Behind The Scenes

NFL Nation’s Wagoner leaves St. Louis like Rams, but goes to San Fran instead of LA

NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner
NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner

Tonight’s Monday Night Football West Coast game (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) features the new Los Angeles Rams vs. the San Francisco 49ers. (Full MNF doubleheader info here.) ESPN NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner will be at Levi’s Stadium and he is uniquely qualified to cover this NFC West matchup having worked the Rams beat the past 12 years in St. Louis and recently moving to the Bay Area to cover the 49ers.

The Midwest native discusses with Front Row the Rams’ relocation to LA and how the team’s situation impacted his job – and even provided him with the opportunity to move west.

What was it like covering the Rams’ relocation?
The thing about the entire relocation process is that it took a long time but it seemed like the writing was on the wall well before anything was “officially” decided. It was hard to see how it was going to play out in a way that didn’t have Rams owner Stan Kroenke getting what he wants solely because he brought the most money to the table and owned a team with a long history in Los Angeles.

What made you want to move to the west coast?
Having covered an NFC West team for 12 years and getting regular trips to San Francisco, Seattle and Phoenix, it’s so easy to fall in love with the west coast. The weather is great, there’s plenty to do and, as I just recently discovered, college football Saturdays start at 9 a.m. local time.

I’d been very fortunate to cover the NFL right out of college and do so in my hometown but I always had the itch to get out and do something different. I’ll always have love for St. Louis. It was great to me and I’d be remiss not to mention how wonderful the great people at 101 ESPN radio there treated me. I’m fortunate to have so many great friends and family there but this was the right move at the right time for me.

Did you consider staying on the Rams beat?
Of course and for a while I thought that was going to be the outcome. I covered the draft and some OTAs out there and I liked the area. I was also blown away by how kind and welcoming the LA-based media was to me.

But I also had expressed interest in doing something new and different in previous years, even before the Rams’ move was official. It’s nothing against the Rams, but 12 years covering the same team is a long time and when it’s all you’ve ever known professionally, you naturally kind of reach a point where you are ready for a change. When we discussed San Francisco, it didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that it was the right move.

How has your experience been covering the 49ers?
The Colin Kaepernick story has obviously been the big one here during this camp. First it was the quarterback competition and now it’s his decision to sit or kneel during the national anthem. It’s a fascinating, important story and there are a lot of layers to it. It actually reminds me of some of the stories I covered in St. Louis that weren’t so much about football but about social issues such as the Rams drafting Michael Sam and his pursuit of a roster spot and the team’s handling of the Ferguson unrest.

What are your thoughts on the Rams-Niners opener?
Rams-Niners was once one of the NFL’s best rivalries and I’m curious to see if the Rams’ return to Los Angeles stirs that back up a bit. Of course, if both teams would win consistently, that would be the best way to re-ignite the rivalry.

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