Sunday, January 15, 2017

NFL Puts The Division In Divisional Round

The NFL's 2016 season hit the divisional round of the playoffs and once again an off-field story has usurped attention from the on-field competition.  

San Diego's 43-35 shootout over the Tennessee Titans was in a sense the last hurrah for the San Diego Chargers

The rumor of a move of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles had died down in recent weeks, even to circulating speculation the Chargers, seeing less than promising response to the presence of the Rams in LA in 2016, would postpone a decision until after 2017.   But that blew up when Dean Spanos announced the Chargers are moving to Carson, CA and will play there in 2017 until Stan Kroenke's new Rams stadium is built around 2019. 

The rumor had swelled after San Diego voters rejected a hotel tax to fund a new stadium in San Diego, and they were stunned when Dean Spanos made the announcement of the move and the rebranding of the team after the wildcard round of the NFL's playoffs.   The anger of Chargers fans caught more than a few in the media by surprise, and the universal indifference of reaction in Los Angeles was also telling.

The rationalization of the move was strikingly muted in the media; indeed what was most striking was national media condemnation of Spanos for moving the Chargers and also mocking of Roger Goodell's claim that "It is not a viable option" for the team owners and the league to spend its own money on stadiums - of course this was exposed as yet another Goodell lie (though the attitude predates Goodell) by the roughly $600 million relocation fee the Chargers have to pay, as if they could not have refurbished Qualcomm Stadium with Spanos' own money the way Stephen Ross has done to Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami; Kroenke's new LA stadium is being built with his own money, which catches one by surprise with Minnesota and Atlanta getting new publically-financed stadiums.  

The assertion that staying in San Diego (a market by all accounts the NFL wants because it is a football town) retards the long-range value of the Chargers - with repeated citation of the purchase price of the LA Clippers in the $2 billon range - is laughable given LA's miserable record as a sports town with little fan support, sponsor support that does not stand out compared to other markets, and the faltering of fan support of the Rams almost as soon as they played their first home games.    It is striking how universal the view is that moving the Chargers to LA makes zero sense - of course it indeed makes zero sense.

After this travesty came the laughable follow-up - the Oakland Raiders filed paperwork to move to Las Vegas, yet another con of a sports market.

The relocation story cast a shadow over Saturday's wildcard games. The New England Patriots were overwhelming favorites over the ineffective Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans.   The game itself was a wire-to-wire Patriots win by 18 points, but the Patriots struggled strikingly badly on offense with no rhythm, two INTs by Brady, a Dion Lewis fumble on a kick return, and a disturbingly limited number of pass-catching targets in Chris Hogan - sidelined in the third with a thigh issue - and Julian Edelman.   Lack of pass-catching depth has plagued the Patriots' playoff runs of late and this time it is doubly striking given the depth the Patriots seemed to have going in.

Brock Osweiler's growing incompetence as a quarterback was exposed yet again as he threw a bad pick that set up Dion Lewis' touchdown.   

The Seahawks' road woes of 2016 reached their nadir at the Georgia Dome - they finish 3-5-1 in road games in 2016 - as Matt Ryan grabbed only his second career playoff win - both of them against the Seahawks.   This season marked the end of the Legion Of Boom and the Seahawks face a period where they will stay contenders with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll but are not a championship-caliber outfit - and Wilson's poor play made this point even more.  

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