Football in Los Angeles: Which NFL Team Has the Best Shot to Move There?

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Football in Los Angeles: Which NFL Team Has the Best Shot to Move There?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Once the Rams packed their bags for St. Louis at the conclusion of the 1994 season, the city of Los Angeles did not have a professional franchise for the first time since 1946.

Eighteen years later, the city is still fighting for an NFL team, and it has become abundantly clear that there will be a team in Los Angeles at some point over the next few years.

However, there are two questions that remain: When will it be and who is the team that will move there?

The NFL already has 32 teams, the last of which was added in 2002 when the city of Houston was awarded a franchise. The league will likely not expand to 33 teams anytime soon, so if Los Angeles does get a team, one of the current 32 teams would have to relocate there.

The city of Los Angeles has had a fairly great history in professional football.

The Southern California city was awarded an NFL franchise for the 1946 season. After a couple of years in which they struggled, the Rams played in the NFL Championship four times from 1949 to 1955.

Throughout that span, the team featured perhaps the first “true” quarterback competition.

Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin, both Hall of Famers, consistently battled for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. They alternated plays and games throughout the course of their illustrious careers, as it seemed one could not outdo the other.

 

It appeared as though neither quarterback could do anything wrong. Van Brocklin and Waterfield played exceptionally well during their tenures with the Rams, which eventually culminated in the NFL Championship in 1951.

Norm Van Brocklin was one of the first great quarterbacks

The team also featured a couple of other Hall of Famers on the roster—receiver Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears.

During the Rams’ championship campaign, Hirsch was arguably the best player in the league, as he amassed 1,495 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

Those numbers would be phenomenal even in the pass-happy offenses of 2012, but to do it 61 years ago is just mind-boggling. Back then, coaches persistently used the “run it down your throat” style, instead of primarily passing the ball. That makes Hirsch’s numbers stick out even more.

Because of the Rams’ wide-open offense, the team became exceedingly popular. It also didn’t hurt that they played close to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. With the Rams' sudden popularity, they became the first pro football team to have all of their games televised in 1950.

But from 1956 to 1962, the Rams were astoundingly lackluster and posted losing seasons each year.

However, they would come back with a vengeance in 1963, as the “Fearsome Foursome” was formed. The defensive line, led by Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy, was undoubtedly the best in football in the mid-1960s, but unfortunately, they could not win a title.

In 1967, the Rams became the first team in NFL history to surpass the one-million mark in spectators. They would repeat that statistic the following year.

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During the mid-1970s, the Rams put out another great defensive line that consisted of the aforementioned Merlin Olsen, Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer and Larry Brooks. Those teams would go on to have great regular-season success, but they could never take home the Lombardi Trophy.

With that stellar defensive line and under the tutelage of Chuck Knox, the Rams ranked fourth, first, first, third, second and fourth in points allowed from 1973 to 1978. Additionally, they ranked first, third, second, fourth, fourth and first in yards allowed during that span. Needless to say, Chuck Knox put out an amazing group of defensive guys.

The Rams would go on to make their first-ever Super Bowl in 1979, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19.

Three years later, Raiders owner Al Davis would move his franchise from Oakland to Los Angeles, giving the city two NFL franchises. During the Raiders’ second season in Los Angeles, they were able to take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Redskins, 38-9.

The Raiders, like the Rams, would continue to play in Los Angeles until the 1994 season. Once that season concluded, the Raiders moved to back to Oakland.

Just five years after moving to St. Louis, the Rams claimed their first Super Bowl win, as they outlasted the Tennessee Titans, 23-16. The Rams would go on to make the “big one” two seasons later, but lost to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.

This is perhaps one of the most famous plays in recent history

Just one year after that, the Raiders made their first Super Bowl since moving out of Los Angeles, but were blown out by Tampa Bay, 48-21.

Neither team has made it back to the Super Bowl since 2002 and both teams have struggled tremendously.

Since the Raiders’ AFC Championship season, the team has recorded a paltry 45-99 record, including a league-worst 2-14 campaign in 2006. Because of that, the Raiders held the No. 1 overall selection and used it on LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

As we all know, Russell was a tremendous bust and is currently out of football.

Meanwhile, the Rams have been just as bad as Oakland in that span. Since 2002, the Rams have posted a horrible record of 49-95, which includes a 12-4 mark in 2003. Without that season, the team would have won 37 games in eight seasons, an average of about 4.6 wins per season.

The Rams, from 2007 to 2009, somehow got progressively worse, as they only won six games during those three seasons. With a 1-15 mark in 2009, the Rams held the No. 1 selection in the draft and used it on Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

The former Sooner had a fairly decent rookie campaign, even though he lacked an offensive line. However, he regressed last season, as he started just ten games and threw just six touchdowns.

Jay Drowns/Getty Images
Bradford has reasonably struggled in his two-year career

With a decent 2012 draft, the Rams are hoping that Bradford can have a solid third-year campaign.

Now that you have read a brief history lesson, the question still remains: Which team will move to Los Angeles? I mean, it’s bound to happen, right?

The Los Angeles Times recently showed the world a memo that was written by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In that memo that was given to all 32 teams, it has laid out a timeline for applications for a move to Los Angeles.

Teams will have between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, 2013 to send in applications for a move to the city that hasn’t had an NFL franchise since the 1994 season.

The Minnesota Vikings were once linked to a move to Los Angeles (via ESPN), but with a new agreement to build a new stadium, it appears the Vikings will stay in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

That leaves 31 teams to fight for that spot.

There’s no doubt that teams like the Packers, Patriots, Bears, Giants, Jets, Steelers, Cowboys and others are going to stay in their respective cities. That makes it a very slim field.

Some of the teams that could possibly relocate to Los Angeles include the AFC’s San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, an expansion team in 1995.

The funny thing about this whole scenario is that the Rams and Raiders could very well move back to the city each franchise once called home. ESPN once mentioned the 49ers were an option as well, but I don’t think there’s any chance the storied franchise moves.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Chargers would be a great fit for Los Angeles

The Chargers’ move to Los Angeles would not be that drastic at all. San Diego is not very far from Los Angeles and the fans would be able to keep their beloved Bolts in the same state.

The franchise could successfully announce a move out of the city between Feb. 1 and May 1 of each year through 2020 if they pay an early termination fee. For many, many years now, the Chargers have tried to build a stadium to replace Qualcomm Stadium, which was originally built in 1967.

The stadium is currently one of the oldest in the league and the Chargers have aggressively attempted to move to Ocean Valley, Chula Vista, Mission Valley and Escondido. However, plans fell through for each one.

For a fairly long time, the Chargers have been attempting to build a domed stadium in downtown San Diego.

There’s no doubt that if that were to transpire, it would benefit the city greatly.

The NFL would want to play Super Bowls there, while the NCAA would want to play the Final Four Tournament and/or the BCS Championship there as well. Not to mention, there would be many other possible uses for it, as the dome would be an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

However, I believe there is a great chance the Chargers will end up in Los Angeles, as they already meet most, if not all, criteria that AEG wants.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Jones-Drew is really all the Jaguars have on offense

If a move to Los Angeles occurs, I would go ahead and say that the Chargers have a 15-to-1 chance of being that team.

For the Jacksonville Jaguars, it seems like a brilliant move. Over the years, the Jaguars have struggled tremendously to put fans in the seats and their attendance has historically been one of the worst in the league.

However, there will be some hurdles that the franchise has to jump through if they want to move out of Jacksonville any time soon. According to Arash Markazi of ESPN, the Jaguars’ lease to play at EverBank Field doesn’t expire until 2029, 17 years from now.

If the franchise wants to move before their lease runs out, they would have to prove to the city that they had lost money in three straight seasons or prove to a judge that the stadium was not up to their standards.

Either way, it would be amazingly hard for them to break that contract they have with EverBank Field.

The main reason why the Jaguars would ever want to move is their lack of attendance. Since 1999, the Jaguars have won just one playoff game and fans don’t like numbers like that.

The Jaguars are undoubtedly in a rebuilding period, as they selected quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first round of last year’s draft and severed ties with David Garrard.

In the first round of April’s draft, they selected Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who is considered to be the best receiver in the class. They already have Maurice Jones-Drew on the roster, who many people think to be one of the premier running backs in the NFL.

The Jaguars have had paltry attendance the last few years

Their defense played surprisingly well in 2011, but they are going to need to add a lot more to the roster if they want to become contenders again. They already play in a division that consists of the up-and-coming Texans, the relatively tough Titans and the rebuilding Colts, who selected the highly-coveted Andrew Luck with their first overall selection in April’s draft.

Even though former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan will keep the team in Jacksonville, I don’t think they will be there 10 years from now, especially with their paltry attendance.

If the team moved to Los Angeles, their attendance would immediately go up. Despite the team's mediocre play, fans in Los Angeles would rejoice over having a professional franchise for the first time since 1994. I believe there’s a 40-to-1 chance the Jaguars move to L.A. relatively soon.

The Buffalo Bills are also a distinct possibility to move out West. The Bills currently have a deal with Erie County to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but that deal expires at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

However, there have been ongoing negotiations for renovations and a new lease to the stadium, which could cost around $200 million. Of course, the talks are still ongoing and nothing is permanent yet.

If the negotiations fall through, the Bills won’t have a place to call home, which means it’s very plausible the franchise could move elsewhere. Enter Los Angeles.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The Bills will likely stay in Buffalo for the time being

According to The Buffalo News, Mark Poloncarz, an Erie County executive, said, “We’ve had multiple negotiations, and it’s starting to pick up at a greater pace. We are all on a timeline to get the major terms agreed on by the beginning of training camp. That’s what we’re hopeful of doing.” The first phase of the three-year renovation project could begin sometime next year if a deal is struck.

With the team and the county in deep talks, it appears that the Bills will stay in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.

There is always the possibility of the talks falling through and if that happens, the Bills could move out of Buffalo.

However, I firmly believe the Bills will get a deal done and stay in New York. The odds of them moving are much greater than Jacksonville at this point, thus I believe there’s a 75-to-1 chance of the team relocating to Los Angeles.

There’s no doubt that the Raiders and Rams are the most intriguing teams in the middle of these rumors.

As stated earlier, the Rams have a long, storied history in Los Angeles, as they played there from 1946 to 1994. They fielded many great teams, even though they were never able to win a Super Bowl. The Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 and were able to capture a victory in Super Bowl XVIII, led by quarterback Jim Plunkett and running back Marcus Allen.

The Raiders currently play at Oakland-Alameda Stadium, the fourth-oldest stadium in the league. Their lease to play there expires at the end of the 2013 season, which could open the doors for a possible relocation to Los Angeles.

The Rams need an upgrade over the Edward Jones Dome

The Raiders could likely be one of those teams that needs a change of scenery, and a move to Los Angeles could be what the team needs to turn things around. They would be in a new city with a fresh start. The Raiders are already looking at a rebuilding process and there’s no doubt that the city of Los Angeles would welcome them back with open arms.

Like the Raiders, the Rams need a fresh start as well.

Once the 2014 season ends, the Rams could get out of their agreement with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission if their stadium does not receive significant improvements. If the Rams franchise feels that the stadium isn’t being upgraded, then they could decide to move elsewhere.

As stated earlier, the Rams have a tremendous history. The Rams did win a championship in Los Angeles, but never won a Super Bowl in the 28 years that they played. But they did win a Lombardi Trophy just five years after relocating to St. Louis.

It’s undoubtedly a sting for Los Angeles, as they could have won a title if they had waited another five years to discuss the team’s future in California.

Currently, the Rams are looking to upgrade the Edwards Jones Dome. But it seems that the city isn’t willing to significantly upgrade the stadium, much less build them a new home. If they don’t get what they want, it’s a very distinct possibility that they could hold the franchise hostage until their demands are met.

If they aren’t met, then the Rams franchise could say bye to the city of St. Louis.

I believe there is a very good chance that either team could move to Los Angeles. The Rams seem to be the more likely of the two, however.

At the end of the day, I believe there’s a 15-to-1 chance the Rams move to Los Angeles, while there’s a 20-to-1 chance the Raiders take that leap.

It’s definitely going to be very interesting over the next few months to see what dominoes fall. There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that there will be a professional franchise in Los Angeles in the next five seasons.

At this point in time, we can rule out most of the league, but there are definitely some teams that would want to move to a city where they would immediately be loved by the entire city.

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