Sunday, February 13, 2005

Old Sheriff in Town

Around noon CDT, Monday, the Vikings are expected to announce the sale of the team from Red McCombs to an investment group led by Arizona real estate magnate Reggie Fowler. But if the prospect of Red finally relinquishing the team causes you to stir with excitement, be prepared, instead, to stir with continuing doubts about the direction of this organization. Because, for all commotion surrounding this sale, only one thing is certain--the sale of the Vikings to Fowler's group looks more and more like the transfer of an investment to another carpet-bagging investment group.

The Kraft Model of Commitment

Several years ago, long-time Patriot fan Robert Kraft fulfilled an equally long-time ambition to purchase his hometown team. Immediately after purchasing the team, Kraft did what Patriots' fans hoped he would do, he began investing in the team. For Kraft, the investment philosophy was simple--continue to improve the on-field product to draw back the fans. But Kraft added a nice touch to this philosophy, a touch that, perhaps, only a fan would add, by building the franchise for the long haul.

In his endeavor to build a franchise for the the long-term, Kraft made several key moves. First, he hired an experienced head coach. Then he doled out contracts to several more than capable assistants. Several of those assistants have already moved on to higher positions, including NFL head-coaching positions. Next, Kraft used his allocated cap space to sign quality free agents.

Kraft also committed his own money to build a new stadium. Along with any inherent risk in funding a stadium without public support, Kraft, of course, accrued the benefits of owning the stadium outright. This included retaining stadium naming rights, seat licensing rights, concession revenue rights, parking revenue rights, and advertising rights. That adds up to a lot of cash. But it also requires an owner to make, and signals the making of, a long-term commitment to the team.

The Red and Soon-to-be-Reggie Model of Commitment

On the opposite end of the NFL franchise ownership spectrum stands Red McCombs. McCombs purchased the Vikings in 1998 and also immediately began to exhibit an interest in improving what was already a very competitive team. To this end, Red doled out extensions to what he deemed to be key veterans. Red also spoke loudly and often, in Texas-tongue fashion, about "Purple Pride."

The critical difference between Red and Kraft is that while Kraft was building a team for long-term success and making a commitment to that endeavor, Red was fixated on the short-term. And the short-term for Red meant ensuring sellouts, whether by fielding good teams or merely through pre-season promises that the Vikings would be "better than ever," as well as by ad nauseum cajoling of fans to take pride in the Vikings.

We should have seen the writing on the wall when Red brought in Rob Brzezinski to be the team's capologist. While many viewed the hiring as the first step in reigning in Red's prior contract extension gaffes, the more sagacious looked at the hiring with skepticism. Is this Red reigning in his own hasty tendicies, as he is leading us to believe, or is it Red, the used car/football team trader surreptitiously attempting to squeeze every last penny out of a franchise that he intends to dump in the near term?

It soon became evident that Red, unlike Kraft in New England, was all about creating a perception of quality football long enough to ensure a nice net return per season and an even nicer net return on the sale of the team after only a handful of seasons. Perception of the team, much like perception of a used car, is what seals the deal. And Red extolled at creating positive perceptions.

Out With the Old, In With the Old

The proposed sale of the Vikings to the Fowler group looks very much like a sale to an investment group more akin to adopting a profit-making approach set forth by McCombs than one set forth by Kraft. Fowler, already tight on funds by NFL ownership standards, is said to be about a 50-50 bet to pass the NFL's financial screening process. And Fowler's lacky, our own used car dealer, Denny Hecker, appears more interested in profiting from land speculation should a new stadium be built in Anoka County than in seeing that the Vikings are a competitive team.

All of which suggests that, rather than getting a Robert Kraft in the deal, as Vikings' fans desire and deserve, Vikings' fans are much more apt to get another Red McCombs ownership. And all that does is give Vikings' fans reason to look forward to the day when Glen Taylor finally does acquire the Vikings.

Up Next: The Verdict.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glen Taylor has had little success with the Timberwolves. Why should we think he would get the Vikings a Super Bowl championship?

Maybe Reggie Fowler eventually turns out to be bad news, but as long as he keeps the team in Minnesota, I say give him a chance for now.

Anonymous said...

It's too soon to say anything about how Fowler might handle things - he might be another Red or he might be willing to do what it takes to win.

The real question now is how the sale process affects offseason personnel moves and acquisitions. Is everything frozen until the owners accept or refuse Fowler? This could make the Vikes non-players for the next couple of months.

Vikes Geek said...

Until the NFL owners clear the sale, Red is the official owner. That means that Red is authorized to make deals.

VG

Anonymous said...

Sid Hartman today: Fowler's price is too high to make money on the team unless a new stadium is built or the team is moved. This is not looking good.

http://startribune.com/stories/507/5240764.html

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first comment. How about another Minnesota team owner as an example of a team commitment? Carl Pohlad is a local. He spends money on his player payroll like McCombs does on his coaches.

Anonymous said...

Honestly and I know this is a football site, and I don't know if your opinion of Fowler is true or not, whether the sale gets approved. But if he DOES keep on the McCombs model, then it opens the door for the Twins to either say be sold to Glen Taylor, and/or to get a new stadium first.

What I wonder is that if there is approval for one team's stadium proposal does that automatically shut out the other team? Or could both owners collaborate on a dual use facility (not the SAME field like the dome, but two different stadiums hooked together by a mall/hotel complex).

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