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Not 4th down for LA, but surely 3rd and long

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If there’s one thing the NFL doesn’t want associated with moving a team or teams to Los Angeles, it’s confusion.

Too late.

With each delay in the process, as well-intentioned as they might be, the league perplexes residents of LA, St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego. Not to mention fans of the Rams, Raiders and Chargers, wherever else they reside.

This week’s move to punt any decision to Jan. 13 in Houston, a delay of nearly six weeks, was deemed necessary because, many owners said, there is so much more information to be gathered. Info from the three cities that could lose their franchises. Info from the owners of the teams seeking relocation. Info from the committee in charge of recommending one of two LA stadium plans put forth.

New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch put it succinctly. Well, as succinctly as anything could be on this topic; remember, bringing a team or two back to Los Angeles has been an ongoing issue since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season.

“It’s so tough to talk about drop-dead dates because this is herding cats,” Tisch said. “It’s just very difficult to say this is the drop-dead date, this is take it or leave it time. I don’t know … this may go into overtime. I wish I could have more clarity to share with you. But it’s a long, tedious process. There’s a lot of questions and there are not answers to every question yet. And there will be more questions when we meet in mid-January for sure.”

That’s hardly encouraging. But in the next breath, Tisch expressed optimism that either Rams owner Stan Kroenke‘s proposal for a billion-dollar stadium in Inglewood, California, or the shared facility planned by the Raiders and Chargers in nearby Carson will get approval in Houston.

“We’re going to want some kind of decision, if possible, made on the 13th of January,” said Tisch, one of the league’s more enlightened owners.

But …

“If there are issues that prolong a vote beyond Jan. 13 that are not under our control or the committee’s control, that’s one thing,” he added. “To the extent that the committee can present to full ownership on the 13th and say it’s time to vote, guys, let’s vote, that’s in everybody’s best interest.”

Got that?

If not, let’s see if Commissioner Roger Goodell can clarify.

“It’s not a requirement that we vote at that meeting,” Goodell said. “There are still a lot of unknowns to make that prediction.”

One of the unknowns the owners are reticent to speak about is reaching the three-quarters majority of votes to approve relocation. They shudder to think that after years of pursuing a viable stadium project in LA, and months of data-collecting on the two current proposals — not to mention St. Louis’ offer to get a new facility built for the Rams — they will wind up stalemated when a vote is called for.

The history of the league indicates that such stalemates don’t happen. For now, though, Kroenke has a decent number of backers, close to the nine needed to block approval of the Raiders-Chargers plan. And there are plenty of undecideds.

The Jan. 13 date, while not a firm deadline, seems pretty essential for significant movement. If not, with the Super Bowl looming, relocation to LA will get put off until mid-February. That easily could lead to no NFL in LA in 2016 — and three teams appearing to be lame ducks if the Rams, Raiders and Chargers all file relocation papers when allowed in January.

Colts owner Jimmy Irsay believes his peers are particularly interested in getting two teams to Los Angeles. Goodell mentioned that both stadium plans must have that as a potential component, and Kroenke moved toward that end by offering an equity share in his Inglewood arena should that help sell his project.

Irsay also recognizes the pitfalls in needing 24 backers out of 32, while also lauding that requirement.

“Right now, it’s a little hard to see one of the proposals getting 24 votes,” Irsay said. “It’s always possible. Things can change. We’ve had this three-quarter rule that’s in existence for a long time. It’s a strong foundation of our league. Usually when you get a three-quarters vote, you get 24 teams, you really have a good decision, a thoughtful decision made by more than just a simple majority. The 24-vote rule is key.

“Right now, if we were voting today, I don’t see anything getting 24 votes. That certainly can change with more discussion.”

Which is exactly what will occur in the coming weeks. All proposals must be in to the league by the end of December. Then the LA relocation committee is expected to choose one or the other, while also bearing in mind the efforts by St. Louis (in progress), San Diego (planned, but not imminent) and Oakland (basically nonexistent) to keep their franchises.

It’s not fourth down yet in this process, but third and long certainly is on the horizon.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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