NFL to LA Part II: Battles of California and Florida

Click here for part one

In continuation of Sport Change’s three-part exploration about NFL teams relocating to Los Angeles,  this post will touch on two “battles” of two teams each and we’ll assemble a Top 5 list of teams most likely to move.  Or at least teams that we’d like to see move to LA.

In the words of Don Henley: “You can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave.”

Keeping it Real

These posts are at least marginally informed by current events and news bites related to the topics. That being said, here at Sport Change we’re reluctant to jump to conclusions based on news buzz.  Any follower of sporting news knows how prevalent hype is in the information age, so we’re trying to look at the bigger picture.  A few months ago, the Minnesota Vikings were atop everyone’s list of teams mostly likely to move to LA.  A few years ago, it was the Bills.  Now both of these teams are out of the conversation.  The point is that we’re trying to play off common sense and credible information rather than rumor and speculation.

Keeping it Fantastical

That said, this is Sport Change.  We explore theoretical scenarios that are not expected to happen whatsoever.  We’re here to have fun.  Let’s get screwy.

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BATTLE OF CALIFORNIA

May the best team win. Or lose. Whichever’s better.

Bam.  It’s battle time.  This is a battle between two California based teams to determine which is more likely to move to LA or at least be a better fit in LA.  The Battle is between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers; two AFC West teams with little love for each other.  Should be fun.  The question is: will the “winner” get to stay in their current city or move to LA?  I guess the winner would be a loser to some.  We’ll call it a winner/loser.  Let’s explore:

History

Raiders.  The Raiders began play in Oakland in 1960 as part of the AFL.  Al Davis took over the team a few years later, and took over the AFL in the process.  By the time the AFL merged with the NFL, Davis had built a perennially solid club that would eventually win two Super Bowls for Oakland in ’76 and ’80.  In ’82, they moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum and won a Super Bowl the next year.  The Raiders only stayed in LA for until 1994, then went prodigal son-style back to Oakland.  In the twelve short years that the Raiders lived in LA, they managed to build up a very strong fan base that continues to this day.  Amazingly, it’s been a full eighteen years since we’ve seen the Los Angeles Raiders.  Does another reversion make sense?

A cutlass above

The Raiders and Oakland go together like pointy swords and eyepatches.

Chargers.  The Chargers began at about the same time as the Raiders, and actually started out in Los Angeles.  This is frequently pointed out when pundits mention the possibility of the Chargers moving LA, but I think that is grossly overblown.  The Chargers played in LA for all of one season before heading south.  It’s not worth mentioning as anything more than a bit of curious trivia.  In San Diego, however, the Chargers have compiled an interesting if underachieving history.  Former coach Don Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts are often cited as the innovator and initial executor of the modern passing game.  Behind the late Junior Seau, the Chargers of the nineties clawed as far as the 1994 Super Bowl only to fall to Steve Young and the Niners.  LaDanian Tomlinson was the best back of the ‘aughts, but the Bolts weren’t able to make it work in the postseason.

Historical Verdict: The Raiders win, hands down, but the LA Raiders seems more natural than the LA Chargers, who have been playing in San Diego every season since 1961.

LT and the Chargers of the ‘aughts were never able to give San Diego their first trophy.

Current Team Status

Raiders.  For the last ten years, the Raiders have been middling to mediocre to JaMarcus Russell-level terrible.  Hue Jackson and the former administration went all-in on Carson Palmer, and we’ve yet to see the results fully play out.  The Raiders always seem to have a handful of flashy players but lack consistency and the ability to win a significant amount of games.  I think the Raiders could surprise in 2012 as an upstart, but could just as easily go 4-12.  There’s not a whole lot to get excited about on the football field these days.

Chargers.  The current Chargers era is nothing short of an enigma.  Remember how stupid it seemed when they let Drew Brees go in favor of Philip Rivers?  It seemed terrible at the time, but then P-Riv turned out to be the real deal, with only one flaw: he doesn’t win that many games for the Chargers.  San Diego was built to win a few years ago.  Now they’re aging and crumbling and may have only this next year to win games or hit the reset button.  Then again, haven’t folks been saying just that for the last few years?

Current Status Verdict: Draw.  Interesting draw.  It’ll be fun to see these two play each other twice this year.

It’s up…it’s up…it’s outta here. Home Run!

Stadium

Raiders.  My lasting image of the Oakland Alameda Coliseum is the Jason Giambi banner being taken down in the Moneyball movie.  By most all accounts, the shared-use facility is a bottom tier stadium, and there has been plenty of pressure to move out.  Some speculate that Goodell is pushing Oakland towards a shared-use facility with the Niners in Santa Clara, California.  You can bet that neither team is too keen on the idea, but I think it could be sensible.  Santa Clara is about equidistant from the Bay Cities, and it could fuel a fun inter-conference rivalry a la the Jets and Giants in the Meadowlands.

Chargers.  It’s no secret the Qualcomm (aka Jack Murphy) Stadium is a dump.  The owners of the Bolts have struggled to get their ducks in a row while trying to build a new stadium.  They’ve vowed to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but without a new stadium it seems unlikely.

Stadium Verdict: Draw.  Both facilities seem to be sub-par, and pressure for new parks is heavy in both locales.

…and now, without further ado…

BATTLE OF CALIFORNIA VERDICT

What an evenly matched bout.  If LA gets two teams (see future Sport Change scenarios) I could see both of these clubs moving.  Deconstructing these two situations only makes it seem like even more of a draw, so let’s back it out a bit.  Just barely…I would choose for the Raiders to remain in Oakland over the Chargers remaining in San Diego.  It would be a sad day for San Diego; especially for those with fresh memories of Dan Fouts in powder blue.  Like I said, just barely.

Fouts is on the outs

More likely to move = San Diego Chargers

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BATTLE OF FLORIDA

The “Arrs” vs the “Rarrs.”

Bam.  Time for another battle.  This one in the Sunshine state.  No, this isn’t about the Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins are an iconic and historic team.  As much as the team is in shambles currently, they aren’t going anywhere.  This battle, of course, is between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Arrr!! versus Rarrr!!

History

For most of their history, the orange were crushed.

Bucs.  Tampa Bay is a fairly new team in the NFL–they were added as an expansion franchise in 1976.  There were twenty years of dreamsicle-colored ineptitude, but the Bucs were able to right the ship around the turn of the century.  They beat the Raiders in the Pirate Bowl of 2002, which I still think is one of the flukiest Super Bowls ever.  Name five players from each team now.  Go.  Uh…Trent Dilfer, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks….was Warrick Dunn still with them then?  Uh…Ronde Barber?  What the hell, let’s do the Raiders: Gannon, Woodson, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice…uh….Sebastian Janikowski.  (wikipedia update: it was Brad Johnson, not Trent Dilfer.  No, Warrick Dunn was gone, but Alstott was there.  The Super Bowl MVP?: the unforgettable safety, Dexter Jackson.  Did better with the Raiders, but wouldn’t have been able to get 6.

Jaguars.  The Jags roared out of the gate in 1995 alongside their feline companion in Carolina.  Behind the left arm of Mark Brunell and the sublime running of Fred Taylor, the Jags were a force in the late nineties.  The peak of that era was another Battle of Florida: the 62-7 playoff blowout of the Dolphins that effectively ended Dan Marino’s career.  That year, the Jags seemed a shoo-in to face the Greatest Show on Turf, but Jevon Kearse and the upstart Titans spoiled the party.  Since then, they’ve epitomized mediocrity.  So have their fans.  It was always questionable to have an NFL team in Jacksonville, and the questions linger on decades later.  Shahid Khan is on a messianic mission to slay each of those questions, but the proof is in the pudding.

Historic Verdict: Buccaneers, hands down.  Behind your back.  Now walk the plank.

I said walk the plank, lefty. Arrr.

Current Team Status

Bucs.  This will be a crucial year for the Bucs.  Josh Freeman will have a good shot at redeeming himself.  With a new head coach and an impressive haul in free agency, the Bucs are giving themselves a chance.  It may not be enough to get over the hump in the tough NFC South, but they’re one of those many teams that could either make a run or dwindle into further obscurity.

Jaguars.  Jacksonville’s situation is much more dire.  They have little and they’re rebuilding an organization using questionable building materials.  Unless Blaine Gabbert dazzles, it will be reset button time.  Maybe Shad Khan will be able to hold the team in J-Ville long enough to build something there, but so far the future doesn’t look too promising.

Current Team Verdict: Buccaneers are in better shape.

If only the pirate ship came with hordes of pirates to fill the seats.

Stadium

Bucs.  Raymond James Stadium is only fourteen years old, but other than the super cool pirate ship, there doesn’t seem to anything noteworthy about it.  Just like with the Rays, Tampa sports fans apparently don’t go out to games.  The Bucs rank near the bottom in NFL attendance.

Jaguars.  Everbank Field was built to lure the expansion Jags in the mid-nineties, and it’s best known for it’s inability to fill with people, causing television blackouts.  The blackouts are a very dumb way for a team to try to get folks in the stands.  It’s more likely that such actions will only further alienate bubble fans in a city without much sports history.

Stadium Verdict: Basically a draw, but the Bucs win for the pirate ship.

…and now without further ado…

BATTLE OF FLORIDA VERDICT

Since the Bucs “won” all three categories and aren’t a team that’s typically name-dropped in LA talk, why are we even including them?  1.) They were previously deemed “fair game” for relocation discussion.  2.) They don’t sell many tickets, proving that not only Tampa, but the state Florida in general suck when it comes to pro sports.  And….3.) There have been rumors of the Bucs relocating in recent years, though the talk was more about London than LA.  Countering these points is: 1.) They’ve made it work for the better part of of four decades. 2.) They did win a Super Bowl, no matter how fluky it was, and 3.)  The team has a shot at decency.   The Jaguars are a different story.  Unless something miraculous happens, I fully expect that Shad Khan will either lose interest/give up and sell the team, go manic and flame out, or simply lose too much money to stay in business.  It’s hard to envision a scenario wherein the Jags hold on to J-Ville and are able to build a successful franchise that wins games and fills seats.  We’ll see.

Sorry, Shad. Even your mustachio can’t save the Jags.

More likely to move: Jacksonville.

_

Results

Bam.  Two battles in one post.  As promised, Sport Change will now unveil the Top 5 teams headed to Los Angeles.  Drumroll please….

Most likely to move:

1. St. Louis.  This idea has some legs both in the hype business and the big picture perspective.  The only problem would be the gaping vacuum left in St. Louis.  This is where the Vision of Reversion comes into play.  In that scenario, the city that loses it’s franchise is…

2. Jacksonville.  The only problem here would be divisional realignment.  Los Angeles to Indianapolis is a bit of a commute for a division game.  That’ll have to change.  Oh, and the brand, too.  Without the alliteration, the Jaguars moniker loses it’s teeth.

3. San Diego.  The Chargers sail north, just like the Clippers once did.

4. Oakland.  The Raiders would find plenty of fans left in LA, but I like the Santa Clara proposal better.

5. Tampa Bay.  Three teams are too many for Florida.  If the Jags pull off a miracle and outperform the Bucs, the pirate cannon may fire it’s last shot.

Speaking of last shots, that’s it for this post.  Coming up next in the series: the scenarios.  Stay posted.

Click here for more NFL posts

SPORT CHANGE

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