Only in Los Angeles could you have three major-level pro football teams and have them all leave town. That's right, three.
The Rams lasted the longest, moving from Cleveland after their 1945 NFL Championship season and beginning play in SoCal in 1946. They moved to St. Louis in 1995 after spending parts of six decades in L.A. They brought with them just one NFL Championship, won in 1951. In St. Louis, the Rams have won three division titles and appeared in two Super Bowls, including a win over Tennessee at Super Bowl XXXIV.
The Raiders were arguably the most successful, having won their most recent of three Super Bowls while in Los Angeles, the two prior titles were collected while the team was in their original AFL city of Oakland. They made the playoffs in seven of the twelve seasons they spent in L.A. before moving back to Oakland in 1995, much to the delight of the Raider faithful in the Bay Area.
The Chargers were probably the most obscure, entering play in the pre-merger AFL as the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960. After just one season, they moved to San Diego where they have been ever since. The Chargers won the AFL Championship in 1963, and have appeared in one Super Bowl, losing 49-26 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.
Since the city lost both the Rams and Raiders in the same season, there have been several attempts to re-establish professional football in Los Angeles with all of them ending in failure. The NBC/WWE-backed XFL placed a team there. The L.A. Extreme actually won the league's inaugural championship, but the XFL folded after just one season, and the Extreme barely drew 10,000 fans a game. Arena Football, which has been extremely popular in America with their unique rules and 50-yard indoor game, brought the Los Angeles Avengers in to play at the Staples Center, home of the NBA's Lakers and Clippers, and the NHL's Kings. That franchise has also recently folded. The upstart UFL, to begin play in October 2009 has targeted Los Angeles as a potential market city.
It is pretty evident, at least to me, that Los Angeles doesn't want a pro football team that badly or it would not allow so many franchises to fail. Granted, some of these teams folded due to the demise of their entire league (The WFL's Southern California Sun, the USFL's Express, the XFL's Extreme), but how do you let not one, but TWO historic NFL franchises go in the same year? Cleveland Browns fans from 1995 think you guys are losers.
There are now new rumors that an NFL team may end up in L.A. Expansion is unlikely, as there are already 32 NFL teams and bother former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and current league boss Roger Goodell have expressed a reluctance to add more teams. Depending on who you ask, the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, and basically any other NFL team who is looking for a new stadium have been mentioned as a potential candidate for a move to Hollywood. There are several stadium proposals, the most recent being a stadium and entertainment complex to be built in nearby City of Industry, hoping to lure an NFL franchise and a Super Bowl hosting gig at the same time.
There is way too much to do in Los Angeles and that's why an NFL team doesn't need to be there. The fans, at least the ones that would purchase premium seats and luxury suites, are largely of the front-running, fair-weather variety and don't have the patience to support an expansion team and their growing pains. Having an NFL team there would largely be a waste and there are other cities that would do better having a franchise. USC's football program is always going to be #1 in Los Angeles anyway. It always has been.
Here are six cities where I think the NFL could either expand or relocate and do very well. These are not ranked and are in no particular order.
Population (Metro Area): 1,750,000+
Closest NFL Franchise: Cincinnati Bengals (106 miles)
PROS: I originally wanted to place a team in Canton and dust off the old-time Canton Bulldogs franchise name from the Jim Thorpe era. Unfortunately, Canton is 60 miles from Cleveland, which could be a territorial rights issue, and it only has about 400,000 people in its metro area. Columbus is a city with the population to support a pro franchise. It is the fifth-largest city in the Midwest, and there is no doubt it is a football town as it is the home of The Ohio State University. Where the city is located in the center of the state, it's probably not a long-shot to assume that loyalties toward the Browns or Bengals are probably split. Giving Columbus its own team could really get a rivalry going with the other two Ohio franchises. Columbus also only has one major pro sports franchise, the Blue Jackets of the NHL. Ohio is a large state and many football players come from that Midwestern corridor of Indiana-Ohio-Pennsylvania. They would have ready-made rivals with Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indy, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers.
CONS: There is some concern that an NFL team may not flourish in a rabid college football town like Columbus, but I don't know if I agree with that. I think where USC hurts L.A. in following a franchise, it would not hurt or conflict with OSU in Columbus. In fact I think residents who could watch the Buckeyes on Saturday and the new Columbus franchise on Sunday. I could see this franchise playing as a fifth team in the NFC North.