A Forbes Magazine ranking this week of NFL owners who have been in place before 2005 put the Seattle Seahawks’ Paul Allen at No. 14 in the group of 25 owners who met the ranking’s criteria.
Using a guide based on “long run overall winning percentage,” while taking into account “the condition of the team when the owner arrived,” Forbes calculated that the average impact on the Seahawks winning percentage under Allen is 0.1.
To give that number context, Pittsburgh’s Dan Rooney, determined by Forbes to be the NFL’s best owner, finished with an average impact of 3.3 on the Steelers’ winning percentage. Rooney was followed by New England’s Robert Kraft (3.2), Denver’s Pat Bowlen (3.1), Indianapolis’ Jim Irsay (2.5) and Chicago’s Virginia McCaskey (2.1).
I’m not sure why Forbes used this data as a measuring stick, or how the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones – a man whose autobiography ought to be titled “The Holy Trinity: Me, Myself and I” – earned a No. 7 ranking of 1.7. All I know is if you’re calculating the state of a team at the time its current owner took over, Paul Allen laps the field. He laps it twice, three times. He laps it so thoroughly that he completes the race in a casual saunter after taking time out for lunch and a nap.
Nothing against Dan Rooney, who inherited the Steelers from his late father, Art, the most beloved sports figure Pittsburgh ever produced. Dan Rooney is admired as well, but it’s not as if he rescued a broken franchise. The Steelers were a powerhouse when he was appointed to oversee the team’s day-to-day operations in 1975.
Allen’s stewardship of the Seahawks, on the other hand, is a classic rags-to-riches saga.
His predecessor, Ken Behring, tried to relocate the franchise to southern California in 1996. Equipment from the Hawks’ Kirkland headquarters was loaded into moving vans as front-office staffers worked out of a Bellevue hotel.
Die-hard Seahawks fans were outraged, but for every die-hard Hawks fan, there was an apathetic counterpart.
The season-ticket waiting list, which once required applicants to wait in limbo for years, had dwindled to nothing. When it came to pro sports in 1996, the Mariners ruled Seattle, and the SuperSonics weren’t far behind.
The Seahawks? They were gone, or at least in the process of going, and if the relocation attempt created a public uproar, I missed it.
Then Allen got involved, not because it offered him a chance to be portrayed as a hero — The Shining Knight Who Saved the Seahawks — but because he had the resources to make a difference.
Since his purchase of the Hawks in the summer of 1997, Allen has distinguished himself as an ideal NFL owner. He understands football, which is to say: He understands that his obligation is to assemble the best and brightest minds in the game, pay them accordingly, and then stay out of their way.
The next time Allen grouses about a controversial officiating decision unfavorable to the Seahawks, it will be the first time. The next time he’s heard second-guessing coach Pete Carroll, or berates a player for behaving like a knucklehead, or exercises an owner’s considerable clout on draft day, or shares his opinion on anything related to a sport he loves ...
You get the idea. It will be the first time.
Allen’s 17-year ownership of the Hawks hasn’t been without some bumps. He hired Mike Holmgren as coach and general manager, then replaced Holmgren as GM with Bob Whitsitt, who lost his job to Tim Ruskell. Success on the field didn’t alleviate front-office tensions off of it, and before the 2008 season, former Atlanta Falcons coach (and Washington Huskies linebacker) Jim Mora was signed to a five-year contract as assistant coach and head-coach-in-waiting after Holmgren, whose “retirement” was set for 2009.
The head-coach-in-waiting thing was different to the point of weird, and Mora being Mora – there’s no delete-key function when he gathers thoughts for public statements – his 5-11 season as Seahawks coach was fraught with a succession of small fires that threatened to break into a blaze.
Allen had seen (and heard) enough, and he contacted Carroll, the terrifically accomplished USC coach yearning for another shot at an NFL career. The transition was awkward – Carroll in contract talks while Mora met the press for a postseason evaluation of the team he believed he’d lead for four more years – but how does the bold decision to give Carroll control of the Seahawks look today?
They’re 10-1, girding for the home-field playoff advantage that figures to vault them into the Super Bowl. During this bye week that affords a few days of well-earned relaxation, the Seahawks’ first priority is stay out of the news.
On Thursday, the Seahawks made news, and it was news of the best kind: Their owner, in a collaboration with the University of Washington, is donating $2.4 million to a two-year study of head trauma at the Allen Institute for Brain Science.
Do concussions sustained by kids participating in full-contact football contribute to dementia later in life? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s an issue that threatens the regeneration of America’s most popular spectator sport.
In other news Thursday, Jerry Jones, he of the No. 7 ranking among the Forbes list of NFL coach, told reporters that Jason Garrett was assured his job as Dallas’ head coach in 2014.
“I’m disappointed we don’t have a better record,” said Jones of the 5-5 Cowboys, “but he has got us in a position to win the division.”
Blah, blah and more blah. If Garrett’s team doesn’t win the division, all bets are off.
Paul Allen isn’t a saint, and he’d wince if he were introduced before a crowd as the savior of the Seahawks in Seattle.
But if he’s only the 14th best owner in the NFL, and his affect on his team’s winning percentage is only 0.1, here’s some advice for the world’s preeminent business magazine.
Get a clue and find some facts.
They’re free.john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com