I think it's safe to say that we were all shocked when Stan Kroenke announced his intent to purchase 100 percent ownership of the St. Louis Rams.
It was just assumed that he would hang on to the 40 percent stake he bought in 1994 or cash in his chips and make a move for the Arsenal soccer team of the English Premier League. Never make assumptions.
At STLToday.com, columnist Bernie Miklasz was as surprised as anyone here. One issue Bernie raised in his column this morning had to do with the timing of Kroenke's decision, expressing the opinion that the move comes at a bad time for the Rams as the front office tries to rebuild a team still seeking stability.
I don't see how major decisions — and a full investment in the product — can be made when there's no one in charge. I don't know how we can expect fans to buy in — and buy tickets — when they have no idea of what to expect. It's a terrible situation. A complete mess.
But is the timing really that bad? Will it really have a negative impact on the Rams as the first competent front office we've seen in years continues their effort to cobble together a coherent notion of what a competitive football team should look like?
I'm not so sure the timing of Kroenke's move is so terrible.
Kroenke's attempt at a takeover comes with the draft just nine days away. With the first overall pick in the draft, the football folks are going to be making one of the most important decisions in the team's history, a decision that is likely to cost something in excess of $70 million (total contract value). Since that pick is likely to be a quarterback, it makes folks extra edgy about every prospect's ability to be a bust.
Fortunately, Chip Rosenbloom and his sister Lucia Rodriguez set aside the rookie salary money, knowing that the draft would happen before the team was actually sold.
As for the effort to reconnect with fans, the ownership situation isn't as bad as it could be. Both the now-ousted Khan and Kroenke are the most likely candidates to keep the franchise under the Arch, or at least in near proximity. And like I said yesterday, Kroenke might have more faith in his ability to get a stadium built, given his deep pockets and real estate acumen. Fans (with apologies to our CA contingent) can take some solace knowing that the team will be here.
Billy Devaney and his staff's ability to right the ship is what will ultimately get fans engaged if it can produce a winning product on the field. It's impossible to say what kind of insight Kroenke has as to the inner workings of the football operation; I doubt that it's insignificant.
I think Kroenke saw the opportunity to invest in a team on the way up, while the buy-in was relatively cheap thanks to a rough economy and the Rams woeful fortunes as of late. In better times, it wasn't unusual for NFL teams to sell for upwards of a billion dollars. Khan did all the leg work for Kroenke, negotiating the buy-in price for a 60 percent stake while the team was valued in the neighborhood of $700 million.
The one potential kink in the whole thing is whether or not something can be worked out regarding the league's cross-ownership rules. Would Kroenke really have made such a move if he wasn't confident that it could be worked out?
The economy will eventually pick back up and the Rams will start winning games. If Sam Bradford pans out, they'll have a dynamic young quarterback leading the way; that could be more of a factor here than we realize.
The timing may be just right. The ownership situation will be resolved while the draft commands the attention of most fans. Come August, the Rams will have a new owner and a new era can finally begin.