The Connecticut Rams? How the Rams almost moved to Hartford

On January 12th 2016, the NFL owners voted 30-2 in favor of moving the Rams back to Los Angeles after moving to St. Louis in 1995. It had been nearly two decades since the Rams called Los Angeles home with plans to build a state of the art facility in the coming years. However, what many people don’t realize is that before the move back to L.A. the Rams were in an intriguing position in the mid 90s. Back then they were a fledgling franchise that was desperate for a new stadium which led to their move to St. Louis.  Did you know that their multiple cities bidding for the Rams including a city that many people couldn’t imagine hosting an NFL franchise.

In the early 90s the Rams popularity in L.A. had been waning. From 1990-1994 the Rams struggled on the field going 19 and 45 over that span. Like a lot of franchises in the 90s across the sports world, the Rams felt that they needed a state of the art facility to be competitive and claimed that Anaheim stadium in orange county needed to be addressed. By this time team owner Georgia Frontierre began looking for a new home for her franchise and began looking at potential destinations. While the front-runner and eventual winner was St. Louis, there were other cities that looked to lure the Rams including a surprising contender. Who was that contender?
Hartford, Connecticut.

Hartford was one of the cities courting the Rams in the early 90s.

At the time the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut were looking to become major players in the sports world. After acquiring the New England Whalers and re-branding them to the Hartford Whalers, the city now had a professional hockey franchise since the late 70s. Despite average attendance for the NHL franchise the city began looking for another professional franchise, specifically the NFL. St. Louis remained the favorite offering a brand new state of the art indoor facility with the cities of Baltimore and Hartford offering their own stadium plans to lure the Rams. Baltimore had approved plans for a new stadium and were looking to add a franchise since the Colts famously left for Indianapolis.

Artist rendering of the over $200 Million proposed stadium modeled after the L.A. Coliseum north of Interstate 84

In the early 90s, the Governor of Connecticut Lowell Weicker had developed a plan that would invest in a $252 Million dollar state of the art football stadium in the northern neighborhood of Hartford, just north of Interstate 84. The stadium was designed after the Los Angeles coliseum which could have been directly influenced to bring one of the two L.A. franchises to Connecticut.

Keep in mind in the early 90s both the Raiders and Rams were looking for either a new stadium in Los Angeles or a new market with a new stadium. The Raiders considered multiple locations in California before settling for Oakland with the Rams exploring new out-of-state potential markets. While this may seem like a pipe dream by state officials in Connecticut to lure a team to a the 27th television market in the country, the idea of moving football to Hartford did have serious backers.

Walter Payton and Paul Newman were both in a group that wanted to bring the NFL to Connecticut

Who would want football in Connecticut? Surprisingly, a strong group was lobbying for this idea. Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton was a member of this group and even visited the state to talk to governor Weicker at the capital about the project. Other members of the party included author Tom Clancy, and actors Tom Selleck and Paul Newman. Interestingly enough it was Newman who wanted professional football in his home state and he even tried to purchase the New England Patriots in 1994 before Robert Kraft purchased the team. There were skeptics, but Connecticut was the largest untapped market in the country without an NFL franchise and the city had agreed to fully finance a state of the art facility.

So why did the deal fall through? There were multiple reasons why the Rams to Hartford didn’t happen. First, St. Louis was the favorite and offered a larger market that had an NFL history. It also offered a brand new facility and despite relocation, the Rams wouldn’t need to change conferences or division. Moving to Hartford would have meant realignment for the entire NFL in order for the move to work.

In 1995 the Rams officially moved to St. Louis

Second, it was hard for the Rams to even get to St. Louis. The league’s owners originally voted down the move to St. Louis and only relented after the Rams ownership said they would sue the league. After long legal battles with the other Los Angeles franchise, the Raiders, and their efforts to relocate, the league didn’t want to go through another legal battle and relented despite opposition from multiple owners.

Third, if St. Louis hadn’t worked Baltimore was a better option for the league offering a larger market, another new stadium plan, and a history of NFL football. In 1996 they would get the Cleveland Browns after Art Modell moved the team after 1995 season forming the Baltimore Ravens.

Finally, the league just wasn’t interested in a smaller market like Hartford. I  will elaborate on this more when I talk about the New England Patriots planned move to Hartford in 1998.  While the state was serious about luring the NFL with two consecutive governors offering lucrative stadium deals, it just wasn’t going to lure and NFL franchise given the market size and proximity to larger markets in Boston and New York.  This push for the NFL is a key contributor to why Hartford may have lost it’s NHL franchise, the Hartford Whalers but that will be discussed at a later date.

The Stadium’s original site is now a baseball team for the city’s Double A franchise.

Today the site for the proposed stadium has become a sports stadium two decades later. The site is now home to Dunkin Donuts Park, a 6,000 seat stadium that’s home of the city’s minor league baseball team, the Hartford Yard Goats.  Still  Connecticut football fans can only imagine what could have been if Hartford has connected on a Hail Mary pass to bring professional football to Connecticut’s capital.

San Francisco’s Championship Window Has Officially Closed

8589130422384-colin-kaepernick-49ers-wallpaper-hd-e1401299183624It’s over. The championship window for one of the NFL’s bedrock franchises has slammed shut. After three straight NFC Championship game appearances, the 49ers finished 2014 with an 8-8 record and inexplicably fired a coach with a career .688 winning percentage. While it was going to be an uphill battle without Harbaugh, in the span of 24 hours the 49ers championship window came to an abrupt end.

The once vaunted defense lost its leader in Patrick Willis who after eight seasons and at the ago of 30 decided to suddenly retire. Veteran defensive end Justin Smith soon followed suit in announcing his own retirement while key players were lost in free agency. Guard Mike Iupati will head to division rival Arizona, feature back Frank Gore has moved on, and Michael Crabtree have all played their last snap for the 49ers. While the team did sign defensive end Darnell Dockett, they still have fallen behind the rest of the division.

The Seahawks have landed arguably one of the best tight ends in the game in Jimmy Graham while St. Louis may have found their franchise quarterback in Nick Foles. While the toughest division in the NFL continues to get tougher, the 49ers have regressed not only on the field, but also on the sideline.

The biggest question for the 49ers will be Colin Kaepernick. Two years ago Kaepernick had the fourth best QBR in the NFL. In 2014 his QBR fell to seventeenth in the entire league. There is no question that he has regressed and there are rumors that organization maybe shopping their starting quarterback.

True, the 49ers could rebound in the draft, but with rumors swirling that quarterback Colin Kaepernick is now on the block, the question could be not if but when San Francisco will blow up the current roster and start to rebuild.

Damaged Goods? What’s next for RGIII?

After having one of the most successful rookie seasons in NFL history, the once emerging superstar that was Robert Griffin III has crashed to earth. After just two games, it appears that Griffin’s 2014 season is already over. After suffering a dislocated ankle early in the Redskins second week matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Griffin’s career could be in serious jeopardy.

Griffin's latest injury could possibly derail his career

Griffin’s latest injury could possibly derail his career

Last year it was clear that he had not fully recovered from his torn ACL, the injury that ended his promising rookie campaign. His ability to run and use his lower half on the deep ball were greatly diminished, and even made him a sitting duck at times. After an offseason with questions about his leadership, it looked like RGIII would be ready to have a breakout 2014. However, early this season, it was clear that Griffin was still not 100%. His speed, burst, and ability to use his legs to drive the ball down the field still paled in comparison to when he was healthy in his first season.. Now with this injury, the Redskins may need to start thinking about a future without RGIII.

The Future in Washington?

The Future in Washington?

After a two touchdown performance while replacing Griffin on Sunday, Kirk Cousins is now poised to solidify himself as the future quarterback for the Redskins. After outperforming Griffin throughout the preseason, Cousins will finally get his shot, and if he can perform at a high level, then the Washington front office will have to make a difficult decision.

It will be a tough decision on what to do at quarterback, especially given the price that the Redskins gave up to pick RGIII in the draft. Let’s not forget the Redskins traded a second round pick along with three first round picks to move up to draft Griffin. If RGIII cannot turn it around, it could be one of the worst trades in NFL history considering the plethora of young talent that St. Louis has acquired with those picks.

So what now? Is Robert Griffin on a path similar to Sam Bradford? A highly talented quarterback whose injuries ultimately ended up ruining a promising career. While Griffin clearly is more talented than Bradford physically, the fact that Griffin cannot stay healthy coupled with the fact that the Redskins have a barren roster with the lack of draft picks over the past three years has made Griffin a serious problem.

Now, do I think it is time for Washington to move on from Griffin? No, but if Cousins can put this franchise in a position to make the playoffs, the clock on RGIII’s career in Washington will begin counting down.

Falling Star: Sam Bradford on trading block?

The Rams are looking to move Bradford

The Rams are looking to move Bradford

After bring the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft it looked like Sam Bradford was poised to be the Rams’ franchise quarterback. After signing the largest rookie deal in league history, $78 million dollars over six years, Bradford backed this up by winning the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2010. However, in the spring of 2014, the Rams maybe looking to move their franchise quarterback and Draft his replacement in the upcoming draft.

When healthy, there is no question that Bradford is a talented quarterback, but injury issues and his massive contract may have become to large of a burden for St. Louis to bear. With $27 million dollars owed over the next two seasons in guaranteed money, it’s hard for the Rams to have faith in Bradford’s health. In the Rams last 48 games, Bradford has only started 33 of those games. With the Rams culminating a plethora of young talent the past three off seasons, they could be just a quarterback away from competing in the talented NFC West.

Sources from Rams camp have said this week that the club is looking to trade Bradford and that St. Louis is seriously considering taking Johnny Manziel with their number 2 pick. While this may seem high, there has also been talks that the Rams could also wait at pick 13 in the hopes that Manziel or Bortles could fall to them. While this is a plausible scenario, the big question is can the Rams trade Bradford and will there be a market for him?

There are teams that are desperately looking for quarterbacks, but the Rams will probably not get a high return on Bradford because of his injury history and contract. Even if the Rams agree to swallow a significant portion of the contract, they still at best would fetch maybe a mid round selection or two for Bradford. I propose that the Rams keep Bradford and draft a quarterback. In that scenario you get a talented backup to Bradford who can sit and learn while Bradford can hopefully stay healthy. If he gets hurt, then the Rams have a viable backup to take over. If Bradford plays all, then he will be easier to trade and command a higher value after next offseason. Worst case scenario, Bradford is terrible or hurt, and the Rams go their first round quarterback to take over. While there is still a lot that can happen before the Draft, this is one story we will have to keep our eyes on.