“Go Fuck Yourself, San Diego!”: For The Last Time?

When Anchorman first graced theaters in 2004, the famous line in this thread’s title has long been a reliable one for fans of the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders to use when the Chargers are the next team up on the schedule.  (It’s also been handy to use the “You stay classy, San Diego” line ironically when the Chargers pull dubious stunts like this.)  But the utilization of Ron Burgundy to twist tails may only last 11 years, as a decision on what the NFL will do with Los Angeles is looming immediately after the end of the regular season.  When the Broncos play Week 17, they may be playing against the San Diego Chargers for the last time ever.  So I thought this would be a perfect time to lay out some detailed thoughts on the NFL’s plans for returning to Los Angeles.

You know the basics by now: Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants to build a stadium in Inglewood for his team, while Dean Spanos of the Chargers and Mark Davis of the Raiders are working together to put aside a bitter rivalry and build a competing stadium in Carson.  Teams cannot submit a request for relocation until the day after the end of the regular season (January 4), and in anticipation for those requests, a special meeting has been convened for January 12-13.  Odds are, we’ll likely get much more information about where this is going to head within that span of 8-9 days.  Before that time span arrives, I’ll take four different angles for my opinion.

What I Want To Happen

This one’s pretty easy: I want the Rams to return to Los Angeles, I’d like the Chargers to stay in San Diego (as I’d much rather enjoy to see a Broncos game there instead of Los Angeles), and I’d like the Raiders to leave the state of California altogether. Las Vegas would be my preferred destination for the Raiders, but that of course will never happen, so I’d settle for somewhere like San Antonio or St. Louis. (Apologies in advance to Broncos fans in Texas and Missouri.)

Given the above, this would lightly put me in favor of Kroenke’s Inglewood plan, although one risk with that is doesn’t guarantee the Raiders would leave the Bay Area, and I’d rather have the Raiders in Los Angeles than where they are now.  More importantly, I’m against both the Chargers and Raiders going to Los Angeles if it involves conference realignment.  The AFC West is the only division that’s had the same group of four teams since 1960, and there is just so much history tied up in those 56 years.  Finally, as I’ve said before, there’s no way the Raiders should leave the AFC West until the Broncos finally regain the head-to-head record over them.  (Conversely, the Broncos have a hefty lead over the Chargers in that department, so I could stomach seeing them leave.)

What I Think Should Happen

As someone who’s ardently opposed to using taxpayer money for sports venues for teams owned by billionaires, this is also an easy choice. I’d favor Kroenke, who’s second only to Paul Allen as the richest NFL owner (and the 63rd richest person in the world) to fulfill his burning desire to move to Los Angeles–but with two conditions.  First, of course, would be for him to build the stadium without any taxpayer money.  The second would be to move the Chargers into the Inglewood stadium with him, so that Dean Spanos doesn’t get tempted to bilk taxpayers in San Diego.

As for the Raiders, there’s a very cheap way to solve their stadium woes: just move them into Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers.  As much as I would personally dislike this solution, as well as neither the 49ers nor the Raiders being interested in this at all (more on that later), it’s the righteous decision to make in the fight to stop subsidizing billionaires with public money.

What I, As An NFL Owner, Would Do

Despite my true beliefs, you can hardly expect the NFL owners to resist from bilking the taxpayers if they can get away with it.  And the continuous absence of the NFL from Los Angeles has been the most powerful tool of leverage it’s ever had to convince incumbent NFL cities to pony up millions of public funds out of fear of relocation.

So if you want to keep that element of fear alive, why fill the Los Angeles market with two teams right away?  Why not simply approve Kroenke’s Inglewood project, but under the condition that he has to be willing to unconditionally accept a second team at any time?  Then, you can try to leverage against San Diego and Oakland to get a favorable stadium deal–and if that doesn’t work, you also have St. Louis as the new city in desperation for an NFL team.

What I Think Will Happen

From everything I’ve read, there is one narrative that stands to me as dominating: that neither the Inglewood nor Carson projects as proposed have the requisite 24 votes from NFL owners for approval.  Looking at each of the 32 teams, I can certainly see how true that case likely is.  The biggest divide that I sense is between the “old guard” owners that would value the compromise and collaboration that the Carson project offers in solving two substandard stadium situations in San Diego and Oakland, and the “new guard” owners that like the ambition and promise of the Inglewood project.

The table below represents which way I’m guessing each team would be inclined to vote, and where applicable, on which end of the “old guard/new guard” spectrum they lie:

Team Ing. Car. Old Guard New Guard Notes
 Texans  ✓  ✓
 Colts  ✓ Granted, Jim Irsay is always a loose cannon that’s tough to predict.
 Jaguars  ✓  ✓ If Illinois native Shahid Khan ever wanted to move the Jaguars to nearby St. Louis, vacating the Rams would be a positive step.
 Titans  ✓
 Broncos  ✓ I expect the Broncos to be one of Kroenke’s strongest allies, to preserve both AFC West history and their growing Southern Californian fanbase.
 Chiefs Mike Florio believes the Chiefs will oppose the Carson project without conference realignment.
Raiders Benefactor of Carson project.
Chargers  Benefactor of Carson project.
 Cowboys  ✓   ✓ Jerry Jones is on the record of supporting the Inglewood project.
 Giants  ✓
 Eagles  ✓
 Redskins  ✓
Bears  ✓
 Lions  ✓
 Falcons  ✓
 Panthers  ✓  Jerry Richardson is on the record of supporting the Carson project.
Saints Given the chaotic ownership here they could be a key swing vote.
 Bucs  ✓
 Cardinals  ✓ I expect the Bidwill family to oppose Carson it if means moving the Cardinals to the AFC West.
Rams  ✓ Benefactor of Inglewood project.
49ers  ✓ I expect Jed York to favor Carson to get the Raiders out of the Bay Area and leave it solely to the 49ers.
 Seahawks  ✓  ✓ Like the Cardinals, the Seahawks likely don’t want to return to the AFC after their recent NFC success.

Now, I’m likely wrong about which way several of those teams would lean, but if you count up the checkmarks in the Inglewood and Carson columns, you’ll see that they each add up to 13.  And it only takes 9 votes to deny either project from approval.  Given that there are some teams that I couldn’t get a good feel for either way, my guess is that both sides have an ability to stonewall each other’s proposal as is.

So the way I see an NFL move to Los Angeles in 2016 working out, as some have hypothesized, is to broker a deal between all three teams involved.  It would be difficult to pull off, but here’s a way that I think it could be done:

  • Approve the Carson project, but replace the Raiders with the Rams as the team to move with the Chargers.  Why not Inglewood?  This is to ensure that the Rams can’t take advantage of the Chargers with a landlord/tenant relationship. (It’s also why I think the prospect of the Raiders moving into Levi’s Stadium is a non-starter for both they and the 49ers).
  • And why not the Raiders?  I think that many of the owners consider the Raiders by themselves as a subpar candidate for Los Angeles due to Mark Davis’s ownership, either fairly or unfairly.  Also, as much as I want the Raiders out of the Bay Area, I have to admit it is a populous and highly lucrative region that should be able to support two NFL teams.
  • But in order to convince the Raiders to give up their seat in Carson, they’ll have to be mollified somehow.  So how about this? Assess a hefty relocation fee upon the Rams and Chargers, and use the proceeds toward a stadium fund to assist the Raiders.  They can continue to work to stay in Oakland, or they can get expedited priority to relocate to somewhere other than Southern California (I’d imagine the Chargers would want a condition that places a special lock on San Diego like exists now with Los Angeles).

So there’s my speculation on Los Angeles.  How about your own?  Remember that I looked at this through four different lenses–feel pretty to pick any of the four in the comments.