The NFL landscape changed greatly last Thursday, Jan. 12, as the San Diego Chargers finalized their relocation to Los Angeles, becoming the city’s second current pro football franchise along with the Rams. This move has been discussed for the last three years now, so it’s not much of a surprise that it occurred. But for the city of San Diego and their fans, losing their franchise is going to be a hard pill to swallow, as it represented a piece of the city for 56 years.
Chargers owner Alex Spanos is partially to blame for this move by not investing enough money within his own organization to make them perennial contenders annually. As a result, the team’s mediocre performance over the years – missing the playoffs six out of the past seven seasons – caused a steep decline in average attendance. From 2013 to as recently as this season, San Diego ranked 19th, 22nd, 24th and 31st respectively in annual attendance around the league. Ultimately, the final nail in the Chargers coffin was the inability to come to terms on a new stadium. Spanos tried for 15 years to get San Diego to build a new stadium to replace the aging Qualcomm Stadium. He warned that he would move the team to Los Angeles if one was not built.
Negotiations to get the city of San Diego to pick up part of the cost were unsuccessful. In 2015 he and the St.Louis Rams both applied to the NFL for permission to move their teams to Los Angeles. In January 2016 the league approved the Rams’ application to move, and gave the Chargers until January 17, 2017 to decide whether they also would move to Los Angeles or stay in San Diego. In November 2016 Spanos promoted a city ballot proposal to build a new downtown stadium funded in part by a new hotel tax; however, the measure failed 57% to 43%
The National Football League is a business and having two teams in Los Angeles opens up numerous revenue opportunities because it’s such a profitable market. However, this could backfire at least in the short-term because both of these teams are in a transitional period. The Chargers will be with new head coach Anthony Lynn, an aging quarterback in Philip Rivers, plus a pending roster that doesn’t possesses much flexibility, all of which could set them back even more. The Rams, who also head into the off-season with a new head coach, Sean McVay, bring back a promising quarterback in Jared Goff, a running back for the future in Todd Gurley and the league’s top 10 defense to build a foundation around.
Evidently, there are tons of questions for the Charges and last time I checked it’s important to win games and get people excited about the organization’s direction, but honestly this organization is currently in a bind. Theoretically, relocation to Los Angeles should help revenue, but they’re now competing with the Rams. For those reasons, it’s easier to be more confident in the Rams’ long-term future than the Chargers, even though they have good pieces to build around.
Despite all the uncertainty that the Chargers now face, sometimes new situations provides new opportunities. The Chargers have a clean slate to work with, playing in a new city where they can build a lasting legacy. Although Rivers is aging and they need to look at the draft for the future, he is still a very capable quarterback to lead them to victories. Furthermore, they must also avoid the backbreaking injuries and fourth-quarter blunders, which occurred far too frequently this season. To put everything in perspective, the Chargers lacked qualities such as leadership, accountability and consistency in 2016. Those basic principles must change in the coming years if they want to make a name for themselves in Los Angeles.