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LA's football follies

Today has been a major news day for Los Angeles football. First, the Chargers announced that they are moving from San Diego to LA. Then the Rams made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in NFL history at age 30.

One year ago, I was desperate for LA to get an NFL team back, and I would have gladly welcomed the Chargers with open arms. But that was last year. As it turned out, we got my top choice for an NFL team -- the organization with the greatest history here -- and any other franchise just seemed superfluous.

rams-unis-gold.jpgBack then, I wrote that if LA were to get a second team, then it might as well be the Raiders. If LA is going to have two teams, then they should have two distinct brands. And the Raiders already have a fan base in Los Angeles.

I don't normally agree with Bill Plaschke, but he did a terrific job of explaining why the Chargers move to LA is a mistake. Aside from the fact that they're not wanted in LA, they have alienated their fan base in San Diego. They're about to become the Clippers of football. The NFL picked the Chargers over the Raiders to be LA's second team for one simple reason - the owners like Dean Spanos better than Mark Davis. That's all well and good, but that doesn't mean it's a smart business decision. Of course, the worse business decision was allowing the Rams and Raiders to leave in 1995 for substandard stadiums in St. Louis and Oakland, but the league buckled under the threat of anti-trust lawsuits from both franchises.

What gets lost though in the "they should stay in San Diego" argument is that the Chargers didn't feel they had a viable stadium option in San Diego. Part of that is due to the city of San Diego having dysfunctional politics for much of the last decade. Part of that is due to Spanos' greed in refusing to play in Mission Valley, and demanding an extraordinarily expensive stadium near the San Diego Convention Center. Sure, the voters of San Diego refused to approve public funds towards such a stadium. But Spanos doesn't have Stan Kroenke money, and he couldn't afford to build a stadium himself.

If Spanos wanted to move, and he actually wanted to be welcomed in a new city, then he certainly could have considered other locations. St. Louis was willing to contribute public money to a stadium for the Rams. San Antonio has long been angling for a team. So has Memphis. And the NFL keeps talking about putting a franchise in London.

I still firmly believe that Spanos should change the name of the Chargers to something else. I discussed this at length when the relocation talks heated up last year. The Chargers brand is closely tied with the city of San Diego and it should remain with the city in the event that a team moves back. By changing the name to Dragons, Amigos, Toros, Producers, Force, or something else, the Chargers can build their own unique identity here and will have a better chance of succeeding against a Rams team that is steeped in history, but fans have quickly become wary of.

Speaking of those Rams, I'm not sure if anyone in LA knows what to make of the hiring of the 30-year old McVay. He wasn't my first choice. Or my second. Or my third. The Rams would have made a real splash if they had hired Jon Gruden away from ESPN. They would have made a solid hire by bringing in Josh McDaniels from New England or Kyle Shanahan from Atlanta, the two most reputed offensive minds available.

But Rams COO Kevin Demoff made it clear that he wanted to hire someone in the January 10-12 window, so no one from staffs from one of the NFL's eight best teams was available in his mind. They did interview McDaniels who they already knew well from his one mediocre season as the Rams offensive coordinator in 2011. They blew their opportunity to interview Shanahan, by waiting until the last possible day to meet him per the Dave Wannstedt Rule, and then sitting at an airport in Boston as bad weather derailed their flight plans. Demoff didn't want to wait another week to interview Shanahan, lest the Rams lose out on an opportunity to build a great staff. Considering the Rams were able to snag top defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, it appears that decision paid off. But the Falcons probably aren't too upset that they waited to hire Dan Quinn as their head coach after he coached the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

So is McVay the right hire for the Rams? It's certainly a gutsy hire. There are plenty of young head coaches who have been successful such as Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin, Bill Cowher, John Madden, Adam Gase, and Don Shula. But none of those guys were as young as failed coaching hires like Lane Kiffin, Raheem Morris, Dave Shula, or McDaniels. As brilliant as McDaniels is, he admitted that he wasn't ready to be a head coach when he took over the Broncos at age 32.

Just over 11 years ago, I started working for the Tampa Bay Rays when they had hired a 29-year old team president in Matt Silverman and a 28-year old GM in Andrew Friedman. Both men were absolutely brilliant, and they brought life to a franchise that had been beleaguered since it was founded. They were exactly what the Rays needed at the time.

McVay comes to a Rams team that hasn't made the playoffs since going 8-8 in 2004. They haven't been remotely good on offense since Mike Martz coached Marc Bulger. Statistically his Redskins offenses did extremely well with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, even though most NFL analysts still don't know what to make of Cousins and the Redskins did choke away a playoff berth at the end of this past season. McVay seems to be getting credit for the Redskins offense success, although I'm sure that offensive minded head coach Jay Gruden had a lot to do with it as well. We'll have to see if McVay can turn the Rams around. A plausible case could be made that it's possible. But despite blowing the Rams front office away in interviews, I think there's a 50/50 chance that it works out.

More puzzling to me is why the Rams have chosen to keep General Manager Les Snead. Despite being gifted a slew of draft picks in the RG3 Trade, Snead built a franchise that still doesn't have enough depth. He's made some great defensive draft picks in Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, and Michael Brockers. But virtually every offensive draft pick he's made has failed. His busts include Greg Robinson, Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey, Tre Mason, and Tavon Austin, all of whom were taken in the first three rounds. The jury is still out on Todd Gurley, who looked like a stiff for most of this past season. And Jared Goff looked completely overwhelmed in his first year after the Rams gave up six draft picks, including the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft for him. Perhaps Goff will work out in the long run, but I think most Rams fans would have rather they held onto their picks and taken Dak Prescott before the Cowboys did.

Snead has made some more questionable moves by locking up Austin to a long-term $42 million contract, despite the fact that he's undersized and has had virtually no success in his NFL career. He also let cornerback Janoris Jenkins go to the Giants, and he responded by making the Pro Bowl. Jenkins was replaced by Coty Sensabaugh, who signed a $15 million contract. Sensabaugh was so ineffective that he was released after Week 4 and signed with the Giants. After five straight losing seasons, I'm not sure why Snead remains in his role. Perhaps Sean McVay will make the most of the roster.


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