New York Jets owner Woody Johnson opened a considerable can of worms last week when he speculated a decision on what teams will relocate to Los Angeles might not happen in January, as originally hoped, and possibly not in time for the 2016 season at all.
Johnson told reporters after the NFL Los Angeles owners committee meeting there is still plenty of work to be done ahead of deciding whether to send the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers to their joint stadium project in Carson or approving the St. Louis Rams’ Inglewood stadium bid.
Among the work still to be done: Final analysis of the viability of home market proposals. Clarifying what team or teams have satisfied league relocation guidelines. Settling on a relocation fee. Deciding whether Los Angeles can successfully absorb and support two teams immediately, or if it’s best to put one team in L.A. in 2016 and add another in 2017.
As you can see, that’s a lot to consider. So much so that the January decision could be pushed all the way to March – if not delayed another year entirely.
You’d get some argument on who benefits most from a significant delay – the Rams or Raiders and Chargers – but after doing some poking around I’m convinced no one among the three teams wants this to drag on beyond January, let alone until 2017. In fact, if I could classify the current mood, I’d say ansty pretty much sums it up.
The Raiders, Rams and Chargers want this wrapped up. Period. No one is eager to play another year in limbo. No one wants to put their current markets through another season of uncertainty. And all three teams want clarity on their long-term future or, should their L.A. bid be denied, a clearer picture on what their next move should be to help secure it.
On top of all that, the feedback I get is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is adamant about staying on track for a decision on Los Angeles in time for 2016.
Which leads us to another question. What still needs to be done to facilitate a Los Angeles move in time for 2016?
League sources insist the various buttons that need to be pushed are set up, if not finalized, on its end.
Among them, solidifying temporary playing venues, moving forward on potential conference realignment and setting up ticket sales.
The Los Angeles Coliseum is the only local venue to agree to work with the NFL so far, but league sources indicate the StubHub Center or Anaheim Stadium could also emerge as partners once a team or teams are officially identified.
And as it relates to the Raiders, they could play in their current home or perhaps the San Francisco 49ers Levis Stadium until their Carson stadium is completed.
As far as conference realignment, if the Raiders and Chargers are approved the long-range plan is for one of them to switch places with an NFC team – perhaps the Seattle Seahawks – but league sources don’t expect that to happen immediately.
The teams responsibility for a Los Angeles move range from setting up practice facilities and new team headquarters to deciding whether to re-brand.
Re-branding won’t be an issue for the Raiders and Rams, who have strong ties to Los Angeles. But the Chargers might consider a name/logo overhaul for various reasons.
First, it might help them burst onto the scene in Los Angeles and better grab the attention and imagination of local fans. By giving fans a say in picking the new name, logo and color scheme, they’d immediately feel a connection to a brand new professional sports franchise at the ground-floor level.
Second, it might be a goodwill gesture by Chargers owner Dean Spanos to leave the brand, mark and history in San Diego and leave open the possibility the San Diego Chargers might come back to life in the form of an expansion team.
As far as setting up team headquarters and practice facilities, according to sources the three teams are doing their homework on scouting out and securing locations.
As you can see, while the clock continues to tick and the work remains daunting, it appears the necessary buttons are in place and are ready to be pushed to accommodate a Los Angeles move for 2016.
The question is, are the owners ready to push the button on a final vote between January and March?