Los Angeles is going to have a football team again…I hope.
But not through league expansion. The NFL has the perfect number of teams–2 conferences with 4 divisions of 4 teams is too good to mess with. But the real reason is that another team, even when they pay an expansion fee, would not add enough cash to the league to justify the owners agreeing to split the TV revenue another way.
It’s not coming from a city that recently built a stadium. Any stadium built within the last ten years was in one way or another publicly funded, and it would be near impossible for any of them to break their leases.
It’s not coming from a team that is Top-10 in attendance. Over half the league has, or is going to have, a brand new stadium but many of the ones that are playing in older stadiums have too big a fan base to ever consider leaving. Washington, Kansas City, Carolina, Cleveland, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Green Bay- all of them are Top-10 in attendance and they aren’t moving to LA.
So we’re down to 8 possible candidates to move out here: the Vikings, the Dolphins, the Chargers, the Falcons, the Jaguars, the Rams, the Bucs, and the Raiders.
For personal and financial reasons, Malcolm Glazer will not leave Tampa Bay, Arthur Blank will not leave Atlanta and (new Dolphins owner) Stephen Ross will not leave Miami. And suddenly we’re down to our Top Five Candidates.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Reasons they might move: Jacksonville is the smallest TV market in the NFL. Their local support leaves much to be desired—the team has to cover 10,000 seats every game just to avoid local blackouts. The stadium is more than 50 years old, which by NFL standards might as well be the Jurassic period. There was a major renovation 15 years ago, which again by NFL standards still leaves it in the Cretaceous period. The stadium really is holding them back- they are in the bottom 5 in the NFL in terms of total revenue.
Reasons they won’t move: Jacksonville allows the team to be run cheaply enough that despite being 28th in Total Revenue they are 11th in Operating Income. In other words they can turn a healthy profit by being cheap. Say what you want about Los Angeles but being cheap is not in the equation. There is also the NFL issue of moving from Jacksonville to LA screwing up the division alignment. There is also an issue of ownership loyalty (owner Wayne Weaver went to U of Florida and lives in Jacksonville.)
Conclusion: They haven’t won a Championship, they don’t have the long-time history in the area, they’re the 3rd team in Florida, their TV audience is tiny, and their metro area is literally more than 11 million people smaller than the LA area. But as long as the team figures out ways to maximize profit there is no urgency to leave. And while it would be nice to have Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis back in LA, frankly the Jags just aren’t a big enough name to justify a lot of excitement.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Reasons they might move: While Jacksonville is in the bottom-5 in revenue, the Vikings are dead last. Minnesota had a choice between a new football stadium and a new baseball stadium and they choose the Twins. To put it another way, the city ain’t big enough for the two of them. Like the Jags, the Vikes were able to turn their low revenue into profits; in ’08 they made about 18m (the Jags made 28) but the year before the Vikings lost about 18m. Did Adrian Peterson really represent a 36m turnaround or was it just one of those fluky accounting things?
Reasons they might not move: Zygi Wilf, the Vikings owner, is acting like it’s a permanent turnaround by refusing to even meet with any LA stadium developers. And unlike the Jags, the Vikings do have a long history in Minnesota. A move by them would also represent a nightmare for NFL schedulers and would probably trigger another realignment (the Rams go to the North, the Vikings to the West) but to break up the NFC North would be a crime.
Conclusion: The Vikings are the prime candidate to move- no reason for the owner to be loyal, no stadium coming, not great attendance, etc. But moving thousands of miles away is a start from scratch, and that is probably asking too much. There is no guarantee of enough immediate ticket sales to justify the expense of the move. Suddenly the move looks like a bigger risk than simply going after a certain QB that would immediately boost team revenue. (However, the biggest reason this could work? The last Minnesota team to move to LA: the Lakers.)
3. St Louis Rams
Reasons they might move: They are for sale. And any potential buyer has to think an LA-move is a possibility. They also have the history in LA. The Vikings would be starting from scratch trying to win LA over, but there are enough broken-hearted LA Rams fans that they would be welcomed back. In fact the league could even wipe the St Louis years off the books and just have it be that the LA Rams took a hiatus like how we all agreed to ignore Michael Jackson’s life from 1992 to 2009.
Reasons they might not move: Once you get divorced, it’s hard to consider giving it another chance. They were run out of here before, so LA football fans would rather start over.
Conclusion: Like Jacksonville and Minnesota, St Louis doesn’t bring in a ton of revenue but the team still turns a profit where they are at. The team is up for sale and rumor has it that keeping the team in St Louis will not be a part of any sale agreement (Georgia Frontiere’s kids aren’t particularly loyal- go figure.) Of all of the ‘long-distance’ moves, the Rams are the most likely; however the real possibilities lie in teams moving a much shorter distance.
2. San Diego Chargers
Reasons they might move: They’re going to move, it’s just a matter of where. The Spanos family, the Charger owners, seems to prefer to stay in San Diego County by moving to either Chula Vista or Oceanside, but if those options don’t work out LA is the next logical step.
Reasons they won’t move: the only way the Chargers stay at Qualcomm is if the city comes in and decides to put tens of millions into renovating the stadium and the surrounding area. The Chargers have a better shot of putting a tooth under their pillow and getting a stadium, then having San Diego provide it.
Conclusion: A Chargers move to LA just makes sense. It doesn’t interfere with any of the divisions, they already have thousands of ticket holders in LA and Orange county (including your truly.) The Chargers seem to legitimately want to stay in San Diego County but there’s only so long you can hope for that before they see the writing on the wall. The bad news though for Charger football fans, the last team to move from San Diego to LA was the Clippers.
1. Oakland Raiders
Reasons they might move: If you haven’t noticed the theme: all 5 of these teams are in the bottom-12 in Total Revenue and yet all of them are turning a healthy profit. So why do I think these teams could move to LA- because the teams that don’t turn a profit (I’m looking at you, Lions) are so crappy I don’t want them anywhere near California. The Raiders too are profitable in Oakland, despite their hole of a stadium (no pun intended.) But we all know they still have a strong fan base in LA, enough to make a move to the City of Industry very profitable. And we know that Al Davis is crazy.
Reasons they won’t move: Did I mention that Al Davis is crazy? It’s likely that he moves back and forth between LA and Oakland every 20 years like a celebrity that splits time between Hollywood and New York. But it’s also likely that he just decides to stick it out in Oakland and turn 20m in profit every year.
Conclusion: The crazy factor is still in play here. If someone told me that every offseason Al Davis flipped a coin to decide whether or not to stay in Oakland that would be only slightly more unbelievable than that it’s come up heads for nearly 20 straight years. The fact remains that the Raiders would be an easy move distance-wise, they already have the history and fans, they need a new stadium, it wouldn’t screw up the Divisions, the list goes on and on as to why Los Angeles just makes sense for the Raiders.
Of course all of this is based on the presumption that Los Angeles could even get a stadium built. Between money problems, political problems, and just plain stupid decisions, LA just can’t seem to get its act together- so with that in mind I guess the Raiders really do make the perfect match.
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