You’ll have been stunned to discover that no vote on NFL relocation was held at the owners’ meetings this week in Chicago, nor is one expected for months. League business moves slowly, and extorting cities takes time.
But we know more than we did before the 32 owners gathered to discuss St. Louis, Inglewood, San Diego, Carson, Oakland and Hell, and what we know is this:
* The city of St. Louis is willing to bend duly enacted laws to keep the Rams, who don’t want to stay.
* The city of San Diego is willing to come close to doing the same to keep the Chargers, who also don’t want to stay.
* The city of Oakland is pretty well skint and couldn’t do anything for the Raiders even if it wanted to, and Alameda County is so eager to provide support that it wants to sell its piece of the Coliseum to get out of business of being strong-armed entirely.
* The NFL would prefer not to be sued, and given their legal and investigative skills in any matters not directly linked to player suppression, that’s a wise plan.
* The NFL would very much like to be back in Los Angeles, and if it had to rank potential transplants in terms if desirability, it would go Rams, then Chargers, then Raiders.
* If the NFL had to put two teams there, it would probably prefer the Rams and Chargers, but since those teams are in the cities most amenable to knuckling under to their football teams, the league’s other owners would probably prefer not to punish cities that roll over for them.
* In addition, the Rams would prefer to work alone, the Chargers don’t want to be a tenant to the Rams either in word, deed or shoe-squeezing, but wouldn’t mind playing the Rams’ role with the Raiders as the tenant who lives in the back of the flat.
In other words, there are so many moving parts (and we haven’t even gotten to L.A.’s newfound love of the Olympics) that the absence of a resolution actually has some merit as well. It certainly helps St. Louis and San Diego, inconveniences Stan Kroenke and Dean Spanos, and lengthens Mark Davis’ torture . . . if you define “torture” as losing football games and making tons of money no matter what as a member of The 32.
And hey, it still beats being Geno Smith.
So if you’re looking for news from the owners’ meetings, it is this: Oakland is not a player in this debate because Oakland doesn’t have money to misappropriate on a football team it has already misappropriated money on two decades ago. That means that the Raiders can only throw themselves on the “mercy” of The Other 31, and yes, we use “mercy” in the strongest possible quote marks. Without a city to silver-and-blackjack into economic submission, the Raiders’ only leverage is that it is the weakest franchise in the league and as such is as close as the league comes to having a beggar in its midst.
So maybe there’s one last question to be determined – how much longer will the NFL tolerate the Raiders as a corporate entry being like the Raiders on the field? And no, that problem is not something Jack Del Rio or Derek Carr or Charles Woodson can impact.