The undisputed number one person on this list. I went into researching and debating this list with him as a preliminary number one, and I could not think of any argument, counter-point, or legitimate reason to not have him ranked number one.
He's the angry man of the left by the way.
Bob Irsay came into the NFL in 1972 when he bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million. Then, in one of the most interesting trades ever, he and the Baltimore Colts owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, swapped franchises. No players were traded but rather owners.
Up to that point, the Baltimore Colts had been one of the greatest franchises in the history of not just football, but of sports in general. They had two NFL Championships, a Super Bowl victory, an appearance in Super Bowl III, an NFL Championship appearance in 1964, and many legendary players.
Now, before you go any further, you have to understand that this isn't football of today where you get used to players going from place to place. This is the 70s where your players get to know you, become part of the city, part of the general public, and become almost family.
This is Baltimore. Forget that crime show on HBO called "The Wire" where you see the drug dealers and gangsters of Baltimore. This was back when a great number of people were basically good, hard-working, citizens.
To prove my point, whenever the Colts had a football game at home, they always made sure that it was at two o'clock so that everyone, and I mean everyone, could go to church and not have to miss the game.
To my knowledge, that didn't happen anywhere else but Baltimore. I don't want to exaggerate, but when I hear accounts of Baltimore Colts fans, I never hear any negatives whatsoever.
Those people loved that team like it was a college football team. Win or lose, they would show up to cheer the Colts. They organized cheers, not the stadium officials, the fans themselves organized cheers that spelled out Colts like you were doing the YMCA dance song.
You talk about a group of wonderful, loyal people who weren't like the Eagles fans where you boo your team at every possible moment or the Oakland fans where they are more focused on tormenting the opposing team. The Colts fans were about undying affection for their teams.
I know this sounds like something out of a "Once upon a time," book, but it is true. Check this out:
"I'm not sure I've ever had a feeling in sport, even winning the Super Bowls we won, like being introduced at Memorial Stadium. I don't know if my feet touched the ground." Colts center, Bill Curry
Those fans felt when the Colts won, they won, because they were just as much a Baltimore Colt as the men were who put on the pads.
Robert Irsay, when he took over the Colts, transformed them into the most embarrassing franchise in the league beside maybe, maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I feel that I cannot do the truth justice here, so I enlisted the help of Sports Illustrated to help me. In the December 15,1986 issue, a writer named E.M. Swift pieced together nothing less than a masterpiece of showing the world what a completely idiotic, boorish man that Irsay was. I won't even have to attack him myself.
I will be showing you many quotes from that article. Starting with Irsay's beginning with the Baltimore Colts, including the trading of franchises previously mentioned.
"It was Carroll Rosenbloom and Joe Thomas, both now deceased, who brought Irsay into the league. Rosenbloom was the owner of the Colts from 1953 to 1972, but he wanted out of Baltimore for a couple of the reasons that Irsay ultimately did—money and a running feud with the Baltimore press. Thomas had recently been fired as the personnel director of the Dolphins."
"Together, they cooked up a deal that would get Rosenbloom out of Baltimore and into the lucrative L.A. market and provide Thomas with a job as G.M. of the Colts. They needed to find someone to buy the Rams for $19 million—on the condition that the individual would then trade the Rams, even up, for Rosenbloom's Colts. That someone, an acquaintance of Thomas's from Florida, was a Chicago heating and air-conditioning contractor named Robert Irsay."
So, if Carroll Rosenbloom doesn't want out of Baltimore, Irsay never comes in? What a way to foreshadow disaster with a move like that.
From day one of his arrival in Baltimore, he was a liar. Former superstar quarterback, Bert Jones, put it best after his career was done:
"He lied and he cheated and he was rude and he was crude and he was Bob Irsay. He doesn't have any morals. It's a sad state for the NFL to be associated with him, but beyond that I've removed him from my mind."
Irsay's lies were mainly about himself. He was a sculptor to a degree. He would tell his people his life story and build it up with clay to make the statue a lot more majestic.
Like how he was raised by his grandfather, came from a poor home, was a devout Roman Catholic, and had saw duty in the war.
The reality is that his family was rich, they paid for him to go to the University of Illinois, he was a member of a fraternity, was actually Jewish, and while he was a sergeant in the marines, he never went overseas.
Here's a quote from the man's own mother in the article about her little Bobby:
"He's a devil on earth, that one." Every few seconds she paused for breath, her voice rising at the start of each thought, then quickly tiring. "He stole all our money and said goodbye. He don't care for me. I don't even see him for 35 years. My husband, Charles, sent him to college. I made his wedding. Five thousand dollars, it cost us. When my husband got sick and got the heart attack, he [Bob] took advantage. He was no good," she said. "He was a bad boy. I don't want to talk about him."
This man was the owner of the Baltimore Colts, and anyone can see that this was going to go bad.
The franchise started off bad without Irsay's help originally. Now that Joe Thomas was in charge, the team went through some major changes.
The team that Irsay had bought was a team out of gas. They had won the Super Bowl two year ago, but they were a very old team, but one that had a set formula to it.
"Under Rosenbloom, the Colts had been like a family. 'There were no individualists,' recalls Matte. 'Carroll wouldn't allow it.' It was part of the Colts' secret of success. Veterans like Matte, Unitas, John Mackey and Raymond Berry actually had a say in who was cut and who wasn't. The coaching staff would listen to them. Curfews weren't enforced by the coaches; they were enforced by the team leaders. And Friday nights were team nights, when the players would go out and, instead of watching film, would do no more than drink beer and joke and develop that special bonding that a lot of the great teams have. 'Everybody lived here in town and made appearances for free. We were part of the community,' recalls Matte. 'That was the tradition. It made us a team.'"
The family was getting old though. Legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas, halfback Tom Matte, tight end John Mackey, and other players were in their 30s. Unitas himself, was approaching 40.
Either Joe Thomas didn't realize or he did not care. Mike Curtis, All-Pro linebacker for the team recalled, "Joe's ego was the biggest thing that ever was."
Thomas decided to slice and dice the team. He cut/traded over 20 Colts. He traded away Johnny Unitas, Tom Matte, and John Mackey. He fired Don McCafferty, the coach who had been with the team when they won the Super Bowl, and hired Howard Schnellenberger to be the new coach for 1973.
Bruce Laird: "Those gentlemen, after what they'd done. What do you think Joe was looked at here?"
The fans and the media called it the "Baltimore Massacre" after Thomas got rid of those beloved players.
Unitas finished his career in a San Diego Chargers uniform, and no disrespect to Charger fans, but whenever I see a photo of Unitas in that uniform, I want to throw up.
Those guys deserved to stay in Baltimore their whole careers, and Thomas ruined that, and Irsay didn't care enough to stop him. They could have reached a financial settlement to get the players to retire. There was no salary cap to prevent that.
Instead, they made the Colts a much younger team that stunk. They went 4-10 in 1973.
Now, this is where Irsay started to show his true colors. He always did so when he was drunk, which was a lot at games since there was beer there.
"Irsay's first great public explosion came in the third game of the 1974 season, in Philadelphia. Marty Domres was the Colts quarterback, a player Irsay had once humiliated in front of his teammates by shouting, "Nice game, Marty, too bad most of the passes you completed were to the wrong team." In the third quarter, Irsay, prowling the sideline, tugged on Schnellenberger's arm and suggested he replace Domres with Bert Jones. Schnellenberger declined, adding—and here history becomes a little fuzzy—either that Irsay should mind his own business or that Irsay should attempt an anatomical impossibility while minding his own business. Whatever, Irsay took offense. "He just wanted to be part of the team, be the type of owner who would have a beer with the guys and maybe arm wrestle after the game," recalls Curtis. "He really wanted us to like him. That's why he was down on the field to begin with. And Howard was no diplomat. It was just bad luck."
Irsay, apparently inebriated, according to several team sources, stormed into the dressing room after the game—the team's third straight defeat—and announced to the players that Schnellenberger was fired and that Thomas would be their new coach. The team almost lynched him. In the coach's office, Schnellenberger asked Ernie Accorsi, the Colts public relations director, what the ruckus was about. "I think he just fired you," Accorsi replied. Irsay charged in and confirmed it. Then he left in his limo."
This is the big part though. Thomas didn't know about this. He wasn't planning on firing Schnellenberger and becoming the new coach. He comes in later and finds out.
"Thomas, meanwhile, couldn't get into the dressing room; he was held at bay by a security guard who was under orders not to open the room to the press. 'There's a guy named Thomas demanding to get in,' the guard told Accorsi.
Thomas was right behind him. 'What's going on in here?'
'Irsay just fired Howard.'
'That's not the worst news. He named you as head coach.'
'You're no head coach, for god's sake,' Mike Curtis said.
'You shut up.'
It was true, though. Thomas didn't even know the team's playbook. And for the rest of the season—the Colts ended at 2-12—Thomas would ask startling things like 'Do we have a halfback option pass?' in third-or fourth-down situations. To which someone would answer, 'Yes, Coach, we have three of them.'"
The team finally hired Ted Marchibroda, and the Colts had three back to back ten-plus winning seasons and Bert Jones was the 1976 MVP.
That was the high point of Irsay's tenure in Baltimore. Eventually, he fired Joe Thomas, and had a larger say in what the team did.
"'When Thomas left, suddenly there's no buffer between the team and Irsay,' recalls Bruce Laird, a safety who played 10 years with the Colts. 'Suddenly everything has to go through the Irsay-Chernoff chain. From then on, money became almost nonexistent, and everything they touched turned to manure.'"
More tirades followed, Irsay even turned on Bert Jones eventually and Ted Marchibroda eventually was fired.
"In 1979, after a loss, Irsay interrupted a live radio interview with Jones, who was out with a shoulder injury, and said, 'Hey, Bert, when are you going to start playing?' Irsay also told a reporter, 'I am not paying Bert Jones $275,000 to sit on his butt.'"
Even when Irsay was wrong, he was right. For instance... "In 1980 the Colts trailed Miami by a touchdown at the half, 17-10, when Irsay sent a member of the Colts front office down to the field with a strongly worded message. He wanted (the head coach Mike) McCormack to replace Jones at quarterback with Greg Landry. McCormack refused. In the second half Jones led the Colts back to a 30-17 win. But Irsay was livid at McCormack's insubordination and dressed him down behind closed doors."
Irsay actually decided to take control of how the team played, so he decided to call plays for one game. Here's a guy who probably could tell you what a post pattern is, calling the plays for the team instead of the coach.
If it wasn't so horrifying, it would be comical. There are criticisms of some owners like Al Davis and Jerry Jones, and people say that they are really the coaches.
Well, to the best of my knowledge, Jerry Jones has never actually called a play for the team. He lets the coaches do that. I've heard rumors that Davis has called plays at times, but to his credit, he was a football coach and knows the game.
This is a boozehound calling plays for a team in the National Football League. This would be a great idea for a movie if it wasn't so horrifying in real life.
"'[Irsay] couldn't have told you how many players there were on the field, never mind what plays we had,' recalls Jones, who was shuffled in and out with Landry. 'All he was trying to do was embarrass the coaches and the players. When he told me to run, I threw. When he told me to throw left, I ran right.'"
Throughout this time, Irsay had been flirting with other cities that he was going to move the Colts somewhere else while he told the fans that Baltimore was their home.
It got worse when Irsay interfered with the team's draft picks.
"In 1982 Irsay told the Colts front office not to draft Brigham Young quarterback Jim McMahon because he couldn't stand McMahon's agent, Jerry Argovitz. Instead, Irsay wanted to take Ohio State's Art Schlichter, who, according to most scouting reports, did not have the arm to be an NFL passer."
Art Schlichter had a gambling addiction and was banned by the NFL for betting on NFL games. He is easily regarded as one of the all-time draft busts.
The next big blunder was when the teams had the top overall pick in the 1983 draft.
"The Colts were winless in the strike-shortened 1982 season, giving them a shot at quarterback John Elway. Elway, of course, made a public-relations error in announcing that he wouldn't play in Baltimore, when what he really meant was that he wouldn't play for Frank Kush, the Colts coach, and Irsay. Still, Accorsi wanted him. Desperately. If another team wanted to draft him, it would have had to fork over three first-round draft picks in exchange. That was Accorsi's price. When no other team met it, the Colts drafted him. Elway said the Colts had wasted a draft choice. He would play baseball."
Accorsi knew that Elway was blowing smoke. He knew he wanted to play football more than baseball. Accorsi was confident that Elway would sign after he realized that he was going to lose this game of 'Chicken'
However, Irsay panicked. He traded John Elway away to the Denver Broncos for quarterback Mark Hermann, their first round pick of 1983 that had been guard Chris Hinton, and a first round pick the next year.
Elway went on to play in five Super Bowls, winning two in Denver.
Finally, the last vile act of Bob Irsay's tenure in Baltimore was when he actually moved the team to Indianapolis.
The main reason was because Irsay wanted a new stadium, and Baltimore was reluctant to help pay for it. The old stadium was a bit of a dump, but the fans still loved it.
The city of Baltimore made an offer to Irsay, but then decided to try to use the legislature to seize the Colts under eminent-domain.
Irsay cowered out of Baltimore, making a deal with Indianapolis, then hired a trucking company to pack up the organization's items from the team headquarters and in the middle of the night, moved away.
The entire city of Baltimore was in tears. They were betrayed, and Irsay didn't even have the decency to change the team's colors. They are still called the Colts, and people of Baltimore have to see that horseshoe on the helmet and know that that team was stolen from them.
Irsay always was a winner. He always boasted of being a winner. But, he, deservingly, died a loser on January 14, 1997. The Colts never won anything under Irsay, and the next year, they drafted the reigning NFL MVP, Peyton Manning.
How fitting that once Irsay goes away, the Colts turn themselves around.
So, here you have it folks. The number one most hated being in NFL history.
If you want to read even more about the guy, the Sports Illustrated article is linked here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1065650/index.htm