Jeremy Vega, Owner, Denver Nightwings
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
If you haven’t heard, the Simulation Football League’s 14th Season is rapidly approaching, with the first round of the draft airing live on Eleven Sports – For the Fans on December 14th. Most eyes are focused on the burgeoning rookie class, many of whom have already #MadeAnImpact in the SFL through our Who’s Who rookie series, but there are a few that have drifted further down the line to opening day in 2020. In order to keep things fresh, we now present the first in a two-part series, striving to figure out the biggest question for each of our 20 teams heading into next season, as written by our Season 13 championship winning coach, Jeremy Vega.
Where did all the Knights go, and where do the Knights go from here?
Prior to Week 1, London was picked by many to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. After their disappointing conclusion to Season 13, where they finished 5-7, London parted ways with 11 of their 12 best players. Most of the players were released into the wild we call Free Agency, and a few others rode off into the retirement sunset. Some of those players included MVP candidate Reggie Streeter, who made a strong case this season for MVP before dropping off, as well as long time Knight & former co-owner, LB Slinn Shady, the WR duo of the Hands Brothers, and their franchise QB Rob Roby. In addition to this, their entire secondary was let go as well, including coach / SS Gerald Smith & general manager / FS Jeff Melynishyn. The new direction of this franchise starts with 2nd year QB Angus MacClane, who was also hired as the team’s new GM. Angus will step into a mostly empty locker room where he will be tasked with helping owner Liam build a brand new team from the bottom up. While a mass purge of a roster will certainly make it harder to attract free agents, it also give the Knights complete flexibility to reshape the team build that will be best for their future.
Houston… do we have a problem?
The last 4 seasons, the Hyenas defense has been a formidable force in the Simulation Football League. The last 2 seasons, it was Houston’s only bright spot. With defensive coordinator Eddie Gauge’s departure, along with other big names like LB BJ Loveless, DT Chad Takkul, and CB Ayden Davis it leaves a massive void that will need filling by original owner Demond Simien. Despite the major questions on defense, Demond will have to start on the offensive side of the ball. He will need to bring in some major contributors to ignite their offens, which has ranked at the bottom of the league the last few seasons. The offense, led by 3rd year QB Kentez Johnson, need to add more firepower as well as compete efficiently – the gap on defense won’t seem as big as some might think. If both of Houston’s units can rank near the middle of the pack in Season 14, then they should be able to build upon their fairytale 5-7 playoff run from Season 13.
Are they going to be another consistent playoff contender, or a one-hit wonder?
The Swarm began the 13th season of simulation football action 26 value points short of the cap set by the league. Dubbed as a major disadvantage, the Swarm didn’t let that stop them from having a very successful season. They made the playoffs for the first time since Season 9, and their franchise QB, Marcus Dunhill, is both an Offensive Player of the Season and MVP candidate! Their offense is set & ready to put up points on any defense, any week. After a season of grooming their younger players on defense, the Swarm will be utilizing the full amount of cap allotted – meaning their defense will be beefed up with a season of chemistry together. If their defense elevates themselves to the same production level as the offense, then this is a recipe for a consistent team that can make the playoffs every season. Question is, will they?
“Marcus Dunhill being nominated for awards makes me feel great as his coach. Marcus has come a long way in a short time. He wasn’t thrilled with his performance last season & to see him bounce back this season and leads us to the #1 offense was a testament to his character and dedication”
~ Team Owner, Mark Chisolm
How far will the Predators offense take them in Season 14?
Charleston ran a very heavy dose of singleback all season long. On more than one occasion, it was the only formation they ran in games. In Season 13, Charleston’s offense was held to 10 points or less 5 times. Their offense ranked 19th, scoring an average of 18 points per game. Charleston will need to get creative in the offensive play calling area if they want to utilize some of their weapons they have. Like big arm QB TD Drew and the Cheetah, Keith Swearenginen. The Predators finished Season 13 with a 4-8 record, despite having a defense ranked 3rd in PPG. It doesn’t matter how good your defense is if the offense cannot put points on the board and is leaving the defense on the field all game. Which is why the big question in Charleston is this: how far will their offense take this great defense, and the rest of the Predators, in Season 14?
What isn’t a question about this new Franchise in the SFL?
The Oklahoma City Renegades were sold to former Co-Owner of Houston, Eddie Gauge, who then rebranded the team to the Scorpions and moved them over to Arizona. There are a ton of questions we have for this franchise. What players from Houston will follow Eddie? What Free Agents will make the move to the desert? How good will the offense be with an owner who is a complete defensive guy? I could go on and on with questions, but what isn’t a question mark with this team? The one thing we do know is that the Scorpions defense will be harder to deal with than the Arizona desert heat. Eddie Gauge is one of the best Defensive Coordinators in the SFL, and has been for some time. His units have carried their teams before and have stifled some of the best Offensive Coordinators in the league. His defensive coaching was a major reason the Houston team went on a historic run at the end of last season to not only make the playoffs, but pick up a road win in the wildcard round as well. He units stuffed the offenses of Chicago, Mexico City, Alaska, and Chicago again. All teams that have great coordinators and head coaches. Eddie will no doubt have his defensive unit wreaking havoc in Season 14 no matter who is playing on that unit.
Do the Vultures reach their first Championship game in Season 14?
In an article where you ask each teams biggest question, what questions can you have for a nearly perfect franchise? Both owners of the Vultures are Hall of Famers as Owners and Coaches. They have a dedicated and stacked roster of some very impressive players spread across the offense, defense, & special teams. You can practically guarantee this team will be in the postseason every year because they are very well coached and a tough team to get a win on any given week. So, the only question is this – can they overcome their playoff woes this upcoming season, or ever? Baltimore has been in the league for 3 seasons now and have had 3 heartbreaking ends to their postseason push after they put together great regular season campaigns. Season 11 was their inaugural season, where they finished with the 3rd best record at 9-3, but lost to the Mexico City Aztecs 33-27 in overtime. In Season 12, Baltimore finished 8-4 in the regular season just to end up being dominated by the eventual champions, the Alaska Storm. Season 13? Baltimore finished with the 2nd best record at 10-2 but lost in the semi-finals on a last second field goal to the Seattle Tyrants. So: can the Vultures get over the playoff hump and into the Championship game? We know they will at least be in a position to compete for it, but we will just have to wait and see.
Will the young coaches of Harish Prasad and Sully Richardson improve in year 2?
The Carolina Skyhawks finished Season 13 with a 2-10 record under their new coordinators. They started off 0-6 before picking up their first win of the season against Houston. They followed that up with a 4 game losing streak, before ending the season with a win against their interstate rival Charleston. The offense and defense both ranked near the bottom of the league in most categories, with the offense only scoring 18 PPG while the defense gave up 25 PPG. Outside of the growing pains the coordinators were going through, the Skyhawks players were still learning to play together as they have a very young roster. The good news first. Their very young and talented roster is going to get some solid help from the draft, where Carolina are drafting #2. Throw in the possibility of Free Agency and this roster will be looking very good for Season 14. This team’s success will rely on the young coaches taking the next step and achieving their own expectations.
“My first season as the OC in Carolina obviously didn’t go as I had hoped, but instead of being disappointed in it, I am using it as a learning experience to get better and grow as a coach. My expectations for the upcoming season are to continue to grow and learn more about coaching. To right the ship, it is important for me and the team to continue to learn from the mistakes we make and continue to grow and improve, and to continue working together as a team.”
~ Carolina Skyhawks Co-Owner and Offensive Coordinator Harish Prasad
Can Head Coach / Team Owner Andy Hamilton fix the turnover woes on offense?
Season 13 had some ups and downs for the Legion, as they finished 5-7. Their offense put up the 6th most yards & the 9th most points in the league. As good as those numbers are, you can’t forget about the things that certainly plagued this offense and kept them from winning games and making the postseason. The offense turned the ball over 28 times (15th worst); QB Tom Pepper was sacked 40 times (T-1st) and they only completed 48% on 3rd down (13th). If these numbers can improve in Season 14, then the Legion have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. This all starts with the best HB they have had in their franchise history, Offensive Rookie of the Year Sudo Nakai. If he can take the pressure off Pepper and the passing attack, then it can certainly make this unit more efficient. Add in the fact that Andy Hamilton will be likely getting an easier schedule coming off a 5-7 season, and you can bet that you will see this team in the playoffs for the first time since their expansion year back in Season 9.
St. Louis Gladiators
Do the Gladiators coaching staff have enough experience to lead them to their first winning record?
The Gladiators finished Season 13 with a 2-10 record. It’s their 3rd consecutive year only winning 2 games and ending up with the 1st pick in the rookie draft. The Gladiators have never had a winning record, nor have they won more than 4 games in their 6 season history. Something has to break through for this franchise to help them out from beneath the bottom of the league. Might that be newly acquired HC, Gerald Smith? Gerald Smith comes over from the London Knights with a few seasons of coaching experience. His staff will be made up of OC Cody Scott, DC Duane & Colin, and DC Asstistant / Scout Drew Really. This is a young coaching staff that doesn’t have a lot of wins or experience amongst them, but they will be under a great leader who is coming into his own in the SFL coaching world.
“The expectations we set forth is to improve from the previous season. Take one game at a time, and gameplan accordingly. We have very young and bright coaches in Cody Scott and Drew Really who both have shown great potential. Duane and Colin are experienced in coaching and showed some good things on the defensive side of gameplanning and they’ll continue to do so. I fully expect our coaches, including myself, to put our players in the best possible position to succeed on each and every play.”
~ Head Coach Gerald Smith
Las Vegas Fury
How good will the Fury’s Offense be under new OC Steven Mullenax?
Steven Mullenax is one of the best offensive minded coaches in league history. Season 13 was his 1st season with the Aztecs, and it was his best season ever coaching. The Aztecs offense ranked 1st PPG, 5th passing yards per game, 2nd in total yards, 2nd yards per game, 2nd passing TDs and 1st in the least amount of turnovers. QB Matt Wilson broke his previous career records while HB Ray Bentley Broke a league record. Matt Wilson won MVP and Ray Bentley won Offensive Player of the Year. The numbers Steven coached this team to are on the opposite side of the spectrum from Las Vegas. The Fury ranked 17th in PPG, 20th passing yards per game, 18th in total yards, 18th yards per game, last in passing TDs & 14th in turnovers. The Fury’s offense has some very good players in HB Robert Redford, QB Tomas Ramen and his receiving corps led by WR Memphis Blue. A core group of players that have most of them entering their 3rd season playing together. Steven Mullenax is in a new place with new players for a 2nd straight season. It didn’t affect him whatsoever in Mexico City, and given his impressive coaching abilities, it’s not going to affect him much in Season 14. Good news for Las Vegas, but bad news for opposing defenses that will face them this coming season.