The NFL owners meetings begin on Monday in Phoenix, and the Oakland Raiders are going to be the main topic of discussion.
For the second time in 35 years, Oakland is getting its NFL team ripped away from it. On Monday, the NFL owners will vote on whether the Raiders can move from Oakland to Las Vegas, needing only a three-fourths majority. It’s going to pass.
Soon, we might have the first NFL stadium in history that serves shrimp cocktails at the concession stand.
Back in the early 80s, former Raiders owner Al Davis fought viciously with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle in the courts for the right to move his franchise from what he believed was an outdated Oakland Coliseum.
Davis eventually won his lawsuit and fled for Los Angeles. He moved his team to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1982, a stadium built in 1923. This in comparison to Oakland’s stadium, which was erected in 1966. What Davis really wanted was a bigger market, along the feeling of power and control.
Only 13 years later, Davis came back hat-in-hand to his original city and stadium. He found out that Los Angeles had little appetite for professional sports teams not named the Lakers.
Now, his son Mark is making a go of it in Las Vegas, becoming the second major league franchise to put down roots in Sin City (the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights will begin play in October).
Logic dictates it’s a risky move with short-term disaster written all over it, and potential for long-term failure as well. Davis is moving his team from the sixth-largest television market in the country to the 42nd-largest. While the population is larger in Las Vegas, Oakland has the benefit or large, corporate-rich cities around it including San Francisco, San Jose and Fremont.
Season-ticket holders for the premium seats that demand high private seating licenses are easier to come by when Fortune 500 companies are abound.
Davis contends he and his franchise have been trying to secure a new stadium deal in Oakland, but are leaving because all options have been exhausted. While there is truth in that, it also bares stating that Oakland is being dumped for the same reasons the Chargers bolted San Diego. The teams want public funding from the city and its citizens. The cities, especially in cash-strapped California, have no interest in that.
As noted by USA Today, Davis and the Raiders found public financing in Las Vegas, where the city will kick in $750 million to fund the new stadium.
Even with the approval from his peers, Davis will be stuck in Oakland for at least another year and likely two while the stadium is built. The Raiders are finally contenders, and now have to deal with the looming specter of relocation.
Nobody can rightfully blame Davis for wanting a new facility. The Oakland Coliseum is a dump in every sense, leaking sewage among other issues. It’s the worst venue in pro sports, and one that the MLB’s Athletics are attempting to flee as well.
In the end, Vegas will get its team. This ugliness will leave a football-shaped hole in the city of Oakland’s heart. The politics and lack of public money gives Davis his cape to cloak him in the night, but that doesn’t change the fact that his current fans are getting jobbed.
The Raiders were a steaming pile of garbage with helmets for more than a decade and yet saw their fans stick by them with continued passion. They were the ones all but donating millions to Davis while attending that antiquated stadium, hoping for something better. Now they have it, and it’s about to be shipped out of town.
The NFL is a dollars-and-cents business, just like any other successful entity. It’s about the bottom line, something commissioner Roger Goodell and his owners have been brilliant with. In the end, Oakland is collateral damage for a machine that sees fans as faceless donators.
It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Almost like a rotten shrimp cocktail.
Top 10 current NFL general managers
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2. John Elway, Denver Broncos
3. Jon Schneider, Seattle Seahawks
4. Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens
5. John Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs
6. Jerry Reese, New York Giants
7. Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons
8. Ted Thompson, Green Bay Packers
9. Reggie McKenzie, Oakland Raiders
10. Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals
“I’ve talked to a lot of NFL people,” Webb said after the Golden Bears’ pro day workouts. “And double-digit teams have told me I’m a first-round guy.”
– Davis Webb, on how teams are viewing the former Golden Bears quarterback
Every year, there is a player who goes in the first round and shocks all the pundits. Webb could be that player. He only started for a year at California and has some flaws (going through progressions being tops), but his size and arm have scouts intrigued.
The guess here is that Webb goes early on the second day, with the Bears, Jets, 49ers and Jaguars all viable options. A sleeper? The Chargers, who could be looking for a project to groom behind Philip Rivers.
In his rookie year of 2015, Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 187 yards. Last season, Ajayi eclipsed that total in three separate games, running for 1,272 yards on 4.9 yards per carry.
Info learned this week
1. Where will Adrian Peterson end up?
The all-time leading rusher for the Minnesota Vikings announced he’s not worried about a finding his team immediately. That’s probably because he has no choice. At this juncture, free agency has been picked over a few times, leaving stars like Peterson, Darrelle Revis and Jamaal Charles without employment.
With the Vikings preferring Latavius Murray, who needed knee surgery, Peterson’s stock is very low. He’ll eventually sign, but for little money and perhaps no guaranteed. The Cowboys remain an option as a backup to Ezekiel Elliott, although more appealing options include the Buccaneers and Lions, where he could start on contenders.
2. Bengals continue to rebuild
The days of Rey Maualuga in a Bengals uniform are over. The 30-year-old linebacker was released over the weekend, making way for younger charges to get more playing time. Cincinnati has made clear its intent to rebuild a once-perennial playoff team that never won a postseason game, allowing Kevin Zeitler, Andrew Whitworth and others to leave without replacements in free agency.
Whether this is the right or wrong move remains to be seen. It’s borderline impossible to see the Bengals as a playoff contender this year, but will that give birth to a better team in a few years? Cincinnati might be better served cleaning out the coaching staff and starting completely fresh, but that doesn’t seem to be in owner/general manager Mike Brown’s playbook.
3. Free agency comes to a halt
After an early crush of signings and millions being thrown around, all is quiet on the free agency front. With a bit of perspective, there are a few winners to be celebrated (at least, before the games are played). The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts did nice work. Cleveland fortified its offensive line after being a sieve all of last season. Meanwhile, Indianapolis general manager John Ballard did yeoman’s work by addressing defensive needs with high-upside, low-cost signings in John Simon, Sean Spence and others.
On the other side, the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins have explaining to do. Los Angeles has a young quarterback and added Andrew Whitworth, but gave him no help in the weapons department. This while letting Kenny Britt leave, only to be replaced by Robert Woods. Washington allowed Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to go, along with Chris Baker off the defensive line. It’s a total mess in the nation’s capital.
4. Newton will be ready come the regular season
Cam Newton struggled mightily only a year removed from his MVP campaign, and now he is going under the knife for shoulder surgery. With the recovery period expected to be 8-12 weeks, Newton will be back for the season if not much earlier, according to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
Carolina only won six games in 2016, but has the talent to make another deep run in the NFC playoffs if Newton can get right. The division has gotten tougher, though. The Buccaneers are continuing to improve, the Saints added in free agency and the Falcons both younger and more dynamic than ever.
5. Steelers prepare for life after Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls and reached three with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm. Now, with Big Ben turning 35 years old earlier this month, the franchise is beginning to look for its next face, per Mike Tomlin’s comments to Judy Batista of NFL.com.
With Roethlisberger not 100 percent sure whether he wants to play in 2017 (he will), Pittsburgh has to think that he’s not long for the league. Even if he plans to play another three of four years, the time is now to groom his successor.
The last of the 60-minute men in the NFL was Chuck Bednarik, a Hall of Fame center and linebacker. Bednarik’s last game came in 1960, when his Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Packers in the NFL title game. Afterwards, Vince Lombardi declared his team would never lose another postseason game. In the following seven campaigns, Green Bay won five championships under Lombardi, going a 7-0 in the playoffs.
There is going to be a fierce battle in the AFC South. After years of being dominated by Peyton Manning and the Colts, and then becoming a rancid foursome, the South now has two legitimate contenders.
Both the Texans and Titans are going to be vastly improved this season, joining the ranks of the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs as the main challengers to New England’s throne. The only caveat is Houston landing Tony Romo. Without Romo, and a healthy Romo, the Texans will be the same team we’ve seen for years.
Still, it seems Romo will end up in Houston, giving it a real chance to reach the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Tennessee went 9-7 last year and should improve with a strong free agency and two first-round picks in April’s draft.
Finally, the South will be both competitive and exciting.