Report: Saints done in New Orleans, will end up in L.A.; NFL committee formed to watch Benson
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported yesterday that, according to NFL sources, the Saints will remain in San Antonio through 2006, and then will relocate permanently to L.A.
New Orleans could be considered a host for a future Super Bowl, and perhaps could be a candidate for an expansion franchise in the next 10-15 years.
And, according to prominent sports consultants, Ray Nagin's idea of a "Cleveland plan" - the option of keeping a team's name, logo, colors, and history after a franchise leaves, a la the reborn Cleveland Browns of the late 1990's - is not a likely possibility.
In other words, if Mort is correct, the Saints are done in New Orleans.
San Antonio shouldn't get too comfortable with the Saints either. In spite of that city's optimism of keeping the team as its own, the NFL has taken great strides in achieving its goal of having a franchise in Los Angeles.
That has been documented on this site numerous times, including here, here, here, here, here, and in my previous post below.
Also, an NFL committee has been formed to keep close tabs on Tom Benson. The league effectively is reining Benson in, and is taking control of an otherwise downward-spiraling situation. Presumably, that has been done for two reasons.
One, Tommy Boy has outdone himself in mangling the public relations, and the league is none too pleased.
Two, the NFL doesn't want a team in San Antonio, plain and simple. It wants a team in Los Angeles.
As for L.A. or San Antonio, the distinction between the two has been noted on this site.
Los Angeles Daily News columnist Billy Witz agrees that San Antonio won't be a long-term Saints host. Witz, in this column, makes several great points about the Saints and the league's perspective:
- "Everybody's favorite candidate (for NFL relocation to L.A.) seemed to be the New Orleans Saints - and that was before Katrina hit. The only thing the hurricane has done has made it more likely."
- "Much of the where-will-the-Saints-end-up parlor game has focusedon San Antonio, but let's be real. The NFL has learned its mistake in Jacksonville, where never mind the publicly-funded stadium and last season's Super Bowl, they're covering seats this season because they can't fill them."
- "San Antonio is the 37th-largest television market in the UnitedStates - 15 spots better than Jacksonville, but sandwiched between Salt Lake City and Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek."
- "Tagliabue, who has all but said he doesn't want a team in San Antonio, isn't the only one. You can bet the Cowboys and Texans don't and neither do the NBA's Spurs, who have had a tough go despite winning three titles in seven years."
Same goes for New York Daily News sports columist Gary Myers, who wrote recently: "The next stop for the league is getting a team back in Los Angeles, not putting one in small market San Antonio, which is shamelessly trying to steal away the Saints when the New Orleans community is defenseless."
There's that p.r. thing again.
Both San Antonio and Benson have been downright repugnant throughout the last week and a half. Both have been rightfully skewered in numerous columns across the country. The most recent, "Owner Benson out to sell Saints' soul," comes from the Mobile Register.
In a way, they deserve each other.
At least for one year.
So what will the end result be?
My prediction is this: The NFL, which doesn't want a franchise permanently in San Antonio when none exists in Los Angeles, will tire quickly of Benson's p.r. black eyes. Having stated that it wants a team in L.A., and that it would rather local ownership in L.A., the league will force Benson to sell the team, and it will relocate to the City of Angels permanently under a new name, logo, and colors, either in 2006 or 2007.
No sense in being the only professional sports league without a franchise in the nation's second-largest media market.
It's fitting (and somewhat prophetic), as I've pointed out before, that in the Saints' first game, New Orleans lost to Los Angeles.
In the meantime, the signs at Sunday's Saints-Dolphins game in Baton Rouge should make for interesting reads.