NFL owners deliver a mandate: Declare an L.A. winner in time for 2016

DALLAS – Like some many others who have nervously and frustratingly and sometimes angrily rode the NFL back to Los Angeles roller coaster the last 11 months, the wife of a high-ranking league executive put her foot down recently.

With talk of the league delaying the vote to decide the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers Los Angeles relocation bids – perhaps even punting on 2016 all together and re-doing the madness again next year – she finally said enough is enough.

Out of protest, she went out and bought an expensive new coat.

“Something needs to happen soon,” her husband grumbled. “Or I might go broke.”

Multiply that angst by 21 million or so and you have the collective anxiety of greater Los Angeles, which has lived through the ups and downs and twists and turns and anger and disappointment of the NFL’s quest to return to Los Angeles for 20 years.

Over which, teenagers have grown into middle-aged adults, newborns into college seniors, and teenage girls who swooned over the Backstreet Boys into moms accompanying their daughters to Justin Bieber concerts.

It’s been two long decades of frustration for Los Angeles.

But the end game is finally, thankfully within eyesight.

“We have a time line,” announced New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch upon emerging from a long-day of owners meetings Wednesday in Dallas, the thrust of which was untying the knot locking the Rams and the Raiders and Chargers together.

A time line, yes. But more importantly a mandate.

The owners will gather again in Houston in January to once again discuss Los Angeles. But it is clear they will be tasked with doing so much more than just talk.

The six-member Los Angeles owners committee is urging the full 32-ownership group to end this matter once and for all.

Hopefully in Houston.

“I don’t think there is an answer today, but I think the only answer is it’s not going to get delayed,” said San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York. “We are going to be in a meeting for 48 hours to figure (this) out.”

By hook or by crook, this matter will be resolved soon and Los Angeles will have a new team.

And probably two.

“The momentum is, we will have a decision on one, two teams in L.A.” York said.

It could arrive in one of a handful of manners.

Either the 32 owners get locked in a room in Houston with orders to come up with the necessary 24 votes to approve either Carson or Inglewood.

Or maybe Rams, Raiders and Chargers owners Stan Kroenke, Mark Davis and Dean Spanos get locked in a room until they can agree on a solution they can all live with.

Kroenke took the first step toward compromise by telling owners he is willing to bring either the Chargers or Raiders on as equity partners in Inglewood. But while his 50/50 partnership proposal was met with some enthusiasm from fellow owners, Davis and Spanos remain steadfast in their alliance.

Of course, that could all change if their 29 colleagues indicate the direction they are leaning is not to their liking. If so, the door to compromise could burst open.

“There could be some negotiations, that’s happened before,” said Giants co-owner John Mara.

The point being, one way or another the NFL wants to decide soon who will be playing football in Los Angeles in 2016.

“That is the expectation,” Tisch said.

And that was driven home over two days of meetings in the Lone Star state in which the merits of the Rams Inglewood stadium proposal were weighed against the Raiders and Chargers joint stadium effort in Carson.

Yes, there is also consideration to the home markets. Although only St. Louis is on target to deliver an actionable stadium plan to potentially block the Rams from Los Angeles.

But even if St. Louis delivers a plan, there is still no guarantee the Rams Los Angeles bid will be denied or that the Rams will even remain in St. Louis.

In fact, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell essentially said the Rams Los Angeles interests are separate from their St. Louis interests. Even if the Rams are blocked from L.A., there is no guarantee they’ll agree to the St. Louis stadium plan.

“At that point, (Kroenke) has to make a determination,” Goodell said. “If they don’t get the 24 votes to move, the ownership doesn’t have the right to move. Then it’s up to the owner about what to do make the decision in the local market. Nobody can force him to sign a stadium deal.”

The reality is, in many ways this is all about Los Angeles. And it’s clear Kroenke, Davis and Spanos are focused solely on the City of Angels.

That remained abundantly clear over two days of meetings in Dallas.

According to sources either in the meetings or with direct knowledge of what went on, the emotions ranged from intense to frustrated to angry as allies of both projects expressed their support for their preferred outcome.
“Passionate, balances, focused,” is how one person described it. “Both sides got aired.”

But while the benefits of Inglewood and Carson were discussed, so to was the need for compromise among the three owners to negotiate an outcome in which all three can emerge satisfied.

And in the process, help their colleagues avoid a prolonged stalemate or the possibility of a contested vote in which one or two of Kroenke, Davis and Spanos are delivered devastatingly bad news for the long-range objectives of their franchises.

The winning bid requires 24 votes from the 32 owners, and while both sides are confident they have the nine necessary votes to block, neither is confident they have the 24 to win outright.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay confirmed as much afterward when he said neither side has the necessary support to win. That means the owners sitting in the middle might hold the key, And according to sources, some of them are pushing for a negotiated outcome.

“Most of the independents want compromise,” a source said.

Maybe it will come to that. Or maybe owners will be swayed enough by the St. Louis stadium proposal they deny the Rams Los Angeles. Or maybe they will lock themselves in a room in Houston and not come out until they have a decision.

One way or another, it looks like Los Angeles will finally have an NFL team soon.