NFL Looking to Return to L.A.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue spoke out Wednesday about the NFL's wish to return to Los Angeles in 2008. But there's a problem -- a balanced 32-team league that would get thrown out of whack with an addition.

When the NFL did its last round of expansion, it brought teams back to Cleveland and Houston and ignored Los Angeles -- the second-largest TV market in the country.

By doing so, it opened the door to rumor and conjecture that the only way L.A. was returning to the NFL was if an existing team moves there.

So it came as something as a surprise that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue spoke out Wednesday about having the NFL return to L.A. by 2008. It looks almost impossible that it will happen via expansion, because the NFL has made that mistake before.

When the Browns returned to the league in 1999, it created a huge headache for everyone by having an odd number of teams. The result was that at least one team had to have a bye week every week of the season. When Houston came along two years ago, the NFL got rid of some of its more pathetic matchup changes, where Arizona could be in the NFC East and Carolina was considered in the NFC West.

With the league at 32 teams, there was a balance and harmony to the league and the schedules. Instead of having teams with losing records rewarded with a much easier schedule, only two games for the division winner and the division doormat are different. From the balance perspective, the NFL had its first equally-weighted team assignment for the first time since Tampa and Seattle joined the NFL.

Now, with talk of bringing the NFL back to L.A., it doesn't look like the league is going to mess with the formula as it sits by adding another expansion team. Instead, it will likely target an existing team to make the jump. While the Chargers are the logical pick -- top pick Eli Manning refused to play there among others -- the Colts and Vikings are also solid considerations.

While no mention has been made of what, if any, team would make the move or if the NFL would dare tamper with a good thing by going expansion again, this posturing by Tagliabue can't be seen as a good thing for fans of the Chargers, Colts and Vikings. If they're serious and the NFL is coming back to L.A., it's likely going to have to leave somewhere else.

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