The MMQB’s Peter King has a thorough tick-tock on how NFL owners eventually settled on voting to approve St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposal to move his team to Inglewood, Calif. There aren’t any real bombshell revelations in King’s story, but it does bring to light a key turning point in the proceedings.
Going into the vote, a person reading the tea leaves probably would have assumed that Kroenke was unlikely to get his relocation plan approved over the one jointly submitted by the Chargers and Raiders. Kroenke was the only owner of that trio whose home city was cooperating with a stadium proposal of its own, and had resorted to 11th-hour maneuvering to try and secure his spot in California.
The scales seemed to tip even further away from Kroenke when the six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities voted 5-1 in favor of the proposal presented by the Chargers and Raiders. But then, as King reports, Roger Goodell changed everything when, at the urging of a few owners, he allowed the full group of owners to cast their votes via secret ballot:
Why was the secret ballot so significant? The Chargers/Raiders faction felt it had between 18 and 20 votes solid entering the meeting—something the Kroenke side believed was fiction. But there was something about the Rams/Inglewood project that, while inconvenient for those who wanted the Chargers and Raiders stadium issues fixed in one fell swoop, many owners knew was better for the NFL long-term: Instantly, the 298-acre Inglewood site would be the best NFL property in the league … with $2.7 billion worth of buildings and development, including a 70,240-seat stadium with translucent cover that would join the regular Super Bowl rotation; a campus for a so-called “NFL West,” including a new building for NFL Network and new home for NFL Media; and a 6,000-seat theater that one day one owner said “we hope will host the Oscars.” Carson was a nice project, but it couldn’t compete with all those bells and whistles.
Essentially, the owners were charmed by the sheer audacity of Kroenke’s proposal, but were hesitant to stab Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis in the gut, preferring to put knives in their backs. Goodell’s maneuver allowed them to do so. According to King, Spanos was “white as a sheet” after the first vote was tallied.
So what does this tell us about the NFL owners, other than the fact that they are pretty comfortable with being two-faced? It gives us a clearer picture of how exactly they want the league to look in the future. Insofar as any NFL team ever needs to relocate, the Chargers and Raiders fit the bill. Both teams were told to go screw by their cities when they came asking for money to build a new stadium, and approval of the Chargers/Raiders relocation plan would have quickly solved both teams’ problem. Meanwhile, Kroenke could have gone ahead and accepted the hundreds of millions of dollars St. Louis was trying to throw at him, and built a new stadium at home.
But the owners saw Kroenke’s plan to build Football Versailles in Inglewood, and said to hell with sensible solutions. This is the post-Jerry Dome NFL, a league in which everything needs to be as big and gaudy and expensive and insane as possible, common sense be damned.