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Guest Column: Joe McGrath on Which NFL Teams Are Most Likely To Move To Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: Mr. McGrath has long and storied history in the management of professional sports franchises, most notably as the general manager of the Charlestown Chiefs of the now-defunct Federal League. Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that Mr. McGrath’s views are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Dubsism, our staff, or anybody else whose house you might want to burn to the ground.

I will keep this simple. The NFL has been without a franchise in Los Angeles for close to two decades.  One the primary stumbling blocks to putting a team in the Southland has been the lack of a suitable venue. However, now that Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to approve a stadium proposal, the question is this: which team or teams will move to the City of Angels.

I say “teams” because the rumor is that the new model being kicked around as a cost-savings measure may be to emulate the sharing arrangement the Jets and Giants have used in New York.  It is important to keep that in mind as we move through this discussion where I will rate the teams in contention to make the move based on their likelihood to do so.

1) San Diego Chargers – Odds To Move: Almost Certain

The minute the shovel breaks ground in Los Angeles, the boxes will start being loaded on the trucks in San Diego. They won’t do it in the fly-by-night manner like the Irsays took the Colts out of Baltimore, but relocating this team 120 miles north has been an open secret for a while. Current owner Art Spanos in nearly 90, in failing health, and has been looking to sell at least a minority stake in the team. It doesn’t take a giant leap of faith to see the word “minority” turn into “majority” or “complete” in this case. Even if it doesn’t, the group looking to build the Los Angeles stadium would settle for a 30 percent ownership stake if there’s a commitment to move by May 2012 (upon completion of a stadium). Couple that with the fact the Chargers only need to make a $24 million payment to escape their lease at Qualcomm Stadium, and the fact San Diego has a flaky fan base, and you can start printing the Los Angeles Chargers T-shirts now.

2) Minnesota Vikings – Odds To Move: Pretty Damn Good

Take a good look at that picture. This is the one team that doesn’t want a new stadium; it desperately needs one.  The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires after this season, and if Minnesota makes a commitment to build a new stadium before the end of that lease (the Governor may call a special legislative session in the fall to hammer out a deal), the Vikings stay.  Keep in mind that Vikes’ owner Zygi Wilf isn’t looking to sell the team, but he has met with the President and CEO of the Los Angeles stadium group, and the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley has said the Vikings are solely focused on staying in Minnesota. That means two things – first, there has been a serious discussion about moving this franchise, and secondly Bagley knows he needs to say that to keep any hopes of a Minnesota stadium deal alive.  In other words, if a stadium deal doesn’t get done in Minnesota, look for the Vikings to announce their departure.

3) St. Louis Rams – Odds To Move: Better than 50-50

Again, here’s a team in a crappy dome, the team has a lease which expires right around a feasible completion date for a Los Angeles stadium (after the 2014 season). The only way to improve the Edward Jones Dome is to raze it and build a new stadium, which isn’t likely to happen since the city of St. Louis is still paying for the construction of the dome. That makes the infusion of public money on a stadium project not very likely.

Go back to that “two teams in Los Angeles” thoery. There’s a key in this which sweetens this deal for the Rams, but also makes the Vikings and our surprise “dark horse” very viable options as they all share similar characteristics. According to ESPN Los Angeles, there’s a set of criteria involved in the consideration of a franchise on this list.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission has until Feb. 1 to give the Rams a preliminary proposal for how it plans to give the Dome “top-tier” status. The Rams can either agree to the offer a month later or reject it and make a counter-offer by May 1, which is the most likely scenario. The commission can then either agree to the counter-offer by June 1 or reject it and go to arbitration. If such a scenario unfolds, the lease could be voided and the Rams could rent the Dome on a year-to-year basis or choose to move elsewhere…

…It seems the chances of the Rams getting a new stadium in St. Louis are as remote as they are for the Chargers in San Diego. Having the Chargers and the Rams relocate to Los Angeles would be the most ideal scenario for the league, which would like to see one AFC West team and one NFC West team move to Los Angeles (preferably with Los Angeles ties) so the geography of the current divisions still work and each of the conference’s television broadcasters (currently CBS and FOX) will get a team in the country’s second-biggest media market.

Like I said before, keep this model in mind…

4) San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders – Odds to Move: Not Very Good

This is another example where the “two team” model comes into play. If the Chargers move as expected, the league and the networks won’t want two division-rivals in the same stadium. Not to mention the stadium owners would lose two dates worth of parking and concessions under such an arrangement. If the Raiders don’t move, it makes it much easier for the 49ers and Raiders to get a shared-venue proposal. Both teams need a new stadium, and the 49ers proposal on a Santa Clara site has been gaining momentum. A partnership with the Raider could push that deal across the goal line.

5) Buffalo Bills – Odds To Move: Drawing to an Inside Straight

Let me be clear – this team is moving, but it isn’t going to California. Considering this team has agreed to play eight home games in Toronto over the next five seasons, once 93-year old Ralph Wilson is gone, this team will move north of the border.

6) Jacksonville Jaguars – Odds to Move:  Slim and None, and Slim Just Left Town

Seven words: Owner Wayne Weaver and an honerous lease. It’s Weaver’s team, he wants it in Jacksonville, and he structured the lease on EverBank Field to be nearly impossible to escape until 2029.

Surprise “Dark Horse”) New Orleans Saints – Odds to Move: Much Better Than You Think

Actually, the Saints can check many of the same boxes on the “moving” criteria list as the Vikings and Rams, which is why the “dirty little secret” is the Saints are as good a candidate to move.

1) They are in an old, crappy dome that is falling apart.

While there is an $85 million dollar plan on the table to upgrade the Superdome, the fact remains this is a stop-gap fix. Within the next few years, there will be no covering the fact the Superdome is obsolete.

2) There’s a state money entanglement.

Right after Katrina, there were concerns Saints’ owner Tom Benson was ready to move to San Antonio. To head that off, the state of Louisiana pays the Saints $6 million per year in direct funding. That’s already a tacit admission that post-Katrina New Orleans is simply no longer a major-league city. The aforementioned stadium upgrade is also an admission that there is no chance of a completely new facility anytime in the near future.

3) They make the most sense.

According to the “two team theory,” the league wants one team from each conference, and making such a move without making massive re-alignments would be preferable. Los Angeles like will have either the Chargers or Raiders from the AFC, and that means they other teams likely to load up and head west are from the NFC. The Saints could easily be “traded” to the NFC West of the St. Louis Rams, just as the Rams could be swapped to the NFC North for the Vikings.

In any event, somebody is  moving to Los Angeles . Who will get into this Southern California NFL version of “‘musical chairs?”

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

8 comments on “Guest Column: Joe McGrath on Which NFL Teams Are Most Likely To Move To Los Angeles

  1. sportsattitudes
    August 10, 2011

    I’m lobbying for NO teams to go there and they are talking TWO. History is doomed to repeat itself if mistakes from the past are not learned. With the state of the state of California being what it is…and Los Angeles being what it has proven to be…mind-boggling we’re even discussing this. Oh well, if you want the humiliation of TWO NFL teams being outdrawn by USC, have at it…

    Like

    • JW
      August 10, 2011

      Not sure I agree. First off, don’t confuse the complete ineptitude of the government of the state of California with the lack of money in Southern California. There is far more wealth in SoCal than there is in Buffalo, Jacksonville, New Orleans, or Minneapolis. As long as markets are determined by population and money, there is no way from a business perspective you can ignore Los Angeles.

      Secondly, this time around, somebody is finally addressing the key component to the NFL’s failure in Los Angeles. Name me another NFL franchise which could succeed playing in a facility built in the 1920’s? Both the Rams and Raiders proved you can’t make the NFL work in the Coliseum, yet politicians kept insisting any return of the NFL to Los Angeles involved the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl. If the new stadium becomes a reality, you will see one franchise for sure, and don’t be surprised at two move there and do just fine.

      Like

  2. chappy81
    August 10, 2011

    All along I’ve thought the Chargers were heading to LA. It makes the most sense since a lot of people in LA already seem to support them fair weather fans or not.

    I hadn’t heard that about the Saints. Sucks for them because by 2013 they could have zero pro franchises. Atleast they’d have the memory of that super bowl win, and can lean on LSU…

    Like

    • JW
      August 10, 2011

      Well, after all, the Chargers would just be moving back to Los Angeles…after all, there’s where they started their AFL days.

      Like I said, the Saints are a bit of a dirty little secret. Nobody wants to admit pre-Katrina New Orleans was hardly a major league city; now it is essentially Omaha with oppressive humidity. The NBA already failed there once (it is not a positive when you get dumped for Salt Lake City), and the only reason the Saints and the Superdome exist is because the NFL wanted to have Super Bowls in “the Big Easy” in a venue better than Tulane Stadium, but nobody would build the Superdome without having a franchise. It’s no accident the Saints came along at the same time ground was broken for the Superdome, and there’s no coincidence in the fact the building which has hosted the most Super Bowls is called the Superdome.

      Like

  3. sportsattitudes
    August 11, 2011

    Totally agree on the New Orleans situation. One to keep an eye on. Hell, they could have another Hurricane and we’d be talking about movement like we did during Katrina. It was the San Antonio Saints at one point…lots of discussion then about making that permanent or at least “moving in another direction” i.e. out of N.O. A franchise that could succeed in a facility built in the 20’s…the Eagles could thrive anywhere. Franklin Field was built in 1895…Philly played there until 1970…and if the Linc burnt down tomorrow they’d go back in a heartbeat. (of course, the skybox owners might have an issue…!) I think the NFL just wants to have offices and Super Bowls in LA and that’s fine. I just want to see how many people show up for an actual team called LA. Having the money and spending it are two different things these days no matter where we’re talking about. I don’t condemn SoCal for not having the means, just the interest.

    Like

    • JW
      August 11, 2011

      “I think the NFL just wants to have offices and Super Bowls in LA and that’s fine.”

      Nail on the head territory here….this really is the same equation that got the Superdome built.

      LA will turn out for the NFL – in a new stadium that is not in the worst neighborhood in the city (another problem the Coliseum had), but I will admit LA does have a “fair-weather fan” issue.

      If LA gets a franchise, one issue they will have to deal with (and the rest of the league needs to look at this as well) is that they are on the verge of pricing tickets out of the market.

      Like

  4. I’m sure this makes all 8,000 Jacksonville Jaguars fans in existence happy as pigs in shit.

    Now if only they would have drafted Tim Tebow.

    Like

  5. sportsattitudes
    August 16, 2011

    Yes Chris, if they had drafted Tebow they could have taken the tarp off the upper levels of the stadium and actually sold some more tickets…

    Like

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