Dallas Cowboys: John Mara

Cowboys-Redskins: Get excited

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
2:15
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An open letter to the fans of the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins:

Get excited.

You might not need my permission, or my urging. You might already be there -- as excited as you've been about a professional football game in a very long time. And if that's the case, good. You should be. Sunday night's game at FedEx Field for the NFC East title has everything any of you could possibly want. And while some of you will end your night deeply disappointed in the result while others celebrate a playoff appearance you couldn't possibly have imagined two months ago, these next 53 hours are your time to feel like kids on Christmas Eve. Get excited.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III and Tony Romo
Rodger Mallison/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III and Tony Romo lead their respective teams in the most important game in the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry in years.
Regardless of which team you root for, think about how far you've come to get to this point. It started on the day before free agency, when the NFL took a huge chunk of salary-cap money away from each of these two teams and redistributed it among the others for what to this day continues to look like no good reason. The owner who most vocally championed and reveled in that punishment for your teams' spending during a season that featured no official spending rules was John Mara, the owner of the division-rival and Super Bowl champion New York Giants. His team can't win the NFC East. Yours can. His team needs a minor miracle Sunday just to get into the playoffs. Your team has control of its own destiny. If you want to cackle in glee about that particular irony, that's your right. Get satisfaction.

If the Cowboys are your team, you were 3-5 on Election Day, losers of two straight heartbreakers to the Giants and Falcons and wondering when anything was ever going to change. Defensive starters were dropping like flies, DeMarco Murray was out with a foot injury that refused to heal and Tony Romo was throwing interceptions around as though they were "I Voted" stickers. You were two-and-a-half games out of first place behind the team that took the division from you last December, and you wanted everybody gone. If you want to look back over the last seven games and wonder what made Romo stop throwing picks or marvel at the way Jason Garrett has managed the second half or tell everyone it's about time Dez Bryant turned into one of the best receivers in the league, go ahead. Get amazed.

If you are a Redskins fan, you were 3-6 heading into the bye week. Your coach, Mike Shanahan, was defending comments he made after a miserable loss to Carolina about using the rest of this season for evaluations. You were pleased, obviously, with the brilliance of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and of the belief that the future looked bright. But you were still staring at a second half of the season that was going to feel too sadly familiar -- watching from the sideline while the teams you hate fought it out for the division title. If you want to slap your friends on the back and shout, "Did you ever think we'd win six in a row after the bye and be in first place in Week 17?", be my guest. Get proud.

Whichever of these teams is your favorite, you have to be happy that this rivalry means something again. Cowboys-Redskins is one of the most historically intense rivalries the NFL has. Popular wisdom holds that the reason the Cowboys were kept in the NFC East when the divisions realigned, in spite of good geographic reasons to move them elsewhere, was to preserve the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry by allowing them to continue playing each other twice a year. So if this week gives you reason to think about Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson and John Riggins and Michael Irvin and Darrell Green and Troy Aikman and Joe Theismann ... good. It's time to hate again -- time to remember why that star bugs you so much, time to get outwardly indignant about a politically incorrect team nickname that wouldn't bother you otherwise. Get trash-talking.

Get jacked. Get geeked. Get fired up. This is a big, big game, folks -- the kind of game that justifies every kind of the silly, overblown enthusiasm sports fans can muster. If you're a Redskins fan or a Cowboys fan, Sunday is your night. And the days leading up to it are for getting excited.

Call Sunday's game the Mara Bowl, too

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
10:59
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IRVING, Texas – Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Washington is already the de facto NFC East Championship Game, but it can also be called the John Mara Bowl.

Mara, the owner of the New York Giants, heads up the NFL’s management council that levied the $46 million in salary-cap penalties against the Cowboys and Redskins, and he said the teams were lucky they did not lose draft picks, too.

The Redskins were docked $36 million in cap space and the Cowboys lost $10 million, which affected some of their free-agent plans. They will take the final hit this offseason of $18 million and $5 million.

The teams’ appeals were denied but now Mara’s team needs the Cowboys and two other teams to lose just to make the playoffs provided they beat Philadelphia on Sunday.

“We’re focused on the task at hand,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “One of the things that I think the whole league had to work its way through was the rules during the uncapped year, during the lockout year and how each of the teams would handle that. That stuff is way above my pay grade in how we handle things around here, but I think there were some different interpretations of what those rules were or non-rules were at that time.

“That’s the business side of football. It was worked out the way it was worked out. We as players and coaches just try to focus on being our best.”

The Redskins were not as politically correct, using the penalty as motivation when they played the Giants this year.

“It’s always great to see something like that happen,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said sarcastically. “I wasn’t too happy about what happened. We’ll talk about that at a later time. You’ve just got to concentrate on your job at hand and hopefully both teams that’s their goal and it’s nice both of us are playing for that spot.”

'See no evil, hear no evil' NFL justice

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
3:15
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I don't know. Maybe this is for the best.

The effort by the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins to recover a combined $46 million in salary-cap penalties won't even get off the ground. Stephen Burbank, the NFL's independent arbitrator, granted the league's request to dismiss the complaint. And the teams released a joint statement saying they would respect the decision, so that's that. The Redskins lost a total of $36 million and the Cowboys $10 million in cap room over the next two seasons, and they're just going to have to deal with it because it's what the other NFL owners think is fair and the arbitrator found their argument that the complaint not be heard to be a persuasive one.

There's no way that any sensible, thinking person who's not an NFL owner can honestly feel that the league acted justly in penalizing the Cowboys and the Redskins for spending their money and structuring their contracts the way they did during the uncapped 2010 season. But it doesn't matter, because the NFL plays by its own rules and no one else's, and that's the lesson for today.

But in the end, maybe it's for the best. Maybe Burbank is doing everyone a favor. There's no one on any side of this dispute who can feel good about the way they've conducted themselves. It's a badge of shame for the league and the union, and it's not even really a badge of honor for the two aggrieved parties. So maybe, even though it's not fair, Burbank is being nice by telling everyone to just stop.

This all started because NFL owners agreed, in secret, to limit spending in 2010 even though there was no cap -- to continue to structure contracts as though there were a cap, because the lockout they were about to impose was basically a thinly veiled attempt at union-busting. They knew all along they'd ultimately have a new agreement with a new cap and they didn't want anyone to have gamed the system to their advantage in the meantime. In the real world, we call this collusion -- all of the business owners in a given industry agreeing among themselves to impose restrictions on wages. But in the NFL, it's OK, because the collective bargaining agreement the owners have with the players spells out which types of collusion are allowed and which aren't.

The Redskins and Cowboys got in trouble because they didn't go along with this game, instead using the lack of a salary cap in 2010 to structure contracts in such a way as to spare themselves from salary-cap trouble in future years. The sense is that many, if not all, teams did this, and that the Redskins and Cowboys just did it to such an egregious extent that some of the other owners insisted they be punished. They'd been warned, after all, that anyone who failed to honor the secret agreement discussed in the last paragraph would be punished. Giants owner John Mara, the chairman of the management council, said at the owners meetings in March that the Cowboys and Redskins got off easy -- that they were lucky they didn't lose draft picks.

Which is baloney, of course, because you can't break rules when there aren't any. But let's not go too far in letting our hearts break for Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder, who weren't exactly acting on charitable impulses here. They didn't break with the rest of the owners because they felt the policy was unfair to players. They did it because they thought it would give them an advantage, and that they could get away with it.

And then there's the NFLPA, for which this is anything but a shining moment. The players' union, which should be fighting such collusive behavior, instead capitulated and agreed to the sanctions against the Redskins and Cowboys because the owners threatened to reduce this year's salary cap if they did not. The union believes that was the right decision for its membership, and in the end it may well have been. But it is not a decision of which the union can be proud, and the fact the NFLPA allowed itself to be outmaneuvered by the league on this matter likely contributed to Burbank's decision to dismiss the complaint. The league's argument was based, largely, on the fact the sanctions were agreed upon by the league and the union. And jeez, if those two agree on something, how can it not be OK? Right?

It's all just plain ridiculous, the whole thing, and it's probably for the best that it all goes away. Everybody associated with it should be ashamed of themselves (though, sadly, no one seems to be). And while it's unfair that only the Cowboys and Redskins suffer for the arrogance of a group of people who continue to play its paying customers for willing patsies, the truly sad part is that anyone in this situation gets to walk away feeling as though he was in the right.

First Cowboys/Redskins hearing set for May

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
10:35
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Hey, so I sort of have an answer for those of you who keep asking when the arbitration hearing will be on the issue of the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the salary-cap sanctions leveled against them by the NFL management council. The hearing, according to a source close to the situation, is going to be sometime in May, though there's no firm date set and it's only a first hearing -- not the one for which you're all so eager.

My source tells me this first hearing, in front of arbitrator Stephen Burbank, will be solely for the purpose of determining whether the NFL and the NFLPA had the authority to impose the sanctions against the Cowboys and the Redskins. There will be no determination made at the first hearing on how much, if any, money the teams get back. If Burbank finds that the league and the union did not have the authority to strip the Redskins of $36 million and the Cowboys of $10 million in cap room over the next two years, then a second hearing will be scheduled to determine how to make those teams whole. If he finds that the league and the union did have such authority, then it's possible a second hearing would be scheduled to rule on whether the punishments were appropriate or should be adjusted.

Remember, the Redskins and Cowboys filed the grievance last month against the league, the management council and the NFLPA, which signed off on the sanctions as part of an arrangement in which the league agreed not to reduce this year's salary cap. The Redskins lost $18 million in cap space this year and next year, and the Cowboys lost $5 million in cap space this year and next year because the other owners didn't like the way they structured certain contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. Giants owner John Mara, the chairman of the NFL management council, said last month at the owners meetings that the punishments were justified and in fact that he believed the Redskins and Cowboys were "lucky they didn't lose draft picks" as a result of their violating a secret verbal agreement among teams to watch spending during that uncapped year.

The Redskins and Cowboys contend they did nothing wrong, that the contracts were all approved by the league and should be allowed to stand. They also believe the league acted unfairly in imposing the penalties on the day before the start of free agency without prior warning. All of this will surely be raised in front of Burbank at the hearing in May, though that won't be the end of this matter regardless of how it comes out.

Cowboys, Redskins must think they can win

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:41
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A couple of us tried to stop Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder a few minutes ago during a break in the NFL owners meetings to ask him about the salary cap penalties against his team and the Dallas Cowboys, and the comments New York Giants owner John Mara made about the issue Sunday. Snyder declined to comment, saying he might do so at some point this week, but not right now.

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesRedskins owner Dan Snyder has remained quiet about the grievance the Redskins and Cowboys have filed against the league and the NFLPA.
This follows similar no-comments Sunday from Redskins GM Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan, as well as a subdued and minimal response to Mara by Cowboys player personnel director Stephen Jones. While Mara came out with an impassioned, defiant defense of the penalties, those being penalized are staying very quiet.

That tells me they think they can win.

If the Cowboys and the Redskins filed their grievance against the league and the NFLPA just for show -- just to make it look to their fans and the rest of the general public as if they're fighting back -- then they'd be out in front of this, barking about it as loudly as they wanted to bark. Instead, they're keeping quiet, in spite of ample opportunity to respond, as they prepare to make their case in front of an arbitrator.

That's the way you act if you have confidence that you're right and can win, as the Cowboys and Redskins do and should. The penalties came from the NFL Management Council -- a group headed by Mara and determined to act in what it believes is the best interest of the league. The NFL's owners decided, among themselves and in the absence of consultation with the players, to attempt to restrict spending during a 2010 season that did not have a salary cap. They are angry at the Redskins and Cowboys for not going along with that.

But arbitrator Stephen Burbank isn't going to be beholden to what Mara and the majority of the NFL's owners believe is in their best interest. He's most likely to rule in favor of common sense. And common sense is on the side of the Cowboys and Redskins here.

If this penalty was rooted in common sense, the NFL's owners would be mad at teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who spent well below the level where the salary floor would have been. If this were really an issue of future competitive balance, as the ruling establishing the punishments claims it is, then teams that didn't spend enough in 2010 would be punished as well. But the fact that they're only going after the two teams that overspent in 2010 -- or restructured contracts to take short-term hits in an effort to allow them to spend more down the road -- indicates that this is not a competitive balance issue. It's a salary restriction issue.

The NFL's owners don't care as much about competitive balance as they do about keeping player salaries at as reasonable a level as possible. Every team in the league could have behaved exactly as the Cowboys and Redskins did in 2010, but they'd all agreed not to. There was no rule prohibiting them from doing so -- they just all agreed. It was a sketchy arrangement that I'm frankly surprised Mara is so aggressively willing to defend. And the fact that he's the one talking freely about this while the Cowboys and Redskins are keeping mum indicates to me that they know they're right, and he knows he's wrong, and that everybody knows the ultimate decision might end up reflecting just that.

I'm not sure John Mara should be talking

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
7:43
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to New York Giants owner John Mara for stopping Sunday afternoon in the Breakers lobby to talk to a few of us about the salary cap penalties against the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. He didn't hold back, and as you can see if you scroll through this blog's timeline, we got plenty of good material out of it.

But in the grand scheme of things, when we sit down to talk about the right and the wrong of this whole situation, there's very little right and a whole big pile of wrong, and the defiant stance Mara took Sunday afternoon made that pile much bigger.

The aggrieved parties in this instance are the Redskins and the Cowboys, and they're keeping quiet on the whole thing. Sure, they filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA on Sunday, seeking to get some relief from the combined $46 million in salary cap room they've been docked over the next two offseasons. But they declined several opportunities Sunday to add to the rhetoric.

[+] EnlargeJohn Mara
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireGiants owner John Mara has openly criticized the Redskins and the Cowboys for their spending during the 2010 uncapped season.
Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' director of player personnel: "Within the confines of our collective bargaining agreement, we are trying to have a voice and a hearing in terms of our cap situation."

Bruce Allen, the Redskins' general manager: "I have nothing to say on that. We'll let the league speak to it."

Mike Shanahan, the Redskins' head coach: "I'll let the commissioner speak about that."

We tried egging these guys on. I read Jones the quote from Mara in which he said the Redskins and Cowboys were lucky they didn't lose draft picks for this, and all Jones said was, "That's John's opinion. Not my opinion."

But Mara came out guns-a-blazin'. And if there are people out there who believe (as I do) that the NFL has acted with irresponsible, petty arrogance in this case and imposed unjustified penalties against teams that broke no actual rules, Mara's stance isn't likely to change their minds.

There was no salary cap in 2010. This is a fact. Mara repeatedly brushed that aside during questioning Sunday, irritated at the fact's mere existence. "We've had a cap for 29 of the last 30 years," he said more than once, and he explained rather clearly that teams were told, more than once, to watch the way they spent money and structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. He basically admitted to what, in any other business, would be collusion and grounds for an antitrust lawsuit. But he bristled at the mention of that word, too, saying, "This has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences."

What we know about this case is that the NFL basically engaged in a sanctioned form of collusion in 2010, telling its teams that yeah, there was no cap, but that they needed to act as though there were one because they were sure the cap would come back and it was wrong to use this "loophole" as a means of gaining an advantage against the cap in future years. Mara admitted all of that Sunday, and he did so in a way that strongly indicates he believes himself to be on the correct side of the argument.

But he is not, of course. And in more ways than one, he is very much in the wrong.

Mara is wrong because the only thing of which the Redskins and Cowboys are guilty is failing to honor a shady gentleman's agreement between 32 billionaires who don't want to pay their employees any more than they have to. What the NFL, Mara and the other owners did, effectively imposing a salary cap when none had been agreed to by the other party (i.e., the players) in their collective bargaining agreement, was patently wrong. To punish the teams that didn't go along with the wrong, and to so strenuously defend the punishment as though it were right, is the height of arrogance.

Mara is wrong because, by effectively admitting collusion, he's giving the NFLPA ammunition for a new fight the league does not want. The union had to drop all pending litigation against the league as part of the Brady settlement last year when the lockout ended. That included the collusion charges they filed against the league for the suspicions they had about this kind of 2010 activity. Mara's admission could well qualify as new evidence that could allow the union to file new charges. And because the NFLPA is named in the Redskins' and Cowboys' complaint, it has the option of obtaining discovery on collusion should it wish to pursue action against the league. The union is upset that the league backed it into a corner here, effectively forcing it to agree to the penalties against the Cowboys and Redskins under the threat of a reduction in this year's salary cap, and would love an opening from which to attack on this.

Mara is wrong because he's the chairman of the NFL Management Council, which is the group that imposed these penalties, and he's the owner of a team that plays the Cowboys and Redskins twice each year and competes with them for the same division title. That's not to say Mara did this on purpose to get one over on two division rivals. But one of the first things we're taught in any journalism class is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety -- to steer clear of any activity that could ever allow anyone to accuse us of engaging in a conflict of interest. That is clearly not a concern Mara has in this case, but he should. There's a chance he should have recused himself from this whole thing, and even if he hadn't, he's not doing himself or his excellent reputation any favors by being the aggressive face of the penalties.

What's interesting here is that, when these penalties came down, a lot of people assumed it was the teams at the other end of the spending spectrum who were upset with what the Cowboys and Redskins had done -- traditionally low-spending teams like the Buccaneers and the Jaguars and the Chiefs and the Bills. But what seems clear now is that Mara, the owner of the Giants, was one of the driving forces behind holding the Redskins' and Cowboys' feet to the fire over an issue the league office likely wouldn't have pursued if not for pressure from owners. It makes Mara look petty and small and vindictive, and those aren't words usually associated with him. It makes no sense to me that he's gone to such great lengths to allow people to apply them to him now.

Mara: Redskins, Cowboys got off 'lucky'

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
2:05
PM ET
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- John Mara, the owner of the New York Giants and the chairman of the NFL Management Committee, which imposed $46 million worth of salary-cap penalties on the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys for the way those teams structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, just walked through the lobby of The Breakers here on the day before the start of the NFL's annual meetings. Let's just say he's not having second thoughts.

"I thought the penalties imposed were proper," Mara said. "What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they're lucky they didn't lose draft picks."

The Redskins and Cowboys have filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA over the matter, and Mara said he was aware of that. But he does not appear to be worried that the Redskins and Cowboys will prevail. While there was no salary cap in 2010 and no rule prohibited teams from spending whatever they wanted to spend that year, Mara said the issue "came up several times in our meetings," and that there was an agreement not to engage in the kind of behavior in which the Redskins and Cowboys behaved by dumping big cap hits into the uncapped year in order to save against the cap in future seasons.

"We all knew the cap would come back," Mara said. "We were not going to enter into any agreement with the NFLPA if there was not a salary cap in it."

Outside of the NFL, which has its own agreed upon and collectively bargained rules regarding collusion, what the league did in 2010 would be regarded as collusive behavior -- all of the business owners in an industry conspiring and agreeing to limit the earnings of the workers in that industry. But Mara laughed off the word "collusion" when it was brought up this afternoon.

"This has nothing to do with collusion," he said. "It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences. There was nothing wrong with the individual contracts, but when you look at the overall scope of what they did, they were trying to take advantage and they were told not to."

This is clearly not the end of this argument. In fact, Jerry Jones checked into the hotel while Mara was talking to us, so I'm headed back to the lobby now to see if he's around and has anything to say about this. My guess is he'll disagree with what Mara thinks. Just a hunch.

Power Rankings: Top 10 NFL owners

May, 10, 2011
5/10/11
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NFL Power RankingsESPN.com IllustrationThe Rooney family received only first- and second-place votes from our panelists.
There wasn't a whole lot of room for debate at the top.

ESPN.com took its positional Power Rankings series off the field and into the boardroom to rate the owners. None of them are popular fellows these days, but for the purposes of this project, nobody was more respected than the Rooney family.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' owners were listed first or second on all eight of the panelists' ballots.

By any definition, Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II qualify as powerful.

They're winners. The Steelers have played in eight Super Bowls and won six of them with three head coaches. The family's success has spanned such a long time that Dan and the late Art Rooney Sr. were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 36 years apart.

They're transcendent. President Barack Obama selected Steelers chairman Dan Rooney as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

They're influential. Dan Rooney was behind the so-called "Rooney Rule," which changed sidelines dramatically by stimulating minority hires. When it comes to the lockout, Rooney is a prominent voice of reason and could help broker the eventual deal.

"The Steelers selection is a no-brainer," ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton said. "The Steelers under the Rooneys have been the model of franchise ownership in sports. They are successful, consistent and supportive.

"They don't undergo the constant changes of other franchises. Plus, the family has been so instrumental in doing things that help advance the league, sometimes at the expense of their own franchise. It's no secret that two Rooneys are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

Clayton, AFC North blogger James Walker, AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas each had the Rooneys atop his ballot.

"The Rooney family is the perfect combination of tradition, consistency and success," Walker said, echoing Clayton's thoughts almost verbatim. "The easiest thing to point out is they've had the most Super Bowl wins and fewest head coaches since 1969. But they also set trends off the field with things like the Rooney Rule. They're very well respected, and there's a special sense of pride about the Steelers from players and fans that you don't see in many places. It starts at the top."

But the Rooneys were not unanimous choices in our ownership Power Rankings.

What about the power of the people?

The Green Bay Packers' ownership received three of the four remaining first-place votes. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, NFC West blogger Mike Sando and I all listed the Packers first because of their unique kind of power. Rules governing the other 31 franchises don't apply to them.

The Packers are the only publicly owned franchise. Green Bay Packers Inc. is a nonprofit organization formed in 1922. About 112,000 stockholders own roughly 4.75 million shares of the team. A seven-member executive board oversees the team on behalf of the stockholders.

Packers fans never will have to worry about the team being sold or moving away. The Packers are the only franchise that must open its books.

Oh, yeah. They also just won their NFL-record 13th championship.

Seifert explained why the Packers are special.

"My criteria for this category was twofold," Seifert said. "Do the owners fund the team's operations well? And do they operate the team well?

"I think the Packers' arrangement is currently doing both and has none of the baggage that goes along with single-family ownership. Shareholders don't take dividends, so no one is driven by individual profit. All profits go back into the franchise. In my experience, no expenses are spared in operating the team. People might note that general manager Ted Thompson doesn't sign many free agents, but that's a football decision. He's spent plenty on retaining the Packers' own free agents.

"The executive committee has hired a competent president in Mark Murphy, and after a bumpy start on the Brett Favre departure, Murphy has facilitated excellent work from the GM and coach he inherited.

"Finally, the Packers' ownership arrangement requires Murphy, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy to be more accountable to 112,000 fans than any other NFL official is to his fan base. Shareholders can't make operating decisions, but they have the right to question decisions, to know how money is being spent and to get straight(er) answers than fans of any other NFL team."

Clayton, however, wasn't impressed. He omitted the Packers from his ballot, ensuring they didn't finish second in the Power Rankings despite their three first-place votes.

One gets the impression that if Clayton were to slot all 32 ownerships, he would jot the Packers last.

"I couldn't vote for the Packers because it is a community ownership, not a normal ownership," Clayton said. "It's not as though one owner makes the decisions and has to stand up for the praise or criticism. Assigned the chance to vote for ownership, I felt more comfortable voting for individual owners or family owners."

[+] EnlargeDan Rooney
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDan Rooney has been one of the most influential owners in the NFL.
As a result, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was second overall. Kraft hired Bill Belichick as head coach and has stayed out of the way of football operations. The Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the past decade and went to a fourth. Forbes estimated the Patriots are the third-most-valuable NFL franchise and the world's 10th-biggest sports brand.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky listed Kraft above all. Kuharsky had the Rooneys second and the Packers third.

Kuharsky had the most efficient Power Rankings ballot. He was the lone panelist to vote for all of the owners who finished in the top 10.

"Robert Kraft versus the Rooneys is a close call," Kuharsky said. "I went Kraft because I feel he and his team have done more lately. In many ways, the Patriots -- not the Steelers -- are the standard-setters for the league. And while I prefer the way Heinz Field is in the middle of Pittsburgh, that development around Gillette Stadium has to be the envy of a lot of owners."

New York Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch came in fourth, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was fifth and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was sixth.

From there, everybody else on the Power Rankings top 10 was omitted from at least one ballot.

Eclectic Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was able to help land a Super Bowl in a nontraditional locale, came in seventh. Irsay rated no higher than sixth on any ballot, but he didn't make Williamson's top 10.

"I know it sticks out because I was the only one not to rank him, but if he was in the top three, I'd re-evaluate my reasoning," Williamson said. "But I can live with not voting for the No. 7 finisher. To be frank, I never considered Irsay. I considered 14 ownerships in all. Other than his random tweets, Irsay doesn't stick out to me, good or bad."

When it came to voting, money didn't necessarily equal power for some panelists.

I ranked Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones third, higher than any other voter. Sando and Yasinskas didn't rate Jones at all. Jones ended up eighth.

To me, you can't argue with his money or his presence. Forbes ranked the Cowboys the world's fourth-greatest sports brand behind only the New York Yankees, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Their estimated brand value was $128 million more than the NFL average and $15 million more than the Eagles and Giants combined.

Forbes estimated the Cowboys franchise was worth $1.8 billion, nearly $300 million more than the next-closest NFL club, the Washington Redskins.

Jones also serves as general manager. That puts him in control of every business and personnel decision. Sando saw that as a drawback.

"Jerry Jones is more involved in football operations than an owner ideally would be," Sando said. "He has shown questionable judgment in hiring head coaches. His involvement in football operations had made those coaches' jobs tougher. Jones dispatched with Tom Landry harshly and later failed to sustain the success Jimmy Johnson orchestrated.

"Also on Jones' watch, the Cowboys have suffered through the practice-bubble catastrophe, a Super Bowl experience that produced poor reviews and a video purporting to show Jones' drunken antics in a bar. Jones also was part of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee when the league agreed to the ill-fated 2006 collective bargaining agreement. Overall, the team hasn't enjoyed enough success recently to say the ends justify the means."

Yasinskas contended that Jones simply is overrated these days.

"If Jerry Jones had continued the success he had with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer back in the 1990s, he'd be at the top of my list," Yasinskas said. "But the fact is the Cowboys really haven't been all that relevant for a long time. Part of that is due to Jones.

"He's done some good things and the new stadium is fabulous, but he's been way too hands-on with that franchise and he's run through lots of good coaches and players without any real results."

Let us know what you think.

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