The first half of 2015 critical to NFL in Los Angeles

By Vincent Bonsignore

With the NFL announcing there will be no relocation to Los Angeles for 2015, it didn’t end L.A.’s hopes of being the home to an NFL team as much as it delayed them.

Someone is coming to Los Angeles, maybe as soon as 2016. And with the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers all fighting for local stadium resolutions while also eying Los Angles as a new home, you have three teams potentially vying for two spots in Tinseltown.

You also have three cities understanding Los Angeles is a viable relocation alternative, and the obvious motivation to get something done locally lest they lose their teams to L.A.

All of which makes the first few months of 2015 very much critical to the Rams, Raiders, Chargers and Los Angeles.

A starter’s gun went off two weeks ago when the Rams, Raiders, Chargers and the NFL agreed to no move to Los Angeles in 2015. And it should be a wake-up call to local leadership in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego.

In essence, the NFL pushed a pause button while also ominously raising their hand above the re-start button.

The message is clear: You have 12 months to figure your stadium deals St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego. And in that time, we are going to figure out a stadium deal in Los Angeles that works for the NFL and two teams that move there.

Now let the race begin.

As it relates to St. Louis, the high-powered task force Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed is scheduled to brief him in January on a stadium idea to keep the Rams in St. Louis.

With Los Angeles lurking as a  new home for the Rams, the sense of urgency to get something done is obvious.

In Oakland, the Raiders have very little traction in terms of a new stadium in the Bay Area considering all the political and financial obstacles standing in their way.

And while the Chargers hope to remain in San Diego, there is nothing to suggest they are any closer to securing a stadium deal today than when they began their fight 12 years ago. In fact, you almost get the feeling the Chargers are biding their time seeking a new stadium while also monitoring the availability of the open Los Angeles market.

Here is the rub: While Los Angeles won’t have a team in 2015, the first six months of 2015 will be extremely critical whether someone relocates here in 2016.

Local leaders in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland are on the clock at the moment, and with Los Angeles emerging more and more as a legitimate relocation destination it will be fascinating to watch how seriously the threat is taken over the first half of the new year.

In the NFL, coaching changes don’t always guarantee success

By Vincent Bonsignore

                       We knew black Monday was upon us, so no sense being surprised so many NFL coaches and executives are being shown the door today.

With so much parity in the NFL and so much at stake financially, patience gives way to anxiety and angst to make the leap from the lower and middle of the pack to relevance and playoff contention.

But while fan bases across the league are celebrating the end of one tenure while embracing the promise and hope of a bright future under new leadership, keep in mind only one team made the leap to the playoffs after replacing their head coach at the end of last season.

That would be the Detroit Lions under new coach Jim Caldwell.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans all made head coaching changes but saw only moderate improvement – if any at all.

So be careful what you are celebrating today. Success in the NFL is rarely about change, it’s about continuity.

It’s not just about hiring a new coach. It’s hiring the right coach and giving him sufficient tools and time to succeed.

That said, here is a look at what’s gone down so far on a busy Monday around the NFL.

In New York, head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik were both fired.

As expected, the Chicago Bears let go of Marc Trestman, who was not able to elevate mercurial quarterback Jay Cutler to the next level as expected. General manager Phile Emery was also fired.

In Atlanta, Mike Smith’s defensive shortcomings with the Falcons cost him his job.

Meanwhile, it’s all but guaranteed 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is headed to the University of Michigan after he and San Francisco mutually agreed to part ways. The 49ers immediately begin the search for a new coach.

The Oakland Raiders desperately wanted Harbaugh, according to reports, but will now look elsewhere.

That’s it – up to the minute anyway. But with so many teams with itchy trigger fingers after failing to make the playoffs or finishing subpar seasons, don’t be surprised if other moves happen in the next few days. In other words, you might want to check back a little later.

What is St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke thinking?

By Vincent Bonsignore

One of the truly intriguing developments as far as the NFL returning to Los Angeles is the utter silence of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

“Silent Sam” – his nickname these days in St. Louis – has not uttered a substantive word ever since the Edward Jones Dome was deemed by arbitrators in need of $700 million dollars worth of renovations to bring it up to the contractually agreed upon threshold to lock the Rams into the remaining 10 years of the lease they signed upon moving to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995.

St. Louis has neither the means nor appetite to pay that kind of money to renovate the Edward Jones Dome, and the Rams are free to break their lease at the end of the season as a result.

We now know they aren’t leaving St. Louis for at least one year, but while city and state leaders arduously work toward coming up with a financing plan to build the Rams a suitable alternative stadium, Kroenke has yet to publicly state whether his preference is to remain in St. Louis long term or move to Los Angeles, where he recently purchased a parcel of land that some think he will use to build a new stadium.

His silence is unnerving in St. Louis, and the locals wonder the prudence of committing tax dollars to someone who hasn’t yet declared his true intentions.

Especially after getting burned on the original deal with the Rams 20 years ago and handing almost all control to the team.

Chances are, Kroenke is simply masterfully playing St. Louis and Missouri to get a new long-term stadium plan, but even if his plan is to bolt for Los Angeles he is putting himself in a vulnerable position.

Based on everyone I’ve talked to, the NFL truly covets the St. Louis and surrounding markets. And there is respected political leadership in Missouri and substantial local advertising dollars that translates nationally on a league level – hello, Anheuser-Busch – that motivates everyone to make it work in St. Louis.

As a result, it’s hard to believe Kroenke getting the necessary support within the NFL to leave for Los Angeles if St. Louis and Missouri present him with a suitable stadium plan.

Part of the parameters for relocation is proving things can’t work out locally after significant time was put it seeking a long-term stadium deal to stay put.

If St. Louis and Missouri step up to the plate, that negates that argument for leaving.

My gut feeling is Kroenke fully intends to stay in St. Louis and his silence is simply part of the negotiating game. But if he is thinking bigger, he might have problems on his had at a league level.

NFL to Los Angeles – the very latest

By Vincent Bonsignore

Whew, what a crazy weekend in the NFL. And while Los Angeles is still without a team – and it looks like that will be the case at least one more year – the City of Angels certainly dominated the weekend news cycle.

To recap, the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and NFL have all agreed to shelve plans to relocate to Los Angeles until at least 2016. There are various reasons why it won’t happen sooner, but the primary reason is the NFL is essentially orchestrating this process and it wants to insure a virtual no-fail situation when and if someone finally pulls the trigger on moving to Los Angeles.

And the means the ideal stadium deal – the league could be taking the lead on that process – and the right team or teams re-locating.

Needless to say, it is vital the NFL gets this right. And they are leaving no stone unturned in insuring that.

All that said, here is an up-to-date recap of where we are and what exactly happened this weekend with insight and reactions from across the country.

On Saturday, the Rams, Raiders and Chargers – in conjunction with the NFL – halted any move to Los Angeles for the 2015 season.

The Chargers decided against exercising their annual opt-out clause with their lease at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Raiders will soon re-up at Coliseum for the 2015 season, but local fans remain worried it’s just a one-year delay until the Silver and Black bolt for Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, momentum seems to be building for a suitable stadium deal  that will keep the Rams in St. Louis long term.

Lastly, despite long odds, San Antonio leaders remain confident they are a viable option for the Raiders.

Why NFL putting kibosh on L.A. in 2015 might be good news

By Vincent Bonsignore

We’ll probably never know just how close an NFL team actually came to pulling the trigger on moving to Los Angeles for the 2015 season, but whether you are optimistic or pessimistic that something is truly cooking on the L.A. front one thing can not be ignored: If nothing is cooking, why the big production on the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and the league office publicly putting the brakes on anyone leaving for the second-biggest market at the end of the current season?

That’s why, if you are hopeful of the NFL returning to Los Angeles soon the very public announcement it won’t be next season should be taken positively rather than negatively.

After all, why the big to-do over something that wasn’t close to happening?

Something is absolutely going on, and based on the information I am getting it’s all pointing to two teams re-locating together in 2016 and eventually sharing a stadium built in conjunction with the NFL and private financiers.

This represents a significant shift in the approach to binging the NFL back, as it would solve the question of who will build and finance the stadium while eliminating one of the major hurdles impeding a team moving to Los Angeles.

There is a reason why AEG’s Farmers Field project hasn’t yet come to fruition: The man footing the bill for the $2 billion stadium – Phil Anschutz – wants to buy a significant part of the team re-locating here in order to help recoup a return on his investment.

That was the obstacle that put the kibosh on the Chargers potentially moving here two years ago. The Bolts want a new stadium, but not at the expense of a major chunk of their team. Dean Spanos told Anschutz thanks but no thanks, and that was that.

Spanos might soon be looking at a very different road map to Los Angeles.

If the NFL stepped in along with AEG to build the stadium, then brought two teams to play there, it would negate the need for Anschutz to buy into a team. He’d make his money back – and then some – by leasing Farmers Field to both teams and collecting income through naming rights, advertising, signage, corporate sponsorships and suite sales and all the other ways privately owned stadiums make money these days.

Much like he does with Staples Center.

In the meantime, Spanos gets a new stadium for his Chargers but also maintains full ownership.

Problem solved, right?

As a source told me Sunday, that seems to be where this is heading.

The question now is, which two teams are coming?

For the moment, let’s set the Rams aside as a potential candidate. There is significant momentum building in St. Louis for the Rams to remain in Missouri. The NFL covets the St. Louis and surrounding market, a significant advertising partner is based there in Anheuser-Busch and there is powerful state leadership in place to make a deal with Rams owner Stan Kroenke on a new stadium.

Not saying the Rams are out of the picture, but if state and city leadership steps up to the plate with a viable plan – and momentum is building for that to happen – Kroenke will have no justification for relocation.

The Raiders and Chargers, on the other hand, are not in ideal positions to get something done in Oakland and San Diego and while both re-upped for 2015 at their respective stadiums the clock is already ticking on two plans coming together over the next 12 months to keep them there long-term.

If you are a Chargers or Raiders fan the hope is someone finally steps up with viable stadium deals over the next year.

And that might absolutely happen.

But more and more, you get the feeling both teams are biding their time locally while also keeping an eye on Los Angeles.

Bottom line, four cities are on the clock: St. Louis, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles. And with the NFL potentially extending a helping hand in Los Angeles, a whole bunch of hurdles will be eliminated.