Column: The clock is winding down on future of Chargers

Chargers players prepare to warm up for a game at Qualcomm Stadium, the home field they would like to leave.
(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

Now that voters in San Diego have resoundingly rejected the idea of a downtown stadium, it’s two-minute-drill time for the Chargers.

They need to decide by January whether they’re going to make one last-ditch effort to stay in San Diego or move to Los Angeles, where they would be a tenant in the Inglewood stadium being constructed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Nobody thought the Chargers would get the requisite two-thirds majority to pass Measure C, the ballot initiative asking the public to approve an increase in the hotel occupancy tax that would provide $1.15 billion for a proposed $1.8-billion stadium. But the vote became a referendum on the Chargers themselves, and something close to 50% approval would have been a positive sign.

Instead, Measure C got an underwhelming 43%, further eroding any leverage the franchise once had. The clearest options for the Chargers over the next two months are to go back to the city and put all options back on the table — including the idea of a stadium in Mission Valley — or to walk away for good, understanding that they will be “the other” L.A. team and that there’s a decent chance the league would eventually put another team in San Diego.


The NFL has been publicly mum on the matter, and makes it clear that the choice belongs to the Chargers, whose one-year option to join the Rams expires in January and rolls over to the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, the Raiders have turned their attention to the possibility of relocating to Las Vegas.

Even if no one at the NFL will say it publicly, the best situation from the league’s perspective would be if the Chargers could find a way to stay in San Diego; the Raiders could find a solution in either Oakland or Las Vegas; and L.A. could remain a one-team town — with an open spot for a second franchise at the Inglewood stadium.

That way, in addition to having a team in the nation’s second-largest market, the Rams, the league could continue to use L.A. as leverage to get stadium deals done in other cities. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality.

Waiting on Goff

Rams fans are growing increasingly impatient with Coach Jeff Fisher’s stubborn insistence to keep No. 1 pick Jared Goff on the sideline. The team has lost four in a row heading into Sunday’s game at the New York Jets, and starting quarterback Case Keenum has 11 interceptions, second-most in the league, although several of those could be blamed on the receivers.

If there’s a preferable window of opportunity to try Goff, it comes in the next two weeks, when the Rams play host to Miami and then play at New Orleans. The Dolphins have the 17th-ranked defense and are 15th in sacks (19), and the Saints are 30th in both total defense and sacks (11).

After that, the Rams play at New England, and no matter what the statistics are, it would be foolish to give Goff his first career start at Foxborough, Mass., against a Bill Belichick-coached team. The Rams come home to play Atlanta — not a great defense, but the league’s highest-scoring team — then play at Seattle on a short-week Thursday night game.

Regardless of who is playing quarterback for them, the Rams need to get their running game going. They’re currently ranked 29th in rushing, not a good situation for a team built to play defense and run the ball. Of course, that’s easy to say and hard to do for a team whose offensive line has not shown an ability to do its job well.