The AFC West Has Gone Haywire

Relocation has Denver's rivals spinning.

The four teams that comprise the AFC West--the Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers--are all original members of the American Football League, which was established in 1960 and finally merged with the NFL a decade later. The Seattle Seahawks spent 1977 through 2001 in the AFC West, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent just one season, 1976, in the division. The four original franchises have been there all along. But they haven't always stayed put in their original cities, and it looks like relocation is shaking up the division once again.

The San Diego Chargers are now officially moving north up the coast to become the Los Angeles Chargers, where they played their inaugural season back in 1960. President Dean Spanos has been threatening the city of San Diego with a move for 15 years, and after a string of lackluster seasons, the San Diego Chargers are no more.

There's a couple of things about this move that stick out to me. First of all, it's not difficult to understand why the Chargers parted ways with San Diego. It's a beautiful city with plenty to do, but there's not a ton of die-hard support for their teams. The city was able to rally around the San Diego Padres and get Petco Park, one of the nicest facilities in baseball, built in 2004. Not so with the Bolts.

The fans have developed such a disdain for management and ownership over the past decade and a half that it's grown into apathy. The team has been mediocre since 2010, fans have stopped showing up (effectively turning every game into a homefield disadvantage), and the staring contest between the team and the city became tiresome for everyone involved.

So they finally packed their bags and headed to a city that really cares about football... Los Angeles.

It was a bad idea for the Rams to move a year ago, and it's almost like throwing the Titanic in reverse to scrape that iceberg one more time to send the Chargers a year later. Los Angeles has a heavy population of transplants that already have favorite football teams back where they grew up, and most natives are already too tied up in the Dodgers, Angels, Clippers, and Lakers to be bothered with, now, two teams that aren't capable of a winning record.

Los Angeles had two teams before when the Rams and the Chargers cohabited the area in the 80's, and they both ended up jumping ship by the next decade. History repeats itself again and again and again until all 32 franchises take over a certain segment of the greater Los Angeles area and nobody shows up to go watch the Brentwood Bengals in 2029.

And sure enough, now the rampant speculation of the Oakland Raiders moving just a few hours east of Los Angeles is heating up. There's money coming from all sides--the state of Nevada, the Davis family, and potential casino moguls--to construct the Bellagio of football stadiums and make the Las Vegas Raiders a reality. Say what you will about Oakland (the Coliseum is a dump, the Alameda area surrounding it is in need of serious work, the fights in the stands are more competitive than whatever is happening on the field) but they absolutely care about their team, too much so at times. The point is, however, that they make for a hostile football environment that adds a little bit of juice to the game whenever the Broncos roll into town. The Black Hole is aptly named, but it's still a classic, butterflies-in-stomach-inducing landmark that gives the Raiders their identity.

Rivalries are as ingrained within the cities as they are within franchises. The fans hate the opposing fans as much as they hate the team, and it's hard to be passionate about a team that has just picked up and moved. The Raiders may move to Las Vegas, but the history will stay in Oakland.

And should they end up in Las Vegas, the Raiders would be just another florescent attraction in a city where tourists cycle in and out two days at a time.

It's time to do away with this plague of relocating to the city with the highest bidder. It's sucking the spirit out of the game. Some cities may be willing to open their wallets and do enough to lure a team in, but lack the dedicated fans and general interest to get a team to stay. It's been the case with Los Angeles, and so it shall be with Las Vegas, if the Raiders and the NFL owners make it so.

The AFC West as we know it will never look the same.

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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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