Category Archives: AAF

Arizona Hotshots

Record: 5-3
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium

The Hotshots had the very flashy, bright color palette of yellow, green, and orange.

BACKGROUND:

Rick Neuheisel was connected to the Alliance very early but it was said he wanted to coach the Phoenix franchise where he lived, as opposed to the Fleet in San Diego. He’d don the cap and be announced with Phoenix on May 18th of 2018, to play on the campus of Arizona State University at Sun Devil Stadium. Former NFL GM Phil Savage was also brought on as well a few weeks later.

The choice of the Phoenix was as confusing to me as selecting Atlanta. Phoenix just doesn’t have a great history of supporting its football franchises. It is just not known as a hotbed of football, however, from the location standpoint, it made sense in terms of eyes on the product- ie ratings.

The AAF itself made some controversial moves with the franchise. At the team unveiling on September 25th, when the team name was announced locals were sort of taken aback at the choice of Hotshots. The general sentiment from the league office was that the team name was a tribute to the area’s first respondents- (but with the Hotshots name it was a direct nod to elite firefighters who battle the most dangerous wildfires nationwide). Locally there was some general grumbling from locals who felt the name was exploitive and in bad taste.

In October 2018, the franchise hired disgraced NCAA coach Hugh Freeze as offensive coordinator. Later in December, Freeze departed from the Hotshots to coach at Liberty University- and no specific coordinator was designated to take his place, so it is assumed that Rick Neuheisel picked back up the play calling.

Also at some point the league made the decision to change the team location name from Phoenix to Arizona. Early marketing materials still pointed the franchise to Phoenix and #AlliancePHX. While this is not too controversial, it was more confusing than anything.

QB Mike Bercovici was one of the early signings of the squad and a fan favorite, but he was left unprotected in the QB draft and ended up playing for the Fleet.

Alliance ‘Phoenix’ territory covered a very large area from California to Texas and some of Rick Neuheisel’s old stomping grounds.

OFFENSE:

Rick Neuheisel is considered an offensive madman, and tends to lean towards pass heavy styles that involve a pistol offense. Offensively the team scored 21 TDs (7 rushing, 14 passing), had a -3 turnover differential, converted 30 of 90 3rd downs, and 1 of 9 4th downs. The Hotshots yards per game was second in the league (343.9) to Orlando.

Trevor Knight was the odds on favorite to guide the Hotshots after they took him with their first pick in the Protect or Pick QB draft- but unheralded John Wolford snagged the starting gig. Wolford finished only second to Garrett Gilbert (ORL) in passing, and was the first player to win Offensive Player of the Week Honors twice. He finished with 1617 yards and 14 TDs to 7 interceptions and a whopping 7.8 yards per attempt. He was also dangerous on the ground rushing for 160 yards on 36 carries and a 35 yard TD. Knight was very gracious. He saw little action during the season coming off the bench throwing for under 100 yards.

Arizona had the best rushing attack in the AAF at 1,133 yards. Jhurell Pressley led the league in rushing with 430 yards on 96 attempts (1 TD). Pressley was also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield contributing 11 receptions for 86 yards and a TD. Tim Cook provided a slight change of pace as a bigger back. He ranked second behind Pressley and had 275 yards on 56 carries and 3 TDs. Justin Stockton spelled Pressley in the lineup as needed. He ran 43 times for 233 yards and a 45 yard TD. Larry Rose saw little playing time, but ran 6 times for 16 yards.

Rashad Ross was the highest rated wide receiver according to PFF, just edging out Charles Johnson (ORL).

At receiver the greatest recipient of Wolford’s attention was rangy long bomb threat Rashad Ross. He caught 36 passes for 583 yards (2nd) and 7 TDs (1st). Richard Mullaney got into the action in 5 games catching 20 passes for 213 yards. Marquis Bundy was an interesting talent. He caught 13 passes for 178 yards, while Freddie Martino had 11 catches for 126 yards. Josh Huff contributed another 163 on 11 receptions too, while Deion Holliman made it count catching only one pass for 15 yards that went for a TD.

At tight end Gerald Christian ranked 3rd on the team with 14 receptions for 158 yards and a TD. Thomas Duarte had 8 catches for 111 yards and 2 TDs, while big man Connor Hamlett had 5 catches for 40 yards. The Hotshots were in the top 3 when it came to tight end production ranked only behind Salt Lake and San Diego- respectively.

The Hotshots offensive line allowed 15 sacks on the season- which comes out to roughly 2 a game. That’s pretty decent and allowed the Hotshots to finish as the 3rd ranked offensive line.

DEFENSE:

(3-4) On defense the Hotshots had the worst 3rd down ratio in the league, allowing nearly 40% of 3rd downs to be converted for firsts. The Hotshots recovered 5 fumbles and made 7 interceptions on the season, while allowing 17 TDs. Their defense ranked 7th overall (329.9 yards per game), with rushing defense being their Achilles heel.

Nyles Morgan led the team in tackles from linebacker. Starting in just 3 games, the former Golden Domer racked up 58 total tackles and a forced fumble. Steven Johnson started 6 games posting 45 tackles and 3 interceptions for 44 yards. Steve Beauharnais posted .5 sacks and 30 total tackles, while Carl Bradford had 12 solo tackles, a forced fumble, and 2 sacks. Kaelin Burnett had 17 total tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack, while long haired Scooby Wright had 22 total tackles. Finally Edmond Robinson had 23 and a sack in 6 starts. Pretty solid production through and through.

Defensive back had some familiar names out there including Rahim Moore with 25 tackles but these guys were known more as pass deflectors rather than interceptors. Erick Dargan statistically led the secondary with 53 total tackles and a pick. Dexter McDougle intercepted a pass and had 16 total tackles, while Sterling Moore had another 23. Former Ex-an and ex-Commander Robert Nelson had an interception and 21 tackles. Shaquille Richardson had 18 tackles and an interception. It was a chippy group of defenders in the secondary, that allowed 204.3 yards per game- good for 3rd.

Situational starter Da’Sean Downey led the down linemen in sacks with 3.5. He’d play in 5 games making just one start at DE. Rykeem Yates- also at DE started 7 games and had 3 sacks and 25 total tackles. Obum Gwachim had 2 sacks 16 tackles, while the rest came in at a sack each: Will Sutton, 28 tackles and a sack, Sione Teuhema, 19 tackles and a sack, and Bunmi Rotimi had 6 tackles and a sack. The Hotshots rushing defense was the worst in the league, allowing 125.6 yards per game.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Hotshots were ranked 6th in net punting average behind the foot of Jeff Locke who punted 33 times for 1,460 yards dropping 14 inside the 20. The Hotshots were pretty woeful on special teams with a net of 38.67 per put allowed. Opponents were able to net 124 yards on 13 returns.

Veteran NFL kicker Nick Folk stepped in for Arizona. He’d hit 12 of 16 field goals on the season, including a league long 55 yarder (36 points).

On punt returns, WR Deion Holliman had 10 punt returns for 123 yards and 5 fair catches. Rashad Ross would go back on seldom occasion to put the fear in opposing coverage units, but only managed 3 returns for 12 yards.

THE SEASON:

Arizona was frankly a terrible selection for the Alliance in terms of attendance. Here was Sun Devil Stadium- on the campus of Arizona State University, which was located in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, and the best the Hotshots could muster was an unenthusiastic high of 11,751 at their season opener?

After a two week road trip, the Hotshots were sitting at 2-1. They then gave up two home games, first embarrassed at home by the Legends (14-11) where a measly 8,865 showed up, and then second to the Commanders where the score wasn’t as close as it looked (9,351). They then went on the road and upset Orlando, to come home to beat the Fleet in Week 7 (9,750). Afterwards the Hotshots went on the road in Week 8 and upset the Commanders by a resounding score of 22-7, finishing quietly at 5-3. Overall, the Hotshots averaged a minuscule 9,932 fans a game- 7th in the league. Their online footprint was just as bad with a tiny and unengaged fanbase.

Arizona had one more home game on the schedule the following week against the Iron- but would they have even crossed the 10k barrier for that?

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NOTES:

Before the season opener the Hotshots retired the number 19 in honor of the 19 Hotshots killed in 2013 by the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The Hotshots were an excellent team at making halftime adjustments. They outscored 7 of 8 opponents in the second half by a total margin of 101-46.

Rashad Ross caught 7 of the 8 WR TDs.

Rick Neuheisel played in the USFL for the San Antonio Gunslingers. A Neuheisel superfan showed up pregame versus the Commanders dressed up with his jersey on and some gear. Neuheisel was very impressed, came over, took a photo with the guy and signed an autograph for him.

The Commanders/ Hotshots game would be the final game played in league history.

The Hotshots after the league announced that they were folding declared themselves AAF 2019 Champions on Twitter- citing the fact that they had beaten both the Commanders and Apollos.

San Antonio lost to Arizona in that final game, however, based on tie breakers, I was surprised to see ARZ at the top of the division and still not SA. A few weeks ago I sheepishly mentioned this on Twitter- because the AAF was using NFL tie breaking rules, since they had none of their own, SA should be first in the division based on strength of schedule. Shortly thereafter some one broke down the tiebreakers, and indeed, San Antonio is now posted at the top of the standings on the AAF Wikipedia entry.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Overall here was a team that had really grown throughout the season after some miscues early on, but by that Week 8 contest- they had total buy in from everybody. They were a good team and a lot of fun to watch. I think the Hotshots stood as strong challengers in the West to win the AAF Championship.

NOTABLE PLAYERS:

HC- RICK NEUHEISEL
QB- JOHN WOLFORD, TREVOR KNIGHT
RB- JHURREL PRESSLEY, JUSTIN STOCKTON
WR- MARQUIS BUNDY
TE- GERALD CHRISTIAN
LB- CARL BRADFORD, STEVEN JOHNSON
CB- STERLING MOORE, KIERON WILLIAMS

Salt Lake City Stallions

Record: 3-5
Coach: Dennis Erickson
Stadium: Rice-Eccles

The Stallions had deep sky blue, blue, and silver as their primary colors. Their helmet was quite unique as fingers of color gracing across the silver hat were representative of a stallion’s mane.

BACKGROUND:

In all honesty when Salt Lake City was selected to host an AAF team, the first thing I thought was, “Why?” I desperately wanted to be proven wrong, but from the get go I thought that this was the worst location in the league and shouldn’t have been considered- little less awarded a team. Not only is Utah not considered a hotbed of football, there’s a whole other issue of concessions and beer sales. I laughed when the city was originally floated as a founding team, because I felt that there was just too many other cities that were passionate about the sport that’d do a better job supporting this team- and unfortunately I was right- in a very bad way.

Salt Lake played in Utah’s Rice-Eccles outdoor stadium starting in February. The stadium did little to promote the team compared to other venues. Sure they had the outdoor banners (that long after the team left they still had up), but they didn’t even bother with trying to do anything with the end zones or adding a bit of flair to it. It still had the Utah Utes logo all over the field.

Dennis Erickson fresh off retirement returned to the game with Randy Mueller as his GM. It was a complimentary pairing as they had worked together in Seattle during the 90s. Erickson nabbed some football veterans to his staff including Donnie Henderson (DC), Michael Gray (DL), and Ron Zook (ST/DB).

The Stallions name was chosen because there were so many wild horses in and around the SLC region when it was discovered. The name also held significance because of all the land speed records that are set at the Bonneville Flats. The uniforms were really nice. A good color composition especially with that powder blue/ blue, the colors were chosen to represent the aspects of Utah’s geography in the region with the Wasatch mountain range.

The team had some interesting names to lure fans in, but Matt Asiata and Dres Anderson stuck out more than any other on this roster, before the team entered the preseason.

The Stallions pulled from a heavy concentration of colleges across Utah. This gave the team unique and unintended access to Polynesian players. It also allowed the Stallions to build a defensive behemoth.

OFFENSE:

The Stallions’ offensive potential was doomed out of the gate by a series of bad luck injuries. Josh Woodrum was the team’s pick in the QB Draft. They’d come back and select BJ Daniels and Austin Allen.

Daniels had an excellent camp, and was on his way to being the starter over Woodrum, before a freak injury during the preseason game, ended his season. Woodrum stepped back in and actually finished as the league’s 4th rated quarterback. In 7 games he was second in completions (146), PCT (64.3), and 3rd in attempts (227), while throwing for 1,449 yards, and 6 TDs to 8 interceptions. Austin Allen started a game, and threw for 120 yards. The passing offense finished in 6th place.

Rushing offense was just below average. Matt Asiata was injured for a good portion of the season so they relied on the legs of Joel Bouagnon to lead the team. He respectively churned up 360 yards and 6 TDs to lead the team. Branden Oliver chipped in another 210 yards on 54 carries. Terrell Newby was a 3rd down valve, rushing 17 times for 39 yards and leading the ‘backs with 13 catches for 111 yards. From there it was Terron Ward (86 yards), and Matt Asiata (10 yards) as far as production was concerned.

The receiving corps was also hit by injuries as Dres Anderson only saw action in one game. That’s fine as De’Mornay Pierson-El hogged the receptions boasting 36 catches for 414 yards and a TD. A slippery one, he forced 9 missed tackles on the year and was second in yardage after the catch. Adonis Jennings was next with 17 for 210. Outside of that the receiving corps slipped off production-wise at this point as most of the targets were going to the tight end group. Kenny Bell made 12 catches for 97 yards, Brian Tyms checked in with 11 for 82, and Jordan Leslie had 10 for 71. Alarmingly the wide receiver group would only account for TWO touchdowns on the season as Pierson-El and Jordan Leslie both grabbed one a piece.

Salt Lake really had the best tight ends in the AAF. From a stand point of production they had Nick Truesdell (24 receptions for 269 yards and a team leading 3 TD catches)- best at the position in the league. Then you had Anthony Denham right behind Nick with another 18 receptions (179 yards and a TD). Austin Traylor saw only 7 targets on the season, but was used more as a blocker.

The offensive line was pretty stout, allowing 15 sacks on the season, tied for second. The team’s overall average total yardage was 286.2- which ranked 6th. A touchdown deficient team, Salt Lake frequently shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, fumbling a baffling 17 times (losing 9 of them), while being intercepted 9 times. On top of that the team ranked 6th in 3rd down percentage, converting a meager 31 percent.

DEFENSE:

(4-3) Salt Lake City’s defense was outstanding finishing second overall. Yielding only 291 yards a game, the Stallions were stout against the run allowing a league low 72.9 yards per game, and it wasn’t even close, as second place was well over 20 yards behind them. While SLC’s secondary was middle of the road giving up 218.1 yards per game, they were 3rd in points allowed giving up a stingy 17.9 points. On the season, the defense only created 10 turnovers, but 3rd down defense was stellar sitting at 35/113 or just 30% on the year (2nd). The Stallions front 8 was thoroughly frustrating overall as they led the league with 24 sacks on the year.

Along the defensive line the Stallions featured Karter Schult as an edge rusher. Starting in 8 games, Karter had 31 total tackles and 7 sacks (2nd in the AAF). Sealver Siliga at the other DT would kick out to nose when needed. The space eater clocked in at 6-2, 345 and had 19 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Mike Purcell was also another big guy at DT. He led the defensive linemen with 42 total tackles and 3 sacks. Tenny Palepoi started all 8 games and had 22 total stops and 3.5 sacks also at DT. Chris Odom had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Tanner Balderree, Darius Hamilton, Tuni Kanuch, Handsome Tanielu, and Eddie Wilson were also in the trenches for SLC. The Stallions’ line was the most feared, well coached, and put together group in the league.

The linebacking crew of the Stallions were heat seeking missles. The indefatigable Greer Martini had 55 tackles, a sack and a pick. Trevor Reilly from the other side had 44 tackles and a sack. Gionni Paul despite starting just 5 games had 44 total tackles and .5 sacks. Luke Carrezola had some bright moments with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, while Josh Banderas, Gionni Paul, Ty Schwab, John Timu, Ed Shockley and Anthony Williams saw limited time coming off the bench.

The secondary itself was pretty decent. Although they didn’t get many interceptions, the back 4 were underrated. Former 3rd round pick of the Dolphins, Will Davis had 26 total tackles, an interception, and 2 fumble recoveries. Henre’ Tolliver started 3 games and had a fumble recovery and 19 total tackles. Cody Brown had an interception and 40 tackles. Steve Williams – former Chargers pick had a pick and 10 tackles playing in 7 contests. CJ Smith had a solid year. The 2 year NFL vet and ND State alum had 28 tackles and a pick. Finally Micah Hannemann in the secondary at safety posted 22 tackles. Along the way Jeremiah Johnson, Brandon Shippen, Jordan Sterns, Ciante Evans, and Chaceller James all helped out on defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Taylor Bertolet won the kicking job late in camp and finish 9 of 14 on the season for 29 points. He’d also kick at 54 yard field goal during the process- tying for the second longest in league history.

Austin Rehkow out of Idaho posted 40 punts on the season for 1,803 yards (45.1 yards per punt) with a long of 65 yards. He had 2 touchbacks and 12 dropped within the 20. The coverage was decent as Rehkow finished with a 39.6 net average.

Sam Mobley was featured on punt returns. He had 11 of them for 96 yards with a long of 30.

SEASON:

The Stallions had the worst attendance in the league. Granted, SLC’s first home game was 3 games into the season, (which seems a bit stupid for an 8 team league in an inaugural season,) the Stallions were only able to muster a paltry 10,412 to the game- a league low to that date in attendance. Temperature probably played a part in it. On that day, (according to Accuweather,) the temperature was a high of 36 and a low of 19. By that point the team was already 0-2 and facing the Arizona Hotshots again for the second time in the season.

After beating the Hotshots at home for their first win, the Stallions hosted the Orlando Apollos. Despite putting up a titanic defensive effort, the Stallions lost in a snowstorm in front of 9,302 patrons. A Week 5 heart breaker versus the Fleet put the team at 1-4 entering a Week 6 home contest against the Memphis Express. -A season low 8,150 showed up to watch the Stallions win that second game.

The Stallions let the Commanders escape their wrath in Week 7, but the attendance numbers rebounded only slightly to 8,405 in Week 8. In that final game the Stallions kept their slim playoff hopes alive as they won a turnover trade-off with the Fleet in a defensive fun fest. Week 10 would’ve been their last home game of the year against the San Antonio Commanders- but the league had long folded by then.

As recounted previously, Salt Lake City had the worst attendance in the AAF. A total of 36,269 was recorded for 4 home games- an overall average of just 9,067. (By comparison, the Apollos played only 3 home games and had 58,943 show up.)

The Stallions team trademark was really their stubborn defense and quality tight ends. On the flip side the Stallions were the team most bit by the injury bug as 12 players finished on IR including starters Dres Anderson, Matt Asiata, Kaelin Clay, and BJ Daniels respectively.

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NOTES:

Not sure what it was with Topps- but Salt Lake got very little love from the Topps Now collection. Out of the 43 cards printed in the short run- only one (#30 Karter Schult) focused on the Stallions. In fact on two occasions (Week 8 and Week 3) there were no cards made for those games, both of which the Stallions played in.

Of all the teams in the AAF, the Salt Lake Stallions represented the furthest north franchise in the league.

Salt Lake was stout at home. The Stallions finished 3-1 at home with a close loss to Orlando blemishing their record. However, SLC was 0-3 on the road.

Salt Lake is odd in that their primary logo, (a Stallion shaped like an S) does not show up on their uniform or helmet design. (Wasn’t too huge a fan of it anyway, since it felt a bit squished).

The Stallions gimmick mascot was a Stallion, ala the Denver Broncos.

After the franchise was founded, it took sometime to get the front office situated, and at one point they were working out of a McDonalds.

SLCs hash tags were “#Ridewithus” and “#FullSteedAhead”.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

As crazy as it sounded, at 3-5 the Stallions still held a slim chance of making the playoffs. They had a road game against Atlanta, and then a home game versus San Antonio. If SLC won out, while everybody lost out, everybody in the division would be 5-5 and SLC with a little hope and luck could’ve made the playoffs.

I really liked this team. They had a lot of heart, a tremendous defense, great trench play, and strong tight ends. Despite their record, the Stallions socked every team in the mouth and came to play lunch pail football every week.

NOTABLE PLAYERS:

HC- DENNIS ERICKSON
OTHER COACHES- MICHAEL GRAY
QB- BJ DANIELS, AUSTIN ALLEN, JOSH WOODRUM
WR- SAM MOBLEY, ADONIS JENNINGS, JORDAN LESLIE, DE’MORNAY PIERSON-EL
DE- CHRIS ODOM
LB- TREVOR REILLY, GREER MARTINI
DB- WILL DAVIS

Atlanta Legends

Record: 2-6
Coach: Kevin Coyle
Home Stadium: Georgia State Stadium

The Legends had a simple and elegant color scheme of purple, gold and white representative of royalty. The Legends’ alternate jersey sported white tops with gold trim and purple numbers.

BACKGROUND:

When Atlanta was named as a host city of the AAF on April 25th, 2018 I think the collective reaction was one large yawn. It wasn’t really an inspired pick, but it made sense because the league needed anchor cities that had large TV audiences (- as archaic as that sounds now in the era of the internet). The coaches associated with the franchise though- that was another matter. Named along with Atlanta, was head coach Brad Childress, and his offensive coordinator Mike Vick.

Childress has been viewed as sort of a coaching mercenary over the past few years. -He basically is just seen as a guy who gets jobs so that he can quit them for another one.

Vick on the other hand, has had a long and controversial history, but he is still beloved in Atlanta where he played ball with the Falcons. From a standpoint of trying to get attention, it made sense. From a standpoint of getting butts in seats and developing an innovative offense- well that can be debated.

-More on these two later.

The team also made some interesting hires, bringing in Jen Welter as a defensive assistant, and Kevin Coyle as defensive coordinator. Former Arena defensive lineman Leroy Thompson coached the defensive line while former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars coached the offensive line.

On September 20th the Atlanta franchise was christened ‘The Legends’. The name stuck because of the city’s rich heritage, stories, and tradition. Many great people have come from Atlanta, and the city is home to great landmarks and events that have been important to the tapestry that makes up the nation.

On January 9th, 2019, during training camp, Brad Childress abruptly resigned as head coach. It was a curious move in retrospect. Although he was jockeying for another gig in the NFL, it came shortly after cash flow issues began with Reggie Fowler. (Regardless though it is pure speculation.) Kevin Coyle was named as head coach to replace him.

Then two days before the first game in league history, Coyle announced that Mike Vick was no longer offensive coordinator. He’d function as a consultant (and make a token appearance at a game later in the season). In his place was playcaller Rich Bartel, who two days before the third game also resigned. Venerable Ken Zampese was brought in to fix things, but in general, the mess was viewed from the outside as being created by the hiring of Brad Childress in the first place.

It goes without saying that the Legends experienced the highest coaching turnover during the AAF’s short existence.

Aaron Murray was definitely the marquee name of Atlanta’s originally courted players. The franchise protected him with the second overall pick of the Pick or Protect Draft.

As this is only a viewpoint of what occurred over the regular season -and a harsh one at that, I would be remiss not to include the account from perhaps the greatest Legend of them all: The Legendary Knight.

None shall pass! – The Legendary Knight defended the realm and rallied troops to his cause throughout the year. He has generously shared his perspective on the Atlanta Legends franchise.

Verily, the tale of the noble kingdom of the Atlanta Legends is one of daunting hardship, epic valor in shadow of perilous odds, and – at the endeth – completeth and utter devastation and obliteration. At the hour whenst the realm of the legends wast formed, twas met with high hopes and most wondrous fanfare. Within a fortnight, the realm hath drawn the services of gridiron warriors and noblemen renowned far and wide in the lands ’round Atlanta. Wast said the nobel Brad Childress wouldst commandeth our army, the legendary Sir Michael Vick wouldst leadeth our offensive forces, and the brave Sir Aaron Murray wouldst leadeth our warriors on the field. The presence of such most wondrous and epic heroes of the lands rallied many to the banner of the Legends.

Alas, cruel fate cutteth the heady days short. Practically on the eve of battle, lord Childress forswore us. Sir Vick didst prove unable to leadeth our forces. And our new generals didst putteth Sir Murray upon pine.

– The Legendary Knight

The Legends were nestled in between Orlando, Birmingham, and Memphis which worked to their disadvantage in the territorial player allocation.

OFFENSE:

Not a clue what was going on here, and I am not sure that the Legends knew either as whatever results that were put out there was pretty questionable in spurts. Touchdowns were few and far between for Atlanta as all opposing teams had to typically do was put 24+ points on the board against the Legends. In those games opponents were
5-0. The Legends scored only 88 points the entire season. (Obviously the league worst.) By comparison the next closest team was Salt Lake at 135. But just saying, “They didn’t score enough points,” Is a lazy way out of getting to the bottom of the Legends offensive woes. They ranked 4th in total yardage (308.4) and were third in overall passing yardage (218.2) So what was the real problem? It was turnover differential and red zone efficiency. The Legends had 14 interceptions, and lost 7 fumbles. Their kicker had 14 field goals inside the 40 yards line- which accounted for more than half the team’s points. So the fact that Atlanta won two games should come as an even bigger shock than expected.

For some reason, Atlanta came out with Matt Simms instead of Aaron Murray at quarterback. Simms proceeded to throw for 842 yards, on 79 of 132 passing, with 2 TDs to 7 interceptions. He also got crushed in the pocket 14 times. When Murray stepped in during Week 3 he came out firing with a 300+ yard game to kick things off, but by Week 5 he got absolutely punished against the Commanders. Aaron was slightly better guiding the Frankenstein offense of the Legends however. He finished with 3 TDs to 7 picks- 1,048 yards and a solid 64.8 completion rating- which was actually- the best in the league. Combined Simms and Murray threw for the most interceptions in the league.

Tarean Folston arguably was the bright spot for the team at runningback. In 7 games he did it all, managing 56 carries for 223 yards and 1 TD. He also led the team in receptions posting 28 catches for 163 yards and 2 TDs. Brandon Radcliff came in relief of Folston. He had 41 carries for 156 yards and 11 receptions in 5 games. Aaron Murray running for his life had 96, Lawrence Pittman had 81 yards, and Denard Robinson- had the only other rushing TD on 24 carries. Akrum Wadley played in two games and had 7 carries for 21 yards and 11 catches for 99 yards before he was injured against the Iron.

At WR it was a duo of Seantavius Jones (24 catches, 298 yards), and respected AFL alum Malachi Jones (22 catches, 312 yards, and 2 TDs.) Bug Howard had 17 for 220, and Justin Thomas clocked in with 16 for 172, including the team long reception of 49 yards. James Quick had 10 catches for 98 yards, while Ervin Philips started 2 games (playing in 5) and had 9 catches for 96 yards. Montay Crockett rounded out the board with 10 receptions for 130 yards.

Keith Towbridge attracted some attention at TE from NFL scouts and was a solid starter. The Louisville product snagged 17 catches for 196 yards and was a pretty decent blocker at 6-5. 262. He teamed up with fellow Cardinals alum Charles Standberry- who caught 3 passes. Jake Sutherland was more of an inline blocker at 6-5, 261 and caught a pass against Birmingham for the season.

The offensive line was pretty bad for the Legends- but that’s OK because they finished in a 4 way tie for last, yielding 23 sacks on the season- and allowing over 100 pressures on the season (2nd worst). It should be noted that both Avery Gennesy and Trae Moxley popped up on the PFF Team of the Week during the season. The Legends rushed for 90.1 yards a game- good for 6th place.

DEFENSE:

(3-4) The Legends defense just had 3 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries on the season and allowed a league high 213 points
(-nearly 20 more than 7th place). This was due in part to the Legends’ propensity to turn the ball over and set up a short field for opposing offenses.

Their third down defense wasn’t terrible, allowing just 34%, but their rush defense was pretty porous allowing 117.9 yards a game (6th). In a strange twist, the Legends’ pass defense was first overall at 158.4 per game. This gave them technically the odd accomplishment of being the #1 ranked defense in the league as Atlanta ‘just gave up’ 276.2 yards per game which was a bit over 30 yards better than the second ranked Orlando Apollos (who stomped the Legends in their two meetings by a combined score of 76-12).

Veteran DB Ed Reynolds tied DB Tyson Graham for the team lead with 55 total tackles (and 1 sack). Reynolds also scored the first safety in league history. (The 2 points proved to be the needed margin that the Legends needed to beat the Hotshots.) Reynolds ran around in that secondary like his hair was on fire, but there was only so much he could do. Tyson Graham had .5 sacks and a one of the team’s 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble. It was no wonder they earned the name ‘The Bash Bros.’ Carlos Merritt led the team in interceptions. Playing in all 8 games, but only starting 1 he had 2 interceptions for 17 yards, a forced fumble and 13 total tackles. Des Lawrence had 13 tackles in 6 starts, and so did Damian Swann and wrapping up the major DBs Louis Young had 12.

On the defensive line JT Jones played formidably from defensive end with 23 tackles and 4 sacks. Tracy Sprinkle lined up at NT and in 6 starts had 22 tackes and 5 sacks. Big bodied TJ Barnes pushed his way around for 18 tackles, while Tavaris Barnes logged 8 tackles and a sack in 6 contests. David Dean came off the bench to start 2 contests and had 14 tackles and .5 sacks while former Jet Dylan Donahue came off the bench in 6 games to inject 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

At linebacker Jeff Luc led the way for the group with 50 tackles and 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Khalil Bass popped in with 41 tackles and Brandon Watts had 24.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Younghoe Koo provided to be a bright spot for the Legends. He nailed every field goal he attempted on the season- all 14 of them and finished in a 4 way tie for first. Now bear in mind in the oddest football statistic ever- they were all under 40 yards, but still… He also was the team leader in points with slightly over half the team points (42) and nailed a game winner against the Express.

Cameron Nizialek was a booming punter. He punted 34 times for 1612 yards which amounted to a near unheard of 47.41 yards per kick. He also dropped 8 kicks inside the 20 and had 4 touchbacks. The problem is he frequently out kicked his coverage. The Legends coverage crew had a 10 yard negative difference (37.0), allowing a league worst 16 returns for 274 yards and a TD.

Three guys tried their hands on punt returns. James Quick, Justin Thomas, and Dwayne Hollis- all with very similar results. As a group they finished with 14 returns for 96 yards and 7 fair catches.

THE SEASON:

Despite being the largest anchor city, being the second team announced, and having a bit of star power in Mike Vick, the Legends failed to capitalize off of this at the ticket office. Within days of being announced as the final franchise, San Antonio already had a larger online fan presence than the Legends.

It was a cluster, on top of everything else, as the Legends had a disastrous schedule to kick things off. 3 of their first 4 home games were on the road. The Legends didn’t even see their first home game until Week 3 and by then at 0-2 they were playing against the Iron. At that game Atlanta posted only attendance of 10,717. It seemed that the Legends really couldn’t inject any sort of enthusiasm into the city initially. In Week 5 the Legends posted 10,829 (Express), and a low of 10,619 against the Commanders in Week 6.

The Legends however went out on a high note- saving their best attendance numbers for Week 7 with 11,416. As the league was suspended after Week 8 the Legends were unable to play their final home game against the Stallions.

Atlanta averaged 10.895 fans a game thanks to that Week 7 contest. You could say fans were finally starting to warm up to the gold and purple. Although numbers were consistent and at about half capacity of the stadium, the overall numbers were considered below the league average (15,292) and 6th overall.

This loyal vassal of the legends didst faithfully rally his fiefdom of sec 122 and leadeth those motley folk in unyielding cries of support for our Legendary warriors. Other loyal and wondrous vassals didst the same, most notably the lesser, yet wise and noble, Kings of the South Endzone. Through many defeats and too few victories, the loyal Legends fans did turn out and uplift our warriors. Never once didst fewer than 10,000 turneth out to support our brave, but beleaguered warriors.

-The Legendary Knight

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Nonetheless, bravely forward our palmy warriors did stride into hurlyburly upon the field of the Apollos. Our inexperienc’d generals put the valorous intentioned, but overly cautious, Matt the Young’r of family Simms to leadeth our warriors upon the field. Oh woe and lament. Never since the Battle of Hastings hadst such a butt-whooping been lay down upon an unfortunate lot as was what the Apollos didst do to the Legends yond day.

– The Legendary Knight

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Anoth’r defeat cameth at the hands of Fleet in p’rt of San Diego before our bloodied and battered warriors wendeth their way home. – The Legendary Knight

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With humiliating defeats and being renounced by our heroes, the enthusiasm of some fair-weather fans amongst the people of Atlanta didst wain. Still, at the hour the Iron warriors from Birmingham didst appeared at our gates, over 10,000 loyal vassals rallied to supp’rt our warriors in their scrap – thy very own Legendary Knight amongst those good folk. -The Legendary Knight

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Our greatest hour wast on our second home game. The Express legions of Memphis did sally forth upon our lands to square with our Legends. Poor Matt Simms wast with injury, so Sir Murray’s day to leadeth us into battleth hadst arrived. A mighty contest didst ensue, with the Express ahead 20-14 at the end of the 3rd. Our legends didst rally, and upon the mighty arm of the valiant Sir Murray and the golden foot of the intrepid Younghoe Koo, didst score 9 points in the 4th to winneth the day! There wast much merriment and feasting upon yond day!

– The Legendary Knight

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NOTES:

Atlanta traded LS Colton Taylor to Salt Lake City for TE Steve Donatell to mark the first trade in league history.

Former Jets WR Stephen Hill was attempting to make a comeback with the Legends but did not make the final cut.

The Legends finished with a whopping 10 guys on IR.

Younghoe Koo scored the first points in league history with a field goal against Orlando.

At the season opener for the Commanders I overheard fans who said that they knew guys who were testing out camera systems at the preseason games in SA the previous week. They mentioned that Atlanta was so terrible offensively that they could be an embarrassment to the league.

The Legends scored 3 points the ENTIRE season in the 3rd quarter. Those 3 points came in the final game against the Birmingham Iron.

In case you are wondering, you can find The Legendary Knight on Twitter at @LegendaryKnig4 – and no, he has never speaketh in any other manner than Ye’ Olde English to me.

The Kings of the South Endzone were allies in The Legendary Knight’s attempts to defend the realm of the Legends.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The glimmer of hope from yond victory upon the field too soon gaveth way to a series of painful defeats. Even with the sting of those defeats and all hope hath being lost for the playoffs, the loyal Legends fans did stay true. Preparations were being made by the faithful for an epic celebration to welcometh our Legends home for their final home squaring against the Salty Stallions.

Many a faithful son and daughter of the Kingdom of Legends did look wistfully forward to that day and madeth ready for feasts, tournaments, festiveness, and most wondrous merriment.

But dark and nefarious schemes were afoot by dastardly blaggards who for a few pieces of silver wouldst rip the heart out of the faithful and dealeth a steely bitter cold death to it all. Of all the world’s treacherous schemes. Of all the worm-riddled betrayals of the most greedy and vile snakes. Of all the malevolent murders by the vile upon the heroic and valorous. All of these be whey-face in comparison to the treachery, betrayal, and evisceration of Eight Realms of the Alliance through skuldugg’ry at the very hands of those who hadst sworn to protecteth and groweth the alliance.

Yond story, however, is for another day and is a yarn for another to spin. -The Legendary Knight

NOTABLE PLAYERS:
HC: KEVIN COYLE
Other Coaches: PETE METZELAARS
QB: AARON MURRAY, MATT SIMMS
RB: TAREAN FOLSON
WR: BUG HOWARD, MALACHI JONES
DL: TAVARIS BARNES
DB: DES LAWRENCE, QUINCY MAUGER