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Report: NFL pushed for Inglewood project, wanted Raiders out of LA plans

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Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

A fascinating report by ESPN today chronicled in great detail the process by which the NFL made its return to Los Angeles. According to the details of that report, the Raiders were nearly a non-factor, barely even an afterthought. Or as it appears from the NFL's perspective, a minor annoyance.

There were parts of the report that most people knew already. The necessary details in telling the story of how the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders all made their bids to relocate to Los Angeles. But as they say, the devil is in the details, and in this case, there were a few ‘devils' who hijacked the process to ensure the outcome.

The first was NFL VP Eric Grubman. The report notes several incidents with Grubman which tell clearly that, despite the fact that his and the league's insistence they had no preference in which teams and/or projects were approved for the Los Angeles relocation, he was making a strong push for the Stan Kroenke and the Rams' Inglewood project.

This played out when the two proposals were first presented to the NFL's LA committee

The Carson team went first. During its presentation, Grubman paced in the back of the conference room, drinking coffee.

The Rams contingent went next. Grubman moved to the front of the room and took a seat at the commissioner's table. The presenters showed off a model of their football oasis, and Mark Davis stared at it in awe.

Saints owner Tom Benson posed the first question about Inglewood, asking why owners should defray the costs of the extra real estate developments -- up to $200 million in league loans available for new stadiums -- that would benefit only Kroenke. But before Kroenke and Demoff could say a word, Grubman jumped in to answer the question, explaining that Benson misunderstood the amount of money the league would contribute.

The pro-Carson owners couldn't believe that a league official appeared to be speaking on behalf of the Rams' proposal. That moment, along with persistent rumors that Grubman wanted to work for Kroenke in Los Angeles, cemented in the minds of some owners that he was an agent for Inglewood.

There was also the matter of St Louis putting up considerable amounts of public money to build a new stadium that should have meant the Rams didn't meet NFL requirements to leave their current city.

A news report said that the league would pledge an extra $100 million to help St. Louis finance a new $1.1 billion riverfront stadium -- a move that McNair, the Texans' owner and a Carson supporter, predicted would prevent the Rams from meeting the league's relocation guidelines. But days later, Goodell wrote a letter saying that the $100 million would not be available. And the night before St. Louis voted on the stadium package, Grubman called in to the show of local radio host Bernie Miklasz to describe St. Louis' new stadium proposal as "suboptimal" and say that Kroenke was "going to keep his options open." It seemed to validate what many had long suspected: He wanted the Rams to move.

The other major force in ensuring the Rams got their Inglewood facility was Jerry Jones

The outspoken owner of the Cowboys said any owner who wanted to move their team to LA would have to have "big balls", which, by Jones's judgment, Stan Kroenke had, based on his ability to fund his project on his own, along with what appeared to be the intention of moving his team whether the league approved or not - something Al Davis did in the early 80s when he moved the Raiders to LA. And being that Jones was great friends with Al, it's obviously a quality he admires.

For those reasons, Jones was the strongest voice in favor of the Rams moving to Inglewood. But the Rams moving alone wasn't getting the support it needed. To get it, a second team would have to be included. And thus, the night before the owners meeting in Houston, the game changed.

At 10 p.m., the Chargers and Raiders received a curious email from league officials: a proposal for one of the two teams to share Inglewood with the Rams. It was a modified version of a resolution Jones had submitted the previous weekend, calling for the Rams and Chargers to share Inglewood. Spanos and his associates were offended. The eleventh-hour email suggested that before the owners voted, the league was laying the groundwork for its own solution.

Then comes one of the few times in the piece where the Raiders even come up in anything more than a minor detail. And it was to promote the negative stereotype about the Raiders and their fans that the report says some owners still hold as well as supposed grudges against Al Davis.

The silent majority preferred the Inglewood site but liked Spanos better than Kroenke. Most owners wanted to avoid a Raiders return to Los Angeles, owing to Al Davis' burned bridges and the co-opting of the team apparel by gangs, concerns so deep that some wouldn't even consider Carson. "It's hard to get owners to move," [Bob] Iger says now. "Each one is a boss in his own right."

From there it was just a matter of convincing the owners that this would indeed be a partnership and not Kroenke's original stance that would have had any team sharing the facility leasing it from him as a tenant.

Over 35 minutes, [Rams CEO Kevin] Demoff offered details about how a potential partnership would work, showing how the stadium would use digitized screens to show the logos, sponsors and Ring of Fame for either team, solving the dual-branding problem. It was a big reversal for Kroenke, but many owners found it to be sincere and attractive and, most of all, exactly what they wanted to hear.

Even after all of this, the Carson project seemed to be favored.

Still, the Los Angeles committee recommended Carson by a 5-1 vote, with only Hunt dissenting. A committee vote is usually a reliable predictor of the full ownership's vote. And so, during a lunch break, some owners were so certain that Carson would win that they checked out of their rooms. Luggage embroidered with team logos filled the Westin's lobby. Two rows of black SUVs idled outside the hotel, ready to go to a nearby private airport.

That isn't what eventually transpired, as it turns out. The silent vote yielded a strong majority in favor of the Inglewood project, in part to what was suspected as some of the LA committee changing their vote. Most notably, Bob McNair, who is a good friend of Dean Spanos, but was among those who wanted the Raiders out of the picture.

In the end, the league got what they wanted - the Inglewood project and Kroenke's money/vision - and the owners got what they wanted - Dean Spanos to have a legitimate shot at a new stadium whether in LA or San Diego. In that goal, the Raiders were little more than a speed bump.

If the Chargers somehow manage to suddenly get the stadium deal in San Diego they have been unable to get for 14 years, and if Oakland simply stands pat on their refusal to help build a new stadium, the Raiders get a shot to crawl back to LA as part of that shared stadium in Inglewood.

For now, the Raiders are expected to reach a deal with the Oakland Alameda JPA on a one-year extension at Coliseum with the expectation that we will be revisiting this drama again next January.