NFL: 7 Cheapest Owners in NFL History

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIJune 24, 2011

NFL: 7 Cheapest Owners in NFL History

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    To be called a cheapskate, tightwad or penny-pincher is generally a bad thing.  In the world of NFL football, not many teams succeed when their owners are considered the above words.

    With the NFL being a multi-billion dollar industry, it is hard to fathom an owner not willing to spend money to help their team win.  

    Someone once said, "You need to spend money to make money."  You also need to spend money to consistently win.  The following owners must have never heard that.

    In no particular order, except maybe alphabetically, here are the seven cheapest owners in NFL history.

Bill Bidwell, Arizona Cardinals

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    Years as owner: 1962-1972 as part owner, 1972-present as sole owner

    I'm sure that being an Arizona Cardinal fan during Bill Bidwell's tenure as owner has been a difficult time. With only five playoff appearances in 48 years, Bidwell's light spending has definitely been detrimental to the franchise.

    The Arizona Cardinals have spent the majority of their years under Bidwell near the bottom of the league in terms of payroll.  Now that wouldn't be such a bad thing if they were winning, but that hasn't happened.  

    It appeared as if that was starting to change after the Cardinals moved to their new stadium and made the Super Bowl in 2008.  However, after last year's terrible season, things look to be getting back to normal in Arizona.

Art Modell, Cleveland Browns

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    Years as owner: 1961-1995 in Cleveland

    Sports franchises haven't been very generous to the city of Cleveland.  Neither the Cavaliers, Indians or Browns are known to be winning juggernauts in their respective sports.

    The Browns might be the worst of the bunch.  Since Modell won a championship in 1964, the Browns have gone over 30 years without another championship victory.

    Modell was at his cheapest when dealing with player contracts.  During the late 1960's through the 1970's, he would often attempt to shortchange his players.  He would offer them much less than they would be worth to other teams.  Due to the nature of free agency back then, if a player left, they would almost certainly make less than what Modell originally offered. 

Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills

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    Years as owner: 1960-present

    Whenever you own a team for over 50 years, you are guaranteed to have some success. However, since the Buffalo Bills joined the NFL in 1970, they have yet to win a Super Bowl.

    Ralph Wilson doesn't have a problem spending money on high priced free agents.  He also doesn't mind playing his current players to keep them in Buffalo.  The biggest criticism on Wilson is his apparent inability to spend money on a decent and veteran coach.

    Many Bills' fans feel that if Wilson would simply shell out some cash to bring in a top coach, then their team would have a better chance at winning.  Coaches are just as important as players and Wilson's inability to spend the big bucks on a great coach is the reason he lands on this list.

Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Years as owner: 1991-present

    When you have numerous websites demanding that you step down from your position, you might be doing something wrong to win over your home team fans.  That is the exact position that Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown is in.

    The Bengals have been one of the worst franchises in the NFL for the past two decades.  It wasn't until Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003, that people actually started to get excited about Cincinnati's future.  Unfortunately, that still hasn't happened and many claim that it is Brown's inability to sign big name free agents that is causing the problem.

    Both Warren Sapp and Shaun Rodgers were supposed to be signed by the Bengals before Brown took back his offer.  The same goes with trades, as many felt Brown should have traded Carson Palmer to pick up some more draft picks while rebuilding his team.

    Either way, Brown holds onto his wallet when attempting to bring in or keep players and makes it onto this list.

William Clay Ford, Sr., Detroit Lions

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    Years as owner: 1964-present


    After going 0-16 a few years ago, it finally appears as if the fortune might be changing in Detroit.  Detroit has a talented young team and could even challenge for a Wild Card spot this season.

    Since Ford bought the team, they have only won a single playoff game.  The lack of postseason and regular season success can be directly related to Ford's unwillingness to attempt to improve his team.  When was the last time that you can remember Detroit bringing in a big name free agent?

    Even if the Detroit Lions begin to resemble something of a successful franchise, it certainly won't because Ford opened up his checkbook to help the team. 



Norman Braman, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Years as owner: 1985-1994


    Norman Braman is one of the few owners that actually had consistent success with his team.  From 1988 to 1993, the Eagles won at least 10 games each of those seasons.

    How does Braman make this list?  He makes the list because of one offseason, specifically the 1993 offseason when Reggie White became a free agent.  Braman underbid on White, one of the greatest defensive players ever, and White moved off to Green Bay.  That year, Clyde Simmons and Keith Jackson also left because of Braman's inability to cough up the dough.

    Do you think the New York Giants would have ever let Lawrence Taylor leave?  When you let one of the all-time greats leave because of money, you make this list.

Georgia Frontiere, St. Louis Rams

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    Years as owner: 1979-2008


    The Rams were another franchise that played well during Georgia Frontiere's ownership.  In fact, they played well in front of three different cities.

    Frontiere moved the Rams from Los Angeles to Anaheim and finally settled in St. Louis, where they still remain today.  Why did she move the team so frequently?  Well, for money of course.  Not because she wanted to put more money into the team, but because she wanted more money to herself.

    She was devoted to numerous philanthropic causes while she was alive, but none of those causes was the St. Louis Rams.