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Recapping the NFL Owners Meeting

As we expected, the NFL Ownership reaffirmed their desire to finish the Los Angeles melodrama with a potential relocation vote in January. Where does this leave San Diego?

Stan Kroenke's proposed stadium in Inglewood
Stan Kroenke's proposed stadium in Inglewood

Nothing which happened today was much of a surprise, at least as far as I'm concerned.

What it does, however, is carry a sense of finality. The finish line is in sight, and as has been the case for months, there is diminishing hope that the Chargers will stay in San Diego.

So, without further ado, let's get into the news from today...

What We Know

First, and most importantly, there is no real change from several weeks ago. There is a deadlock amongst the owners who support the Inglewood site because they (and the NFL) believe it to be the better site, and those who support the Carson project because they want to make sure Dean Spanos gets taken care of. This deadlock was affirmed by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Orsay, among others.

Second, we also learned that ownership is not willing to delay the LA decision by several months or another year. This was affirmed by San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York. The current plan is for the next LA meeting among owners is January 12th and 13th in Houston, with a potential vote.

Third, the home markets of San Diego, St. Louis, and Oakland must submit a final proposal by December 28th. Of those three markets, Oakland has nothing, San Diego - according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell - has virtually nothing, and St. Louis has approximately 3 & 1/2 weeks to jump though whatever hurdles they have remaining, and - again, according to Goodell - that is no guarantee the Rams will stay in St. Louis. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that all 3 teams will file for relocation in January.

Fourth, and most interestingly, Stan Kroenke has submitted a tentative proposal to NFL Ownership - which was apparently well received - to allow a team to become a 50/50 stadium partner in Inglewood. In previous instances, the suggestion had been that Kroenke would offer generous lease terms, but did not want to offer full partnership.

Fifth, NFL ownership seems inclined to put two teams into Los Angeles simultaneously.

So after all that information, this is what it boils down to... Goodell has 40 or so days to broker a compromise between the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders.

What Does This Mean for the Chargers?

Regardless of what people think, and regardless of how awful this year has been for Chargers fans in San Diego, one thing is true.

Dean Spanos, whether by design or accident, has played this perfectly.

By investing less than $30 million in Carson, Spanos essentially created a bargaining chip to use against Kroenke and the NFL. Here are the potential results of that $30 million (or less) investment (order of listing has no bearing on whether I think any scenario is more likely):

  • The old guard of NFL owners leads an insurrection against the big money NFL owners and Goodell, and vote to approve the Carson project.
  • Spanos has successfully leveraged Kroenke and the NFL into a full partnership with the Inglewood project - without having to spend anything on land acquisition, design work, permitting, or anything besides actual construction.
  • If he stays in San Diego, either through obstinance or dealmaking, he's likely to have enough money to pay for a new stadium while needing minimal public assistance.

That's really a pretty incredible investment, no matter how it works out.

What Does This Mean for San Diego?

Essentially this...

The Chargers will only stay in San Diego if that's what Dean Spanos wants to do. Period.

By virtually every measure, San Diego's proposed stadium in Mission Valley is dead. Whether it was a sincere attempt, or political cover is immaterial as far as I'm concerned. The bottom line is that the City's proposal provided neither the legal or financial certainty the NFL was looking for, and it bolstered the Chargers' narrative that they had to go to Los Angeles.

If anything should be clear at this point, the City has to understand they're not going to get the NFL's attention until they have a plan which does exactly that. Whether that's for the Chargers, or another team down the road is what remains to be seen.

Closing Thoughts

In no uncertain terms, the NFL has made clear that San Diego's time is all but up.

There will be no delay when it comes to relocation to Los Angeles. San Diego's best chance to keep the Chargers was some sort of delay until 2017, which would allow the team to pursue a Citizen's Initiative for their preferred site in downtown San Diego, with a vote likely coming in November.

Furthermore, by creating his Carson option, Dean Spanos has put himself in an ideal position to become a full partner in either Los Angeles stadium project, or extract maximum value from Kroenke and the NFL if he stays in San Diego.

As for San Diego, the City's attempt (noble or misbegotten) to persuade the NFL to force the Chargers to accept the Mission Valley plan should serve as an object lesson when it comes to  dealing with the NFL.

You deal with the NFL on its terms and schedule. This will be critical if San Diego has an opportunity down the road with either the Chargers or another franchise in the coming years.