The Super Bowl has come and gone, which usually means we don't get football until the NFL Draft approaches. But now the Alliance of American Football League is here, an 8-team startup that views itself not as a competitor for the NFL but as a developmental league. Well...we'll see.
The problem with that idea is the better players in this new league (at least on name recognition) appear to be ones who have had their shot in the NFL, and now likely hope to get back into the league. Trent Richardson, Charles Johnson, Kenneth Farrow, Akeem Hunt. Some of the names are very familiar -- former high draft picks or players who briefly had some NFL or fantasy value, at least as a handcuff. (Also several former Chargers kickers, it appears.) Others are well-known to those of us in dynasty leagues who had one or two of them at the bottom of our rosters for a year or two. "Maybe this is the year that Farrow breaks out!"
The first two games were played last night, and the AAF was probably hoping for more compelling theatre than 40-6 and 15-6. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the 40 was put up by the Orlando Apollos, coached by Steve Spurrier, with his "Sun and Gun" offense -- yes, that's a thing. The Apollos ran the "Philly Special," with NFL journeyman quarterback Garrett Gilbert (pictured; he played in the NFL just over a month ago) catching a touchdown from former Jet Jalin Marshall after a pitch from Akeem Hunt (formerly of Kansas City, no relation though).
The other side of that game was the Atlanta Legends, quarterbacked by Matt Simms (son of Phil Simms). Maybe the most interesting name on the roster is former Jaguar Denard Robinson, briefly listed as "OW" (Offensive Weapon) in his NFL days, or at least referenced as such at the bottom of my dynasty roster. Some colorful names on the roster (Malachi Jones, Bug Howard) but probably no future NFL stars.
Today at 4 p.m. Eastern, the Birmingham Iron will face the Memphis Express. Perhaps NFL decision-makers will have some interest in this one, since Birmingham features Trent Richardson. Who can forget the Browns actually trading up for Richardson, and then somehow suckering the Colts into giving up a first-round pick for him a short while later? When at least two teams at some point think a player merits a first-round pick, he'll probably get some NFL eyes on him this time around, too. Richardson will turn 29 before the next NFL season, but just maybe his AAF career gets him an NFL tryout. Quan Bray and Quinton Patton are other recognizable Iron players. Jets fans mystified as to why New York ever used a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg may want to tune in, as he's one of the Memphis quarterback -- so is Zach Mettenberger, best remembered as a Titan.
It would be easy to pick on or throw stones at the AAF, which I won't do. Who knows: maybe there are a lot of people who want to watch football when the NFL and college aren't playing. If I lived within reasonable driving distance of any of these teams, I'd go see a game; the kids would probably enjoy it. Maybe Richardson goes for 120 today and he's back in an NFL camp a few months from now. Stranger things have happened.
But more likely, the AAF will be where players go when NFL teams have stopped taking a look. Looking at the position coaches on these teams, a lot are former players -- maybe they'll use these jobs to establish resumes that get them calls from NFL franchises. This may not be a minor league for players, but maybe it will be one for coaching staffs.
As for the players, well, maybe Hackenberg or Mettenberger will parlay the next few weeks into a camp arm job with an NFL team. Maybe some defender (Terence Garvin had 10 tackles and a pair of interceptions last night) will find his way into a special teams situation. Someday one of these guys could make a big play on a punt return in a future Patriots Super Bowl win.
When I'm around and the games are on, I'll tune them in. Some day in the future I'll be doing an issue of the Weekly and injuries will have elevated someone like Gilbert to a backup role. Perhaps I'll talk about the AAF game where he passed for 227 yards and had 3 total TDs. Maybe. But...probably not.