Expansion Blues? Not If You Are Paying Attention
At this writing, the Portland Thunder are zero for the season. The AFL’s newest franchise is dead last in scoring, and the face of the franchise Darron Thomas has seen scant playing time in the past three outings. All is lost, The Thunder are terrible and whatever shall we do? Stop it.
I’m going to excuse the whining by what should be a reasonably savvy group of football fans, as a seasonal depression disorder. Buck up. The fact is, we in the Pacific Northwest now have two football seasons. There is no horrible seven-month layoff, and quite understandably, you have forgotten how to do this. The Blazers are an institution, and the Timbers have begun to matter in Major League Soccer, so a new team is... well, new. However, remember, true football fans don’t mope over the win/loss record of their expansion franchise... they revel in it!
A city's foray into football expansionism is not the time for whining. You see Thunder fans, you have thirteen games to gain license to the phrase, “I was there from day one.” That means you must back the team back now or be relegated to the ranks of bandwagon jumpers. Have some faith in the coaches and, frankly, the owner who thought entertaining Portland was a great way to make a few bucks.
Please note: I did not say an easy way to grab some coin... it isn't. Wait for things to develop. No really, I know it's tough, but watch with an impartial eye. If you have even a moderate football IQ you will see a great deal to be excited about.
Owner Terry Emmert is allowing the football people to make football decisions and handling the business side of things as he should. Emmert has shelled out for a beautiful venue for home games, designed modern forward-thinking uniforms (like them or not, this league is not the place for the NFL three-color motif) and brought in a smart, young head coach whose resume reads like the AFL version of Sean Peyton.
As for the on field product, Portland’s rough start to its inaugural campaign comes despite a defense that ranks fourth in the AFL in yards against (243.0 YPGA) and seventh in points against (48.2 PPGA). Furthermore, the team features one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the league in Donte Paige-Moss and a playmaker of the punishing variety in Bryce Peila. The team also enjoys the services of long time NFL linemen Max Jean-Gilles and newly aquired Stanley Daniels. Veteran championship D-lineman Antron Dillon and Iowa State standout Jake McDonough anchor the defense. We should enjoy Jake now, as I think he gets some phone calls this fall.
Finally, bringing in veteran AFL quarterback Kyle Rowley was an excellent move by the coaching staff, and its my guess that he will mentor Thomas until it is the younger man's time to take the helm. Losing Jeffrey Solomon is tough, but the crew alongside him in the wideout spot is a team strength.
Folks, understand this: Portland has nothing to lose. The Thunder are young and talented, yet extremely inexperienced. While these two things can be entertaining, they don't necessarily translate to winning just yet. Bare with Sauk and crew. There are excellent ball players on the scene, and the quarterback situation will stabilize.
On that note, commentary about Thomas in the capacity of an Arena Football League quarterback should be withheld for now if one is being fair. Keep this in mind, he learned the system he was asked to at the U of O and drove the Ducks to a 24-3 won/loss record.
Chip Kelly didn't find Darron down in Texas running the Oregon offense, now did he? No.
The kid is smart and can adapt given time. He is easily the most decorated quarterback to come straight to the AFL, but it's a very different game.
Thunder fans now is the winter of your discontent. Use your teams struggles and conquests in the best hypocritical tradition of football fans everywhere. If the Thunder lose, tell the trash talking SaberCats fan that he barely scraped by against an expansion team. When Portland wins -- and it will -- talk of future greatness based on such prowess from a mere -- say it with me -- expansion team.
See now you've got it! There have been 15 new teams in the big 3 sports in the last 30 years or so. Few fans ever get the kind of freedom that being the supporter of a new squad brings. With the talent and coaching Portland has, there will be moments where you can make friends so angry they will throw their bowl of chips at the TV. And isn't that what life is really about?