Mere mention of the names Stan Kroenke and Mike Brown, owners of the two NFL teams facing off in the Super Bowl on Sunday, triggers largely negative emotions from fans of teams they own. (LA Rams fans are nihilists, dude, so discount them.) Talk to Bengals fans, former St. Louis Rams fans, Arsenal fans, or any fans of Kroenke’s other franchises, and the feedback ranges from unmitigated rage to shake-inducing despair.
Cincinnati doesn’t have an outdoor practice facility, and Los Angeles can’t keep opposing fans from overrunning their stadium, so it’s not like they’ve all of the sudden figured it out and should be puff-pieced to death. It will be nice to see a fan base who has never won a Super Bowl get to celebrate one, but the prospect of seeing either Brown or Kroenke hoist the Lombardi Trophy after they’ve repeatedly tied their own fans to train tracks is depressing.
It’s like finding out that guy who was a dick in high school won a Pulitzer, or that girl who cheated on you in college is married to Daniel Craig. If you want proof that God doesn’t exist, one of these two buffoons winning a title is as good a sign as there is.
As a Kroenke hater, I had the luxury of him sucking as an owner and as a person. (For the sake of transparency, I was a St. Louis Rams fan. I wrote earlier this year that I hope Kroenke chokes on an eclair.) Now, the Rams have been to two Super Bowls in four years, are coached by a guy who appears to be ahead of the curve, actually spend money, and even more surprisingly make effective trades. I wrote about the massive gamble Los Angeles took any time a team trades as many draft picks they did, but it’s paying off.
Regardless of how you feel about pushing your chips all in, if they beat the Bengals, they’ll join Denver and Tampa Bay as recent teams who spent capital to go after quarterbacks they believed could win them a title with the right coaches and cast. The Broncos have been stuck in rebuild mode ever since, and we’ll see how the Bucs’ move on after Brady, but one Super Bowl win in exchange for a decade of losing counts as successful for a lot of teams.
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Before returning to LA, the Rams were an afterthought in St. Louis, a team players didn’t want to get drafted by, and fans didn’t want to watch because they were comically bad. So bad that well… here is the main reason why I’m so jaded as explained in a previous piece also decrying their run to the Super Bowl:
“What I care about is Rams owner Stan Kroenke not getting another ring after he latched onto the Greatest Show on Turf and then bled the team dry like a parasite until they were so anemic they were forced to move back to Los Angeles in 2016.”
I can’t say whether Who Dey hate Brown as much as I hate Kroenke, but the team’s recent success comes at the heels of basically three decades worth of largely terrible football. How forgivable are Brown’s mistakes compared to Kroenke’s missteps? At least Brown didn’t move the team and, like the Rams, may have figured out a path to success.
They’ve drafted well, and that’s allowed them to use their thriftiness to their benefit. Deadspin’s Stephen Knox wrote about them being cheap, which is true when a cornerback is your highest paid player, but that means they have cap space to ink at least a couple cornerstones from the Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Burrow contingent.
Whether they do that is yet to be seen, and it’s completely fair to roll your eyes at the possibility, considering Brown’s history. Recency bias tells a different story, though. His daughter Katie Blackburn and granddaughter Elizabeth Blackburn have both made news for strides operating the team.
Katie became the first woman appointed to the NFL’s competition committee in addition to her splendid job running the team since she’s become essentially a shadow GM for her dad. Elizabeth, the director of strategy and engagement for the team, developed the Ring of Honor and their very clean new uniforms.
It’s obviously nice to see added diversity in a league struggling with it, and let’s hope they continue to use the positions they are more than qualified for but no doubt got in some part due to nepotism to further diversity within the organization and the NFL. (It should be lost on no one that Mike Brown is the owner because his father was the owner.)
Now about that organization’s folly prior to this Super Bowl run. I wrote about the Bo Jackson curse before the Wildcard game against the Raiders, and highlighted why inept is more apt than cursed.
“Eight playoff appearances (not playoff runs; runs implies Cincinnati won a game) in 31 years and getting outscored 176-90 in the seven games they’ve played does not qualify as unlucky. The closest they got to a win was A.J. McCarron’s valiant 18-16 loss to the Steelers in 2015.”
In addition to frugality and poor drafting due to a lack of scouts or an owner/GM, the team has a history of taking chances on guys with character flaws. Adam “Pacman” Jones’ off the field incidents were well documented, and Vontaze Burfict cheap shotted his way out of the league. Burfict was most recently in the news for allegedly assaulting a security guard while trying to find a secret pizza place at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Joe Mixon was infamous for punching a female student and breaking her jawwhile at Oklahoma before he was an objectively good running back for the Bengals. He settled the suit and Brown even wrote an open letter to the city after he drafted him.
I don’t know if giving guys second and third chances counts as poorly running a franchise, but no fan wants to root for a problematic player. And I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who is turned off by Brown employing Mixon, regardless of how much he atoned for what happened.
Maybe it’s better if we just leave the owners in the box, and let the players and coaches who’ve done the work celebrate on the field. Movie studio execs aren’t out there raising up Oscar statues before the actors and directors.
Stan and Mike, y’all have done enough, they’ve got it from here. Thanks.