Yesterday, I covered the prospects of the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers moving to Los Angeles. Today, I’ll cover three more prospective teams that could potentially be considering a move to the City of Angels.
Current Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
2010 Franchise Value: $725 million (32nd out of 32 teams)
Alas, the poor Jaguars, quite possibly the single-most discussed candidate for relocation in the entire league. This franchise has been a question mark in the league ever since they opened up shop as an expansion team in 1995. Despite the fact that they are based in the largest city in Florida (no really, it’s true… Jacksonville is larger than Tampa or even Miami), they sit atop one of the smallest markets in the league thanks to their small metropolitan area and being stuck between the already more established Atlanta Falcons to the north and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins to the south. Additionally, as their misfortune would have it, they are located in the AFC South, a division that has been dominated by arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, the Indianapolis Colts’ iconic Peyton Manning. While they have managed to put together very quality seasons, most notably their sensational 14-2 regular season record in 1999 that saw them battle all the way to the conference championship, even that high-point was marred by bitter disappointment when both of their regular season losses and their eventual playoff defeat all came at the hands of just one team, the divisional rival Tennessee Titans. Since that highwater mark, they have only reached the postseason twice and have not won their current division, the AFC South, since it was founded in 2002.
The Jags have been going downhill pretty much ever since then, albeit with flickering bright spots here and there. The team’s fanbase seems understandably exasperated with their on-field performance. In 2005, plummeting attendance forced the team to permanently cover 10,000 seats in their home stadium with tarps to reduce their potential capacity and avoid bearing the wrath of the NFL’s blackout policy, which stipulates that any home game that is not sold out with 72-hours of kickoff will not be aired in the home market. Even with this desperate measure, along with reducing ticket prices and even flat out giving away tickets, the team has lead the league in blackouts in recent years. 2009 was their utter low point, when average home game attendance for their season was only 40,000 (by far the lowest in the league), prompting 7 out of their 8 home games to be blacked out in the Jacksonville market. While 2010 was a major turnaround for them, almost reaching the playoffs and increasing their overall attendance by league-leading 36.5%, this improvement was still blemished by the fact that their overall value was calculated as still being the lowest in the entire league by Forbes. And, even with their big bump in fan attendance over the past season, their value still dropped precipitously in value from 2009 to 2010, from $866 million to $725 million.
Pros: Due to these problems, the Jaguars have logically been widely identified as one of the most likely targets for relocation to Los Angeles. As they are currently the lowest-valued franchise and play in a market many question as being even large enough to support an NFL team, the Jags honestly seem like an almost perfect fit for L.A. The franchise’s financial situation would significantly improve if they moved to the United States’ second largest media market, one which could definitely support a team with not only a sizable fanbase but also significant corporate support, something which has mostly escaped the team in northern Florida.
Cons: Truth be told… there really are only two real cons to the team moving to L.A. Firstly, 2010 was a banner year for the franchise, even with their lose in franchise value. They were a mere game away from reaching the playoffs this season and saw the single largest boost in attendance while the rest of the league was mostly stagnant in their draw. Secondly, moving from Florida to California would likely necessitate divisional realignment, as having teams in Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and California would be a bit spread out for a single division. However, the potential profit margins for the team and the league in the guise of increased revenues from merchandising, ticket sales, and television ratings could possibly make these very real drawbacks worthwhile.
Current Hometown: Oakland, California
2010 Franchise Value: $758 million (31st out of 32 teams)
Of all the teams currently under consideration for relocation, the Oakland Raiders have to be viewed as the team that would probably make the best fit in L.A. Having previously existed as the Los Angeles Raiders from 1982-1994, they still have a sizable fanbase and presence in the city even after their heart-breaking return to the Bay Area. Support for this team to return to L.A. would be overwhelming and they would likely be welcomed like conquering heroes should they ever set up shop in the City of Angeles again. More so than probably any other team, the Raiders fit the mold for almost all the prerequisites that you would expect to find in a team seriously considering relocation.
First of all, their franchise value is downright abysmal. While the Jaguars managed to overtake them as the least-valued franchise in the league over the past year, they still managed to drop in value by approximately $40 million from 2009 to 2010. To make matters worse, the Raiders play in one of the worst facilities in North American sports, the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. While most of the hatred of the facility rightfully comes from the Athletics of the MLB, who also use the stadium, it is still very outdated by all possible football standards and is in bad need for retrofitting or outright replacement. The Raiders also have a horrible ownership in place, headed up by the ancient and confrontational Al Davis, who many have questioned from a city loyalty standpoint as well as from a competency perspective, especially after his high-profile and controversial trade of coach John Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for cash and draft picks (which were subsequently squandered anyway). Finally, the team has proven to be a habitual no-show on the field, oftentimes being among the worst teams in the league, and are not much better off-the field, most exemplified by their now-commonplace draft busts which have seen them sink countless millions into unproven and ultimately unsuccessful players time and time again (nowhere more evident than in JaMarcus Russell, the biggest draft bust in NFL history). All of these factors have combined to form an environment that, despite recent efforts to the contrary, seem to almost expect losing and an atmosphere that most players seem to want to avoid at all possible costs.
Pros: See just about everything above. If the Raiders went back to L.A., they’d instantly be playing in a larger, wealthier market that players would be interested in joining and would have their pick of not one, but two competing stadium plans, each of which would be a dramatic improvement over their current home.
Cons: There is one thing and one thing only going for the Raiders staying in Oakland, and that’s their fans. Despite having had some issues selling out and having a few blackouts over the years, the Raiders fanbase is one of the most intense and energetic in the entire league, even when the product on the field in downright atrocious. If the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, they would raise a massive stink and do every conceivable thing in their power to either prevent the move or to make as much noise as possible about it, and it would be very questionable that L.A. fans would be willing to put up with as much failure as Oakland fans have accepted over the years.
Current Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
2010 Franchise Value: $779 million (29th out of 32 teams)
Like the Chargers and the Raiders, the Rams are yet another relocation candidate that had previously called Los Angeles home. Despite putting together the “greatest show on turf” in the late 90’s and early 00’s, wherein they managed to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to St. Louis, the Rams have been a troubled franchise ever since. Like pretty much every other team on this list, the Rams have been suffering from declining attendance and profits and currently play in a facility that they believe they have long since outgrown. They have been hit especially hard by this poor economy, astonishingly dropping over $130 million in value from last season to this season, despite signing QB phenom Sam Bradford and almost reaching the playoffs thanks to playing in the historically weak NFC West this past season. In spite of a big on-field improvement from 2009 to 2010, their home attendance was still fairly low, ranking as the third lowest overall in the entire league.
To make matters even potentially more complicated, the Rams changed ownership over the past year, trading hands to Stan Kroenke, the owner of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the NBA’s Colorado Nuggets, and majority shareholder of the Arsenal Football Club of the English Premier League, as well as several other sporting ventures. While he does need to relinquish majority ownership of his two Denver-based teams to his son by 2014, as part of an NFL rule that doesn’t allow team owners to control majority control of other sports franchises located in other markets, his past successful sporting experience was viewed with hope and trepidation at the same time. While he is originally from St. Louis and went to school at Mizzou, the state’s flagship institution, there are concerns as to exactly how committed he really is to keeping the team in St. Louis. If he receives the right offer from one of the two proposed two stadium groups in Los Angeles, who’s to say that he wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to make his investment suddenly become a billion-dollar franchise?
Pros: Lackluster attendance, a stadium that needs continual upgrades, and a questionable commitment to staying in St. Louis all have to weigh heavily against the odds of this team remaining in St. Louis. Additionally, in spite of the closer connection that the Raiders may have with their former home, the ex-Los Angeles Rams would still be welcomed back with open arms by L.A. residents. Additionally, even though they are over 1,800 miles to the east of Los Angeles, the St. Louis Rams already play in the NFC West, meaning that there would be no need whatsoever to realign the divisions, as would be likely be the case if the Bills or Jaguars moved.
Cons: Despite the questionable commitment that Kroenke may have for staying in St. Louis, the fact of the matter is that he still has deep connections to the area and that could be enough to anchor him down. Additionally, the team, despite their drop in value, has every indicator of a franchise on the rise, with a potential future star in the guise of Sam Bradford and a market that has shown to be more than capable of successfully supporting major sports teams, meaning that the negatives that the team is currently facing are much less than what other teams are experiencing.
Coming up next will be the third and final entry to this article, which will cover a final, dark house franchise that could be considering moving to Los Angeles, as well as a recap and overview of the likelihood of teams I’ve gone over actually moving to L.A. in the foreseeable future.