Commentary: Forbes speculation doesn't wash

A blog entry on Forbes.com indicated that a Brett Favre signing could mean the Vikings are for sale. Where's the logic in that? We examine that, the circumstances surrounding the previous sale of the Vikings and Zygi Wilf's commitment to winning.

Forbes national editor Michael K. Ozanian posted a blog entry last week that the signing of Brett Favre would equate to the Vikings being for sale.

A Favre signing "tells me that team owner Zygmunt Wilf wants to unload the franchise he bought for $600 million just four years ago," Ozanian wrote.

Ozanian didn't reason how the events – neither of which has happened yet – are related. But when Red McCombs was getting ready to sell the franchise to Zygi Wilf four years ago, the finances were being trimmed everywhere. McCombs sold the food business, trimmed player payroll, got by on a razor-thin coaching staff and left the facilities without needed repairs.

When Wilf bought the team, he immediately upgraded the facilities, including repairing the air conditioning system and expanding and remodeling the players locker room and surrounding facilities. A recent entry on NFL.com also shows how Wilf hasn't been afraid to spend money on acquiring new players – the acquisition of Jared Allen just last year comes to mind.

The Vikings were ranked fifth on an NFL Management Council list of "committed cash" to players over the last five years. The Vikings have committed $526.87 million to player salaries and bonuses from 2004-2008. The Cowboys committed the most at $566.89 million.

While McCombs slashed the budget before selling the Vikings, it's unlikely that Wilf's commitment to spending money to make the team better is a lead-up to selling the franchise. Large commitments of salary in today's economy would likely make the team harder to sell, not easier. But here are Ozanian's critical comments on the matter.

"The organization has been a laughingstock for the NFL and Wilf desperately wants to create some positive buzz for his team. The Vikings play in the antiquated Metrodome and Wilf's gamble was that he would get taxpayers to build him a new stadium. Taxpayers repeatedly said no way.

"With taxpayers now funding a large chunk of a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins and the economy in a shambles, Wilf's stadium Hail Mary has zero chance of being completed. He could have gotten around $850 million for the team a year ago. But with at least seven NFL team owners looking to sell their teams right now Wilf will be lucky to get $750 million for his debt laden team. Let the laughing continue."

That blog entry led to several comments from readers critical of the post, and it's easy to see why. The cause and effect – or simple lack of reasoning – doesn't seem to be in the three-paragraph entry. And anyone who has followed Wilf's four years as owner of the team has seen his commitment to winning, not selling, despite the stadium problems that continue to plague the team with the lowest stadium-related revenue in the league.

Interestingly, the Vikings easily had the most dollars committed to "gross totals spent on salaries and bonuses to players" in the past five years among the NFC North teams, according to Jason La Canfora's entry on NFL.com.

The Lions ranked 14th, at $505.04 million committed, with the Bears 21st at $495.57 million and the Packers 30th at $457.16 million.

Here is the complete list from NFL.com.

Team, Dollars (in millions)
1. Cowboys, $566.89
2. Seahawks, $552.42
3. Redskins, $547.37
4. Colts, $532.77
5. Vikings, $526.87
6. Texans, $522.23
7. Saints, $518.49
8. Steelers, $516.69
9. Panthers, $516.09
10. Patriots, $513.31
11. Raiders, $513.21
12. Ravens, $507.05
13. Browns, $506.43
14. Cardinals, $505.30
15. Lions, $505.04
16. Jets, $502.53
17. Rams, $502.08
18. Dolphins, $500.56
19. Giants, $497.63
20. Eagles, $495.75
21. Bears, $495.57
22. Falcons, $493.07
23. Bengals, $491.06
24. 49ers, $486.40
25. Chargers, $485.46
26. Broncos, $485.40
27. Bills, $493.71
28. Jaguars, $480.06
29. Titans, $465.29
30. Packers, $457.16
31. Chiefs, $451.58
32. Buccaneers, $449.00

"There are some striking things that leap out to me," La Canfora wrote. "Of the top three spending teams, only Seattle has had playoff success in this span, reaching a Super Bowl and dominating its (weak) division for a good stretch. There is a sheer disparity between clubs — Dallas' Jerry Jones spending $115 million more than the Glazers in Tampa Bay, for instance — and in some cases, teams spent $10-$20 million more per season on average than a foe, often with no additional wins to show for it."

On a local level, one thing seems clear: Wilf is committed to spending money if he thinks it will increase the chances of putting a more consistent winner on the field.

"I certainly don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'll tell you one thing: It would be the proudest moment in our organization if we could win a championship for all the fans throughout the country and bring that home for them," Wilf told season-ticket holders at a recent "State of the Vikings" address.

That doesn't sound like an owner getting ready to hoist the "For Sale" sign.


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