Talk of NFL teams picking up their stakes, folding their tents and rushing off to Los Angeles had grown pretty quiet over the last decade, but commissioner Roger Goodell kind of reopened that can of worms this summer.
By sending out a memo to each of the 32 organizations that detailed the league’s policy on any possible move to La-La Land, he essentially confirmed that something would happen … at some point.
Forget the stipulations he posted, which revolved around current stadium leases and getting approval from three-fourths of the NFL. If the league wants a team there, and apparently it does, you can bet the rules and regulations Goodell laid out can be twisted and turned, pretzel-logic style, to suit whatever best serves the ultimate bottom line of increasing revenue streams.
The fact the NFL hasn’t inhabited the second largest market in the country for 17 years is quite astounding. With the Raiders and Rams both bolting in 1995 – the former back to its original home in Oakland and the latter to supposed, greener pastures in a domed existence in St. Louis – L.A. became a non-entity. Soon after, it became a non-factor.
No one seemed to care one way or the other. Neither of those teams seemed to have captured the imagination of sports fans in the city, nor had the city exactly enticed them with superior facilities in which to play. The L.A. Coliseum, which housed the Raiders from 1982 through ’95, still probably wouldn’t meet NFL specs today despite renovations, and the Rams had been relegated to playing way out in Anaheim the last 15 years of their stay in L.A.
There always was the undercurrent of interest to return, though. After all, it’s the entertainment capital of the world, the NFL is all about entertainment, so you’d figure some match could be made.
But the issue had been stagnant until new stadium discussions started to gain stronger hold in L.A. With that, Goodell hopped on board, just to alert his people. You know, on the off chance they might want to consider looking into things.
In short: Guys, L.A. might be getting its act together. If so, get on it.
The usual suspects have popped up as possibilities, either due to lack of fan support, stadium woes, and prior connections to L.A. Indeed, any time the subject is broached, the Rams and Raiders are mentioned.
Oddly, another team that started there hardly ever gets into the convo: the Chargers.
Yet, they seem as viable an option as any out of the likely top five.
San Diego Chargers – Their stadium is small and rarely is filled to capacity. They rank 27th out of 32 in average attendance this season. Though a relatively successful franchise on the field, San Diego almost seems stuck in a rut of good, not great and could be triggered to better things elsewhere. Being just two hours away from L.A., the Chargers would bring not only same name cachet to the table, but likely a decent amount of any true fan base they might have. If it really matters, they also have a year-to-year lease at Qualcomm Stadium – so, legally, they’re free to fly the coup at any point. In that regard, they fit Goodell’s ideal.
St. Louis Rams – They rank last in attendance, only hitting 82-percent capacity of smallish Edward James Dome. Aside from their Greatest Shown Turf excitement shortly after leaving L.A., not much good has happened to the Rams in St. Louis. They’re a pretty lifeless operation. A move would be good for them. But would L.A. actually be interested in the Rams … without a complete overhaul of the entire organization?
Oakland Raiders – The door may not magically open due to the passing of Al Davis. Thing is, even the longtime owner was concerned about increasing revenue streams despite his desire to stay in the Bay Area. They rank low in attendance, but not fan support – in other words, they need a new place to call home. If anything, the Raiders did have a more vocal and loyal base of supporters in L.A. when they and the Rams were there.
Buffalo Bills – The Bills showing up on this list seems to be more of an indictment on western New York and what the NFL thinks of it than anything else. Yeah, they have stadium issues as well. They play in lousy weather. Buffalo isn’t exactly a prime spot … for anything. But they draw, year in and year out. They’re a staple in that region, and, in fact, are the league’s first line of attack with making inroads to Canada.
Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags’ struggles to connect with fans in a football-mad state in the state’s largest city always have been a bit perplexing. Perhaps it’s the loyalty people seem to have to the college game in that region, and maybe the Jags made a mistake in not bringing home icon Tim Tebow. Apparently, they’re locked in at Everbank Field until 2029 – but leases have been broken before.
The guess here is that the Rams would be the most likely to go. St. Louis is a small market, much smaller than most would think. It ranks 58th among the most populous in the country. San Diego, Jacksonville and even Oakland are larger, if not much larger. Buffalo is even smaller, but the Bills just seem to have such a hold and history in that region. The Rams have neither in St. Louis.