The San Diego Chargers are having a nightmare of a season. Not even the most pessimistic Bolts supporter would have figured a team this talented would be 2-7 after nine games. Alas, the Chargers find themselves in that position with nothing but doom and gloom on the horizon. With every loss fan apathy outgrows fan anger over the results on the field. Teams that should be an ‘easy win’ for Philip Rivers and company now look daunting. After all, San Diego did just lose to a 1-6 Baltimore Ravens and a 2-6 Chicago Bears team in back-to-back weeks.
For all intents and purposes, the Chargers have fallen into the ‘easy win’ category.
The blackest of the clouds hovering over the Chargers is the relocation issue. A topic that has been lingering for 14 seasons and counting, replacing Qualcomm stadium has been on the agenda every offseason only to eventually get swept under the rug.
With the NFL bent on getting a team back into the lucrative Los Angeles market for the 2016 season, teams are jumping on the opportunity to leave their ramshackle digs in favor of a new state-of-the-art facility in the second-largest market in the United States. The Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are embroiled in a three-horse race to get the Los Angeles prize. At the same time, Oakland and San Diego are working to get a back-channel deal for a new stadium in their own city at the same time.
St. Louis owner Stan Kroenke has no desire to stay in St. Louis a second longer than he has to. The billionaire has already purchased land in Inglewood, California and is ready to build a stadium upon it the moment the NFL says yes. The Rams are the most storied of the three teams bidding to move. The NFL isn’t exactly happy with the owner trying to ‘bully’ his way into the Los Angeles space without their consent.
The Oakland Raiders are also more than ready to leave their O.Co stadium, known around the league as the worst stadium in the league. The Raiders also have a long history in Los Angeles and are ready to return. It was revealed over the offseason that the Raiders and Chargers ownership have met and discussed co-habitation of a stadium in Los Angeles. The league is interested but the measure does not have the 2/3 support of the other NFL owners to make that proposition a reality. Yet.
The San Diego Chargers have only had one season in a temporary home while Qualcomm stadium (previously known as Jack Murphy stadium) was being built. The Chargers have resided in San Diego for 49 years and looks to be the team working the hardest to keep the team in the city despite ownership saying everything to the contrary. The city, local politicians and the government are working in various capacities on proposals for stadium sites in Mission Valley or in downtown San Diego.
The NFL is watching all three teams. They have listened to multiple proposals from each team and recently concluded town hall forums in each of the three cities to take the pulse of the fanbases there. In the end, it’s all about money. Proposals aside, the team that will make the NFL the most money will win the battle for Los Angeles.
As hard as it is to say or even type, the Oakland Raiders are a team on the rise. At 4-4 they have themselves in the wild card hunt and a future superstars on their hands with quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper maturing together. Cooper was the Raiders 2015 number one draft pick, brought in to give a legitimate weapon to Carr, the Raiders 2014 number one draft pick. The play has paid off and Cooper is succeeding beyond expectations.
St. Louis hit the jackpot with their 2015 number one draft pick, Todd Gurley III. Gurley has taken the league by storm and in the five full games since he’s returned from ACL surgery he’s vaulted into fourth place in the league in rushing with 664 yards and four touchdowns. The rookie is averaging a gaudy 118 yards rushing per game.
Gurley is already drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson in their prime and has the looks of the next big unstoppable force at the running back position. The Rams are two games behind the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and have already beaten the Cards once this season.
San Diego is obviously going in the opposite direction. The Chargers are not devoid of bankable stars. If he can stay healthy, which has been easier said than done for the third-year pro, Keenan Allen can be a yearly top-10 wide receiver. Second year cornerback Jason Verrett is going to be tops among the new breed of shut down cornerbacks if he can stay on the field. Even in pictures, Philip Rivers’ love of the game shines through. All of these teams have faces that would look great on a Los Angeles billboard.
What the Chargers needed was a buzz.
It wouldn’t be a reach to say San Diego is a market that is dimly lit on the NFL landscape. They’re known as a ‘soft’ football team. Visiting teams love to go to San Diego because of its perfect weather and the fact that the road team’s fans usually outnumber the local fans creating a ‘home game on the road’ environment.
The Chargers needed a great season tied into a playoff appearance that would have put them into the consciousness of the NFL fans that don’t watch the Chargers or have any familiarity with the players aside from fantasy football. That way, when the NFL announces San Diego as the team headed to Los Angeles it would result in interest and excitement as opposed to the scratching of heads.
The Rams and Raiders have very loud and vocal factions of their fanbases shouting at the NFL from the rooftops that they should be the team that goes to Los Angeles. Rams fans have even started a movement to boycott the games should San Diego get cast in LA. Aside from the diehard San Diego fans, the fanbase largely is not willing to travel two hours up the I-5 to continue to support the Chargers. Apathy does not sell PSL’s and luxury boxes. Shutting out two teams with a long history in Los Angeles for a team with one year of tenure and currently sitting in last place will not draw eyeballs, ad revenue or sell merchandise.
In short, the Chargers are playing their way into San Diego. The biggest ally in keeping the Bolts in San Diego were the Bolts themselves. No one planned for the team to have this dismal a season but in a karmic way they solved their own problem. Forget what the ownership says, it’s all about the league making money and the Chargers are not going to do it.
The Greg One