The NFL landscape extends far beyond the rosters of its 32 members teams. Owners, front offices, coaching staffs, the league office, the players’ union, old media, new media...you get the idea. As the preeminent entertainment property in the entire country, there are a lot of moving parts.
So USA Today’s ranking of the top 100 “most important” people in the NFL world is a pretty interesting exercise, if for no other reason to see how many of those 100 touch on the Rams.
#1 - Jerry Jones, Owner, Dallas Cowboys
You can make an argument that Jones was the greater catalyst of the Rams moving to Los Angeles from St. Louis than Rams Owner Stan Kroenke. Nobody pushes the frontiers of the NFL brand further and more fully than Jones does:
No owner was more influential in pushing others to sign off on the Los Angeles Rams' stadium deal in Inglewood, Calif. – rather than a Carson deal for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders that was backed by a lot of “old school” owners. Jones was sold on Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s grand plan for solving the NFL’s conundrum in the nation’s second-largest market.
It was the same type of big-picture thinking Jones employed during the 1990s, when he spearheaded a new philosophy for the broadcast committee in selling the NFL’s network TV package – which is shared by all 32 teams – that bucked the traditional bidding process and resulted in then-fledgling Fox entering the game … and providing the impetus to blow the lid off the previous deal.
Jones tops NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for good reason. His impact on the Rams’ place in history sits undersold as of today.
As time goes on as this ranking implies, he may ultimately get the recognition his business acumen deserves...and one LA Rams fans will no doubt appreciate in due time.
#8 - Stan Kroenke, Owner, Los Angeles Rams
Shady though the process was, Kroenke got his Rams out of St. Louis and into the US’ second-biggest market.
The real issue for Kroenke? That’s where his reputation and sports ownership skill largely begins and ends. He doesn’t have the rings of Jerry Jones. He doesn’t have the community acceptance of so many other NFL owners. And despite his numerous sports franchise holdings...he’s not exactly the most loved sports magnate:
Los Angeles Rams owner and a member of the NFL’s broadcast committee. Kroenke fought hard to bring the Rams from St. Louis back to L.A. and, in doing so, showed the rest of the league what a force he can be. His new stadium, scheduled to open for the 2019 season, will host the 2021 Super Bowl and is expected to host many other major events.
Silent Stan is a shrewd businessman, no doubt. His legacy will be one less of accomplishment and more of Wikipedia footnote status if his franchises, perhaps now primarily the Rams, don’t find success on the field in the coming years.
#44 - Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft taking over a franchise that has yet to play a single game in it’s new home base of Los Angeles coming off of a year in which they posted the league’s worst offense in yards gained.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, he is expected to restore the lowly Rams to greatness amid their Los Angeles return.
Reminder: the Rams’ not posting a winning season since 2003 is what renders them the “lowly” status. Changing that will be a tall task let alone one for an untested rookie.
#61 - Eric Grubman, VP, NFL
Grubman served as the league’s point man for the relocation. His experience with the move might well position him in the race to be the next commissioner of the NFL.
NFL executive vice president and president of the league’s business ventures since 2006. He oversaw and advocated for the Rams’ relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
I expect we’ll see bigger things from Mr. Grubman in the years ahead in some capacity...
#97 - Michael Sam, Free Agent
The first openly gay player to be drafted – he didn’t make the Rams’ final roster after being selected in 2014 – he continues to imply that his sexuality is keeping him out of the NFL. Those comments could prevent other players from coming out.
Perhaps hard to include him in the top 100 in 2016, but I guess there could be a freeze effect going on. His impact on national sports can’t be understated, but sometime (and I’d guess sometime soon) we’re going to get a gay NFL player who will be a consensus star prospect. Sam’s legacy will be one that opened the door for that player more than anything else.
But that’s still an important legacy, no doubt.
#100 - Les Snead, General Manager, Los Angeles Rams
Nope. This is just nuts.
Rams general manager. New quarterback. New city. Enough said for what will determine his future with the team now operating in the high-pressure Hollywood market.
Two general managers.
General Manager A: Eight seasons as GM. Team has a 74-54 record in that span. Just two losing seasons out of eight. Four playoff appearances including a conference championship berth. “Of course I'm on the hot seat.”
General Manager B (yeah, good luck guessing this one): Four seasons as GM. Team has a 27-36-1 record in that span. Four losing seasons out of four. No playoff appearances. Contract extension talks expected to intensify this summer.
Hurry up and get here, preseason.