Editor's Note (7:32pm PT on Wednesday): The Chargers plan to announce, as early as Thursday, their intention to move to Los Angeles, according to ESPN.
Now that NFL owners’ meetings – even owners’ committee meetings, like the one held Wednesday in New York – are a matter of national interest, we can get a slightly better understanding of how the pigs are slaughtered and how to read the blood splatters.
And if that’s a little too CSI: Barnyard for you, well, get over it. Blood is the color of the day.
Mark Davis put another selling job on the finance and stadium committees pushing the idea of the Las Vegas Raiders, and all reports say that the owners are warming to a concept many once believed was heat-resistant – abandoning one-half of the Bay Area market for the entirety of the Southern Nevada market.
On the other hand, San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos didn’t even bother, preferring to stay away as far as geographically possible (non-Alaska/Hawaii Division), and the NFL’s relocation traffic cop Eric Grubman said the Chargers and their location situation (hat tip: Tim Roye) weren’t even discussed.
So on its face, nothing much happened, there wasn’t any voting, straw polling or on-the-record anything, and the status remains stubbornly quo, right?
Wrong, of course. The NFL is all about misdirection, and in this case the Chargers were discussed a lot. It was just not in the confines of an actual meeting. That battle is being played in hallways and executive restrooms and restaurants and bars and limousines and on mobiles, because there is very real urgency and an actual deadline about which to fret.
Spanos had until Sunday to decide if he was going to pick up his Los Angeles option, although that deadline was pushed to Tuesday (a) because of the Martin Luther King holiday but way more (b) to give his fellow owners two extra days for armtwists and fingerwags, sweet talk and veiled threats, and as a last resort, out-and-out bribes.
How this affects the Raiders is something we’ll get to in about four paragraphs, so sit tight.
Spanos is leaning heavily toward picking up his option and taking his team to L.A. to co-habit with one of his least favorite people, Rams owner Stan Kroenke. A growing number of owners who desperately wanted this very result a year ago are now in a blue-gold panic after seeing how soft the Los Angeles market truly is with one team, and are trying to convince Spanos to give San Diego one final no-kidding-this-is-it window to give Spanos what he wants, stadium-wise.
Spanos, for his part, knows how the owners screwed him (and Davis) a year ago from going to L.A. and is finally in a position to wreak his revenge on them all – either by going anyway, which he can do without asking for permission, or driving up the cost to the league of staying in a town that doesn’t like him.
And you don’t need meetings for that sort of chat. You don’t need a recording secretary or minutes for that kind of back-alley shoe-squeezing.
So now, the Raiders, because you’ve waited so patiently.
They still hold the second option on L.A. if Spanos turns his down. Davis has made it clear he wants Las Vegas, and his presentation today allegedly was met with slightly more amenable ears. Both Robert Kraft (New England) and Stephen Jones (son of Jerry, Dallas) said kind things about the move, and Grubman described Davis’ latest contribution as “significant progress.”
All this despite the fact that owners (a) still prefer the Oakland market, (b) don’t like Vegas kingpin Sheldon Adelson being involved, and (c) still don’t dig that Davis and his thin resources is one of them.
So why the newfound nice-playing? The time for leaking that has not yet come, but we know this much:
- They hate the Oakland stadium proposal because they aren’t at all keen on what has come to be known as The Lott Group, which is actually Fortress Investments. They say the problem is “a third-party developer” but it is in fact “a third-party developer not directly chosen by or beholden to the league.”
- They have more control over Davis by dangling their votes before him in a quid pro quo arrangement than if they told him no on Vegas.
- And most intriguingly, by turning him down on Las Vegas they could end up with their least appealing scenario of all – the Raiders back in Los Angeles.
You see, the league has bollixed the California situations from the start and is paying for the impetuousness, love of spur-of-the-moment deal-making and kicking the can down the road whenever possible.
By not approving the Carson deal that would have twinned the Chargers and Raiders, they punted one can in support of another (the Rams), only to find out that the Rams do not hold near the local sway that officials or media thought they did. Now their belief that Los Angeles can handle two teams has transmogrified into a fear that it may not even bother with one. Worse, they fear that the team best positioned to be that team is the Raiders -- the team they least wanted there.
But after deciding on the Rams, they threw relocation lifelines to both Spanos and Davis that they are now fearful one will take. And if Spanos doesn’t exercise his option (unlikely, though not out of the question), Davis could exercise his.
And with that as backdrop, suddenly Las Vegas looks a whole lot better.
Some credit goes to Oakland’s decision to outsource the stadium to Fortress, and some goes to the Rams being a drab and awful 4-12 team in a town owned by the Lakers and USC football, but the owners get to take center stage here. By playing Spanos and Davis in 2016, they now get to be played by them both in 2017. What goes around comes around, and like Mark Cuban said a year ago, hogs get slaughtered.
In this case, in the most appropriate place of all – the abattoir of an owners’ committee meeting. Karma, thou art a diabolically clever and sanguinary bitch.