L.A. audience kept from another exciting finish

November, 19, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- One of the biggest reasons NFL fans in Los Angeles have been content without a team since 1994 is television. Bring up the possibility of the San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles and many will shake their heads and say, “No, we get to watch the best games on TV every Sunday. Why would we want to be forced to watch the Chargers?”

Well, L.A. football fans can forget about that excuse. The NFL is going to force-feed you Chargers games whether you like or not.

On Sunday, KCBS in Los Angeles left the Dallas Cowboys-Cleveland Browns game with six seconds left in regulation to show three minutes’ worth of commercials and the introductions of the San Diego Chargers-Denver Broncos game.

At the time CBS abruptly cut away from the game, Tony Romo was leading Dallas to a game-tying field goal. Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey eventually hit a 32-yard field goal with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 20-20 and send it into overtime. Bailey would then hit a 38-yard field goal in overtime to give the Cowboys a 23-20 win.

When Bailey’s overtime field goal sailed through the uprights, KCBS was airing commercials during the first quarter of a still-scoreless game between the Chargers and Broncos.

The outrage over the sudden game change made CBS a trending topic on Twitter in Los Angeles for all the wrong reasons.

Last year, a similar situation occurred when KCBS cut away from the final 27 seconds of an exciting Oakland Raiders-Buffalo Bills game for the commercials and the opening of the Chargers-New England Patriots game.

It seemed like the NFL had changed its policy after that game last year. A league official told me at the time that moving forward, if the Los Angeles market was airing a close game with the outcome still in the balance there was a “very good chance” the local affiliate wouldn't leave the game until it was decided.

NFL spokesperson Dan Masonson confirmed the NFL’s tweaking of its television policies at the time by saying, “When situations like this arise in the future, we will take a look at them. We always review our policies and seek ways to improve them."

Until Sunday, the NFL and CBS had stayed true to their word. For example, they showed the ending of the Raiders-Houston Texans game last season and joined the Chargers-Broncos game in progress.

It was a big step because the Chargers are still deemed Los Angeles' local team and therefore a secondary market because its affiliates' TV signals reach within 75 miles of the Chargers’ stadium. By rule, all secondary markets must carry in their entirety all road games of their local team.

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Potential AEG sale raises questions

September, 18, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Galaxy and a portion of the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Staples Center and the Home Depot Center, is up for sale, the company announced Tuesday.

AEG was also behind Farmers Field, a proposed $1.5 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, which was in the final stages of being cleared for construction subject to the company attracting an NFL team to the city.

So what does the sale of AEG mean for the future of Farmers Field and the return of the NFL to Los Angeles?

And while we're at it, what does it mean for the future of the Kings, the Galaxy, Staples Center and the Home Depot Center?

Well, the only person who can truly answer those questions is the next owner of AEG, and, of course, that person isn't known yet. Who knows whether the next owner of AEG has even thought about being the next owner of AEG? Considering how big and diverse AEG's assets are, the company could be split up and sold to different buyers, although a sale of the whole company to one buyer is AEG's focus, according to a source within the company.

In addition to its sports properties, AEG owns and operates a network of more than 100 arenas, stadiums and clubs in countries on five continents. The company also includes AEG Live, which produces music tours, festivals and special events, including the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, Stagecoach and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. AEG Live owns, operates or exclusively books 35 venues.

Most likely at some point in the near future, AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke will come out and say the day-to-day operations of AEG will not change in the interim and the company remains committed to Farmers Field and bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.

Of course, that commitment is only as strong as the commitment of AEG's new owner. If that person is just as committed to the project as Leiweke is, it will continue; if he or she isn't, well, it will die as so many NFL stadium proposals in L.A. have over the past two decades.

Don't look for Philip Anschutz, the Denver billionaire who owns AEG, to lend any insight into the matter. He hasn't granted a formal interview request in more than 30 years.

Anschutz, 71, is worth $7 billion and is ranked No. 39 in Forbes’ list of the richest people in America.

A potential buyer of AEG could be Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is the richest man in Los Angeles, according to Forbes and the Los Angeles Business Journal, with a net worth of more than $7 billion.

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USC shows the NFL L.A. is a football town

August, 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- One week after USC announced its home football games against Oregon and Notre Dame in November were sold out, the school announced Thursday that the season opener against unranked Hawaii on Sept. 1 at the 93,607-seat Coliseum was sold out as well.

A limited number of tickets remain for USC’s other home games against California, Colorado and Arizona State but those games, according to a school official, are expected to sell out at some point next month.

Normally news of ticket sales and sellouts in college football don’t register much of a blip with NFL executives but these numbers should.

With a final vote on the approval of Farmers Field’s environmental impact report coming next month and a site for a competing stadium in the City of Industry already shovel ready, the NFL is beginning to look more closely at Los Angeles as an NFL city.

If there were any lingering notions that Los Angeles wasn’t a football town or that there was too much to do in the fall to waste a day at the stadium or that this city couldn’t support an NFL team, well, those sellouts at the Coliseum this season should put those concerns to rest.

I know what you’re thinking. You can’t compare USC football to the NFL. USC football has tradition and history and a loyal fan base in Los Angeles that has always been there to support them through thick and thin.

It was impossible to write above sentence with a straight face. Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows nothing could be further than the truth. Pete Caroll coached his first game at USC in front of a crowd of about 45,000. There were plenty of empty seats during Lane Kiffin’s first season as the head coach. USC finally attracted sellout crowds of 93,607 to the Coliseum at the end of last season when they were moving up the polls and playing Stanford and UCLA. They hadn’t hit that mark at the Coliseum since Sept. 13, 2008 when No. 1 USC played No. 5 Ohio State.

Now, USC is going to hit that mark for a season-opening game against Hawaii, a team that went 6-7 last season and is expected to finish last or second to last in the Mountain West Conference this season.

(Read full post)

Goodell shows how close L.A. is now

June, 29, 2012
The memo that that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent out Friday wasn’t so much a precursor to the NFL returning to Los Angeles next season as it was a reminder of the relocation rules that the league has had in place for years.

The problem is those rules may have been forgotten by some over the years when discussing possible relocation.

Under the NFL’s “Policy and Procedures for Proposed Franchise Relocations” it states that the NFL commissioner must receive written notice from the team wishing to relocate and that “the notice must be filed no later than February 15 of the year in which the move is scheduled to occur.” That notice would also be published "in newspapers of general circulation within the incumbent community."

In Goodell’s memo Friday it again stated that any franchise interested in relocating to Los Angeles for the 2013 season must apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of that year, and prove it has exhausted all attempts to remain in its current location.

The agreement that laid the foundation for the policy was a 1996 "Statement of Principles" between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the NFL. The statement came on the heels of the Raiders’ move from Los Angeles to Oakland in July 1995. It was a move that occurred so late it wasn’t officially finalized until days before the Raiders’ opening preseason game against, coincidentally enough, the Rams, who had just moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis.

The policy states that “because League policy favors stable team-community relations, clubs are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories, and to operate in a manner that maximizes fan support in their current home community.”

While Goodell’s memo doesn’t quite mean a team is relocating to Los Angeles next season, it does mean that the NFL now realizes that Los Angeles has never been more ready and in better position for the NFL’s return after an 18-year absence.

Farmers Field, a proposed stadium in Downtown Los Angeles, has already submitted an environmental impact report, the final hurdle before construction can begin, and if everything goes according to plan could be in position to push dirt by March 2013. A competing stadium proposed by real estate magnate Ed Roski in the City of Industry has been “shovel ready” since 2009. Both stadiums, however, need a long-term commitment from a team before construction can begin and whenever construction does begin it could take up to four years to complete.

If construction begins in March 2013, the earliest the stadium would be open is September 2017. In the meantime, the NFL team that relocates to Los Angeles would play in either the L.A. Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.

In Downtown L.A., the plan is to first tear down the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention and build a $275 million replacement hall over Pico Boulevard that would connect to Farmers Field. Construction would then begin on the 68,000-seat football stadium that would be expandable to 78,000 seats for big events like the Super Bowl and Final Four and also be in position to bid on international events like the World Cup and Olympics.

In the City of Industry, the plan is to build a 75,000-seat stadium to be the centerpiece of a 600-acre site on the northern side of the 57 and 60 freeway interchange. The site is currently vacant but following the construction of the stadium will be revamped into an entertainment and retail complex.

The teams most commonly mentioned in a potential move to Los Angeles in recent years have been the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders.

AEG releases 3D video of Farmers Field

May, 8, 2012

AEG released a 3D architectural “fly-thru,” including animations of Farmers Field, the remodeled Los Angeles Convention Center, a redeveloped Gilbert Lindsay Plaza and new adjacent parking structures on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Convention Center footage depicts the new convention center hall spaces, including a new lobby above Pico Boulevard, pre-function space, and what will be the largest multi-purpose ballroom in Los Angeles, using the L.A. Auto Show as a case study. Additional rendered spaces include over one million square feet of contiguous convention center space and integrated meeting spaces in Farmers Field.

The community experience segment shows the redesigned Gilbert Lindsey Plaza during a variety of events including a farmers market, winter carnival, and various entertainment events.

The final game day segment of the video depict the new 15,000-person tailgate along Chick Hearn Way and the Nokia Plaza with a full fly-thru of Farmers Field during an NFL game as well as pointing towards the opportunity to host Super Bowls, Final Fours and Winter Classics.

“Today’s new look into Farmers Field, the Convention Center and surrounding public spaces shows the latest examples of the creativity and functionality that our architects, designers and other consultants are providing throughout the on-going development process,” said Ted Tanner, Executive Vice President, Development, AEG. “With last month’s release of our draft Environmental Impact Report and the continued work being done by our architects, we continue to make progress on the development of design drawings.”

Last month AEG delivered its long-awaited environmental impact report to City Hall for Farmers Field. The 10,000-page report, which took 18 months to complete at a cost of $27 million, is one of the final steps toward beginning construction on the $1.4 billion project.

The EIR will be subject to public comment for 45 days after it is released and if city officials approve the EIR and the project, there will then be a 30-day window for legal challenges, which will be resolved within 175 days. If everything goes according to plan, Farmers Field would be in position to begin construction by March 2013 if an NFL team decides to relocate to Downtown Los Angeles. If construction began by March 2013, the earliest the stadium would be open is September 2017. In the meantime, the NFL team that relocates to Los Angeles would play in either the L.A. Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.

Could the Minn. Vikings move to L.A.?

April, 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- It looks as if the NFL once again pulled out its favorite trump card Friday while talking to Minnesota lawmakers about passing a financial package to build the Minnesota Vikings a new stadium.

“There is no ultimatum, but we did clearly talk about L.A. We did clearly talk about that [being] an open market," Minnesota Sen. Julie Rosen said. "I do believe there is a feeling in some legislators and even in some folks throughout the state that they would never leave. So it was good to hear from the NFL, and from a very prominent owner, that they do have the right to move or be sold.”

With all due respect to Sen. Rosen, the NFL has used the “L.A. is an open market” line for the past 17 years since the Raiders and Rams left the No. 2 media market in the country in 1995 for Oakland and St. Louis, respectively. To their credit, the line has worked remarkably well. Since 1995, 21 new stadiums have been built for 22 teams in the NFL with most of them largely funded by a public sector fearful of losing its team if the local government doesn't chip in to build a new stadium.

Minnesota lawmakers wasted little time jumping at the NFL's threat Friday as a Minnesota Senate committee narrowly approved a public subsidy to help the Vikings build a new football stadium mere hours after after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the state capital. The stadium bill still faces a long road in the final 10 days of Minnesota's legislative session but there is at least some hope now.

There is still, however, the very real possibility that a majority of Minnesota lawmakers could scoff at the idea of the public sector largely funding a new Vikings stadium during a recession. If that happens, could that decision ultimately lead to the NFL returning to Los Angeles? The answers, or at least some educated guesses, can be found below.

Could the Minnesota Vikings really move to Los Angeles?

If you ask those who have been working toward getting the Vikings a new stadium in Minnesota for the past decade, the answer to that question will likely be answered by Minnesota’s political leaders over the next 10 days. After plans for a $975 million proposed stadium failed in committee a few days ago, the Vikings and the NFL urged Minnesota to raise the stadium issue again before the Minnesota state legislature finishes its current session at the end of the month, which seems likely at this point after Friday's news.

Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II flew to St. Paul, Minn. on Friday to meet with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders to let them know the importance of getting the stadium proposal to a full floor vote and not having the issue die in committee as it did earlier this session. In their eyes, a failure to vote will be viewed as a no vote and the Vikings and the league would be forced to explore other options at that time. Either way, this is an issue that simply cannot be pushed aside until 2013. If it drags into next year, the Vikings could very well look to move to Los Angeles rather than play another year at the Metrodome and go through another round of political hurdles and hallow promises.

Why do the Vikings want to leave Minnesota?

It’s not so much Minnesota as it is the Metrodome. The Vikings' lease with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to play in the Metrodome expired after the 2011 season, leaving the Vikings as the lone team in the NFL without a current home. They will play the upcoming season in the Metrodome, but the Vikings don’t want to commit to anything past this season without a new stadium plan in place.

Long before the roof of the Metrodome collapsed in 2010, forcing the Vikings to play two home games at Detroit’s Ford Field and then the University of Minnesota, the team’s ownership has considered the venue inadequate. It is one of the 10 oldest stadiums in the NFL, and under the Vikings’ lease with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which was signed in 1979, the commission owns the stadium and the Vikings simply rent it.

“It’s challenging from both a fan experience and from a revenue and competiveness experience,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “Right now we’re significantly subsidized by other NFL teams because of the Metrodome and the lack of revenue. The Metrodome is no longer an NFL facility and it can no longer sustain a team and is not a viable long-term solution.”

Would Zygi Wilf be the one to move the Vikings or would someone else do it?

New Jersey real estate magnate Zygi Wilf, 63, and a group of investors bought the Vikings from Red McCombs in 2005 for $600 million. At the time McCombs had unsuccessfully tried to get a new stadium for the Vikings for years and now Wilf is in the same boat. Wilf isn't currently looking to sell the team, but has met with AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke, who is the former CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“We’ve followed the situation in Los Angeles through the NFL and we know Tim Leiweke, who is a former sports executive in Minneapolis,” Bagley told ESPNLosAngeles.com last year. “We’ve been in contact with Tim and he provides us with updates but our focus is on getting a new stadium in Minnesota. That’s our plan A and we don’t have a plan B.”

If the Vikings are unable to get a new stadium plan in place by 2012, Wilf could very well look to sell the team to someone who could move the Vikings to Los Angeles. With no new stadium plan in place, it would be hard for Wilf to sell to someone wanting to keep the team in Minnesota and at the Metrodome. And while the league normally doesn’t allow teams to be sold to owners looking to relocate, NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said if the new owners of the Vikings filed for relocation after purchasing the team, the league would certainly be open to that possibility in light of the stadium situation in Minnesota and the league’s failed efforts to get a new stadium in the area.

Who could potentially buy the Vikings and move them to Los Angeles?

There are currently two stadium and ownership options in Los Angeles and both groups have already reached out to the Vikings. Real estate magnate Ed Roski, 74, wants to buy a team and build a 75,000-seat stadium to be the centerpiece of a 600-acre site on the northern side of the 57 and 60 freeway interchange in Industry, Calif. The site is currently vacant but following the construction of the stadium would be revamped into an entertainment and retail complex. His old friend and billionaire, Philip Anschutz, 72, is the principal financial backer of the other proposal. Anschutz wants to buy a team and build a 75,000-seat stadium in downtown Los Angeles that would be connected and serve as an extension to a remodeled Los Angeles Convention Center next to Staples Center. Roski’s project is currently “shovel ready” while Anschutz’s project will likely be in position to push dirt in March 2013 once it has an approved environmental impact report, which is expected early next year.

What would the timeline be for relocation if that were the plan?

NFL bylaws state that the NFL commissioner must receive written notice from a team wishing to relocate no later than Feb. 15 of the year in which the move is scheduled to occur. So the Vikings have until Feb. 15, 2013 to decide if they want to relocate. Chances are something will happen well before then, especially if Wilf wants to sell the team and give the new owners enough time to file for relocation. Once a team files for relocation, NFL owners would vote on it at their March meetings and if it were approved, construction would then begin on the new stadium and the Vikings would likely play in either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl temporarily until their new stadium was ready, which would most likely be in 2017.

If the Vikings moved would Minnesota get to keep the Vikings’ name, colors and history?

That’s a decision that would be up to the owners and the league but it’s very likely that if the Vikings moved to Los Angeles they would be rebranded and renamed and Minnesota would be allowed to keep their name, colors and history, much like in Cleveland with the Browns. Los Angeles wants a new team of their own while the NFL wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota and wants to have a presence in the Twin Cities. If for whatever reason that isn’t possible now and the Vikings are forced to relocate, the city would remain in the mix to get a franchise as soon as it had a new stadium plan in place. As Los Angeles football fans can tell you, however, that wait can last a generation if you lose a team.
Keyshawn Johnson and Dave Shore deliver all the storylines leading up to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis including the legacies of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Tom Coughlin if they are able to pull the win on Sunday. Johnson and Shore spotlight the key matchups in Sunday's game and how the two teams have changed since their Week 9 matchup. Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke on the NFL's potential return to L.A., Key and Dave have thoughts on his comments.

Listen to the entire show at this link.

Isaac Bruce reflects on his days in L.A.

February, 4, 2012
Jackie Slater never won a Super Bowl during his 20-year career in the NFL with the Los Angeles and later St. Louis Rams. The closest he came to a ring was in Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in front of a record crowd of 103,985 at the Rose Bowl.

Slater hopes his family will finally get its first Super Bowl ring this Sunday when his son, Matthew, a wide receiver, safety and special teamer for the New England Patriots takes the field against the New York Giants.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Bruce
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireIsaac Bruce
As much as Slater would like to see himself in his son, he admits that he reminds him of one of his favorite players and teammates.

“If you were to ask my son who is favorite player was, it won’t be me, or Randy Moss, who he played with or Wes Welker, who he plays with, his favorite player is, always has been and always will be Isaac Bruce,” Slater said. “He respected Isaac Bruce. Not only the way he competed as a player but the way he conducted himself off the field.

Isaac Bruce is a guy that I want my son to play like.”


Isaac Bruce, who turned 39 in November, looks like he could still play in the NFL as he sits down in the lobby of his Fort Lauderdale condominium in a track suit after a morning workout.

Bruce, who retired from the NFL before the 2010 season, was the last player to have played in the NFL on either the Los Angeles Rams or the Los Angeles Raiders. Both teams left Los Angeles in 1995. There are currently no current players in the NFL who played on an NFL team in Los Angeles.

In fact, the 17-year gap is so large now, that in the case of Slater, some those former players’ sons are now playing in the league.

“I knew I was the last Los Angeles Ram playing,” Bruce said. “I didn’t know I was the last guy who played for a Los Angeles team that was still in the NFL. I knew Wayne Gandy was with me and after he retired I figured, well, I must be the last one. I guess I was carrying the torch for the city of Los Angeles until my retirement. I had a marvelous, phenomenal time out there.”

While Bruce played all but one season of his 16-year NFL career in Los Angeles, he still considers the city his home away from.

He first arrived in Los Angeles as a 17-year-old kid with two duffle bags and the hope of playing college football after being overlooked by Miami, Florida and Florida State.

Bruce would play at West Los Angeles College and then Santa Monica College before transferring to Memphis in 1992. He can still rattle off street names, bus stops and restaurants around Los Angeles as he sits in his home 2,800 miles away.

“When I go back to L.A., it’s funny because I still see the busses and I know exactly where they’re going,” Bruce said. “I lived on Arbor Vitae Street and I would catch the bus right at the bus depot next to the airport. It brings back so many memories. I would walk to the rental car center, which wasn’t far from my place and they would take me to the airport. I would catch the six bus that goes to Culver City and I would take that bus to the Fox Hill Mall and that would take me to West L.A. My second year I could get on the three bus that goes on Lincoln and takes you all the way to Santa Monica and Pico and I would go to school in the morning and come home the same way.”

When Bruce returns to Los Angeles, he still goes to the rental car station next to his old dorm off of Arbor Vitae at Northrop University and eats his first meal at D&K Drive-In, which was where he ate most of his meals.

“I don’t think the owners there recognize me because when I was 17 when I would be there so much,” Bruce said. “But I go down there and sit down and it’s amazing. That’s where I first started.”

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Goodell: NFL not looking to expand

February, 3, 2012
Los Angeles is back to square one.

Less than 24 hours after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league could expand to 34 teams if the NFL moved to Los Angeles, Goodell said his answer was merely a hypothetical response to a hypothetical question and the league does not plan on expanding.

“The question last night, very simply, was would you just expand by just one to Los Angeles,” Goodell said Friday. “I said no, if we ever expanded, you would expand by two, you wouldn’t expand by one team. We have not discussed expansion with the membership. I don’t see it on the agenda even for this March meeting. It’s not something we’re focused on as a league.”

The possibility of the NFL being open to expansion was a potential game-changer in Los Angeles' hopes of getting an NFL team. For the past ten years the only way the city could get an NFL team was by attracting a current franchise to relocate since the league said it would not expand. Obviously convincing an NFL team to leave their current market and move to another market which lost two NFL teams in 1995 is infinitely harder than simply having the league grant L.A. an expansion team.

(Read full post)

L.A. Convention Center renderings

February, 2, 2012
L.A. Convention CenterCourtesy of Populous architectureExternal rendering of the proposed L.A. Convention Center remodel.

The architectural firm Populous presented preliminary renderings of the new Los Angeles Convention Center that will be attached to Farmers Field Thursday to an ad hoc committee overseeing the project.

The plan is to first tear down the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention and build a $275 million replacement hall over Pico Boulevard that would connect to Farmers Field, the $1.1 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

After the convention center expansion is complete, construction would then begin on the 68,000-seat football stadium that would be expandable to 78,000 seats for big events like the Super Bowl and Final Four and also be in position to bid on international events like the World Cup and Olympics.

“The Los Angeles Convention Center modernization component of the event center development project will replace the four decade old West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center with a modern facility contiguous with the South Hall exhibition space,” said Los Angeles Convention Center general manager and CEO Pouria Abbassi. “The flexibility and efficiency inherent in contiguous exhibit hall design is considered an attractive feature to event organizers and planners.”

The plan for Farmers Field is to add 90,000 square feet to the already remodeled South Hall, demolish the old disconnected West Hall and build the stadium on that site, which would give the total new event center 1.7 million square feet. The increased continuous flat and unobstructed exhibition space would move Los Angeles from No. 15 in U.S. convention centers to No. 5.

An environmental impact report on the project is not expected to be completed until this summer and construction, which is slated to begin in 2013 and completed by 2016, is still contingent on an NFL team moving to Los Angeles to play in the proposed stadium.

Meet Dennis Allen

January, 24, 2012
New gig: Allen was hired as the Raiders’ head coach Tuesday night.

Previous job: He was the defensive coordinator in Denver for the past season.

Age: 39. Allen will be the NFL's youngest active head coach — six months younger than Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.

Coaching history: From 2002-10, he was an assistant in Atlanta and New Orleans.

Playing history: He was a standout safety at Texas A&M and earned an invitation to Buffalo’s training camp in 1996.

Known for: He is an aggressive, smart coach who has seen several players develop under his guidance.

Did you know? New England coach Bill Belichick is the only other active NFL coach who was hired directly from a division rival. He was with the Jets prior to joining the Patriots in 2000.

Kroenke keeps quiet about Rams' future

January, 18, 2012
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a smart business man. The real estate mogul, worth $3.2 billion according to Forbes, didn’t create his sports empire by making hallow promises or sticking his foot in his mouth in public.

That is why Kroenke made no assurances about the future of the Rams in St. Louis while he introduced Jeff Fisher as the new coach of the team on Tuesday.

The man who owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, MLS’s Colorado Rapids and the English Premier League’s Arsenal Football Club is a master negotiator and he is preparing for what will be a lengthy negotiation with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission has until Feb. 1 to give the Rams a preliminary proposal for how it plans to give the Edward Jones Dome "top-tier" status, which basically means it has to rank in the top quarter of NFL stadiums when it comes to modern amenities such as suites, club seats and lounges. Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995 and has quickly gone from one of the league's newest stadiums to one of the oldest after 21 new stadiums were built for 22 teams during that time.

The Rams can either agree to the offer a month later or reject it and make a counteroffer by May 1, which is the most likely scenario. The commission can then either agree to the counteroffer by June 1 or reject it and go to arbitration, which again seems like the direction this thing is heading toward. If such a scenario unfolds, the lease could be voided and the Rams could rent the Dome on a year-to-year basis or choose to move elsewhere.

The bottom line is the Rams can get out of their lease agreement with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome doesn't rank in the top quarter of NFL stadiums. It seems anything outside of a new stadium would make that impossible and getting public funding for such an expensive undertaking in St. Louis, which is still paying off the original construction debt of the Dome, is highly unlikely.

An interesting subplot in all of this is that when Kroenke became the majority owner of the St. Louis Rams in August 2010 for $750 million, after being a minority owner since 1995, he agreed to turn over operational and financial control of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche to his 30-year-old son, Josh, and give up his majority stake in the teams by December 2014. NFL rules prevent owners from owning major league franchises in other pro football cities.

Kroenke is a longtime friend and business partner of fellow Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns AEG and is the man behind Farmers Field, the $1.1 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Would Kroenke sell a majority stake in the Rams to Anschutz instead of giving up his majority stake in the Nuggets and Avalanche and then make a play down the road to buy the Broncos?

It is just one of many scenarios and questions hovering around St. Louis and the ongoing saga of the NFL’s return to Los Angeles.

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Raiders 26

January, 1, 2012

A look at a blown opportunity by the Oakland Raiders as they lost 38-26 against the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Raiders will never forget this day. All Oakland had to do was beat the eliminated Chargers at home and they would have won the AFC West title because the Denver Broncos already lost at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet, the Raiders were thumped by the Chargers, a team that the Raiders had completely handled the past three times they met. San Diego was the better team as the Raiders ended the season losing four of their final five games to finish 8-8. The Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs in nine years and are tied for the second longest drought in the NFL.

Support for Turner: It was probably too late, but give credit to the Chargers for playing hard for coach Norv Turner. He will likely be fired because the Chargers failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. Still, if this was the end, it was impressive.

Jackson’s prediction doesn’t come true: Oakland rookie head coach Hue Jackson predicted earlier in the season the Raiders would win the AFC West. He and his troops had their chances, but they couldn’t get it done. Next season, Jackson needs to just coach and not prognosticate.

Palmer isn’t a difference maker: The Raiders traded two premium picks (including their first-round pick in April) to Cincinnati for Carson Palmer.Palmer did throw for 417 yards, but he wasn’t the difference. Now, the Raiders have to move forward with the 32-year-old and hope he doesn’t continue to decline as he had for the past three years. The Raiders went all in for 2011 with the Palmer trade and all they got was a second straight 8-8 season and no playoff berth.

Penalty kings: To add injury to insult, the Raiders set the NFL season record for penalties and penalty yardage Sunday. Oakland was penalized 163 times for 1,358 yards, surpassing the totals of 158 penalties for 1,304 yards set by the 1998 Chiefs.

Another bad defensive day for Oakland: San Diego was awesome on offense. It had 463 yards and never punted. Expect the calls for Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Breshnahan to be fired to get very loud.

Wrap-up: 49ers 34, Rams 27

January, 1, 2012
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams during their Week 17 game at the Edward Jones Dome, a 34-27 victory for San Francisco:

What it means: The 49ers played to win in securing the NFC's second seed in the playoffs and the first-round bye that goes along with it. Securing the bye was hugely important for the 49ers given their injury situation. Coach Jim Harbaugh showed how much this game meant to the team. He allowed Patrick Willis to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury. He approved a fake field goal when the 49ers led by 10 points late in the third quarter. The 49ers needed to play well because the Rams put together a furious comeback -- a potential last stand for coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams emerged with the No. 2 overall choice in the 2012 draft when Indianapolis also lost.

What I liked: Both teams played aggressively to win. Even the interception St. Louis threw on an ill-fated trick play showed Spagnuolo wasn't going to go quietly in what could have been his final game. The 49ers adjusted to their personnel issues by making Vernon Davis a bigger part of the passing game. Davis topped 100 yards. The fake field goal they executed was brilliant for the way it tricked the Rams into overlooking Michael Crabtree's presence on the field as a wide receiver. The Rams, meanwhile, put up a great fight in coming back from a 27-10 deficit even though they lost Steven Jackson to injury. Kicker Josh Brown provided a perfect onside kick that the Rams recovered. Third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens found Brandon Lloyd for the touchdown that pulled St. Louis within 34-27. And the 49ers, though reeling in the final minutes, came through with the defensive play they needed when NaVorro Bowman sacked Clemens and knocked him from the game with a leg injury at the 2:46 mark.

What I didn't like: Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks showed great promise in training camp, but his regular-season struggles continued in this game. The pass Kendricks dropped near the first-down marker with 6:15 left in the first half left the Rams in a third-and-10 situation. They fumbled the snap on their next play, setting up the 49ers to stretch their lead from 17-7 to 20-7. The 49ers gave up a rushing touchdown for the second week in a row. Willis, playing for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury Dec. 4, could not get around Rams tight end Stephen Spach when Jackson broke through the line for a 27-yard gain. The injury to Clemens was horribly unfortunate, but also an indication of the protection problems the Rams have had all season. The 49ers' defense, though facing the most limited offense in the NFL, blew a chance to set a franchise record for lowest points per game allowed. They needed to allow 15 or fewer points to break the 1976 team's NFL-era franchise record. They needed to allow 13 or fewer points to break the all-time franchise record, set in the AAFC era.

What's next: The 49ers have a week off before playing in the NFC divisional playoff round. That game will be at Candlestick Park. The Rams hold the second overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft.

Wrap-up: Lions 38, Chargers 10

December, 24, 2011
A few thoughts on a momentous day and evening in Detroit:

What it means: The Detroit Lions clinched their first playoff berth since 1999 in convincing fashion, jumping on the San Diego Chargers for 24 first-half points and finishing strongly as well. The victory caps a three-year overhaul from the franchise's darkest moment, the 0-16 season in 2008, and cements the status of a new set of heroes for Detroit sports fans. For those asking, we don't yet know if the Lions will be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Turning point: The Chargers threatened to make a game of it the third quarter, recovering an onside kick moments after closing the gap to 24-7 midway through the quarter. But on third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass intended for receiver Malcom Floyd in the end zone. The Chargers were forced to kick a field goal, a clear momentum swing that they never recovered from. Kudos to Houston for his play, which also included an interception and a total of four defensed passes.

StaffordWatch: There's no other way to say it: Matthew Stafford and the entire Lions passing offense were dealing all game long. From the opening play, a 46-yard jump ball that receiver Calvin Johnson caught against double coverage, the Lions had their way with the Chargers' defense. Stafford's final numbers: 29 completions in 36 attempts for 373 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 137.6 passer rating. In his past three games, Stafford has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Obviously, that's how you want a franchise quarterback to respond in the playoff push. In the process, he set a new Lions record for the most passing yards in a season. It now stands at 4,518 yards.

Composure: Circumstances conspired to whip the team into a frenzy, and center Dominic Raiola was among those who let his pregame emotions get the best of him. I saw Raiola's pushing and shoving before the game and wondered if we were in for another penalty-filled, out-of-control performance. But the Lions appear to have put that phase of their season behind them. They were called for only three accepted penalties, losing a total of eight yards, and kept their composure throughout the afternoon. There was a moment when I thought tight end Tony Scheffler was going to go after a Chargers player post-whistle, but he smartly held back. Coach Jim Schwartz's no-tolerance policy has worked.

Rewards: I'm sure many Lions fans were thinking Saturday of friends and loved ones who suffered through years and years of substandard, playoff-less years of football. I couldn't help but marvel at how much bad football that longtime Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski covered in his 30-plus years on the job. Kowalski passed away last August, just before this wild season kicked off. Beat writers don't root for the teams they cover, but take it from experience, covering a playoff team is a lot more interesting than the alternative.

What's next: The Lions will close out the regular season -- and turn their attention TO THE PLAYOFFS -- next Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.



Philip Rivers
570 379 4286 31
B. Oliver 160 582 3.6 3
R. Mathews 74 330 4.5 3
M. Floyd 52 856 16.5 6
A. Gates 69 821 11.9 12