Prediction: San Diego Keeps the Chargers

A look at all the pertinent factors suggests NFL owners will choose Inglewood over Carson

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson takes an educated guess on what the NFL owners will decide when they vote on the fate of the San Diego (for now) Chargers in this commentary

It’s been about 11 months since the Chargers and Raiders announced they were going in on a proposal to build a new football stadium in Carson.

Since then there have been enough twists, turns, lies, deceits, speculations, guesses, guarantees, proposals, counter-proposals, ignored proposals, backtrackings, back stabbings, back room dealings, Backstreet Boys (just seeing if you’re paying attention), proclamations, name callings, EIRs (quickie and otherwise), frustrations, town hall meetings, threatened lawsuits, initiatives and tearful good-byes to keep Hollywood going for a decade.

NBC 7 SportsWrap has been along for the ride the entire time. We're on the brink of (hopefully) a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday in Houston at the latest round of NFL Owners Meetings that will usher in something resembling closure on this issue. We should know if the Chargers, Rams, Raiders, some combination of the three or none of the three are breaking the hearts of a community.

In anticipation of that we went back and took a look at all the pertinent happenings and tried to connect the dots to determine what is going to go down.

My best guess is the Bolts are staying in San Diego. Well, for at least another year, anyway. Read on to see the logic in this.

There is no doubt Chargers owner Dean Spanos has support for his Carson proposal from the majority of the NFL ownership community. Dean has a lot of friends in the league and most of them have bought in to his sob story about, “14 years and nine separate proposals,” and all that not-entirely-factual rhetoric. From that standpoint, the Chargers win the vote.

However, one thing the NFL loves even more than its fellow owner is cold, hard cash. When looking at the vision for the Inglewood stadium proposal set forth by Rams owner Stan Kroenke and comparing it to the vision of the Carson stadium proposal set forth by Spanos, the Inglewood idea, with all its entertainment, culinary and retail clout, is the superior business plan.

The owners who reportedly (or in some cases outspokenly) support Kroenke are guys like Robert Kraft (Patriots), Jeff Lurie (Eagles) and Jerry Jones (Cowboys). All of those guys are successful businessmen who made a fortune then bought a pro football team. The owners who reportedly support Spanos are guys like Jerry Richardson (Panthers), John Mara (Giants) and Dan Rooney (Steelers). All of those guys are old-school football owners who have been involved with the NFL for years. Mara and Rooney are running the family business. Does that sound familiar at all?

If the NFL truly does want to, as Eric Grubman and Roger Goodell have said, “Get it right in Los Angeles,” which guy do you think they’d rather hitch their wagon to? A man who made billions in business and has a resume the length of Yao Ming’s arm? Or a man who has successfully mismanaged a NFL team for 20 years and has a resume that says “I’m Alex’s kid?”

These 29 men must decide what they want to do: put the Chargers in L.A. because they like Dean or put the Rams in L.A. because they like money (we’ll get to the Raiders in a bit). If that’s the choice there is no choice at all. They’re going to further line their pockets.

Here’s how I see this going down: Kroenke’s Inglewood project is going to win the vote. However that does not mean fans in San Diego or Oakland are out of the woods yet. Logistically, there really is only room for one team to move to L.A. until a new stadium is built. Keep in mind that stadium is going to be built with the idea of housing two teams.

Remember it takes 24 votes (75%) to approve a move. So both Kroenke and Spanos have been working to try and get enough votes to, if not win outright, at least block the other guy. Spanos at one point believed he had the votes to block Kroenke but now is not so sure. Meanwhile, Kroenke feels like he has enough votes to block Spanos and that’s probably the case. If Kroenke does not win the vote outright and get to move he very likely will sue the NFL to let him move his team, and do it like he does everything else: aggressively.

In their relocation application that can only be described as scorching the earth, the Rams trashed St. Louis as a NFL market and painted the city as a terrible place to have a football franchise, going so far as to say the NFL will be harmed by keeping a team there even if the St. Louis city government goes through with its proposed new stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River. It’s easy to look at the wording and think it’s a case of Kroenke laying the groundwork for an exit strategy regardless of how the vote goes.

Speaking of exit strategies, Spanos seems to not have one. In the interview he did with the Chargers website he reiterated the Bolts will go along with whatever the NFL owners decide. He’s not going to rock the boat. Kroenke probably will.

The NFL knows this. Now a majority of the owners are coming to that conclusion, as well. Here’s what, in my opinion, it means to the Chargers and their future in San Diego:

When the Rams win the vote and Inglewood is the chosen sight, the league will offer Dean a spot in it, just not right away. Logistically it’s just too much to ask to move two teams on an interim basis to L.A., so the second team will have either work to get a new deal done in its home market or simply tread water for a while.

There is a very good chance Spanos will say no to the offer to team up with the Rams because he hates Kroenke and doesn’t trust him.

The NFL will then offer the second spot in Inglewood to the Raiders. I can’t speculate on what Mark Davis will do but it’s possible he’ll either accept it and sell the team at a monster profit or, in the interim, start legitimately working on a new facility in the Bay Area.

The league will then offer Spanos the St. Louis market and a spot in that new riverfront stadium the city has planned for the Rams. If Dean says yes to that, the Bolts will move to St. Louis (opening the door for either the Raiders or another team to potentially take over in San Diego but that's a story for a different day). If he declines, he’ll come back to San Diego and, for real this time, try to get a new stadium built here, with help from a large chunk of the estimated $550 million relocation fee Kroenke will have to pay.

I think we all know it won’t be the Mission Valley site Mayor Faulconer has proposed. On Saturday a report was made public where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland all had "ample opportunity but did not develop their proposals sufficiently to ensure the retention of its NFL team."

The report says none of the three clubs has received a stadium proposal that is free of any contingencies and presents a viable long-term solution. And so we turn our attention to Downtown San Diego. The Chargers have thought about that for a while and recently the idea has become a real option for the club.

The Bolts have shot down Mission Valley from the start but not said much about Downtown. It would behoove Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani to prepare a Plan B in case the vote does not go their way (either ending in a stalemate or the Rams winning) and begin strategizing for success in San Diego.

Fabiani would likely have to get the help of groups like the San Diego Stadium Coalition and Save Our Bolts, entities he already has a relationship with.

This would open the possibility for them to stay in San Diego long-term. Spanos will have to ask himself if he’d rather have 100% of this market in his own stadium or 25% of the Los Angeles market in someone else’s stadium.

So to recap, after all the developments and conversations and simple common sense deductions have been made, I’m putting my money on the Rams winning the stadium vote to build in Inglewood, the Chargers sticking around for at least one more season in San Diego to try and work out a deal Downtown while pondering the options to move in with the Rams or head to St. Louis, and the Raiders either eventually joining the Rams back in Los Angeles or getting a new stadium done in the Bay Area.


I forgot to mention this little tid-bit. Sources close to all this stadium stuff say Disney CEO Bob Iger has been poking around the old spot next to Staples Center and L.A. Live where AEG proposed to build a stadium, and even had a naming rights deal with Farmers Insurance, a few years back.

AEG said in March of 2015 it was abandoning the notion as both the Carson and Inglewood ideas picked up steam. However AEG is one of the largest sports and entertainment companies on earth and its owner Philip Anschutz would probably like to add the NFL to his resume.

Plus he already has a relationship with Iger. They were together on the committee that tried to bring the World Cup to the United States. If Iger sees the Carson idea he was affiliated with go away and still wants to own part of a National Football League team then resurrecting Farmers Field would be a way to do it. All he would need is a team looking to move …


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