Forbes: Tom Benson a top 10 owner

Forbes put out its annual list of the 10 best and 10 worst owners in the NFL, and I’m thinking the NFC South didn’t get a real fair shake.

The division got one owner on each list, and I’m not sure I agree with either selection.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson came in at No. 8 on the best list. There’s no question Benson’s reputation with fans has improved in recent years. That’s largely because the Saints have been successful, the Super Bowl is coming back to New Orleans in 2013, and the Saints have committed to stay for the long haul. But there are still a lot of New Orleans fans that haven’t forgiven Benson for reportedly looking to relocate the team. Forbes cites a 13-percent increase in franchise value over five years as one of the reasons for Benson’s selection, and also points to the team’s five-year winning percentage (61 percent).

If Benson is on the list, I think Atlanta’s Arthur Blank and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson also deserved strong consideration. Neither has ever made any noise about relocating their teams. Blank also learned from some early mistakes and has his franchise in the best shape it’s ever been in. The Falcons have had three straight winning seasons. Prior to that, they never had back-to-back winning seasons.

Richardson’s popularity with fans took a big hit as the Panthers have struggled in recent seasons. He was roasted for being “cheap’’ as he prepared his franchise for the labor lockout, and no employees lost their jobs. Richardson was extremely instrumental in eventually getting a new labor agreement. Once that was in place, he came out spending more than he ever has, and the future appears bright because the Panthers finally have a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton.

The only NFC South representative on the list of the league’s 10 worst owners is Tampa Bay’s Malcolm Glazer. First off, it should be noted that Glazer hasn’t been in good health for several years and sons Bryan, Joel and Ed handle the operations of the team. I know there’s a disconnect between Tampa Bay fans and the Glazers, but I don’t really understand it. The Glazers might not be the best owners in the league, but they’re far from the worst.

For those of you who weren’t around before the Glazers, and those without long-term memories, let me remind you of what things were like when Hugh Culverhouse owned the team. The Bucs were almost always horrible. They played in the old Tampa Stadium and always had one of the league’s lowest payrolls.

The Bucs have a low payroll these days, but Glazer did spend big for a while before former coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen showed that shuttling in high-priced free agents every year doesn’t bring consistent success. The Bucs are building through the draft these days, and the team appears to be on the upswing.

Plus, when Glazer still was heavily involved, he helped the Bucs get Raymond James Stadium, which still is one of the league’s finest facilities. He brought in coach Tony Dungy, who made the franchise consistently respectable for the first time. When Dungy couldn’t quite get over the hump, Glazer made a trade with Oakland to bring in Gruden.

The Bucs turned around and won the Super Bowl. The Glazer era has been much more prosperous than the Culverhouse days.