Chargers owner Dean Spanos made the decision to move the Chargers out of San Diego on Thursday, confirming that Los Angeles would go from having zero NFL teams in 2015 to having two professional football teams in 2017.
Talk of the relocation fee and the money the NFL offered to pay in order to help subsidize a new NFL stadium in San Diego is moot at this point because the Chargers are coming to Los Angeles.
San Diegans proceeded to burn jerseys and take all the actions NFL fans in St. Louis can relate to, but just as the airport in St. Louis no longer features Rams' t-shirts or jerseys for sale, the Chargers will quickly become a four-letter word in San Diego.
The Chargers did not entirely announce the move with grace and style, though, as the new logo looked lazy and plagiarized and deservedly got roasted on social media. Since it looked like a cross between the Tampa Bay Lightning and LA Dodgers' logos, those two teams enjoyed some social media humor. The original tweet by the NFL had been taken down, and Spanos said in interviews that he wasn't sure if it was a permanent logo, whatever that means. Regardless, the internet had fun with it.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 12, 2017
While the re-branding is off to a less-than-desirable start, there's a blueprint to moving an NFL team to LA, apparently. Just as the LA Rams harped on their history of having roots in LA and marketing the history of the franchise in Los Angeles, the Chargers have already begun reminding anyone who will listen that the franchise started in LA in 1960. Spanos made sure to mention this little factoid in Thursday's letter announcing the move, and the 1960 season will likely be brought up a million times between Thursday's announcement and the start of the 2017 season.
So, how will LA cope with two NFL teams?
First of all, the Chargers aren't expected to move to the LA Coliseum, where the Rams currently play. The Chargers will play at the home of the LA Galaxy in Carson. Yes, the Chargers plan on spending two years at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center until the giant new stadium opens in Inglewood in 2019. This should provide for a unique NFL viewing experience, but choosing to fill a small soccer ground over only halfway filling an actual football stadium like the LA Memorial Coliseum was likely more of a move to safe face than to provide a special atmosphere.
In 2019, both the Rams and the Chargers will share the currently under construction stadium in Inglewood, and both teams expect to stay there for a long, long time.
While the Stubhub Center is being pitched as an exclusive opportunity to watch NFL football in an intimate setting and a considerable upgrade on Qualcomm Stadium in terms of a fan experience, the reality is that Spanos probably moved because he saw a weakened Rams' team not yet re-established in the LA market.
Spanos said fans stopped turning up at the stadium and cited the failed ballot measure for the new stadium as motivations for the move. Yes, the Chargers did rank second-to-last in the NFL in attendance in 2016, but San Diego still pulled in 57,024 fans on average at Qualcomm. That's nearly double the capacity of the Stubhub Center.
The Chargers' move cannot possibly be about gate receipts, or it could have, frankly, waited a couple years.
Instead, the Chargers enter the Los Angeles NFL market with an interesting opportunity. The Chargers were the sixth worst team in the NFL a season ago, which was only one win better than the Rams, who were the fifth worst team in the National Football League. Neither team is close to making the playoffs, let alone winning a Super Bowl. If the Chargers can start winning games faster than the Rams, they can start winning fans faster than the Rams.
The cold war between the Rams and Chargers offered its first taste on Thursday. Neither team had a head coach at the start of the day, but both seemingly had a man in place by the end of the day, which signaled the start of the arms race. The Rams officially hired 30-year-old Sean McVay, who will be 31 by the start of the season, and plan to introduce the youngest NFL coach in the history of the league on Friday.
The Chargers will reportedly hire Anthony Lynn as their Head Coach, which is also a bit of a stunner. Lynn served under Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman at the start of the 2016 NFL season but found himself as the offensive coordinator only two games into the season after Bills coach Rex Ryan fired his coordinator. The Bills also fired Ryan before the end of the season, and Lynn finished the year as the Bills' interim coach. That meteoric rise landed Lynn with the Chargers.
The Rams and Chargers both have Head Coaches that are unproven and short on experience. Considering the high stakes, both teams are rolling the dice and taking big chances. However, both teams have put their trust in coaches on the offensive side of the ball, with McVay getting a great deal of credit for the work he did with Kirk Cousins in Washington.
However, the importance of winning for both franchises is paramount considering they are working to build new fan bases in a city that can't be bothered with losing teams. The greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area now features two professional NBA team, two professional MLB teams, two professional NHL teams and two professional NFL teams. Los Angeles is Noah's arc. The NFL may continue to be the biggest sport in America, but by the end of the 2016 season, the losing Rams were no longer worth Sunday afternoons because LA is spoiled for choice when it comes to sports.
The timing of the Chargers' move suggests that Spanos sees an opportunity to usurp a greater portion of the LA market by outperforming the Rams on the field. Considering how good the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders looked during the 2016 NFL season, one has a tough time seeing the Chargers back in the playoffs in the next two years, which is what it would take for the LA Chargers to truly catch on prior to the move into the new digs in Inglewood.
As Spanos told the LA Times on Thursday, he will also be personally relocating to Los Angeles with the team. In fact, the Chargers' owner appeared at the LA Kings hockey game on Thursday night and is reportedly being hosted in a welcoming dinner by Lakers owner Jeanie Buss on Friday.
On Day 1, Spanos is working hard to connect with sports fans and teams in Los Angeles.
Directly, the Rams and Chargers are not rivals, as one plays in the NFC and the other plays in the AFC. Also, the Chargers staying in Carson and the Rams playing at the Coliseum avoids scheduling conflicts for the next two years.
However, the Rams and Chargers will undoubtedly be rivals when it comes to fighting for wallets in the LA market, especially when the time arrives to fill seats in a new stadium in Inglewood. For now, the Rams have a one year head start, but a year of awful football under Jeff Fisher didn't exactly win hearts and minds.
For the foreseeable future, Los Angeles has two football teams again, but will either the Chargers or Rams be worth the attention (and money) anytime soon?