“Alliance American Football-A Future?”
You have to be a football junkie to have watched their games, remember the teams, know the names.
But NFL-Europe, originally known as the World League of American Football, served its purpose, for fans abroad, and for some players.
It was different than the ill fated World Football League, that drowned in red-ink. Or the upstart USFL which captured the fancy of fans by signing quarterbacks and developing stars in a spring league
The NFL Europe product, though played 6-time zones away, did well, marketing the game, selling jerseys, and giving us quarterbacks.
The London Monarchs, the Barcelona Drags, the Frankfurt Galaxy, the Scottish Claymores, the Berlin Fire and more brought the game of football to futbol playing countries.
It introduced us to guys from small colleges, directional college, undrafted free agents, getting a chance to grow their game.
No one could have known what Kurt Warner would evolve into. Many have forgotten who he was before he became an NFL star, Hall of Famer, Super Bowl ring quarterback.
Warner, from 1AA-Northern Iowa, undrafted, unwanted, was working stocking shelves in a super market in Iowa. He wanted to play so bad, he wound up playing in the newly founded Arena League, indoors, with the Iowa Barnstormers. And then onto Europe, where the rest is history. A chance with the Packers, then onto the Rams.
Jon Kitna was a Division II-quarterback from tiny Central Washington. He minted his game as a Barcelona Dragon in Europe, then walked on with the Seattle Seahawks. When he was done, it was 15-years in the NFL with success, and launched him into coaching.
The NFL-Europe alumni are everywhere. Saints and Carolina QB-Jake Delhomme. Vikings star Brad Johnson. Longtime backup-sometimes starter, insurance policy QB-Shaun Hill.
And so it goes on and on, if you run thru the list of guys who went abroad to play in England-Germany-Spain and more.,
It was a costly venture, or possibly an expensive investment, but its run had merits, even if it cost the league some 30M a year in losses to operate it.
It further exposed the sports to new countries abroad, well before the advent of 500-TV channels and all the sports TV networks that exist right now.
And it served its purpose as a place for young talent to get experience, compete, get some quality coaching.
So if you connect the dots from those days, you understand why the newly proposed Alliance of American Football will debut in 75-days in 8-American cities. It’s all about opportunities for young players.
It’s giving veteran coaches a chance to share knowledge, coach up the kids, and creating NFL type energy in the off season, right after the Super Bowl, leading up to the draft.
It might also be a stepping stone towards something even more substantial a couple of seasons down road. For if you make this work, maybe the NFL truly becomes your partner, puts its shield on the brand, and in three years time, sends its young players to your team to develop in the offseason.
The AAF will need to decide whether its role is to give a great NFL veteran like Colin Kaeperneck a chance to play somewhere. Or whether a 32-year old former small college star Josh Johnson from USD, can do a lot in ten weeks to earn another shot in the league.
Our maybe it’s a ticket for an ex-Aztec like running back Donnell Humphrey to grow into some role after battling injuries for two seasons trying to stay in the NFL:.
No-name offensive lineman need reps and off season weight training to grow into those roles. 70-days worth of practices and 10-games might be their ticket to take the next step.
Equally fascinating in the AAF concept, will be the coaches who will spend their days trying to mold young minds and talents, to get to the next level.
Mike Martz has done so many good things in the NFL, his calling card, the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ with the Rams.
Steve Spurrier’s heritage in the college game will serve young players well.
We know about Dennis Erickson’s coaching stops, from Miami to Oregon State, and his experiences in the NFL.. Ditto the same for a lifetime coordinator like Brad Childress, who was a head coach on top of being a brilliant mind.
Rick Neuhisel and Mike Riley are cut from the same cloth, as teachers, communicaters, and QB developers, young and energized.
Old warriors like Mike Singletary and Tim Lewis come at it from the defensive side of the ball, where they did good things in their careers, on the field and on the sidelines.
And of course, the leader of all this is Bill Polian, architect of great teams in Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis, who still has something to give in terms of experience, direction and credibility.
The San Diego Fleet leadership is sitting on a ‘gold mine’ if this is done right….winning, marketing, priced correctly. And in the in tradition of Air Coryell and Dan Fouts, right up to the Chargers era of Philip Rivers, San Diego likes to see the ball in the air.
And that’s why Mike Martz could be the right guy, right place, right time, to help the league succeed.
It’s worked before, NFL Europe, it might work better, here in the US, fitting into a unique slot in the NFL calendar.
In the memory of the London Monarchs and Scottish Claymores, the AAF has a chance to do something special in a football crazed country.
Kurt Warner-Jon Kitna pulled it off. We’ll see what the AAF can do, 75-days from now.