It’s not the grand prize of Los Angeles they were seeking, but after a year of posturing, trading jabs with the city of San Diego, and trying to shape the media narrative, the Chargers finally have what’s best for them.
They have a second chance.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced Friday that the team will stay in San Diego for the 2016 season, meaning he and his club have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and try to get some traction on a new stadium in San Diego.
This isn’t a one-way street. San Diego needs to step up too. Enough with the bashing from both sides, enough with the name-calling. People are tired of hearing the Chargers continually talk about how hard they’ve worked to get a deal done. People are tired of city officials saying all the right things while giving the NFL stadium a big Rolf Bernirschke boot down the road.
This is the golden hour. The Chargers need to stop the rapid-fire ringing of L.A.'s doorbell. They need to take a fresh approach to negotiating and stop the thinly veiled threats. An example was their Thursday announcement that they’ve earmarked five acres in Santa Ana for a practice facility. It was flawed in that it just wasn’t big enough for a modern NFL facility. Most teams use at least 10 acres.
They need to turn their attention fully to one last push in San Diego — a public vote on a stadium initiative — and if that doesn’t produce positive results, they can pack the moving vans knowing they exhausted every option.
The Chargers now have L.A. as a fallback plan. They have agreed in principle to be the second team in the Inglewood stadium. Not so long ago they would have scoffed at being a tenant to L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke. They didn’t want a stadium with a roof, didn’t want to play on artificial turf, didn’t like the parking plan in Inglewood, or the potential traffic.
But it’s the deal they have now — and it’s one a lot of NFL teams would take. It’s analogous to the Jets playing in old Giants Stadium, except the Chargers would be a very rich version of the Jets.
Maybe it won’t come to that. Maybe this is what’s needed to get a deal done in San Diego, keeping the team in the city where it has played for 55 years. Despite all the bad blood and bruised feelings, the San Diego fan base is ready to reembrace the franchise, and by every indication, the players are delighted to be staying put.
In working to solve the San Diego puzzle, the Chargers need to stuff that L.A. contingency deep in their back pocket and resist the urge to dangle it for effect. Everyone understands it’s there, that this agreement with the Rams is far more real than the ill-fated Carson plan.
A big test will be how vigorously the team campaigns for the stadium vote. People will be watching. A halfhearted effort won’t get it done, whereas a full-throttled approach could mend a lot of the damage done with fans. The city needs to pull its weight here too, rather than simply saying the right things and trying to cut corners. If a deal doesn’t come together, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Just as the Chargers overestimated the attractiveness of the Carson plan, they seemed to overestimate their support in the L.A. market. It’s obvious there are plenty of Rams fans here. Lots of Raiders fans too. The Chargers have no fan base in L.A.
The momentum of the Rams has been evident in the past couple of weeks. More than 50,000 people have plunked down refundable deposits to buy between one and eight season tickets presumably at the Coliseum. It’s up to the Rams to keep that enthusiasm going, but with each day, the cement hardens on L.A. as a one-team market.
A few years ago, Chargers players embraced the mantra “Nunc Coepi,” a Latin phrase meaning, “Now I begin.” It’s a way to remind yourself to start fresh and leave the past in the past.
Seems like especially good advice these days.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer