ESPN is fond of lists. Very fond.
This offseason the monolith sports giant has published Top 10 lists for 10 NFL-related positions and jobs. The rankings ostensibly measure the best of the best at their jobs in everything from the running backs, to quarterbacks, to coaches to ownership.
The ownership ranking published Tuesday gives bigtime props to New England owner Robert Kraft, whose group is ranked second among the Top 10. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is ranked No. 10. In all, five AFC ownership groups are listed in the Top 10.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his celebrity minions partners are not among the Top 10.
I'm not surprised. Last season was not Ross's finest -- especially at the moment he hung his coach Tony Sparano out to dry publicly by looking for a Michigan alumnus replacement without telling Sparano and then being suprised it was somehow news.
So there's that. There's also Tuesday's news that Ross cut salaries to all club employees across the board. ESPN didn't consider this in rating owners as seveal who imposed auterity measures well before Ross and the Dolphins are on the list, including Johnson.
All is not otherwise lost, however. Ross is learning. I think.
His last couple of months have been better than the first month he had in 2011. Unlike in 2010, he didn't place extra pressure on his coach and quarterback by proclaiming the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender or saying his quarterback could eventually be better than Dan Marino.
That is progress in learning the sport and its culture.
(Note to Ross: It is perfectly acceptable to predict a Super Bowl, and indeed encouraged by me, if your team is legitimately that well stocked. It is also absolutely fine to fire up the fan base by suggesting your quarterback might become Marino-caliber after that QB has a season in which he throws for 30 TDs and 4,000 yards. Just sayin'.)
In regard to the most important aspect of ownership, I believe Ross already gets it. He opens the wallet and gives Jeff Ireland or Bill Parcells or whomever is hunting for free agents, the necessary resources to land those free agents. Last year, he did exactly that with Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall. He gets a 10 out of 10 from me on that.
So maybe Ross isn't in the Top 10. Maybe he's not even in the Top 20 yet based on the still not-forgotten indiscretion of earlier this offseason. But it's not a hopeless situation.
And that brings me back to the ESPN power rankings list.
If you notice, the lists breaks down the Top 10 coaches, quarterbacks, cornerbacks, linebackers, safeties, tight ends, wide receivers, pass rushers, and running backs.
Not suprisingly, the Dolphins are not very well represented on these lists, with only two members of the organization making any of the lists.
Marshall made the Top 10 list for wide receivers. He came in at No. 10 so it's not like he dominated the list, but at least it suggests the Dolphins have a viable option for the quarterback to count on regardless of his issues off the field.
Sometimes being so close to the team, one lsees all the warts and forgets the beauty of a player. It's easy to lose sight of the opinion of those around the league of the team. That Marshall is on the list reminds me, at least, of his still-valuable and valued gifts. He is a cornerstone player if he can get his personal life right.
The QB list? The RB list? The CB, S, and TE list? No Dolphins are found there.
Cameron Wake matches Marshall in barely making the pass rusher list at No. 10. That's not a putdown. Being the No. 10 pass rusher in the NFL is an honor. DeMarcus Ware is listed as the NFL's top pass rusher on that list, with Green Bay's Clay Matthews, Indy's Dwight Freeney, Minnesota's Jared Allen and K.C.'s Tamba Hali rounding out the top 5.
I wouldn't complain about Wake being No. 10. All the other players on the list have had at least two seasons as double-digit sack artists. Wake was very good in 2010 but the idea is to have some consistency to make a rise on the list.
So what do these power rankings mean when considered in unison?
Well, when the so-called experts don't have your teams quarterback in the Top 10, you have issues in a quarterback league. When your running backs are not among the league's Top 10, and the head coach has proclaimed you a running team, you have issues. When neither the coach nor the owner who considered replacing him are among the Top 10 as decided by peers, pundits, and other so-called experts, you have work to do with your franchise starting from the top down.
Is that true? Is that fair?