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Gordo: NFL owners remain torn on LA options

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Jared Cook, Stan Kroenke

A member of the Dallas Cowboys, second from left, is thrown to the ground by St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook during a scuffle as fans hold up a picture of Rams owner Stan Kroenke during a joint NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Oxnard, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

December is almost upon us and the NFL still hasn't made a decision about the Los Angeles market for next season.

Owners will meet again this week to discuss their options for LA, although nobody is expecting a resolution to emerge from this meeting. Commissioner Roger Goodell is striving for a brokered peace to avoid a showdown vote.

Of course, brokering such peace won't be easy. Goodell turned a minor bit of gamesmanship into a full-blown "Deflategate" controversy that remains unresolved.

Since when does Goodell have the wherewithal to sort out something this significant? His feckless leadership leaves people wondering if LA will get its team or teams in 2016.

That delay could keep the Rams in St. Louis for another season, but it could also buy San Diego the time needed to finally solve its stadium issue and clear the Rams' path to SoCal.

Orange County Register columnist Scott M. Reid had this take:

A January decision on whether the Rams or the Chargers and/or Raiders kick off the 2016 season in the Los Angeles-Orange County market is no longer the certainty it seemed to be only a month ago. There are some in the NFL who want a decision on relocation rolled back to after the Feb. 7 Super Bowl. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, an ally of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, has even floated the idea of pushing back a decision until March, an idea that Kansas City’s Clark Hunt has said he is open to.

A March vote on relocation would not only make it extremely difficult for the Rams or Chargers and Raiders to get situated and sell tickets and sponsorships in their new markets or mend fences in the current cities, but it also makes it a lot easier for the NFL to put relocation off until 2017.

CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora noted Sunday that owners are pondering potential Plan B options for Kroenke in case the Carson project wins out to the Chargers and Raiders. Those options would include the London market and Denver -- where the Bowlen Family Trust must still come up with a succession plan that passes league muster.

La Canfora wrote:

For his part, Kroenke has not considered options outside of Los Angeles, and sources close to him say that while they have heard chatter regarding other potential fall-back plans from the league's perspective, it's not something the owner has actively mulled or taken part in.

Here are some thoughts on all of this:

• Kroenke's inability to co-opt the San Diego Chargers is baffling. Had he struck a deal to bring the Chargers to Inglewood as partners in his stadium project there, this issue would already be resolved. Could the league intercede with a plan that Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos can both live with?

• Kroenke's interest in London has been long established, so it's no surprise that the Rams are headed back there to play a game next season. Also, London could see a lot of the LA-bound teams while the winning stadium project rises in SoCal. Only the Los Angeles Coliseum has shown an interest in providing an interim home for an NFL team.

• NFL owners realize that Kroenke has the resources to "go rogue" if he doesn't get approval for his LA stadium. Hence the need to broker peace. He needed to come out ahead of this and he doesn't regard playing in the House That Peacock Built as a victory. St. Louis handed him a winning lottery ticket by letting him out of his Edward Jones lease and he intends to cash it.

• The NFL wants to make a big splash in LA, so you can't help but wonder if owners look at Kroenke's track record of consistent sports failure -- with the Rams and other sports properties he owns -- and wonder if he is the right guy to lead the charge back into that market.

• While the Broncos would be a natural geographical fit for Kroenke, owner Pat Bowlen's goal was to keep the franchise within his family. CEO Joe Ellis took the franchise's reigns after Bowlen was incapacitated by failing health and began working to that end. But the NFL would prefer to have a managing partner with a significant ownership role running the franchise.

• Should Denver somehow become a Kroenke option, another aspiring NFL ownership group could buy the Rams, invest in a new stadium and keep them here. That, too, could become part of a brokered settlement. At the moment all that appears to be a longshot.

• Jacksonville Jaguars Shad Khan is also working the London market. He, too, would be interested in moving there should the NFL choose to put a team there. Of course, there are myriad issues with London -- like how difficult it could become to lure free agents over the Atlantic for entire seasons.

• Khan also eyed the St. Louis market when he made his bid for the Rams. Although he has made significant financial commitments to Jacksonville, that market could eventually lose out to a chain reaction of events. Remember how Cleveland and Los Angeles lost teams after the NFL mishandled its last expansion process?

Baltimore and St. Louis poached the Browns and Rams after getting stiffed for Charlotte and (ahem) Jacksonville.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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