By Jeff Melinyshyn
Welcome to ‘Edition 3’ of Inside the Front Office. This week will be about a piece that I was given a couple weeks ago from my boss Matthew ‘Shady’ Slinn. He originally did the interview, so the credit this week goes to him for giving me this piece to write up.
Here is a quote from Slinn “I have three interviews that I did a while back with three members of the Tallahassee Pride.” These interviews center around an interesting dilemma that happened in the off-season leading up to Season 12. Former General Manager of the Carolina Skyhawks, A.J. Francis, resigned from his GM role and wanted to take some time away to re-energize. Then, later in the off season, he decided to come back as a player and eventually signed with the Tallahassee Pride in a surprise move that shook the entire SFL. Also, included this week is an interview I had with new Owner of the Indianapolis Spitfire, Alan Armatys.
Here is the interview Slinn had with GM of the Tallahassee Pride, Christian Christiansen.
Slinn: “Wow! What a splash you made this week signing one of the best running backs in the SFL in the player progression era. What are your feelings now that the contract is officially signed?”
Christian Christiansen (GM of Tallahassee): “Very excited to get A.J. on board. This relieves a lot of stress. He’s one of the guys I’ve been wanting to play with for a while and really made a much more concerted effort to go after over other free agents. I did not think it was possible until we were a good ways into the offseason. Very lucky that the gamble paid off.”
Slinn: “A gamble well worth taking I’d agree. One of the big questions that comes to mind is how exactly did you get the deal done? Was it smooth sailing or a long hard test of patience?”
Christian: “Given Francis’s stature (along with (Sir) Chappel, so everything I am about to say applies to him as well) in Carolina, we did plenty of work to make sure we had our timelines together to make sure we were not being sneaks or acting in bad faith towards James Cline (Owner of Carolina). After that, we took some time to outline our roles and values and how our relationship would look beyond this season. It was definitely a long process relative to most free agent signings, but it was well worth it to get them on board. In short, we had some logistical concerns to work out, but it was something everyone wanted to get done.”
Slinn: “As you touch upon in your previous answer, Francis brings more than just his presence on the field. How much was his behind-the-scenes ability a factor in deciding to bring him on? Also, are you planning on tapping into his management and coaching qualities?”
Christian: “Couple pieces to that answer. First, obviously what he brings off the field is a huge piece of why I was hoping to bring him in. Really that’s true for him, Chappell, and Williams. All three are positive guys that get how to coach in this league. I like to bounce ideas and names off of all the guys on our team so that we don’t end up in a situation where we add a guy who is not already widely disliked in the locker room. So obviously, I am excited to bring in a guy like A.J., who has got this whole GM thing down. However, one of the reasons he stepped away from Carolina was because of physical demands of the job that would not allow him to operate in the same capacity. Therefore, we are not expecting him to be in that type of role this coming season.” Christian also stated that he could not believe A.J. did not win GM of the Season in season 11 for the culture change that he orchestrated and getting Carolina back into the playoffs.
Slinn: “Now strafing over to performance on the field, Francis is going to have big cleats to fill. Obviously by now we all know Jaye Eniola has retired from the league for the time being, are you confident that Francis can fill the hole left by Eniola, and, does he bring anything that Eniola did not?”
Christian: “Yes. I do not see a good reason why Francis would not be a great player like Eniola was. I think in future seasons, what Francis brings off the field could make him a very special park of this team and continue to build an already amazing locker room.”
Slinn: “How would you say the running styles of Francis and Eniola differ, if at all?”
Christian: “I would say Francis is a much larger physically intimidating running back, while Eniola was more of a small wrecking ball with a low center of gravity. Francis is also a more aggressive and consistent runner than Eniola. That’s not to take away from Eniola of course, who was the MVP for a reason.”
Slinn: “This capture caps off what, on the face of it, has been a great Free Agency for Tallahassee. What is your assessment of your signings as a whole and do you think the team is in a stronger position than it was last season?”
Christian: “I am very happy with how it turned out. Sir Chappell was one of the first friends I made in the league. I have wanted to team up with him since season 10. No individual person has gained my respect more in the last season than A.J. Francis, who is a great person. We were looking at adding some help in our scouting department, so we could have a higher working capacity and I am glad we could do that in signing Julius Williams. Williams was one of the few players who made it onto our final draft board for the season 11 rookie draft. I see the team in a much better spot because we will be thirteen people deep in activity. All the players are great personalities that will be here in a coordinated effort to win a championship.”
Slinn: “Seems like you’ll be in the running for GM of the season if all goes well.”
Christian: “It would be an honor if that happens, but it is not the goal. We want to win the Championship.”
Now the interview with General Manager of the Carolina Skyhawks, Chris Colon.
Slinn: “So, we saw the huge signing of A.J. Francis by Tallahassee today. What was your initial reaction to the news?”
Chris Colon: “Well, first off let me just that I thank you for this interview. So yeah, I am sure you probably did not see that coming. I did not either. That is not to say I am angered. Skyhawks owner James Cline and myself were involved in talks with A.J. It was close by ultimately A.J. chose the offer he felt more comfortable with. He chose what he felt was the right decision for him. I can respect that. I was notified that chose a different team. I had a feeling that it would be Tallahassee because of Sir Chappell signing there. I had to prepare the team and coaching staff that it may happen. The Carolina Skyhawks are not mad or bitter about it, it is just one of those things that make you go, “ok well we just have to regroup and move on.” We wish them success as they move on (Chappell and Francis). However right now for Carolina that really is not our focus. Our focus is on the draft. We need a running back, so right now the scouting department is burning the tea kettle so to say. It is free agency and things happen. Sometimes you keep players and sometimes you do not. That is part of this business. But if we keep focused on the players leaving then we will not be focused on moving forward. We wish them well, but it is all about trusting the process for season 12 for the Skyhawks.”
Now an interview with Sir Chappell of the Tallahassee Pride.
Slinn: “What was your reaction when you saw yesterday’s news that A.J. Francis was joining you in Tallahassee?”
Chappell: “I was excited! A.J’s my guy so to have him come back to the league was great news. To also have him join me in Tallahassee made the news even better. I am looking forward to working together to continue our success in the league.”
Slinn: “Now that you are reunited, albeit in a different location, is a staff role something you are both looking to try your hand at once again? After all, you were very successful in Carolina.”
Chappell: “I do not think either one of us is pressing the issue. I can only speak for myself. But I am willing to do whatever will help the team. I know Tallahassee has been very successful in their own right. If I can provide insight I am more than willing to offer it. But I am also not trying to step on anyone’s toes. We’ve discussed some things I can bring to the table… we’ll see as the season plays out.”
This was a major story in the off-season like I stated above. It was a shock and awe type of feeling throughout the SFL. A top premier player becomes available. It does not happen often but when it does, it takes the league by storm. I am sure Francis had a lot of offers from various teams. If you did not reach out to him, you weren’t doing your job in my eyes. Looking back, this move seemed to put Tallahassee in the driver’s seat for another championship game. Currently, Tallahassee is sitting at 4-3 on the season. Because of the realignment this season, Tallahassee was given a tough schedule. With games left against Baltimore, Houston, Queen City, San Francisco, and Chicago, it will be tough for them. But hopefully, with the additions this off-season coupled with Christian Christiansen at QB running the show, they will always be a threat. The fact that Slinn was able to get quotes from both teams and A.J’s best friend is a testament to the kind of work done here at ‘Inside the Front Office’.
Interview with Alan Armatys
Jeff: “Thanks Alan for taking time to meet with me, Iknow you are probably really busy since you’ve only been on the job for 6 days. What made you believe this was the right time?”
Alan: “There is no right time when you are pushed into the deep end of the pool. You either sink or swim.”
Jeff: “What do you feel the team needs from you?”
Alan: “We need a clear vision for the future of the organization and stability. We’ve been in a constant transition from team leadership, to our offensive and defensive philosophies on the field.”
Jeff: “What are your short and long-term goals? How quickly do you see them happening?”
Alan: “Short term is to solidify our personnel in the front office and the team we will fielding in the future. Long term is to develop the skills and knowledge within our coaching staff and players to consistently win each and every season.”
Jeff: “How quickly do you see these goals happening? Like by end of this season, two seasons?”
Alan: “At best we will have the foundation in place by the beginning of next season. We still have some changes planned, both organizationally and personnel wise.”
Jeff: “Lastly, what do you want to say to Spitfire nation?”
Alan: “Changes are coming.”
As the SFL knows, Noah Gerbert was introduced two weeks ago as Indianapolis Spitfire’s new General Manager. I have wished him well. But I would like to do so here. There is a lot to know from a day-to-day operations standpoint. General Managing is not easy, as was stated by Demond Simien. You are going to take your lumps Noah, just learn from them and get better. You will not know everything right away, nor do people expect you to. Indianapolis is going through a change right now as most of SFL knows by now. If not, let me fill you in. Wednesday last week Indianapolis announced that new owner Alan Armatys will be taking over the reigns as the new owner. Previously, it was co-owned with James Richards but in a very surprising move James stepped down. This hits a little close to home for me personally. James reached out to me mid of Season 11 and I will never forget him for seeing something in me and what I can be. Yes, nothing became of it, but I will always be thankful to him for everything he has done for me.
Indianapolis Spitfire released wide receiver Leonidas Richards and signed wide receiver Jet Christie.
Executive take- “Jet Christie replaced Leonidas Richards last week and came out with a bang. 9 catches for 138 yards and a td is a great debut for the gm of the Spitfire. I expect Jet to continue to be the go to receiver for the rest of the season.”
St. Louis Gladiators released linebacker Zachary Bates and signed free safety Tristan van Rhee.
Executive take- “This week STL released their second first round draft pick from this season in Zackary Bates for newcomer FS Tristan Van Rhee. Seems a defensive scheme change is in the works as well. With a rough season so far, it’s the perfect time for the gladiators to try new things and prepare for a run next season. In my opinion it is a smart move to be this proactive.”
Tune in 2 weeks from now for more out of ‘Inside the Front Office’.