candidates like a love-struck teenager, while still employing Tony Sparano. And then, as a "make-good" he foolishly gave his head coach, who won one home game, a new contract. But then again, what do you expect from a man who compares Chad Henne to Dan Marino? Miami is cutting pay for employees during the lockout. Classy. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is a rare gem in this sudden mess of a team.
Marvin Lewis’ coaching staff, highlighted by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, helped save the Bengals from total embarrassment. Owner Mike Brown’s head has been in the sand for years. The commitment to the selfish Chad Ochocinco is pathetic and counterproductive to winning. Carson Palmer is likely finished as the quarterback. And let’s be honest: He held the team back last season.
Owner Jerry Richardson let former coach John Fox dangle as a lame duck, making a successful season totally impossible. I wasn’t against letting Julius Peppers go, but the Panthers didn’t spend the money to replace him. Carolina has selected three quarterbacks in the last two drafts. Richardson should be ashamed how he has run this team in recent years.
I feel so terrible for the amazing and diehard Bills fans. They deserve an in-touch owner and a team with a plan. And the Bills put in pay cuts for all employees and cut pensions during the lockout. Awesome.