08/19/2011 5:21 PM
Only a week into the offseason, the AFL already features a number of teams with coaching hiring and firings. Some changes were predictable after a tough 2011 campaign from teams like Philadelphia and New Orleans. Others have been a bit unexpected.
The Orlando Predators and Spokane Shock both reached the playoffs but took early exits after losses to the two eventual ArenaBowl representatives. Pat O’Hara and Rob Keefe were both in their second AFL season with their respective clubs. During their time there, both proved they had what it took to be successful in the League.
Spokane managed a 9-9 record and reached the playoffs for the second straight year, in a season that featured a number of key injuries and quarterback moves. In two seasons as Head Coach for the Spokane Shock in the AFL, Keefe recorded a 22-12 record and ArenaBowl title in 2010.
O’Hara posted an 11-7 record and helped Orlando reach the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. During his two seasons as Head Coach with Orlando, O’Hara went 19-15 and 1-2 in the playoffs. However their front office decided to make a change.
“We’d like to thank Coach O’Hara for his professionalism and leadership over the past two years and all he’s done for the organization,” Predators Managing Partner Brett Bouchy said. “He’ll always be a part of the Orlando Predators, but we’ve decided that the time has come to move in a different direction.”
Due to Orlando’s consistent regular season success and Spokane’s recent accolades with an ArenaBowl title in 2010, the necessity for both teams will be to win and win quickly.
The Soul, Barnstormers and VooDoo, on the other hand, did not have the same success as the Predators and Shock this season. Philadelphia finished at 6-12 and last in the East Division. After winning the ArenaBowl Championship in 2008, the Soul came into the 2011 season with a lot of confidence. The team looked very exciting on paper heading into the season. The Soul also brought on one of the AFL’s most identifiable figures in Mike Hohensee. Hohensee has been involved with the League for 24 years and won 135 regular season games, the third most in AFL history. The team looked like they were headed for success. However, inconsistent play, injuries and costly turnovers occurred and pushed the team to its worst finish since their inaugural season in 2004. After an ArenaBowl championship in 2008, the desire to win is now expected in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia fan base and front office demand success and anything but a championship is unacceptable.
“We appreciate his efforts to help us get re-started and wish him well in the future. Now we begin our search for a new head coach with the goal of winning the ArenaBowl in 2012,” Soul co-majority owner Ron Jaworski said.
Because of Hohensee’s enormous amount of experience, whoever ends up replacing Hohensee will have some big shoes to fill.
Other foreseeable coaching moves came in Iowa and New Orleans. Both struggled this past season and have ended up hiring two of the dismissed coaches mentioned above. Iowa finished the season with a 5-13 record and lost legendary Head Coach John Gregory midway through the season. JT Smith took over and led them to a 3-6 record in the final nine games. On Tuesday, Iowa decided to hire Soul Ex-Head Coach Hohensee. Hohensee became the Head Coach and Director of Football Operations for the Barnstormers and will look to rebound after a tough 2011 finish with the Soul.
New Orleans also hired a Head Coach that was let go by another team this offseason. The VooDoo ended this past season with a 3-15 record, which was the worst in team history. Derek Stingley was released midway through the season and replaced by Jon Norris. Both coaches lacked consistency, and once the season finished, a coaching change was anticipated. The VooDoo ended up hiring Predators ex-Head Coach Pat O’Hara last Monday. O’Hara made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons as Head Coach for Orlando, and will look to bring a winning attitude to the VooDoo organization.
The Predators hope to find success with new Head Coach Bret Munsey. Like O’Hara, Munsey has played and coached in the AFL. Munsey led the Philadelphia Soul to a 13-3 record and an ArenaBowl championship in 2008. With all of the success he has had in AFL, Munsey was at the top of Orlando’s list.
“It’s no secret that Bret Munsey was the hottest head coaching candidate on the market in the Arena Football League. He has a championship, and a winning record to back it up. It’s a testament to our fans and organization that we were able to land him,” Bouchy said.
As of today, two teams are currently in pursuit of a Head Coach. The 2010 ArenaBowl champions Spokane Shock and 2008 champions Philadelphia Soul are looking for coaches who have had experience and proved they can win in the AFL. The Shock will also be looking for someone that they can trust and push them to a similar result from 2010. Whoever the Shock and Soul decide to go with, the AFL offseason has already featured a number of head coaching swaps and moves that will make for new and interesting looks in a few different places.