Well, that was quick. After grumblings about a fold, the AAF has announced that it will suspend football operations within hours. The league is folding less than three months after debuting to healthy ratings and attention grabbing hits. There are rumors that a deal couldn’t be worked out with the NFLPA (shocker) which is what the league wanted. At one point, the AAF seemed destined to become somewhat of an NFL minor league/funnel organization that would give solid college players and league cast offs a chance to play.
Sadly, that will never be the case and I for one am bummed out. It would have been interesting to see what impact, if it had any at all, the AAF would have on NFL teams. Would AAF stand outs be given second looks in the draft? We’ll never know but my answer is probably. We also never got to see these teams hit their stride. Imagine how hard it’s got to be to be a head coach of a first year professional football team. Not many can say they’ve done that and the odds are that the league would have improved in a second or third year. We will never get to see that, and that kinda sucks.
But, oh well. The XFL will be arriving within the next two years and has had much more planning and promotion behind it than the AAF. While the AAF seemed to be focused on NFL affiliation, the XFL will likely feature heavy on the entertainment side. Expect more Johnny Manziel eating wings on the sidelines type happenings and bone-crunching hits. Maybe Vince McMahon will listen to Eminem and include fights? We can only hope.
The XFL will now be the only alternative pro football league, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, let us look back at the AAF hall of fame. Here are the leaders in major stat categories for the league that you will forget existed within two years.
Head Coaching Wins: Steve Spurrier, 7
South Carolina legend Steve Spurrier will go down as the AAF’s most successful head coach. At 73 years of age, Spurrier went 7-1 at the helm of the Orlando Apollos and was one of the more familiar names associated with the league.
With the folding of the AAF, Spurrier goes down as the only coach in the history of football to resign from his team mid-season then have the league resign on him midway through its season. Weird legacy.
Passing Yards: Garrett Gilbert, 2,152 Yards, 157/259 Attempts/Completions
Garrett Gilbert attempted just three total passes with the Panthers in 2017 but finds himself going down as the Tom Brady of the AAF. Gilbert finished with 2,152 passing yards and 13 touchdowns against three interceptions in eight games of action. He was also selected to PFF’s team of the week a league leading five times.
Picked 214th overall out of SMU in 2014, Gilbert was the overall most effective quarterback on the team with the most wins. There is a dire shortage of quarterbacks in the NFL and teams won’t want to have Josh Johnson out there again. So it is tough to say, but also entirely possible that Gilbert gets another look from the NFL as a third string or backup QB.
Passing Touchdowns: John Wolford, 14
Wolford was getting lots of press following a four touchdown week one performance. He didn’t remain the AAF’s all time great QB for the entire season, but overall he finished with a solid 14 touchdowns against seven picks with 1,616 yards through the air – the second highest total behind Gilbert.
He could certainly work on his turnover rate, but Wolford has youth on his side. 24 in October, Wolford is about five years younger than Gilbert which could be appealing to NFL teams that are looking at qb depth more than ever. Wolford only has preseason action with the Jets on his NFL resume but had a solid college career with Wake Forest.
I would honestly be shocked if Wolford doesn’t at least get an extended preseason look.
Rushing Yards: Jhurrell Pressley, 431 yards on 96 attempts
Despite briefly finding himself as a member of the Packers and riding the training camp circuit for years, Jhurrell Pressley certainly made the most of his AAF opportunity. The 26 year old from Newark, Delaware played college football at New Mexico and goes down as the AAF’s leading rusher with 431 yards. His 4.5 yards per carry is also the highest in the league among rushers with more than 75 attempts. In addition to the ground game, Pressley hauled in 11 passes for 86 yards and two scores. He only managed one rushng touchdown, however.
Unfortunately for Pressley, it seems unlikely that his AAF success will matter to NFL teams. Running-backs with solid NFL production as of last season remain unsigned and the Eagles’ highway robbery of the Bears shows that teams don’t value the position as much anymore. That said, here’s hoping that his success gets him a solid look from an NFL team.
Rushing Touchdowns: Trent Richardson, 11
Honestly, who else would you expect for this? Trent Richardson, one of the league’s more well known names, got the chance to play in front of his Bama loyalists and stayed true to form. Leading the league by far in rushing touchdowns with 11, Richardson dominated as a goal line back but was a total slug otherwise. He managed a dreadful 2.9 yards per carry on 125 attempts which is exactly what ran him out of the NFL.
It was a nice second life for Richardson, but you can rest assured that his jerseys will remain at your local Goodwill store now until the end of time.
Charles Johnson, 687 Yards on 45 Receptions
Like Gilbert and Pressley, Johnson is a bit older but managed to dominate in the AAF’s brief run. Johnson led the league in receptions and receiving yards with 687 over 45 receptions, giving him an average of 15.3 yards per catch. At 30 years of age, it remains to be seen how NFL teams will value this.
The former 7th round pick out of Grand Valley State also has 60 NFL receptions for 834 yards and two scores with the Vikings. He hasn’t recorded an NFL reception since the 2016 season but was in camp with the Jets as recently as last year.
Rashad Ross, 7
In terms of overall effectiveness, Rashad Ross will go down as the best receiver in AAF history. All told, he hauled in 36 passes for 583 yards thus giving him a league leading 16.2 yards per catch. Ross also lead the league in touchdown receptions with seven.
He has nine catches for 192 yards in the NFL to go along with 812 return yards and three total touchdowns. A deep threat, Ross stood out in AAF action and was trending up as the season ended. Recently turned 29, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ross makes an NFL team as a fifth-sixth receiver/return specialist. Those roster spots are toss ups, so why not roll the dice on an NFL veteran who put up solid numbers? It’s either that or a Bryce Treggs type which are a dime a dozen.
Total Tackles: DeMarquis Gates, 52
Gates is another player who could certainly have NFL teams knocking at his door. The recently turned 23 year old out of Ole Miss exploded onto the scene in week one and finished the season as the AAF’s all time leader in total and solo tackles. He finished with 52 total tackles – 46 of them solo – and goes down as the best tackler in AAF history.
At 23, Gates plays a position where depth is always crucial and players are always stepping up. His youth and success in the AAF are bound to get him at least an extended preseason look and I would honestly be shocked if he doesn’t break camp with a team.
Sacks: Jayrone Elliott, 7.5
Elliott has a total of 57 tackles and four sacks across a few years of NFL action with Green Bay. He most recently found himself with the Saints but was waived before stepping into game action. As a result, Elliott found himself in the AAF with the San Antonio Commanders.
Despite only recording 14 total tackles, Elliott made the most of them and finished with 7.5 sacks. When half of your total tackles are sacks, you know you feasted. However, like all names on this list, we have no idea what NFL teams think of these numbers and we will never be able to figure it out either. If they are valued, 7.5 sacks will get a look but the numbers suggest he was over-performing.
Interceptions: De’Vante Bausby, Ryan Moeller and Kameron Kelly – 4 each
None of these three have any extensive NFL action but Bausby was a member of the Eagles’ practice squad when they won the Super Bowl. Each of these three recorded four interceptions and share a three-way tie for the all-time lead in interceptions.
23 when the 2019 season kicks off, Kelly is the youngest of the trio and the most likely to have an NFL future if any of them do. He was cut before the preseason began by Dallas last season but odds are he will at least be back with someone this summer.
So there you have it, the first ballot hall of famers. It was fun while it lasted but the AAF will ultimately be a footnote in history. I’ll always remember this hit and Johnny Manziel talking trash. Other than that, it’s going to be memory holed.