If the competing Los Angeles relocation bids of the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers were a Facebook post, the current mood would read:
Stubborn. Uncertain. Skeptical. In search of a trustworthy leader and process to guide this to an outcome.
Exactly three weeks before the 32 National Football League owners gather in Houston to decide whether it will be the Chargers and Raiders moving to Carson or the Rams to Inglewood or some combination of the two outcomes, the fact the process is so bogged down with uncertainty and distrust is disturbing at best and reckless at worst.
Barring a late curveball, it is expected the Rams, Raiders and Chargers will all file relocation bids when the window opens on January 1st. Even with St. Louis approving a stadium plan to keep the Rams in Missouri, the Rams are fully committed to moving to Los Angeles and believe they will make a compelling argument to fellow owners for relocation approval in mid January.
And while the NFL hasn’t guaranteed a final decision in Houston on January 12 and 13, there is strong indication they will try to wrap this up next month in the Lone Star State.
But considering the current climate and lack of trust, it’s almost impossible to get a consensus on how this will end up or create progress toward an outcome.
Incredibly, NFL owners haven’t even decided on a voting format, let alone creating a mechanism that will allow for some sort of dialog between the three owners to potentially negotiate an outcome they can be satisfied with.
You would think by now the NFL would at least know the voting process.
For instance, will owners first vote on each teams individual relocation bids, and then on the particular sites?
Or will it be a vote on the Chargers/Raiders Carson proposal followed by a vote on the
Rams Inglewood proposal?
Or perhaps it will be a vote on the Chargers/Raiders Carson proposal VS the Rams Inglewood bid?
But three weeks before the biggest decision in league history, that’s as up in the air as who will claim the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.
Meanwhile, time is slipping away for the three owners to sit down and talk to each other and at least gage interest in some sort of grand compromise.
Sadly, Raiders, Chargers and Rams owners Mark Davis, Dean Spanos and Stan Kroenke will all be in California at the same time next week – the Rams will practice at the Raiders Napa Valley training camp site leading up to their season finale against the San Francisco 49ers – but after doing some poking around about the possibility of them getting together, the responses ranged from: Fat Chance to it’s more likely the twitter mobs of the St. Louis Rams, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, L.A. Raiders and Chargers will spend Christmas Day together.
In other words, just another opportunity wasted.
And it’s not necessarily because no one wants to talk, either. We already know Kroenke is willing to bring on an equity partner in Inglewood, so he’s cracked open a door to negotiations. And no matter what the Raiders and Chargers say about not wanting to deal with Kroenke, it’s important keep in mind we are witnessing one of the great poker games to ever come down the pike.
In the spirit of protecting interests, all three will likely be open to a negotiated solution at some point.
The problem is, no one from the NFL has directed them to. Or urged them. Or demanded it.
And it would take nothing less than a respected owner or Commissioner Roger Goodell to mandate a sit down.
Otherwise, there is no motivation for Kroenke to pick up the phone and call Spanos – or vice versa – or Davis to call Kroenke. As someone involved in the process told me: No one is ready to move off their positions.
Which makes sense, of course. Until a higher authority directs them to talk, the Chargers and Raiders will remain dug in, as will the Rams. Not only would it be awkward for Kroenke to try and pick off either Spanos or Davis – or a betrayal for Spanos or Davis to call Kroenke – it would be an obvious sign of weakness.
First person to crack, breaks.
Which brings us to where both sides stand, support wise.
Maybe everyone is putting up a brave front or being naive or are honestly confident about their positions, but the sense I get is everyone feels good about their support from fellow owners.
Do you see the same problem I do?
It will take 24 votes to gain approval for relocation. And while I’ve never very good at math, even I can see something doesn’t add up if both sides feel good about their chances.
It means one of two things:
Either someone is lying or someone is being lied to.
Or, as someone suggested to me recently: It means no one really knows anything.
And that brings us to the reckless finish we might be headed to in Houston.
With Commissioner Goodell standing on the sideline – for reasons only he can explain – and the ownership support base for both projects firmly entrenched and no one from the undecided owners willing to take the reins, we might literally be headed to a bare-knuckled vote in which one or two franchises are left incredibly wounded.
Is that really how NFL owners want to do one or two of their colleagues?
Or maybe we’ll all figure out what seems to be obvious: Neither side has the necessary support to win outright, and it’s high time Kroenke, Davis and Spanos sat down together and talked.
It’s something that probably should have already happened.
But that takes a leader stepping up to create a trustworthy environment to negotiate.
And thus far, no one has been willing to do that.