One thing I've said all along as we move through the process of the Rams figuring out where they're going to be playing football past 2015 is that the NFL is the key actor here.
Not the Rams. Not the Chargers or Raiders. Not the city of Los Angeles. But the overarching hand of the NFL, led of course by he who is higher than the President of the United States Roger Goodell, will be the ultimate arbiter of how things play out. That's not an entirely weird position to hold, that the NFL would dictate a process that affects the NFL. But it's worth repeating as people get wrapped up in the minutiae of that process which takes place over years and years.
So as the NFL Annual Meeting gets underway today after yesterday's unveiling of new renderings of Stan Kroenke's ode to Brasilia stadium, nobody should be surprised that the NFL is starting to take the issue seriously, at least publicly. The turn from team/city/owner squabbles to the NFL guiding the process is taking place, which means the league is sincerely serious about getting NFL football into Los Angeles whomever it includes.
One scenario for LA that’s not feasible: Having 3 teams in the LA/San Diego market. It won’t be Rams & Raiders in LA, with Chargers in SD.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 23, 2015
So after Giants owner John Mara opined that he believes LA will host at least one NFL team by 2016, NFL Media reporter Albert Breer fired off a good appraisal on Twitter of where the issue stands going into the meeting:
1) On Monday, the NFL will provide an update to clubs on LA. The Rams, Chargers and Raiders won't present their respective LA projects.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
2) When questions come, clubs will be free to answer. But it's more likely the league will answer LA questions, clubs on their home markets.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
3) NFL's dilemma now: The Rams have the strongest project. They're also the least qualified of the 3 to move, by NFL's relocation criteria.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
4) At least in the short term, the likely outcome is 2 (not 3) teams in South California. So either 2 in LA, or 1 in San Diego and 1 in LA.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
5) NFL is working to set up April visits to San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis. League is doing its own market assessment on those 3 cities.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
6) There are about 10-12 possible scenarios that could play out. 1 interesting one: Rams to LA; Raiders to StL; SD stays put for time being.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
7) If that scenario played out, Rams would get head start, Raiders get fresh start, Chargers set a deadline for SD to get stadium done.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
8) NFL is in a good spot in regards to LA. Competing projects = Better projects. Good likelihood, as Mara said, there's a team there in '16.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
9) Among the things NFL pays attention to -- A club's popularity in LA. Per LA Times polling, Rams win that one http://t.co/RgmrB6Kwat— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
10) We won't get answers this week. But at this point, those involved believe there's a good chance things crystallize on LA in Oct or Nov.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 23, 2015
Or summarizing all of those into one succinct message: The NFL's got this now.
We also got some insight from Goodell himself in today's MMQB:
The MMQB: I mean, L.A. is going to happen … As you look at the landscape, what has changed to make it logical and likely that there will be football in Los Angeles?
Goodell: I’m not saying it’s likely. I think a couple of things are positive. One is our long-term labor agreement. I would say that when someone is making the kind of investment that you have to make in the Los Angeles market as well as a lot of other markets—you need the long-term stability so that we can invest back in the business. Ultimately that will pay you back. That’s why we’ve seen the salary cap increase by $20 million per team over the past two years. That investment is paying back. I think the long-term labor agreement has given us the ability to evaluate a long-term investment in Los Angeles to make it work successfully—because it’s a challenging market. It’s competitive. The stadium is a critical component of that. They’re not getting cheaper.
The MMQB: Doesn’t it make the most sense to have Oakland and San Diego combining in a stadium in L.A. and the Rams staying in St. Louis?
Goodell: Our first objective will be to make sure that those markets have had the chance to get something done—that they can get a stadium built to secure the long-term future of their franchise. San Diego has been working 14 years on a new stadium. Oakland is not in a new debate either, for the A’s or the Raiders. Same with St. Louis. … These are long debates about what is the right solution for the community and what is best for the team. We’re looking to see if we can create those solutions locally. If we can’t, we obviously have to look at long-term solutions for those teams.
The MMQB: Gut feeling—football in L.A. in 2016?
Goodell: I really don’t know, Peter. I’m not relying on my gut, I guess. I’m relying on if there is a real alternative where we can return to the market successfully for the long-term; that is the biggest priority in Los Angeles. And the other one is obviously making sure that we’re doing whatever necessary in the local markets to keep our teams successful and give them every opportunity to create a solution that works for the team long-term.
The MMQB: One other thing about L.A.—Stan Kroenke and the cross-ownership rules. Several times the league has told Kroenke to divest the ownership of his hockey and basketball teams. What can the league do to make him get rid of those teams?
Goodell: The finance committee has been working on this. They’ve given him periods of time to correct it and different ways in which to correct it. I think progress is being made on that. Stan hasn’t said, "I’m not going to be in compliance with the rules." He wants to make sure that if we’re going change our rules, he can get consideration for that. If we’re not going to change our rules, how can he do it in the appropriate way?
Roger Goodell is full of shit at all times, and I personally take much delight in watching him mouth out hilariously crafted talking points meant to make him sound informed and clairvoyant. It's pretty funny to pivot from talking about Los Angeles to mentioning the salary cap has risen over the last two years (what a benevolent leader!). But personal enjoyment of what constitutes modern public authority aside, he's talking about it because he's taking it over now.
Whether Stan Kroenke moves the Rams to Los Angeles or not, the NFL and Roger Goodell are now part of the process and not just spectators.