@MtAiryPhil Feb. 12, 2019, 12:40 AM EST
Welcome to the weekly Alliance review. We’ll go around the league each Monday (I promise it will be Mondays starting next week) providing updates, outcomes, hits and misses, along with other features. Join us here at ALLIANCE 2 XFL as we provide in-depth coverage of the latest results of the new league. Let’s kick this off.
We begin in San Antonio where we’re looking live at the inaugural game of the AAF. I’m immediately struck by the cacophony of sound. Seems everybody’s mic’d up, but no one is managing these audio feeds so I’m getting it all. Unique, yes, but a little too busy, and would give rise to some previously unseen live football interactions. Hits: hearing the referee review a call on the field, get it right, and the game moves on. Misses: hearing the head coach of the San Diego Fleet contemplate removing his QB live on the same mic that his QB Mike Bercovici got his plays fed through. Imagine an NFL QB listening as his coach contemplated his substitution. More on Mr. Bercovici in a moment. The audio feeds were sometimes confusing, and I’ll provide the production folks with a Week 1 pass as they work out this novel approach to interactive game presentations.
Alamodome crowd in the game early, and attendance is 28,000 strong, many decked out on San Antonio Commanders gear and pumped. Which leads us to our first award.
Coach Of The Weak. This goes to San Diego Fleet head coach Mike Martz, who wins the coin toss and elects to go on defense. No Mike. Take the ball, quiet the crowd, give your team an opportunity to establish some momentum. Maybe even call time out after your QB (the aforementioned Mr. Bercovici) takes a hit from an AMTRAK EXPRESS that removes his helmet and his decision-making skill? Call a screen pass or slant when it becomes apparent to all that your offensive line is, well, offensive. Nope. 5 step drops. Disaster. Discussing the removal of the same QB on a live microphone? Sheesh.
San Diego loses on merit, San Antonio looks solid. Major takeaway: It is far easier to find athletic, fast, edge rushers than it is to acquire a left tackle. Bad footwork, lack of reps, and just maybe not in football shape left the Fleet with zero shot to compete in week 1.
COMMANDERS 15 Fleet 6
Meanwhile in Orlando, the Apollos’ welcomed the Atlanta Legends. A raucous crowd of 20,000+ is in the house and it sounds like a party. This game starts slow, but you could see the difference in preparation immediately, as the Apollos looked crisp offensively, athletic on defense, and soon would get rolling. The Legends, well, let’s be nice and blame the sudden loss of their offensive coordinator Michael Vick the week of the opener. Everybody can’t finish in 1st, but after this outing, I got to wondering if they’ll finish at all. They got crushed, although they will go down in the books as authors of the new league’s 1st points, a FG by Younghoe Koo with 6:10 remaining in the 1st quarter. That’d be the end of their highlights for the day. The Apollos blasted off on ATL 40-6 but it wasn’t that close. The defense allowed just 162 yards after the opening drive of the game, forced four turnovers and spent the evening with Legends QB Matt Simms on the run. I’ll leave the stand out stars and stats to Arlington Lane, but on the sidelines, Steve Spurrier was on top of his game, and if he doesn’t get bored, the Apollos look to be a factor in year 1.
APOLLOS 40 Legends 6
We move to Birmingham and legendary Legion Field for the debut of the IRON as they welcome NFL HALL OF FAMER Mike Singletary and his Memphis Express. Memphis looks great, kudos to their uniform design team. It ends there. This team was terrible from the first snap. From the least creative playbook I’ve seen since 55lb. youth football to the disorganization on the sidelines, it was clear that this wasn’t going well. 1st down. Off tackle left. 2nd down. Off tackle left. 3rd down? A misthrown football by Christian Hackenberg, who has somehow managed to find his way onto another football roster. He’ll be finding his way off very soon. He threw over, behind, and below open receivers all day, as he would demonstrate why he’s on his 7th roster in 3 seasons. Birmingham was patient, picking their spots and asserting their strengths while allowing their redemption seeking RB Trent Richardson to get his legs under him, and eventually he does, scoring twice and adding a 2 pt. conversion as the IRON pitch a shut out in front of a crowd of roughly 17,000. If QB play is what you’ll need than Birmingham will be fine. Luis Perez was poised, read the defense well, looked off defenders to create space for the IRON receivers. IRON looked prepped, professional, and Coach Tim Lewis squad should only get better.
IRON 26 Express 0
The Alliance saved the best for last. We head out to Tempe AZ for the final game of the AAF inaugural weekend. The Salt Lake Stallions visit the Arizona Hot Shots in front of another lively crowd. While they’re are only 11,000 in the house, they are into it from the start. This contest would be the best performance by far of the weekend as both teams looked to be a step ahead of everything we have seen previously.
Playing a frenetic up-tempo offense and utilizing an attacking defense that forced three turnovers, the Hotshots would not disappoint. Coach Rick Neuheisel had his team open up the field early taking shots downfield often, and with success. Stallions tried to stay in in this game, and looked to be competitive, but the loss of their starting QB would spell the end of their offenses cohesion and set up two many 3 and outside for their defense to overcome. With the pace of the AAF game, its imperative that your offense eat some clock just so your defenders get air. Stallions had too many possessions that lasted under a mi ute. This would be their doom as the D lost their legs resulting in an offensive flurry by the Hot Shots that was as equally explosive as their uniform color scheme. Led by RB Jhurell Pressley and WR Rashad Ross, the Hot Shots would build on an early 16-7 lead and continue to add points en route to 414 yards of total offense. For Ross, who was by far the best football player we’d see this weekend, it was a gratifying homecoming. “It was great to come back to my college stadium and perform the way I did,” Ross said. “I haven’t been playing football since OTAs and the preseason with the Cardinals, so to come and show that i still have it, my talent, and actually get an opportunity, it’s just great.” Salt Lake looks to bounce back next weekend but has nothing to be ashamed of. They looked well coached, ready to play, and just maybe had the misfortune of what looks to be the best AAF team top to bottom in the league.
HOTSHOTS 36 Stallions 22
Camera work solid in all four games. Announcers nothing to be ashamed of, even if you factor in Marvin Lewis monotone and constant reminder that every player here has the same goals, the NFL. OK Coach we get it. Mic management should be improved with experience but otherwise solid performance by the new league in week 1.
OVERALL PLAY. C+
It ranged from the stellar we saw in Arizona to the low end semi pro performance of the Atlanta franchise. Frankly, they were terrible and lucky to only give up 40 points. I’ll curve them because it’s the opener but its clear they’re not what you want to represent the league moving forward. Repeat. Its week 1.
I think they did a great job with 35 days putting together a mishmash of former NFL practice squad players, NFL vets from mid-level to find my way back types, this will obviously improve as players begin to target the league as a landing spot and film opportunity in seasons to come. No complaints here.
Altogether…not a bad start for the Alliance Of American Football. Looking forward to week 2, your thoughts welcome as always, follow us here for updates, AAF NEWS and interviews as we invite the stars of the ALLIANCE to our network of coverage.