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After embarrassing defeat in the desert, Vinik should shake up the Storm

Adam Markowitz
Sunday April 17, 2016


Is it just me, or did it look like the Tampa Bay Storm just didn't give one damn about playing against the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night?

The Storm were truly pathetic on this night in a 60-27 defeat which really wasn't that close. Their offense was abysmal all night long, and never once did Lawrence Samuels even try to coach to win this game. He decided to essentially punt on his first two possessions of the game after three straight incomplete passes, he never once attempted an onside kick in a game which his team trailed every step of the way, and when his team was down 20 with the ball and six minutes to play, it still managed to give up the last 13 points of the game.

Tampa Bay hasn't scored 30 points in a game yet this year. How on earth, in a day and age where teams average well over 50 points per game, do you not hit 30 even once in three games?

Normally, after a loss of epic proportions, you call for the head coach to be fired. However, the argument could've been made that that should've happened quite a long time ago. Samuels should've been canned after last season when the team finished 7-11, his second straight subpar season as the head coach of the Storm.

No, instead, Jeff Vinik should do the same thing as the Storm head into their bye week that the Detroit Lions did right in the middle of this past NFL season: He should fire everyone.

As a Florida State alum, it's hard for me to suggest that the great Derrick Brooks, one of the best to ever suit up in my beloved garnet and gold, should be fired. But if the Storm are serious about winning football games at any point, Brooks is the man who really needs to be replaced.

Brooks has been with the team since 2011. The Storm don't have a winning season since.

After going to the ArenaBowl in 2010, Tim Marcum and the team split, and Brooks almost immediately proved that he isn't cut out to be the boss of an AFL team. He's surrounded himself with other men who had absolutely no experience in the indoor game. Dave Wilson, the Director of Player Personnel, was a Florida State guy who was working at the high school level when Brooks brought him to the Storm. Jeff Gooch, the team's Vice President, was one of Brooks' teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he had never held any meaningful front office position.

Dave Ewart was picked succeed Marcum. He proceeded to go 22-32 in three seasons before getting fired, and the argument could be made that he was fired at least one year too late.

(Oh by the way, Ewart landed in Arizona as a defensive coordinator, where his defense just made Tampa Bay's offense look like a peewee team.)

From there, Brooks turned to Samuels. It makes all the sense in the world to give Law Dawg a shot to run this team, knowing that he's one of the all-time greats for this franchise on the field.

But just because you can play on the field doesn't mean you can coach, and having just a minimal amount of time as an assistant didn't prove that Law Dawg was ready to be a head coach.

Then again, I don't care who your coach is; if you don't provide him with some players, you're not winning games.

Brooks, Gooch and Wilson take on virtually all of the player personnel decisions for this team, and to say that the decisions have, for the most part, been lousy is an understatement.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time the Storm had an offensive lineman or a fullback who was any good whatsoever? And who was the last defensive lineman who was able to get any real pressure on the quarterback? No one has had more than five sacks on this team in three straight seasons, and Cliff Dukes was the last man who picked up more than seven sacks in a season. Dukes left after the 2011 season has since won three ArenaBowls with Arizona.

But perhaps the most damning evidence of the ineptitude of the Tampa Bay Storm franchise is the play of their quarterbacks and how they've played when they've been playing in locations other than Amalie Arena.

Jason Boltus had quarterback ratings of 110 both with the Utah Blaze and the Orlando Predators. His rating dropped 10 points last year, and his first game back against Arizona yielded a 11-of-37 effort, including a fumble lost for a touchdown and a pick six.

Even worse is the case of Randy Hippeard, a man who had quarterback ratings of 104 in each of his first two seasons in Tampa. As soon as he moved to Orlando, his completion percentage went up 15 points, his TD/INT ratio went from approximately 4.3 to 10.2, and his QB rating improved to 133.5 last season. Hippeard hasn't thrown a pick this year, and Orlando's first-team offense has scored on every single one of its drives this season. Tampa's hasn't even scored on half of its possessions.

Even Adam Kennedy looked better with the New Orleans VooDoo these last two seasons than he did in his short stint as the Storm starter in which he completed 51.1 percent of his passes and had just four touchdowns against four picks. His quarterback rating is as embarrassing as you'll see for anyone in this league at 52.6.

It doesn't take a genius to know why the Storm have utilized Brooks as the face of their franchise. He's beloved in Tampa from his days with the Bucs, and he's one of the most recognizable faces in Florida State's football history.

But there's a point that Vinik has to ask himself whether he's truly interested in the bottom line or winning football games. Sure, firing Brooks would leave this team without a single recognizable player or staff member to identify with locally.

These last few years though, have been just horrible on the field. The Storm lost 85 games from 1991 through 2008; they've lost 61 times from 2010 through 2016, and they're on their way to their sixth straight season with 10+ losses.

For a franchise which was always known to be one of the best winners in the AFL, we're at the point that this has gone from bad to just laughable. In a year where there are just eight teams in this league, there have been positive things to say about every other team aside from this one.

Even the lowly Portland Steel have a good game against Orlando to fall back on, and they could use the excuse of being league-owned. It also didn't help them that their quarterback, Shane Austin left the team just before the start of the season for shot with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Storm have no one to blame but themselves for this abortion they've assembled this season. They've still got some of the best attendance in the league, and their fan base is as good as there is at this level. But at some point, you have to win games, too. Tampa Bay isn't going to do much of that this year, if any of it at all.

There's time to save this season for sure, especially knowing that every team is going to get into the playoffs and have the same chance to win the ArenaBowl in August. But the Storm have no chance whatsoever by keeping Brooks, Gooch and Wilson in charge off the field and Samuels in charge on it.


 
Adam Markowitz is an accountant and a freelance sports writer living in Orlando. As a Florida State graduate with degrees in music and history, the garnet and gold will forever be a part of him, but he bleeds the black and red of the Orlando Predators like none other. Adam has been following the AFL since 1991 and has been at well over 200 games, including 16 ArenaBowls. You can follow Adam on Twitter @AFLGuru.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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