- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ESPN.com Power Rankings for owners are out and Atlanta’s Arthur Blank was the representative from the NFC South to make the top 10.
In fact, he was the only NFC South owner to receive a vote. Blank got five votes, coming from John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky, Kevin Seifert, Bill Williamson and me. I had Blank at No. 6 on my ballot. Williamson had Blank higher than anyone else, putting the Atlanta owner at No. 3.
Here are my thoughts on why I put Blank on my ballot. He’s not a perfect owner by any means. But he’s a guy who has admitted past mistakes, learned from them and moved on in a very positive direction. There is no doubt Blank made some huge mistakes in the Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick fiascos.
But he went out and hired general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith in 2008, and they turned around and drafted quarterback Matt Ryan. All that has resulted in the Falcons turning in three straight winning seasons. When they reached two in 2009, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in the history of a franchise that began play in 1966.
Blank has the Falcons on firm and stable footing these days.
I also considered Carolina owner Jerry Richardson. There was a time, probably four or five years ago, when I easily would have included Richardson in the top five of any list of owners. He’s a former player, known for treating everyone who works for him with class and respect. That hasn’t changed. But I couldn’t in good conscience put Richardson on the list right now.
He is the point man for the owners and the NFL in the current labor negotiations, and we have no idea how that will turn out. Richardson also has done some unique things in recent years, firing his sons as team presidents and letting former coach John Fox get into a lame-duck situation. No doubt Richardson had his reasons as he looked ahead to labor troubles, and his moves were designed to protect his franchise. Maybe, once things get resolved, the reasons for Richardson’s actions will become apparent and he’ll be a top owner again. But, at the moment, Richardson’s reputation and legacy are very much on the line.
Although I’ve frequently said the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, seems to get a strange and disproportionate dislike from the fan base, I didn’t see this as a legitimate candidacy for the top 10. The Glazers have won a Super Bowl and done some other good things, but they couldn’t sell out their stadium for a single home game last season.
That hasn’t been a problem for New Orleans’ Tom Benson, who has sold out every game since the Superdome reopened in 2006. But Benson was the scourge of New Orleans fans before that, when there were constant reports about his desire to move the team to San Antonio. That didn’t happen, and the Saints are in better shape than they’ve been before. But there still are a lot of New Orleans fans out there who have long memories and they’ll be the first to tell you Drew Brees probably has more to do with the current state of the Saints than Benson or anyone else. But I will give Benson some credit. In some ways, he's like Blank and has moved on from hard times in the past.