Report: NFL Owners Really Mad at Dean Spanos

An idea on how to fix this stadium situation once and for all

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson looks at the latest turn in the Chargers move to L.A. saga in this commentary

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive.”

-    Walter Scott, Marmion

Oh, Dean.

Dean, Dean, Dean.

You really did it this time.

On Friday something we’ve all suspected here in San Diego was let loose in the national media and it is not reflecting well on the embattled owner of the Bolts. You see, we have long believed that the NFL owners wanted Dean Spanos to work to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

The prevailing wisdom was after voting 30-2 to give Stan Kroenke the keys to Los Angeles the rest of the league believed San Diego had a stadium situation that was at least possible. So they gave Spanos an option to move to L.A. in a year if a new facility could not be agreed upon here.

However, most of the owners very likely thought that would just be motivation for Spanos and the San Diego political structure to get together, put on a united front, and get something done. Remember San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer had spoken to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and shown him a willingness to try and put up a new facility here.

The league was betting that would be the way things went down and everyone would end up happy with a new stadium in America’s Finest City. They were probably not expecting Spanos to use that option as a parachute at the first sign of trouble.

The Chargers hastily threw together their own stadium initiative without help from the political structure, lost miserably in a vote that was doomed from the start, claimed it was a sign that San Diego did not want the team there, and pulled the trigger on a move to L.A.

On Friday NFL reporter Adam Schefter revealed he had talked to multiple NFL owners who are not terribly thrilled with the move:

Since the move was announced, the NFL has been "besides itself," in the words of one league source. "There are a ton of owners very upset that [the Chargers] moved," one source said. The source added that the NFL wants the Chargers to move back, though nobody believes that possibility is realistic.

But some NFL owners and some league officials are still hoping that, now that the move has been made official, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos will wake up one morning soon, recognize this situation has been "bungled so bad" and take his team back to San Diego, where it spent the past 56 years.

Basically, yes.

Now, Schefter is right when he says it’s probably not realistic for the team to move back. However it is not impossible. The physical move has not happened yet. City Hall has said they were willing to work with the Bolts on a plan to get another stadium vote on the ballot in November of 2018 so technically a change of heart and a stay in San Diego could happen.

But the emotional toll another two years would take on the football fans of San Diego cannot be overstated. Chargers supporters have already been through two years of uncertainty and an actual move announcement. Asking them to do that again with another stadium vote that would likely be dicey at best is simply unfair.

There is another way, however, to make things work again for the Chargers in San Diego, and what I am about to lay out is radical but hang with me for a bit: the NFL needs to force Dean Spanos to sell the team. Right now. No waiting. Just put it on the market and get out. Say they won’t charge him the relocation fee or hit him with a fine for selling too soon after a move.

Here is where Goodell needs to be the powerful commissioner people seem to believe him to be. He needs to get out to San Diego and not leave until he and Mayor Faulconer have a stadium deal in place. Where does the money for that stadium come from?

The NFL, stadium naming rights, and the new ownership group. Why would a new owner want to pay for a team AND a new stadium? Because the money to build the stadium will be included in the price of the team.

A new stadium in Mission Valley can be built for, according to most estimates, around $1.2 billion (give or take $200 million). Assuming the NFL will still provide the $300 million it pledged and a new company ponies up at least $150 million for naming rights, you have a $750 million gap in the funding.

When Steve Ballmer bought the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion the starting price for an NFL franchise jumped to $2.5 billion. There is your sale price.

The NFL should mandate that whatever is left of the $2.5 billion after the stadium cost is covered (that $750 million) is what the Spanos family gets. Actually, let’s subtract another $300 million for operating costs and maintenance ($10 million per year over 30 years but the $300 million is placed in to an account where it earns interest and actually makes money for the City). What is left is $1.45 billion and that is what the Spanos family gets, which is more than fair.

This assures the new facility is 100% privately financed, the football fans of San Diego get a new ownership group that actually cares about the community of San Diego, and the new owners get to ride in to our town on a white horse as the heroes who saved the San Diego Chargers, re-igniting the fan base.

Speaking of … while there are multiple Chargers fans who would welcome the team back there are even more who won’t buy another ticket as long as the current ownership group is around. Local politicians said Spanos was never really willing to work with them. San Diego State offered to upgrade the video boards at Qualcomm Stadium and was rebuffed.

There are too many ways to count how Spanos had bungled this entire situation. If the NFL owners are truly upset about what has gone down they have a chance right now to prove it. Plus the second the Chargers sell for that price the value of every single one of their franchises skyrockets.

I know this sounds out there, but if the league can get rid of the thorn in their side (Dean) and San Diego can get its team back (sans Dean) … isn’t that the definition of Win-Win?

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