The powers that be would have you believe that it is not a matter of if, but when an NFL team dons the name LA _________. It doesn’t even matter what the name is. The LA Freeways, LA Stars, if we’re talking about LA icons why wouldn’t the LA Kobes be off the table. Regardless of the name and when that time will actually come, based on the successes that teams in LA under the AEG umbrella have recently had, if I was an NFL franchise, especially a struggling one, I’d run to the front of the line right between STAPLES Center and Nokia Theatre where they plan on demolishing part of the Convention Center to move to LA.
Now the conditions aren’t exactly perfect yet. There still is no stadium. But AEG has the rights to build a stadium downtown. But they don’t own the stadium, or have a team. They cleared the environmental impact report hurdle, but still they only have the rights to build a stadium.
But don’t let that disturb you, NFL franchises. Look at the recent track record of AEG teams. AEG owns the LA Kings and Galaxy. The Galaxy just won back to back MLS Cups, and the Kings would be defending their Stanley Cup title if given the opportunity. Even more so they have invested the money into those franchises necessary to succeed. The Kings signed big free agent Mike Richards and locked up Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick for another 10 years, and the Galaxy signed David Beckham and Robbie Keane. They have succeeded and put in the work to succeed.
The current deal with Farmer’s Field, unlike the City of Industry deal, does not come with a contingency plan that the incoming team give up part ownership. AEG owns the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, coincidence or not, how much better are the Nets? AEG owns the Houston Dynamo and their new stadium, and they advanced to the MLS Cup back to back years. It’s unlikely that NFL executives are paying particularly close attention to the results of the MLS, but as it relates to the 2nd largest market in the country, you’d better believe they’re paying attention to what the possible Stadium owners are doing.
So which NFL franchises are in the front of the line?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team that ownership and league officials are always holding relocation over the fans. But any team with a track record of losing would be among the first to jump ship. They had some competitive years under Jack Del Rio. But there is no history of success in Jacksonville that would keep them there. Floridians are not fair weathered fans, they just don’t go to games for a winning team or not. Maurice Jones Drew, if he could stay healthy, would love to come back to where he played college ball with the Bruins and play in a stadium with actual people in it. The other teams in lines have more history that would make them more likely to relocate here, but by that token they also have more baggage.
The Oakland Raiders are in desperate need of a new stadium. They still frequently fill up the O.co Coliseum, but it is an atrocious building. The Raiders haven’t been raising any banners, or hardly celebrating any wins. And this is the team that set the modern NFL precedent for bolting. Al Davis is not around anymore, but there are still plenty of silver and black supporters in the City of Angels. With the recent history of success of AEG, that could be just the thing this historic franchise with a history in LA needs to get back to winning.
The St. Louis Rams, if you’d ask a large portion of supporters here in LA, are still the Los Angeles Rams, they just play a lot of road games. St Louis is in need of a new stadium as well. But renovations for the Edward Jones Dome, a brand new stadium, or how either will be funded won’t be known until after arbitration begins in mid January. Without a new stadium deal, the Rams could weasel their way back to poll position in LA.
The San Diego Chargers have regressed in recent years, despite having talented teams. And for that reason I think they are the most likely. In 2012 at least, talented teams like the Chargers that don’t achieve expectations sound like a perfect match for some of the LA franchises (USC football and the Lakers come to mind). The ownership and fans have soured on coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith. Really, the best explanation for keeping a coach who consistently gets the bare minimum out of their team is to sand bag their way out of San Diego. They have been purposefully poisoning the ground their franchise is built in, to move to this new market. After their embarrassing loss to Denver on Monday Night Football, a team official ripped fans in an official statement. The team is even likely to start fresh with a new quarterback soon. If not next year, just in time to move to a brand new city, with new hype, and new chances.
What would make you nervous is that the international sports and entertainment division of the Anschutz company is being sold. Even though AEG is valued reportedly some where in the $7-10 billion range, why Phillip Anschutz wants out now is the only red flag I’d mildly consider before lining up in downtown where the site of Farmers field is supposed to be. So get in line. It might be a while though, so maybe it’d be better to just take a number.