Programming note: Former 49ers executive Carmen Policy joins Jim Kozimor, Ray Ratto and Tim Kawakami tonight at 9 p.m. on SportsTalk Live on CSN Bay Area.
There is nothing quite so hilarious as watching NFL owners chatting with each other on the sideline while wearing team-issue ball caps to look more like the common man and less like the planet-devourers their fantasies might dictate.
Yet there was St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Dallas Cowboys mover/shaker Jerry Jones chatting away on the field in Oxnard while their latest set of employees was running into each other at modified rates of speed, talking about . . . you guessed it . . . Los Angeles.
It’s as close as any of us get to watching lobbying actually done without seeing gigantic bonfires with lawyers hurled into them at regularly timed intervals.
And it’s as close as we’re going to get. The vote-wrangling has begun, and it is in Kroenke’s best interest, just as it is Carmen Policy’s as the designated face for Mark Davis and Dean Spanos, that everyone see we have reached that stage. It is a sign that the owners want this settled, sooner rather than later, and the hard part of choosing a side to extort must now begin.
Everyone has their pet theory, including the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon, who has piggybacked the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer to suggest that the league and its battered porch dog Roger Goodell would best like a hybrid decision – the Rams get Inglewood with the Chargers as the other partner. This is a relatively late arrival to the speculation-fest, but it does crystallize the issue.
The status quo is no longer acceptable, and at least one existing NFL city is going to be told to drop dead as a result. But until recently, this had been framed as a simple matter of Inglewood v. Carson = Kroenke v. Dean Spanos, with Kroenke offering money and stubbornness and Spanos offering a compliant and league-loyal ownership.
And the Raiders? Along for the ride.
But now a third option, one in which the Raiders are fully ignored and left to make their own stadium out of Monopoly money, Legos and bathroom caulking, is being floated, notably by Farmer through Gordon:
“Kroenke could end all the Los Angeles drama by cutting a suitable deal with Spanos. Bringing Spanos into the Inglewood fold would snuff out the Carson project and leave the Raiders stranded in Oakland. Thus far Kroenke and Spanos haven't seemed inclined to strike such a deal, so this resolution is something the NFL would like to broker. (Farmer) has pointed to this possibility. It certainly makes sense, especially with Farmer predicting that Kroenke has the nine owner votes needed to block Spanos and Spanos has the nine votes to block Kroenke.
“As much as many owners like the Carson stadium proposal — and the possibility of keeping current California teams in the Golden State — stiffing Kroenke would be no small task. Stan has a team, the land and the money to make the LA move happen. He is the first man to check all of those boxes in the past two decades . . . (and) Commissioner Roger Goodell prefers traveling the path of least resistance. Putting the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood would follow that route, since the Raiders lack Kroenke-like resources to challenge the league. Since Goodell's bungling of the previous expansion process led to LA becoming barren for the league, brokering a Rams-Chargers deal would be a make-good opportunity for him.”
In short, the equation here is Kroenke’s resources and willfulness compared to Spanos’ decades of good-faith cooperation and an easy solution to the Raider problem, and the league in its infinite wisdom trying to reward Spanos’ amiability while acknowledging Kroenke’s ornery side.
But the Chargers don’t need the Rams, and can be the more powerful of the co-tenants in Carson based on league friends and financial liquidity, whereas Kroenke would want the upper hand in Inglewood with any partner. And no, Kroenke giving in and joining the Chargers in Carson is a non-starter.
Thus we are still at the pick-one-or-the-other stage, and the Raiders literally have nothing to bring other than their desperation and weakness. In a league in which owners are not separate and equal except when a vote is needed, the Raiders have the least amount of clout any NFL team has had since Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore to avoid bankruptcy.
But at least the lobbying has begun in earnest, and this sentence from Farmer through Gordon – “Kroenke has the nine owner votes needed to block Spanos and Spanos has the nine votes to block Kroenke” – means that this is going to get deliciously weird and grovelly very soon.