Ruling with an iron fist
By JOHN MANASSO
Feb. 2, 2011
Tennessee Titans ownder Bud Adams, 88, says, "I'm looking to be in the playoffs next year."
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, 81, is "not even close" to giving up control of his team, the team's new coach Hue Davis says.
Instead of the wisdom that is said to come with age, these two octogenarian NFL owners seem to grow more impatient with each passing day. Instead of taking the long view, they take the short view. Or the myopic one.
Davis fired Tom Cable as head coach in a season after Cable, whatever other faults he might have, swept all six games in his division and improved from 5-11 in his first full season in 2009 to 8-8 in 2010. Forget about showing progress. Davis wants Rome built in a day.
Adams allowed Jeff Fisher, the longest-tenured and one of the most respected coaches in the NFL, to get away and hopes to replace him within someone who can instantly do better -- and that coach likely will be in his first try as an NFL head coach. (Right now the leading candidate is thought to be offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who has never been a head coach in the league, and several other candidates, who also lack head coaching experience.) On top of that inexperience, the Titans still don't have much at quarterback, as they have pledged to move Vince Young, 27, and Kerry Collins, 38. Collins will be 11 seasons removed from taking the New York Giants to the Super Bowl next season. Maybe the Titans should take a shot at Vinny Testaverde, 47, or Mark Brunell, who will be 41 next season, as their starter. Bernie Kosar is said to be looking for a job. Why not him?
Now, maybe Adams lands the next Mike Smith or Tony Sparano -- both of whom had never been head coaches before and produced miraculous turnarounds with moribund franchises in 2008 -- but neither of those coaches, with as much success as they have had, have yet to win a playoff game. Sparano's Dolphins have suffered a backslide since his first 11-5 season with two straight losing ones and was a Jim Harbaugh decision away from losing his job. All of this illustrates how lofty (unrealistic, delusional maybe?) Adams' expectations are.
As for Davis, Jackson attested on Wednesday to the owner's lucidity (long at issue), saying, "he probably has forgotten more football than most people know." That might be true. But it also might be true that Davis simply has forgotten more. Like how to build a winning franchise. This is the same man who, in recent years, drafted arguably the biggest bust in NFL history, JaMarcus Russell, and who traded for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, gave him a seven-year, $72-million contract and released him after eight games, which cost the Raiders about $16 million. By the way, Hall was the MVP of this year's Pro-Bowl. Davis is the man who let coach Jon Gruden go, only to watch Gruden win a Super Bowl with another team. There was the Lane Kiffin debacle. There almost too many to list.
This is not to suggest that every 80-year-old has lost a mile or (a dozen) off his or her fastball and are incapable of successfully running an operation as complex as an NFL franchise. But Davis and Adams might fall into the category of having inherited the hang-on-too-long gene.
If Sunday's Super Bowl proves anything, it proves that the non-meddlesome owner approach is the best. If Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, who employs as hands-off approach, isn't considered the best owner in the NFL then that title might fall to New England's Bob Kraft, who has left things in the capable hands of Bill Belichick and, formerly, Scott Pioli.
Green Bay is owned, as the team's media guide points out, by 112,158 stockholders and while more than 4.75 million shares are in existence, the team's articles of incorporation prohibit any one stockholder from owning more than 200,000. It is run by a president and CEO. Those articles of incorporation were filed on Aug. 18, 1923. Is it any surprise, then, that the Packers have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises in league history?
One would think that the Adamses and Davises and Dan Snyders and Jerry Joneses of the NFL would learn this simple lesson. But they cannot help themselves. It seems that wisdom does not always come with age.