Philly Front Office

Filling the Hole in My Heart with the American Alliance of Football

I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday sweating and uncomfortably full with a hole in my heart. It may have been the blocks of cream cheese consumed through a variety of dips, but I really felt a deep pit in my stomach. I already miss football. I’ve been fully invested in the Senior Bowl and draft coverage for a few weeks now, but I still find myself longing for lazy Sunday afternoons.

Filling the Void

Luckily, a new football league has emerged to try to fill this gap for me. The American Alliance of Football, AAF for short, is a new spring league run by longtime TV executive Charlie Ebersol and the cranky, but endearing NFL Live/Former Executive Bill Polian. It is a league of long shots, has-beens, final chances, and long forgottens. They’re doing some very intriguing things, like reducing the play clock to 35 seconds and eliminating in quarter TV timeouts, with the objective of providing a quicker, more enjoyable viewing experience for the average sap like myself. My favorite new rule might be replacing on-side kicks with a 4th and 10 for the offense, where if the team on offense converts they maintain possession of the ball.

In order to fully invest myself (at least until March Madness), I needed to develop a completely arbitrary system to pick a team to root for. I’ll be using a variety of categories, including local + Penn State athletes (sorry, I went there and this is my choice – write your own 3000 words if you want to complain) to the likes of whose mascot would win in a royal rumble wrestling match. Next, I assigned points from 1-10 to all the categories based on pure gut feeling and totaled the points to rank the teams. Here we have my AAF Team Selection Draft.

 

8) Birmingham Iron – 32 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – No Local Philly Guys! (0)

Former Eagles – No Ex-Eagles! (0)

Team Name – I’m not a fan of the singular nouns for a team sport, though if this would be pluralized, it would be stupid too. Bad Name.  (2)

Colors – A classic Black and Silver look, very evil team in a movie feel to them. With a roster comprised mostly of Alabama and Auburn grads, seems pretty on-brand.  (8)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Mars Hill Mountain Lions – This feels like it could have been an opponent of the Blue Mountain State Squad and is a great fake (real) college name. Huge opportunity missed not leaning into the Martians as the mascot.  (7)

Best Player Name – Amba Etta-Towa – This name might be the most fun name to just say out loud for the entire AAF. AMBA ETTA TOWA. I wish I could hear Matt Cord’s take on this one. (6)

Player You Forgot About – Trent Richardson – Once the 3rd overall pick in the NFL Draft, Richardson fell quickly out of grace around the league for being generally slow and not very good. I hope he comes back with a bit of grey in his beard, ice packs on his knees, and mentors the young fellas on what it takes to be a consummate professional. (8)

Coach You Forgot About – I have not heard of any coaches on the roster. (0)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – I am going to penalize them here for having a stupid name. This is one golf club placed gently on the mat and is quickly tossed out of the ring and into the crowd. 1st Eliminated. (1)

7) Memphis Express-  36 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – Christian Hackenberg, a once heralded quarterback prospect who fell to the wayside the same way as David Carr, a terrible offensive-line. Pour one out for Hack. (5)

Former Eagles – Christian Hackenberg, again, who was oddly a big training camp story this offseason for a solid 10 day span. Also, Dallas Thomas, Brandon Silvers, Toby Weathersby (the almost last name that Crouch kept calling Percy Weasley by, very disrespectful stuff), Quentin Gause, and punter Brad Wing.  (4)

Team Name – The name itself isn’t that bad, but I can’t ignore the corporate tie-in with Fedex in town. With that in mind, they will be penalized and receive no points for their effort. (1)

Colors – A very generic red, white, and blue color scheme. You can’t trick me, just roll with the Fedex Orange and Purple and lean in. (1)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Fairmont State – This name might take the cake as the best fake(real) college name. It feels like the type of name you would see on a scoreboard as an early 2000s football movie is rolling through its mid-season montage after the team bonds together and embraces each other for who they truly are deep down on the inside.  (5)

Best Player Name-  This is a tie between Damore’ea Stringfellow and Alton “Pig” Howard. I don’t have anything more to say, those names speak for themselves. (9)

Player You Forgot About – Zac Stacy, a running back who spent some time with the St. Louis Rams and who always caught me attention. He seemed to be a pretty explosive athlete. (4)

Coach You Forgot About – Mike Singletary, ex NFL Head Coach, who definitely does not believe in the concussion protocol and ends every practice with an Oklahoma drill. (6)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – Their mascot is going to be a very speedy Fedex delivery guy with strong legs from taking on big hills regardless of the weather. He’ll be the first living being eliminated, 2nd overall,  from the Royal Rumble with Stone Cold tossing his ass over the top rope. (2)

6)  Atlanta Legends – 43 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – No local guys here. (0)

Former Eagles – Most Notably, Aaron Murray who left Philadelphia TV personality Kacie McDonnell after they moved to Kansas City together (negative points!). Also, Lawrence Pittman, Dwayne Hollis (Philadelphia Soul), and Ed Reynolds. (2)

Team Name – It seems a little ballsy to call yourself the Legends before ever playing a game, but I respect the hustle. It feels a little Big 3 to me though.  (5)

Colors – A very regal Purple and Silver; these jersey are beautiful, and are among the best in the league. (7)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Wingate Bulldogs – It really sounds like a Dental College to me, and I can’t shake it. (4)

Best Player Name – Montay Crockett – He has to be the direct descendent of Davy Crockett, and I will not hear any other opinion to the contrary. (5)

Player You Forgot About – Denard Robinson – Michigan quarterback turned NFL running back who had some juice for the Jags for a few years. It would have been far more exciting if he transitioned back to quarterback again. (5)

Coach You Forgot About – Mike Vick, OC – I don’t believe Mike Vick has ever called an offense, but he is the living embodiment of it, so he shouldn’t have any problem. Let me remind you how upset I am again that Denard Robinson isn’t playing QB for this team. Vick, the former Philadelphia Eagle who carried us through some trying times and perhaps the greatest Madden player of all time.  (7)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – A legend is defined by the very field that they participate in, so here we’ll pick the all time winningest (3 time) Royal Rumble Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. He’ll beat every other human and the horse and come in a very respectable 2nd place.  (8)

5) Orlando Apollos-  46 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – No Local Guys! (0)

Former Eagles – Ryan Green, Aaron Evans, Jerome Couplin. I don’t remember any of these guys. (2)

Team Name – I really enjoy this name. It is both an homage to space travel and to the Greek god, Apollo. It also sounds like a team that could have competed with the Flint Tropics. Overall, great stuff.  (8)

Colors – A very nice blend of a burnt orange and a matte navy. They look like an alternate uniform for Syracuse, and I’m into it. Major points on both the name and colors here.  (8)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Heidelberg Student Prince – Wow, a lot to unpack here. It sounds like a classical musician mixed with Dinkleberg from The Fairly Odd Parents. Student Prince is perhaps the worst mascot name I’ve ever heard. There is so much to overcome here. (2)

Best Player Name – Quinterrius Eatmon feels very Keele and Peele to me. My parents were between Thomas and Quinterrius themselves and went with the more boring choice. (6)

Player You Forgot About – No significant players that I remembered on the roster. (0)

Coach You Forgot About – Steve Spurrier, whose nickname is Head Ball Coach, is a legend of college football and is perhaps the most disrespectful person to ever hold that position. My favorite Spurrier quote is about a fire that occured at an Auburn library and destroyed 20 books. Spurrier said, “But the real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored in yet.” The more we get of this in the Twitter era, the better for me. Also, on the staff is Lito Sheppard who is serving as the CBs coach. This duo puts the Apollos in the clear lead for best coaching staff in the league. (10)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – Apollo is the direct descendant of Zeus and is among the top tier of Greek gods. I think it’s pretty clear that he is the betting favorite to win this thing. Stone Cold gives him a tough few minutes of brawling, but ultimately Zeus strikes down Stone Cold with a lightning bolt, and Apollo takes the belt. Rumble Champion.  (10)

4) Arizona Hot Shots-  47 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – No players, though Steven Johnson did attend Strath Haven in Media.  (2)

Former Eagles – Most notably of this group is former Chip Kelly Oregon draftee Josh Huff, the speedster who was released from team after gun charges. Other Eagles include Freddie Martino, Malcolm Gobunche, Randall Goforth (Young Man!), and Dexter Mcdougle. (5)

Team Name – Hot Shots reminds me more of a group of retirees motorcycling down Route 66 living out their wildest dreams than a football team. In fact, I’m remembering far too much of the Old Hogs plot because of this name. (4)

Colors –  The jerseys are primarily yellow, but not too offensive of a yellow with some nice hunter green and desertish red sand thrown in there. I find them very pleasing, and with the Starter affiliation of the AAF, see some wild jackets in the very near future. (7)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Nevada-Reno Wolf Pack – There is so much to unpack about college students going to school in Reno, Nevada, and I think we all deserve a season of Last Chance U from The Biggest Little City in the World. (6)

Best Player Name – Chunky Clements – 6’2″, 302lbs, born to stuff the run and his face. (9)

Player You Forgot About – Another fantastic name, Scooby Wright, was once the best linebackers in the country and finished 9th in the 2014 Heisman race. He was a force and a joy to watch on PAC 12 after dark.  (8)

Coach You Forgot About – Rick Neuheisel – He bounced around the PAC 12 to multiple schools over two decades and really didn’t do anything too crazy. Your prototypical average college coach. (3)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – Hot Shots is supposed to refer to firemen, but let’s pull this thread further. A Hot Shot feels like a kid who peaked in high school, staying in his home town and wearing his varsity jacket, walking into the local bar after his firefighting shift. The Hot Shot would be over confident, strong, with a beer belly, and would be the 3rd eliminated from the rumble. (3)

3) Salt Lake Stallions- 48 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – Adonis Jennings and Leon Johnson from Temple, and Ed Shockley from Villanova.  (5)

Former Eagles – A few practice squad guys here, Anthony Denham and C.J Smith. (2)

Team Name – This feels a little too youth football for my taste. The Stallions is in the Mustangs, Bull Dogs, Tigers, and Wildcats family. Also, get -1 extra because I don’t like Utah fans. (1)

Colors – The Stallions have very similar colors to the Detroit Lions, but the jerseys are bit more iced out. Overall, they are in the top tier for the league and make up for the pedestrian name. (7)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Catawba Indians – I’ve actually heard of Catawba before because they were in the same league, the South Atlantic Conference, in Division 2 football as my cousin’s team. Otherwise, I find the word generally challenging to pronounce in my head and out loud.  (5)

Best Player Name – This is a tie between Adonis Jennings and Handsome Tanielu, whose parents were both supremely confident that their kids would be attractive. I can only respect shooting your shot with putting that kind of pressure on your child. (8)

Player You Forgot About – Matt Asiata who spent some time on the Minnesota Vikings and ran for an incredibly inefficient 30 carries for 51 yards against the Eagles. He did have 3 touchdowns against the Birds and helped the Vikings rout us 48-30. Good trivia name to remember. (9)

Coach You Forgot About – Dennis Erickson is the head coach for the Stallions and had a cup of tea in the NFL as a HC with the Seahawks and the 49ers. He’s most famous for his stint as the head coach of the University of Miami right in the midst of the U hype, winning national titles in 1989 and 1991. From there, things went just ok. (7)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – I think a horse could last a pretty long period of time in a Royal Rumble. It would likely be very confused by what’s going on, but they are strong, majestic creatures. I think it would be in the final four and tossed over the ropes in a group effort by Apollo and Stone Cold. 4th Place Overall (4)

2) San Antonio Commanders – 49 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – Darius Prince, PSU Beaver, which is a Penn State branch campus and I’m not sure how he made the jump to this level, but I’m intrigued. Additionally, Evan Rodriguez (Temple) and Deion Barnes (Penn State) both are local guys. Deion Barnes was a really fun player my freshman year at PSU and was always in the backfield. (8)

Former Eagles – We have our biggest list here with Greg Ward Jr. (a guy Eagles fans were briefly excited about), Demarcus Ayers, Winston Craig, De’Vante Bausby (Birds with Friends Favorite), Danny Ezechukwu, Jordan Thomas, and Duke Thomas.  (9)

Team Name – The name is a bit of a disappointment for me. I think a bilingual name would have really sold me here and locked up the Commanders as my favorite team for the season. The name honestly left the door open for other teams to sneak in. (2)

Colors – Another huge ding for the Commanders here, with a horrible red and orange combination. These jerseys are atrocious. I feel like budding graphic designers on Reddit and Twitter throw up straight fire on a regular basis and this is what you come up with? Ouch. (1)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – West Texas A&M – I feel like this is definitely the name of a fake college that the best player on a TV show on Freeform about Texas High School football would ultimately turn down to pursue a degree in Theater.  (5)

Best Player Name – Logan Woodside feels like a quarterback who can take 40 hits in a game and keep getting up and throwing heat. If I was on the Commanders, I would have nothing but respect for a man named Logan Woodside. Some very serious lumberjack vibes here. (7)

Player You Forgot About – De’Vante Bausby, the darling slot corner of Sheil Kapadia’s heart in the 2018 preseason, was a very memorable name for Birds with Friends listeners. He ultimately was passed over for Sidney Jones, but Big Baus will always have a place in our and Sheil’s hearts. (8)

Coach You Forgot About – Mike Riley coached Oregon State to their most successful stretch in program history and then led Nebraska to one of their most dreadful stretches in program history. He is another perfect example of a college coach whose name you kind of remember, but is basically the same as 100s of other guys who have passed through the amateur ranks. (3)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble – I think the Commander would survive for some time, being able to leverage both a political game by forming alliances and also with physical toughness as a lifelong military veteran. I think he survives by blending in, especially with the confusion of a horse in the ring, but ultimately loses out to Stone Cold and Apollo. Finishes 3rd in the Rumble. (6)

1) San Diego Fleet  – 50 Points

Philly (Local + PSU College) – No Local Guys (0)

Former Eagles – Ron Brooks is probably the most significant guy here, who spent some time on the active roster as a depth corner. Terrell Watson, who had 9 carries, 27 yards, and a touchdown for the Eagles in 2017. I have no memory of Terrell Watson at all, and this might have been made up on Wikipedia. Additionally, Darrell Greene and Brett Boyko had a cup of coffee on some part of our roster. (5)

Team Name – The fleet is a nice tie-in to the Naval history of the San Diego area, which will definitely hit it big with the patriotic crowds. A fleet is a group (ding!) of war ships (ding!) on the same team (ding!) looking to defeat an opponent (ding!). It hits all my notes and I’m a big fan. (9)

Colors – They really have a yellow and grey mix that feels like a toned down version of the Atlanta Hawks mixed with the Steelers. They kind of look like the jerseys that teams wear in the Army All American Game for high schoolers. They are a little uninspired, but the helmets are sharp.  (5)

Best College I’ve Never Heard Of – Azusa Pacific Cougars- This is a wild combination of an exotic college name with a boring mascot. Two of those words are so fun and exciting, and they go and ruin it with the super generic cougars. A really bad job for the group who came up with that dud.  (6)

Best Player Name – Nelson Spruce really feels like a superhero name for me. This could be some sort of spin-off to Captain Planet. You have the tie-in to the Spruce tree or he could spruce up local neighborhoods, who knows! A local superhero with a green thumb and an affinity to clean up local crime. Let’s make it happen.  (6)

Player You Forgot About – Gavin Escobar was one of many heir apparents to Jason Witten as a Dallas Cowboys 2nd tight end. I feel like he had moments against the Eagles, and I just don’t like him as person, but I think I have to respect him. (7)

Coach You Forgot About – The Greatest Show on Turf was helmed by Mike Martz who is now leading the Fleet into their inaugural season. He led the Rams to a 14-2 record in 2001-02 and ultimately launched a Patriots dynasty. He also made Marc Bulger look pretty good for awhile. They also have local guy Anthony Becht, who is from Drexel Hill and went to Bonner-Prendie, as their tight ends coach.  (9)

Would their Mascot win in a Royal Rumble –  It doesn’t make too much sense to include a boat in a royal rumble, as it would really dominate all of the space in the ring and really ruin the novelty of the event. Instead, we’ll give the fleet a pair of sailors to fight in the rumble. The Fleet will survive for quite some time, but will ultimately peacefully resign from the fight as their commander and superior orders them to leave the ring. They leave with honor, but boos rain from the crowd. Finishing 5th from Last. (3)

Tom Stinson