The NFL owners held another one of their closed-door meetings on relocating teams to Los Angeles yesterday, but hoo boy, did the fireworks ever spill out into public:
- The owners set a December 28 deadline for St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland to make their final stadium offers, and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and New York Giants owner Steve Tisch said they hope for an owners’ vote on which team(s) will move on January 12 or 13 — though, of course, setting arbitrary deadlines and then moving them back is standard operating procedure for sports leagues. (Also, when asked by the L.A. Times if a final vote would really happen in January, Tisch replied, “I’ve lost all my psychic powers. Especially regarding this subject.”)
- Houston Texans owner Bob McNair warned St. Louis officials that they need to “firm up” their stadium plan for the Rams if they want it to be considered by the league — an apparent attempt to get the St. Louis board of aldermen to vote on the stadium funding bill next week before it goes on holiday break, under pain of being told “Sorry, too late.”
- Rams owner Stan Kroenke has reiterated that he’d be open to sharing an Inglewood stadium with the Chargers. That would eliminate the Chargers’ planned Carson stadium (if Chargers owner Dean Spanos went for it) and leave the Raiders stuck in Oakland — or more likely, negotiating with St. Louis to try to grab whatever deal Kroenke left on the table there.
Put all the tea leaves together, and this certainly sounds like the NFL is trying to negotiate a deal that makes the maximum number of league parties happy: Kroenke gets to go to L.A. and gets another team to help him pay his $1.86 billion stadium bill (via an equity stake or rent payments, it doesn’t matter); Spanos gets to stop having to fight with San Diego for stadium subsidies, even if it means playing second fiddle to Kroenke; and Raiders owner Mark Davis … well, nobody really cares about Mark Davis, but at least he can have St. Louis as a fallback plan — which would also mean that the NFL wouldn’t be entirely throwing away that offer of public stadium cash, just pushing back the timeline a bit on how long to take to shake it loose.
As always, though, it’s important to remember that “the NFL” isn’t really a single entity, but rather 32 rich guys trying to hash out a deal. It’s possible that this one will make enough people happy that they can get the necessary three-quarters majority to approve it — or it could be that the room remains splintered, or talks break down over how much of a relocation fee to demand from any owners who move, or any of a number of different things. In fact:
“It’s hard to see one of the proposals as getting 24 votes,” Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters on Wednesday, adding: “I don’t think we’re extremely close right now.”
Maybe it’s time we crowdsource the likely outcome here — anyone want to start up a betting line on which teams move? Though the only way to accurately predict it would probably be a betting line only open to NFL owners, so scrap that idea. I’m going back to throwing darts at the wall.