Written by Matthew Slinn
Special Thanks to Optimus Cline for taking part in the interview and answering with honesty and clarity.
Matthew Slinn: Hello and welcome to an exclusive interview with the owner of the San Diego Mavericks, Optimus Cline. Cline’s Mavericks suffered the unfortunate fame of going 0-12 in their first season, so he wants to use this opportunity to clear things up and let the SFL community know what his debut season as an Owner has been like. Optimus, before we get into the regular season, how about you tell the people what the process was like when applying for a team? Let’s go back to the point where you were campaigning for that ownership spot.
Optimus Cline: The thought of going for an expansion team never really crossed my mind honestly, I was perfectly content to be a part of the Storm forever. Until one day Mighty and I discussed it, sort of in passing. Not a big discussion about it at all. I believe the next day he told me that he mentioned it in the owners channel and I was now on a list of potential owners. It kind of just took off from there and 2 applications later I had my team. During that year I made sure to speak with each owner about what they were looking for and how I could gain their votes. It helped that I had relationships with quite a few of them already since I’ve been around the league for so long.
Slinn: You have certainly earned your stripes within this league Optimus, that much is clear. Your player’s reputation speaks for itself. But, with all the great applications for ownership that get produced in the SFL, when you finally found out you had secured ownership of the Mavericks, what was that feeling like? Pure euphoria or were you immediately down to business?
Cline: I was surprised to get the call from Cam, I was extremely excited but I also already had a bunch of players committed to the franchise I didn’t yet have. For my first go at the expansion bid I had 14 players ready to sign on, unfortunately I didn’t get the team then. 2nd go around was still a pretty decent amount of commits, including a staff that would eventually go quiet on me resulting in some what of a scramble in the off season to fill those holes.
Slinn: I can understand it being a bit of a whirlwind, no matter how well prepped you are. One minute you’re a player, then ext an owner with an entire franchise under your responsibility. You have mentioned a bit of a rush to sign coaches in the off-season. As far as I can remember, Javier Vasquez came over from St. Louis to also QB the offense. Looking back with what you know now, are you happy with that decision and do you see yourself and Javier working together, with the other coaches of course, to pull yourselves out of this funk?
Cline: Yea I reached out to Javier and Tom Welsh from the Gladiators pretty much as soon as I knew they were possibly looking for a new spot. We hopped on a call together and the discussion we had just felt right, we share a lot of the same visions and aspirations so we jelled instantly. Despite the 0-12 record, I’m happy with the coaches I have on staff, we all know success isn’t always instantaneous. We’re going to move some pieces around, fine tune some things and build this franchise the way we want it to be built. It may not look pretty right now but there is only one way to go from here and that is up.
Slinn: Solidity is the name of the game in this league and I like that you are trying to build some consistency together. Hopefully it will translate into some wins in Season 17! It has been loosely reported that Jacob Clear, cornerback in SD, may be testing free agency. Clear was hot property last off-season after leaving Houston. Can you confirm whether the rumours are true and, if they are, give some details about the circumstances behind his departure?
Cline: One of my main takeaways from my 8 seasons with the Storm is that roster/staff retention are extremely important and it’s a big reason why we won 3 titles there. I have all the confidence in the world in my staff to get us some wins next season. Yes, Jacob is a free agent now. He was released along with 4 other players from our squad. For us Jacob was a great locker room guy every week despite all the losses, he always remained positive in there. What the release really came down to was staff cohesion. The instant gelling that Javier, Tom and myself had didn’t exactly materialize between Jacob and the rest of the guys. I do appreciate all the work he put in as my DC for the first half of the season and DPP and wish him nothing but the best of luck in his next chapter in the SFL.
Slinn: I have to agree on the team cohesion aspect. It is critical. Right, we have gone back before the season and we have covered some events that have transpired since the season has finished. Now I think we need to get into the nitty gritty of why we are here doing this interview. We need to talk about what everybody wants to hear. What went so wrong for San Diego this season? Was there one specific area that you guys simply couldn’t figure out or was it a multitude of things? Optimus, this is your chance to shed some light on why the Mavericks had such a dark first season in the SFL.
Cline: It’s not that we couldn’t figure it out but from the start, we knew the offense was going to take some time to get there, and that is no knock on either Javier nor Tom. We had 3 players transitioning to new positions, Jaylin from FB to HB, Stephen McMichaels from FB to TE, and myself going from WR back to TE where I originally started my career. Couple that with the APF glitch that kept my player out for I believe 6 games, we had a rough time moving the ball downfield and putting points on the board. We also had Jacob in an unnatural position as our DC, no knock on him either, going to the other side of the ball is difficult to do and he gave it his all for us. I believe next season our offense will be much improved with the players we are retaining and the new faces we’ll be adding and zero players transitioning to new positions. I’m not worried about the defensive side of the ball with Liam Hammer as our DC.
Slinn: Was there ever a point in the season, or a particular moment in a game, where you thought you would pull off that elusive win?
Cline: Definitely the Denver game, when Ray picked off that pass in overtime I thought we had it. We ended up being 3 yards away from field goal range for the win and got sacked a bunch of times. We played Vancouver really tough too, our defense really came to play in that game. We’ve shown flashes of what we can be and I can’t wait to get a fresh start in season 17.
Slinn: You see, everyone reading this article, I’m now talking directly to you. You might see the 0-12 record, the Mavericks propping up the Pacific Division, but open those eyes wider and you will see improvement. Not many teams have run Denver close this season, yet San Diego did, which surely promotes a positive future. Back to you Optimus…What are the expectations for Season 17? Are you looking to just crack that winning habit or is the limit of the sky higher than it may seem?
Cline: My staff and I are seeing next season as chapter 1 for the franchise, the prologue is complete, it didn’t go as we planned it but things rarely do. I don’t want to put too much pressure on my staff because I think they already do that to themselves but I expect us to come out and compete with every team thrown our way. Coming from a perennial winner in Alaska/Florida it’s definitely tough to lose, I’m just not use to it. We’ve all experienced being the worst and I’m sure we can agree on the fact that we don’t want to feel that again. I’m looking forward to free agency and the upcoming draft as we look to fill the few empty spots we have left on the roster.
Slinn: Well Optimus, I am sure the SFL community will have numerous questions about how you’re gonna spend the remainder of your cap space, but alas, I feel that it is a question for a different time. Those are all the questions I have for you tonight, so I hope they helped you to say what needed to be said to the masses about your poor season. Before we wrap this interview up, is there anything you would like the community to hear?
Cline: I just want everyone to know that our season 16, 0-12 record will not be what the Mavericks are remembered for. We have the staff and we have the players to compete. Once we get this thing rolling it’ll be hard to slow us down.