Ralph Wilson is old. Really freaking old. (Born in 1918! Holy crap!)
Okay, that’s not breaking news. But it is scary news, as Bills fans have a guillotine hanging over their heads: at some point, the only owner the Bills have ever had is going to die. And he’s not passing the team down to his family.
It could literally happen any day now…and what happens afterwards is anyone’s guess. Will the Bills have to leave Buffalo for Toronto, or worse, Los Angeles?
Fortunately, I don’t think the Bills are the closest NFL Franchise to the relocation bandsaw. Here’s my list of NFL teams, in order from least likely to leave their current city to most likely.
I THINK IT’D BE ILLEGAL FOR THEM TO MOVE:
Green Bay – The people of Green Bay own the team. I think they’re safe.
NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN:
New England – Robert Kraft owns the stadium. They’re not going anywhere.
NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME SOON:
Philadelphia, New York Giants, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Carolina, Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee, Kansas City, Denver – All have some or all of the following: newish stadium, solid fanbase, major media market, good ownership. None are leaving in the foreseeable future.
SHOULDN’T MOVE BUT MAYBE COULD SOMEDAY (OVERLY EXPENSIVE STADIUM CLASS):
New York Jets – The Jets really shouldn’t and probably won’t ever move, but that enormous, expensive new Giants stadium could one day be a problem. The team’s having trouble selling tickets now…and that’s with a good team. If they ever stink for a few years in a row? I don’t think attendance would fall into the danger zone…but who knows.
SHOULDN’T MOVE BUT MAYBE COULD SOMEDAY (CLEVELAND IS CURSED CLASS):
Cleveland – Poor Cleveland. The only sports city more cursed than Buffalo. There’s no way the Browns should move (again), but this is Cleveland. If Roger Goodell decides to have a prime-time special called “The L.A. Decision” to announce which team is taking its talents to Los Angeles, Browns fans should be concerned.
SHOULDN’T MOVE BUT MAYBE COULD SOMEDAY (AWFUL FANS CLASS):
Tampa Bay – The Bucs had a surprisingly good season in 2010, going 10-6 and competing for a playoff spot until the season’s final day. The fans rewarded them by not producing a single sellout all season. Ouch. If they can’t sell out a game this year, it’s time for serious alarm.
Atlanta – Arthur Blank’s a good owner, but Atlanta is a crap-tacular sports city. Just awful. However, the Falcons seem to be doing all right. If they stink for an extended period in the future though, the Georgia Dome could become a very quiet place.
SHOULDN’T MOVE BUT MAYBE COULD SOMEDAY (AWFUL OWNER CLASS):
Washington – Great fanbase. Terrible owner. When the Redskins fans eventually turn completely on Snyder and stop going to games, what’s going to happen? (The answer should be that the league forces Snyder out. Too bad that won’t happen.)
Cincinnati – Every time I’m feeling down about being a Bills fan, I thank my lucky stars I’m not a Bengals fan. What a mess. I don’t actually think they’re moving, but who knows? Maybe fans will finally stop giving Mike Brown money and they’ll be forced out of town. I’m sorry, Cincinnati.
New Orleans – I was stunned when I saw that the Saints were on Toronto’s list of teams to pursue. How is still even a remote possibility? Probably because their owner is a tool. Fortunately, I can’t imagine the NFL would allow the sort of PR nightmare that would come with the Saints abandoning New Orleans.
Arizona – Under the “leadership” of the Bidwill family, the Cardinals spent little and won little for decades. That seems to have changed with the move to University of Phoenix Stadium…but for how long? What happens when the Cardinals stink again and the fans stop coming? (Or when Arizona runs out of water?) I could see the team bailing for a new city.
MAYBE LEAVING L.A. WAS A BAD IDEA:
St. Louis – The Rams had a decent season in 2010. Let’s hope that wakes up a (rightfully) pretty unenthusiastic fanbase. Not that I”m blaming the fans here – St. Louis went 6-42 from 2007-2009. Holy crap.
Oakland – The Raiders – plagued by an awful recent history, very high ticket prices, and a dump of a stadium – are having trouble selling tickets. Will owner Al Davis lose patience and move them? And what will happen when Davis
is finally staked through the heart by Van Helsing dies of old age?
SAVED! (IF THE PROPOSED NEW STADIUM HAPPENS):
San Francisco – The city of Santa Clara voted to build the 49ers a stadium there recently, which would save them from awful Candlestick Park. We’ll see if it happens.
Minnesota – Just this week, the Vikings announced they had a deal for a new stadium in the Minneapolis suburbs. If they can get that new stadium, the Vikings will stay. If not, they move to #1 on the “most likely to relocate” list.
I REALLY, REALLY HOPE NOT:
Buffalo – I don’t wanna talk about it. Let’s hope Ralph Wilson lives to 200.
Jacksonville – I think the real problem here is: why the heck does Jacksonville have a team in the first place? Jacksonville is a weird city: HUGE geographically, very spread out. Combined with typically apathetic Florida sports fans and a lot of so-so teams, it’s really not a surprise that this hasn’t worked out so well. The owner seems committed to keeping the team in Jacksonville, but you have wonder how long it will last.
San Diego – Let’s be clear: a team WILL be in Los Angeles before long. I believe putting a franchise in L.A. will be atop Roger Goodell’s to-do list once the lockout is resolved. Logistically, the Chargers would be the easiest choice. They wouldn’t totally lose their fan base and the league wouldn’t have to realign. (If the Jaguars move to L.A., I can’t seem them staying in the AFC South for long.) Plus, Qualcomm Stadium is old. The Chargers want a new stadium and will leave without one. I really don’t see it happening in San Diego. I think someone in L.A. will find the money for a new mega-stadium and the Chargers will be the primary tenant.