Two Items From Last Week

In last week’s Mythical Picks, I deferred comment on two NFL news items from last week until today.  The first is the decision by the LA Rams to hire Sean McVay as their new head coach even though he has not quite yet been able to celebrate his 31st birthday.  Some have disparaged that decision based on his age saying he is too young to lead a locker room “full of men”.  While these naysayers may indeed have their ageist comments vindicated in the future, what they are saying is equivalent to someone else saying that Joe Flabeetz is too old and too frail to lead a locker room full of men because good ol’ Joe is 69 years old.  There is one job that comes to mind where McVay’s age is absolutely disqualifying; that job would be President of the United States.  Article II of the US Constitution says very specifically:

“…neither shall any person be eligible to that Office [the Presidency] who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years …”

I understand that the NFL would have all of us believe that being a head coach of an NFL team is a monumental undertaking, but I submit that it is merely a very high-paying job with a lot less job security than lots of other high paying jobs.  If Sean McVay “fails” in LA, it will probably have much more to do with the players he can put on the field than it will with the number of crop cycles he has experienced in his lifetime.

For the record, I think the idea of hiring a young first-time coach is preferable to hiring a “retread”.  Yes, I know all about Bill Belichick as a “retread”.  I also know about lots of other “retreads” hired into the NFL who were not significantly more successful in their second gig as they were in their first gig.

I do not want to leave the impression that I think the Rams or McVay are destined for greatness because of this “bold move” by the Rams.  Perhaps they are; perhaps they are not.  There have been great coaches who have been hired at an early age:

  • John Madden
  • Shula the Elder – aka Don
  • Mike Tomlin.

There have also been stinkbombs hired at an early age:

  • Lane Kiffin
  • Josh McDaniel
  • Raheem Morris
  • Shula the Younger – aka David.

The other topic from last week is the relocation of the San Diego Super Chargers to LA to be co-tenants with the Rams in the new stadium complex being built by Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke.  I am not surprised by the move; the Chargers and the movers and shakers in San Diego have been at odds for at least 10 years over the Chargers “need” for a new stadium.  When a referendum posited as a last and final chance went down to a landslide defeat in November 2016, the die was cast.  Having said all of that, I do not think that the Chargers’ owners wanted to move the franchise to begin with and I doubt that the Chargers would want to be the junior tenants in the LA development project headed up by the Rams.  And that is just the beginning of what I suspect might be a less-than-smart set of decisions by the NFL owners.

Los Angeles had two NFL teams in the past and both of them moved out of town.  Yes, there were “stadium issues” that were involved in the departures then but there were also issues of less-than-robust support for those teams.  For about the last 20 years, the NFL football fans in LA may not have had a team, but here is what they did have:

  • On Sundays, they got to watch on TV the best games of the day from around the league.  LA was not an exclusive market for a team; there was no “home team” that fans saw every week.  Moreover, they got to see three games on Sundays.
  • Now, they will get to see the Rams and the Chargers on Sunday – every Sunday.  The only way they will get to see a Cowboys/Packers game as the “late afternoon” game on Sunday will be if one of the two local teams happens to play on Thursday, Sunday night or Monday.

I do not recall a time in the last 20 years or so when there was a huge outcry from the Joe Sixpacks of LA – or whatever the beautiful-people equivalent of Joe Sixpack may be – begging for a replacement franchise from the NFL.  Now they will have 2 teams and if the support for the Rams in their first year in LA is even a marginal indicator, there are loads of fans in LA who found better things to do with their weekends than going to see the Rams play in the flesh.  Stan Kroenke clearly wanted to move his team to LA and fans seemingly shrugged their shoulders.  Dean Spanos clearly did not want to be part of this enterprise and so what might he expect from those fans?

There is a very interesting twist to the Chargers’ decision to move to LA.  For the next two years, the Chargers will play in a stadium in Carson CA – where the Chargers and Raiders had hoped to build their own joint stadium a year ago – and that stadium was built as a soccer pitch for the LA Galaxy.  It originally had 27,000 seats and has been expanded to 30,000.  The story is that it can take another expansion and get to 40,000 and that is the plan for the Chargers.  For the next two years, the Chargers will play in what is by far the smallest stadium in the NFL.  That implies two things to me:

  1. There is danger ahead for the Chargers.  What happens to the Chargers’ marketing strategy in their new home town if they cannot sell out their stadium-on-training-wheels?
  2. The decision by the Chargers and the acquiescence of the NFL to their residence in a small venue opens a door for the Oakland Raiders to use in stadium negotiations.

Let me explain the second point there.  The Raiders have – reportedly – a financing deal in place for a new stadium in Las Vegas.  The flies in that ointment are that Sheldon Adelson has $650M of his money in the deal and negotiations between Mark Davis and the “Adelson family” have not been progressing well.  To me, it seems to come down to how big a share of team ownership does Adelson want for his stake in the venture.  Maybe I’m wrong…  In any event, the latest reporting by the Las Vegas Review-Journal is that the stadium financing is solid even if Adelson pulls his money out of the deal.  Here is a link to that report:

Sheldon Adelson is indeed “big money” and that means he wields plenty of power.  However, this report says that Goldman Sachs indicates that the deal is solid and Goldman Sachs represents even bigger money than Sheldon Adelson.  If correct, this report is an important element in the Raiders’ attempt to get out of Oakland.

The other fly in the ointment is that the Raiders play in a miserable venue that has needed renovation for more than a decade but they would be forced to stay there for another couple of years until the new Las Vegas playpen could be constructed.  For those 2 years, you can expect that they will not draw well in their stadium/porta-potty.  But the approval of the Chargers to play in a 40,000-seat stadium might allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas immediately if they can find a way to play on the same field that UNLV uses for its home football games.

UNLV plays in Sam Boyd Stadium which has a seating capacity of 36,800 and can expand to 40,000 seats “when called for”.  That sounds like an acceptable temporary home for an NFL team to me if indeed the Chargers’ temporary quarters are acceptable – unless of course some old-time NFL owners want to make Mark Davis squirm and suffer because he is the spawn of their old nemesis, Al Davis.

All of this remains in flux.  I am sure we will revisit all of this.  The only sure losers in all of this are the NFL fans in LA whose TV options will not be significantly constrained as compared to a few years ago.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“To the list of life’s unending mysteries, add this: Why do newspapers, including my own, continually report as news whatever Mel Kiper Jr. guesses about the upcoming NFL Draft?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



13 thoughts on “Two Items From Last Week”

  1. “Biff Latte?”

    Anyhow, do not underestimate the tensions present between SD and LA, as well as the animus for Al Davis from the rest of the owners. After all, in their respective bubbles there will be no reality checks to force any compromise, so prices will be high indeed. The Padres fans hate the Dodgers almost as much as Giants fans do, we’ve just been at it longer than they have. I think it is indeed very possible that the Carson venue will not sell out (IIRC the Chargers did OK on the attendance side for a long time), simply because of the abandonment, the LA factor and the 2-hour trip each way (including traffic, and I-5 is the only real option between the cities), combined with the tepid support for the Rams (who were awful) which provided a picture of fundamental interest.

    The Raiders’ return to Oakland provides a picture of other things that can go wrong. While the fan base was indeed loyal, the price demanded to go to games for that loyalty was ridiculously high for the product. That financing plan was the first time that PSL became defined as “personal” seat licenses rather that “permanent” because these had ten-year terms. They were hugely expensive and the tickets were too. When these were put into a lottery the rabid few (tix at any price) would claim as many markers as possible (something like a dozen were allowed per fan) only to be left holding the bag for all of them when the fans who did their math stayed out of a bad deal. Fundamentally the Raiders priced themselves out of the market (which might be a good topical rant on its own – at what point does a team do that?) and remain in a struggle to compete with the Jerry Joneses for largesse.

    Al Davis was such a pain in the arse for the NFL (right about a lot of things, but still…) that sticking it to his son would be something more than a few owners would love to do.

    You had mentioned Sheldon Adelson’s money as a key mover in LV, and without question it is. The NFL’s principal problem has to do with the business he is in, and that legal sports books are made there. I’ll agree with you that the presence of betting by itself is not the problem here, the problem I see is that Adelson in particular has had inquiries alleging varying criminality and/or dirty pool in the conduct of his casino empire worldwide (i.e. Macao). There is also the assertive political stances he has taken over the years which could potentially risk undermining significant parts of the fan base and the NFL is not likely to be fine with that outcome. Jerry Jones might not be a Democrat, but he doesn’t put that front and center at Cowboys events, however Sheldon might.

    1. rugger9:

      Imagine for a moment that you are correct and that the Chargers cannot sell out their downsized stadium for the next two seasons. What will their pitch to the LA residents/new fans be? Come see us play in our new luxurious surroundings even though you didn’t care enough about us to come see us in our old place? I don’t know that is going to be the situation come 2019; but if it is, that could be an economic low-point for the modern NFL.

      1. Enthusiasm comes in pulses at least if not always full-blown cycles. What I see at the moment in the NFL is a risk that one of those rest periods between pulses of civic excitement is starting and I do not see how the NFL can avoid damage. San Diego is not a small town (2nd largest city in CA) and it has a distinct identity and there is no good reason a team couldn’t succeed there, unless the partnership of team with its fans is broken. FWIW, the only reason the Packers remain in Green Bay is because the residents own the team, any single owner would have moved them long ago.

        This points to the problem about where the NFL could move, since any place will need at least a 50-60 thousand seat stadium with all of the “fan experience” demanded by NFL marketing nabobs in addition to an expensive roster (even at NFL minimums) and whatever local gimmicks would be used. On top of that the financing, concessions, parking, off-season use (ten home games a year only) and one can see the candidate list shrinking rapidly. So, using CA as an example our biggest cities without NFL teams nearby are (I think) Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield, about half (or less) than the size of San Diego. None of them have an economic base that can support a 1-billion dollar outlay for putting the NFL team in.

        So, since it is clear that the NFL is getting push back in a lot of cities for public funding it might be time for the owners to plan for making things work where they are.

        1. rugger9:

          I agree owners may need to find ways to make things work where they are – – or they could pony up the money to build whatever new stadium they desire (not likely). As I see the problem the NFL has teams in places like Oakland – where the stadium is a dump at best and there is no impetus to improve it to the point where sewage does not back up into the stadium. Then there are the Bills who play in a locale that makes it difficult to be competitive. And forget about Jacksonville; the league should never have put a team there in the first place.

          I think there are some places where a market could exist for an NFL team. San Antonio is one (Jerry Jones would not be happy); the Tidewater area of Virginia is another (Danny Boy Snyder would not be happy); Las Vegas (obviously); Birmingham (possibly) and Portland (a long-shot).

  2. Full disclaimer: as a San Diegan for most of my adult life (which, much to my chagrin, is now becoming a significant period of time…), I have an obvious bias and look on this whole Chargers saga with a jaundiced eye.

    With that said, from my perspective, Spanos has been looking North lustily for years – I don’t believe he really wanted to stay in San Diego at all. He wants to be seen as one of the “big boys” and for that, he needs to be in one of the bigger markets. The only way he would have stayed was if he was essentially handed an enormous gift of largesse by the city. He picked the city’s pocket once and he thought he would try to do it again – no such luck…

    Only now, he is left with a situation in LA that is not at all as he had visioned it – he’s relegated to the roll of the ‘B’ team in a town that is ridiculously fickle and will only show up for the “hot” tickets that will follow a championship team. He’ll be playing second fiddle to a Rams team that has not exactly looked like a symphony in its return home. One needs no further proof than to note that at the weekend Lakers-Clippers game, when they put the new Chargers logo up on the Jumbotron, it was roundly booed…

    Prediction: the Chargers will hemorrhage money over the next several years (as the league itself goes thru significant turmoil) until such time as Spanos will just cash out and sell the team… at a discount. Couldn’t happen to a nicer (greedier) guy! I suspect that the Chargers will eventually form a good basis for a Harvard B school study on how to destroy a sports franchise.

    1. I had forgotten about the logo incident. The lack of originality was also noticed, comparing it to the Dodgers and/or Tampa Bay Lightning (who noticed) logos with much mockery. In support of the point I had made, it doesn’t seem to me as though you’re excited about making the road trip to Carson to watch the Chargers. You would know better than I about the actual attendance in Jack Murphy (the right name – rebranding be damned), did the Chargers fall off?

      1. rugger9:

        In 2015, the Chargers ‘ attendance was 94.6% of capacity. In 2014, it was 93.5%. In 2013, it was 90.1%. In 2012 it was 84.1%. Over the last several years, the Chargers’ attendance has actually increased from just under 60,000 fans per game to 66,700 fans per game.

        In 2016 – as it became apparent that the team was on its way north – attendance fell to 80% of capacity (57,000 fans per game) which was 31st in the NFL. Only the Raiders drew fewer fans at home than the Chargers did in 2016.

      2. rugger9 –
        To answer your question: there is a better chance that I would WALK across the border to TJ to watch soccer, than of me heading up to Carson to see the Chargers… and I HATE soccer!
        P.S. Love your moniker – I have about 14 years of Rugby under my belt… as a Scrum-Half! 🏉 #9

        1. Excellent choice of sport and position. Always my favorite position in my 15 years, and then the second kid came along and I had to (finally) be responsible*. I actually played a bit in SD while stationed at SWOS, at what was then Escondido RFC with Ray Steel (who spells his name wrong).

          * I made it a non-negotiable item since marriage is the number-one cause of retirement in rugby, and she didn’t have to hear me grumble about the wings and dings we all get.

        2. For the benefit of the board, Tijuana is so dangerous after dark that the USN hasn’t allowed sailors in town for over 30 years now. That places the probability well below not-only-no-but-[expletive deleted]-no.

    2. Pete:

      The ultimate embarrassment might be that the “B-Team” in LA – as you call it – might not be viable in that market and may need to move at some time in the future to stay competitive with the rest of the league. If that were to happen – say in 2025 – that would mean that the NFL will have had 3 failed franchises in a market that big.

      1. Jack – next time you’re in Vegas, see if you can find a line on a bet that the Chargers will IN FACT be the 3rd failed franchise in LA by 2025 – I will jump all over that bet… and I think it will happen nlt 2022!

        1. Pete:

          That is not the sort of thing that Las Vegas puts up as wagering propositions, but I will keep my eyes open for any reports on this wager…

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