Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rams Move to Los Angeles, Raiders and Chargers in Limbo

The Rams are going home to Los Angeles. As weird as it sounds that the City of Angels has professional football again, the Rams return ends decades of speculation that the NFL would one day return. Now they are back.

There are two sides to every story, and in the case of the L.A. Rams circa 2016, there are a lot of different sides and different stories that involve three football teams with plenty of political and economic ramifications, least of all the overall impact this will have on the NFL over the long haul.

The big winner is obviously the Rams. The owners voted 30-2 to move the St. Louis football franchise back to Los Angeles. The owners preferred the Inglewood stadium proposition that Stan Kroenke had been championing for years. Perhaps this is where the Raiders and Chargers got it wrong in their deal. When the NFL told all three teams that no football team would move to L.A. in 2015 the Raiders and Chargers went back to Oakland and San Diego to re-up for the season. The Rams stayed on the charge for L.A. and they are here today.

While it hurts the fans of St. Louis, Missouri, an incredible sports city that was home to the Rams for 21 years, let us not forget that L.A. is the true home of the Rams. They belong there. Their history is there. They spent 50 years there.

Sure when one thinks of the Rams, they remember the three incredible years from 1999-2001 when Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk led them to two Super Bowl trips, and the franchises only victory. However when one really thinks of the history of the Rams, they think of Eric Dickerson, Deacon Jones, the Fearsome Foursome, Jack Youngblood, Norm Van Brocklin, and many other Hall of Famers who played for the Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams won a NFL championship in 1951 (years before there was a Super Bowl) and finished in first place in their division 14 times. The Rams even appeared in the NFC Championship game eight times during their L.A. stay, including five times in six years from 1973-1979. In St. Louis, the Rams were less successful with only four wining seasons in 21 years. Again, the Greatest Show on Turf ushered in a new era of parody in the NFL in the early 2000s, but, it was really a short lived period of Rams success. Since the team moved Kurt Warner out of town in 2004 the team has not had a winning season. They finished 8-8 twice, and have recently endured nine straight losing seasons. The fan support, like when the Cardinals left St. Louis for the Arizona in 1988, has been slipping away.

So it is a no-brainer that the Rams go home again, where it truly all began for them as a flagship franchise.

The other proposed deal that fell through the cracks, had the Chargers and Raiders joining forces and moving to a stadium in Carson, California. Such a plan would have meant that two division rivals would be sharing the same stadium, and would have forced all kind of realignment changes that would have been too painful to comprehend. Imagine this: had the owners approved a Raiders-Chargers-LA union, the Raiders were rumored to move to the NFC West, while the Rams (still in St. Louis) would have moved to the AFC West. That's right, the great rivalries the Raiders developed over the decades against the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Jets, Dolphins, and Steelers would have been reduced to 1-game every four years!

Both Raiders owner Mark Davis and Chargers owner Dean Spanos are obviously not pleased their plan was not picked up. Neither had received much support from San Diego and Oakland, respectively that match their demands for new stadiums. In fact, Davis told media after the decision was reached that the Raiders are looking for a home and don't have a lease with Oakland at this moment in time. They are in limbo.

The Chargers on the other hand have options. The Chargers have exactly one year to hammer out a deal with Kroenke and the Rams to join them preeminently in Los Angeles, or take the $100 million they received from the NFL and work with San Diego on a new home. In the interim, the Chargers have to decide if they will play the 2016 season in San Diego or L.A.. They have until March 23 to make that decision. If the Chargers decide to stay home in San Diego, then it's the Raiders turn to work with the Rams on a potential partnership. The Raiders also got $100 million to work on a new Oakland stadium.

The fact is this, the best deal was reached on Tuesday night. Just the idea of a Raiders-Chargers union was enough to make anyones stomach turn for the same reasons I mentioned above, but also for the fact it would rip a NFL team away from two cities with one swing.

Now Oakland and San Diego both have a chance to keep their football teams, and I hope they do. While the Chargers played their first year of existence in Los Angeles, they have been San Diego residents since 1961. They belong to San Diego as much as the Rams belong to L.A. In fact, even more so. The Charges have a great history and tradition in San Diego, even though they don't have a Lombardi trophy. Dan Fouts, Lance Allsworth, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau, Ladainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, and Phillip Rivers all played there. That is a lot of current and future Hall of Famers.

I would hate to see San Diego lose their team, but as we know money talks and I got a feeling that the Chargers will eventually agree to join the Rams in L.A. Already San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he would be willing to talk to the Chargers about a new stadium only if the Chargers actually desire to stay in San Diego. So the ball is squarely in Spanos' court.

The Raiders? They don't just belong in Oakland, they are Oakland. The Raiders tried Los Angeles, had some success, but ultimately the city couldn't support them and they went home in 1995. It is time for the Raiders to stay home. The Raiders are one of the most historically significant teams in the National Football League. Even with all the years of ineptitude they have endured lately, saying 'Oakland Raiders' means something. It speaks of tradition; Hall of Fame players; and winning. And by winning, I mean winning at all costs.

The Raiders are the blue collar football team with a chip on its shoulder, much like the blue collar city they call home that is often regarded as the Danny DeVito to Arnold Schwarzenager's San Francisco. (Yes, I threw in a Twins reference in there).

My hope is that the Raiders and the city of Oakland/Alameda come to terms on a new stadium, or some serious renovations to the Coliseum and keep the Raiders in their home city. If not, the Raiders should really put all the paranoia that has developed between themselves and the 49ers to the side and join together as co-tenants in Santa Clara. I know, I know, both owners hate each other, and the fans hate each other, but guess what? The Giants and Jets do it and remain civil.

Ultimately how is this going to play out? My guess is the Chargers and Rams join forces in Los Angeles, and the Raiders will stay in Oakland until Mark Davis decides to find another city. San Diego? St. Louis? Portland, Oregon? San Antonio? Those are all possible destinations. What I ultimately expect is that we will one day see more NFL expansion. A team will be born in St. Louis one day. The expansion St. Louis team will be joined by a 34th NFL franchise just to balance out the schedule. Roger Goodell will then get what he wants with an expanded playoff field, let's say eight teams per conference, and an 18-game regular season schedule.

Don't be shocked. Why? Admit it, even you didn't think the NFL would even return to Los Angeles.

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