On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com.
I just returned from the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix. The big topic at the meeting this year was the Raiders’ application to relocate from Oakland to Las Vegas. Since the Rams and the Chargers had both relocated within the last 15 months, the owners (and staff members at the league office) were very deliberate in analyzing this situation. Two of the league’s committees (stadium and finance) had jointly studied the Oakland and Las Vegas markets, as well as the stadium proposals in both cities, and recommended that the owners support the Raiders move to Las Vegas.
Relocation of professional sports teams is always a very difficult process. It is extremely emotional for the fans of the team. The common theme for these three teams was an inadequate, outdated stadium. The stadium in St. Louis was really more of a convention center than a stadium, and well behind the newer domes. The Chargers and Raiders both played in stadiums built in the 1960s and designed primarily for baseball. With inadequate stadiums, it was hard for these teams to remain competitive both on and off the field. The proposal for a new stadium in Oakland was deemed by the committees to have too many contingencies and risks, and to not be viable. Ultimately, the owners voted 31-1 to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas.
While there is certainly risk involved in the move to Las Vegas, there are also many positives. The proposed stadium is very impressive. The total cost will be $1.67B, with 63,000 seats and expandable to 73,000 for Super Bowls. The Nevada legislature approved $750 million in public money for construction of the stadium, and $200 million for maintenance over a 20-year period. The stadium is half a mile from the airport, so it will be easy for fans traveling from out of town to get to the stadium. The stadium will be a dome with a translucent cover, and a natural grass field that will slide in and out. Las Vegas is a fast-growing market (it is projected to be larger than Oakland in 2034), with a diverse population base that should help the league’s international efforts. Also, Las Vegas is obviously a great tourist destination, and this should be a boon to the NFL’s on-location business. The last 15 months have been challenging for these three teams (and the league), and I know they are all excited to focus on the future and establishing themselves in their new markets.
Now, on to your questions….
John from Medford, WI
I was surprised to see that the Raiders will play in Oakland the next two years. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to play in a temporary stadium in Las Vegas for the next few years?
Excellent point, John. We spent a lot of time discussing this issue this week. The new stadium will not be completed until the 2020 season. The problem is that there is not an adequate, NFL-quality temporary stadium in Las Vegas. The UNLV football team plays in Sam Boyd Stadium. League officials visited Sam Boyd Stadium and felt that it was not up to NFL standards. Moreover, UNLV will play in the new stadium when it is completed, so it doesn’t make sense to put a lot of money into Sam Boyd Stadium. The Raiders have two years remaining on their lease in Oakland. They will be lame ducks for the next two to three years, so this is not an ideal situation. The season-ticket sales have been very strong this year (up 25 percent), but that was before the move to Las Vegas was approved. The league and the Raiders will have to carefully monitor this situation over the next three years.
Bill from Racine, WI
I read that one of the rule changes was to eliminate the leaper on field goal and PAT attempts. I thought that was an exciting, athletic play and it had an impact on some games this year. Why would you get rid of it?
You’re right, Bill, it was a very exciting play. Unfortunately, it was also a potentially very dangerous play. We watched a lot of film on this tactic, and the way that teams were countering the leaper was to have the guards flip the player as he jumped through the center-guard gap. Several of the players landed on their heads, and you could see that it was only a matter of time before there was a serious injury on the play.
Joe from Chicago, IL
I was watching a report on the new rules that were approved at the owners’ meeting, and saw that there is a new rule prohibiting intentional fouls to manipulate the game clock. What the heck does that mean?
You’ve never manipulated the game clock, Joe? Actually, I think the best way to explain the rule is to describe the situation that lead to the rule. The Ravens were backed up near their own end zone, facing a fourth down with about 10 seconds left in the game. They were ahead by 4 points. They didn’t want to punt and risk a blocked punt or a return for a touchdown. So, they instructed every player on their team to hold a player on the other team, and the punter ran around in the end zone until the clock ran out and then stepped out of the end zone. The other team was granted a safety, but the game ended on the play and the Ravens won. It was pretty comical to watch the play. The rule was put in place for competitive fairness to allow the other team to have a chance to win the game.
Leslie from De Pere, WI
The current NFL overtime rules really bother me. The Super Bowl is a good example – it isn’t fair that the Falcons didn’t get a possession in overtime. Would the NFL ever move to the college overtime rules?
We’ve talked about the overtime rules quite a bit here, Leslie. Especially after our playoff losses where we never had a chance for a possession! There was actually a proposal this year to reduce overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. The concern was that we had two games end in a tie this year, and that all of those extra plays put those teams at a disadvantage in the next week’s game, especially if the game is on a Thursday night. The proposal ended up being tabled, in part out of concern that a team could take the kickoff and have a drive just under 10 minutes and win the game with a field goal. With regard to your question, traditionally there has been no support for moving to the college overtime. It is viewed as not being real football as there are no kickoffs or punts. Interestingly, though, the colleges have considerably fewer plays in their overtimes than we do in the NFL, so it may be reconsidered if it is viewed as safer and fairer.
Doug from St. Germain, WI
Mr. Murphy, I am hoping to ask you this in person when the Tailgate Tour rolls through Rhinelander, but just in case, here goes. How did the transition come about from your playing days in the NFL to becoming a top executive? Was there a plan? Timetable? College courses? Or, just a matter of being in the right place at the right time?
Thanks, Doug. I look forward to seeing you in Rhinelander, and hope to answer your question in person, but I will answer it here as well. I wish I could say that I had a plan to be an NFL executive when I was younger, but I really didn’t. When I was a player and then worked with the NFLPA, I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me I would someday be an NFL executive. Throughout my career, education and gaining valuable experience have always been priorities for me. I finished my MBA while playing and worked on my law degree while I was working at the NFLPA. Looking back, my experience at the NFLPA was a crucial factor in being selected for my current position. I have also been very fortunate over the years to have had several great mentors, including Joe Gibbs and Paul Tagliabue. I have tried to learn from every job and experience I’ve had, and to never burn bridges during my career. I feel very lucky to be in a position where I am able to tie together all of my experiences, including my work as a lawyer and an athletic director, and hopefully help the Packers organization move forward.