Different approaches to L.A. relocation could shift momentum to Carson

As team owners weigh the different options for relocation to Los Angeles, the winning proposal may end up being the one that was better advertised. AP Photo/Christian K. Lee

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Right, wrong or indifferent, no matter how you view the NFL's race to return to Los Angeles, there's no denying the fact that the approach taken by those representing the Carson project and those representing the Inglewood project are polar opposite.

Never was that more abundantly clear than Tuesday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency hotel outside Chicago. It's also why it would be no surprise if the public perception starts to shift momentum toward Carson over Inglewood.

After a 45-minute presentation to the assembled league owners, Carmen Policy, the man representing the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in their pursuit of relocation to a new stadium in Carson, spent about 20 minutes speaking to the media.

After their own 45-minute presentation, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff went to lunch. Demoff did speak to the media later for about seven minutes, but didn't provide much insight into the proceedings.

Such is the difference between an appointed consultant working on behalf of -- but not for -- the teams he represents, and an executive vice president trying to find the delicate balance between selling tickets in his home market and pitching a potential move to the rest of the league.

"I never viewed this as a competition," Demoff said. "I viewed this as an opportunity for the NFL to hear about both projects."

But that opportunity for the NFL to hear about both projects is a step in a process that can't be seen as anything but a competition. It would be naive to think that what's currently taking place is something other than a battle to offer the best and brightest opportunity for the NFL to return to L.A.

Behind closed doors, Policy joined Goldman Sachs in presenting the Carson project, while Demoff and Kroenke unveiled the Inglewood proposal. There's no way of knowing how those presentations were received, as most owners declined to discuss specifics, but from the outside, there was clearly one project pushing harder than the other.

"Let me just say this: The Raiders and Chargers are committed to L.A., and they've spent a lot of money [on L.A.]," Policy said.

Since he was named as the point man for Carson back in May, Policy hasn't been too hard to find.

Not only did Policy take the time to talk Tuesday, he offered plenty of insight into how he sold the Carson project to the owners. At the top of that list was an emphasis on how the Carson project solves the stadium problem for two California teams without removing them from their home state.

"It cures the California dilemma," Policy said. "You’re not only curing the California dilemma but you’re curing it with California teams. These teams were born and bred in California. They’ve never left California. They’ve always been in California. So it just fits."

Policy described other reasons why Carson makes sense, including its location near the freeway, the ample on-site parking, its ability to help create a larger footprint in California extending from Santa Barbara to Mexico, and various other selling points. He also emphasized that the Carson project allots eight acres of rent-free land for the NFL to use in building whatever it sees fit, up to and including a home for the NFL Network, NFL digital ventures and perhaps even a western wing for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Policy spared no detail in his media session, even pinpointing the number of follow-up questions he got from the owners (three, for those wondering).

As you'd expect, the Rams took the opposite approach. Demoff repeatedly referred to the Inglewood presentation as a chance to "show the NFL’s opportunities in Los Angeles and what can be done." Per custom, Kroenke declined to speak to the media.

Unlike Policy and Carson, the Inglewood project offers no such public face. Throughout the process, the Rams have maintained some semblance of plausible deniability by never coming out and explicitly stating they want to move to Los Angeles. Instead, they've focused their message on "creating options" for themselves on the rare occasions they've discussed it.

As directed by the NFL, Policy, Demoff and the rest of those involved have not discussed projects other than their own. It seems to be the only thing off-limits to Policy, who still managed to make his point when asked about progress by the St. Louis stadium task force.

"If they build with Carson and the Chargers and Raiders, it accommodates the goals of the National Football League, not only in California but elsewhere," Policy said.

Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said after the meeting that he views Tuesday's update as the true "beginning of the process." When this is all said and done, the winner in Los Angeles will ultimately be determined by a group of owners who probably won't care which way the wind is blowing in terms of outside perception; but until they convene again, their only updates will come courtesy of what they see and hear in the media.

The Rams might believe their project is better -- and that very well may be the case -- but just like anything else involving sales, when two options are on the table, the one that's better doesn't always overcome the one that is advertised the most.