NFL Owners – Reigning in the “kingdom” of Professional Football

Above all else, the General Manager can never forget that the team is a business and ultimately the business belongs to the owner.

NFL ownership is one of those magical and mysterious “elite” clubs that we all only wished our bank accounts would allow us to enter.  If you asked most fans what role they’d really want to play in professional football it would probably be that of “owner”.

It’s good to be king!

Why?  The only glimpse we tend to get of an NFL owner is that of them sitting in their luxury box at the 50 yard line, eyes either glued to the TV screen, that happens to be capturing them “looking at the TV screen”, or hidden behind a pair of oversized binoculars.

Perhaps walking down the corridor of another 5-Star hotel in the middle of a break during the next round of regularly scheduled owner’s meetings in some tropical local in the middle of winter.  Usually after reviewing the details of a multi-billion dollar television contract, glancing away from the dozens of Sports Network TV cameras as if they didn’t even notice they were there.

Owners seem to separate themselves from the daily details and drudgery of balancing the cap, player evaluations, the smells of the training room and the heat/humidity of preseason camp.  Owners board the plane first and sit in first class.  Theirs is a role that doesn’t have to worry about contract extensions, the “hot seat” or “waiver wire” termination.

Who are these guys?

Ownerships come from a variety of constituencies and backgrounds.  Businessmen who made billions in private industry and have that very same “dream account” that allowed them to chase “the dream” and buy into the club.  Families who’ve inherited the legacy of their father or grandfather, fortunate enough through “birth right” to have earned permanent membership.  “Ground Breakers” and “Mavericks” who parlayed a $30,000 investment in 1960 and watched it grow into a $1,000,000,000 venture.

Yep, we ALL want to be NFL owners.  Five minutes of fame to hoist the Lombardi Trophy overhead and say some lasting quote that will go down in the annals of club history.

Not so fast.

Effective ownership is KEY to NFL success.  How owners are portrayed by the media isn’t even close to the importance of their role in the operations of a successful franchise.  The great owners are engaged in every step of the process.

They hire excellent people to run their “billion dollar organizations” and they give them the right amount of “leeway” to do their jobs without being “micro-managed”.  They make the tough calls when having to release an entire coaching staff, then pay off their contracts and look for the next regime to help turn things around.  They face the heavy burdens of doing what’s best for the game and best for their club, sometimes being asked to walk a “tight rope” in between.

I see NFL ownership in a different light than the “full buffet and well stocked bar” in their private suites.  It seems the role of owner can be a bit of a lonely position.  That’s why as a professional football front office executive, it’s paramount to keep the ownership engaged in the process at all times.

Here’s another excerpt from my personal outline of the role of the General Manager;

The GM’s relationship with the owner

It is the role of the General Manager to instill confidence in ownership that he can get the job done in professional & business-like fashion.

  • Represent the owner well.
  • Conduct all Football Operations with class.
  • Conduct Football Operations within predetermined and agreed upon budget constraints.
  • Bring credit and recognition to the organization by the way business is handled in a day-to-day fashion at every level.

Keep ownership abreast of Football Operations.  Communicate your vision and have a written plan ready for review.

  • No surprises.
  • Always communicate why you think major decisions will help achieve your goal of the DIRECTIVE, a Super Bowl Championship.
  • Continually review progress with ownership.

You don’t have to be his friend but you should be his trusted adviser.  Then, just perhaps he’ll invite you into his luxury suite on the 50 yard line for cocktails at halftime.  Nah, probably not.

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