While the UFL has its share of problems (like, oh I don’t know, losing approximately $50 million on the 2010 season and being sued by league investor Mark Cuban?), one matter they don’t have an issue with is attracting veteran NFL coaches to helm their teams.
With Jerry Glanville signing on as coach of the Hartford Colonials this week and Marty Schottenheimer tweeting his takeover of the Virginia Destroyers today, four out of the five UFL teams will be coached by NFL vets.
Jim Fassel of the Las Vegas Locomotives and Dennis “They are, who we thought they were” Green of the Sacramento Mountain Lions, have been UFL heads since the league’s inception in 2009.
The lone outsider is Omaha Nighthawks coach Joe Moglia, who happens to be the CEO of TD Ameritrade, so if anything, he can assist with some badly needed financial 411.
So what makes the UFL attractive to these guys? Especially since Fassel reportedly turned down an NFL assistant job in January to remain with the Locos, which by most popular opinion would be, well, loco.
For one thing, it’s obviously a lot less grueling, with only eight games in 10 weeks and two byes per team – not exactly reminiscent of the 18-hour workday type stress that comes with the big league.
And there’s also the age factor. These four are all in their been-there-done-that 60s, while more and more NFL teams are latching on to successful youngins like 34-year-old Bucs coach Raheem Morris and 39-year-old Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Plus for Fassel, who was just presented with his second UFL Championship ring at a team ceremony this week, he likes that the UFL offers a place for guys who deserve a shot. Case in point, Fassel said he would welcome back his old back in Tiki Barber if he gets shut out of the NFL. Yes, the salary would be drastically different at about $80,000-$100,000 a season, but it’s a place to prove you’ve still got game.
Fassel has gone so far as to say that his team could compete against some of the struggling NFL squads from last season. Implausible, yes, but not totally impossible considering 38 of the 52 players on the Locos have had NFL experience, like nine-year league vet Dominic Rhodes who was the UFL’s leading rusher last season and then signed back with the Colts in December and had carries in their last four games.
The league also has its fair share of older QBs like Jeff Garcia and Daunte Culpepper (reunited with Green), who want to stay in game shape in case they get a distress call from an NFL organization.
UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue has also floated out the concept of a seven-on-seven scrimmage between the two leagues this summer.
“Who knows if that would ever happen? But the concept has been talked about, the same as ‘loner players,’” Huyghue told the Sacramento Bee. “None of that may come to fruition, but there have been some conversations.”
In essence, the UFL acts as a type of developmental league. It also smartly pushed up its start date to August 7 to end the season in mid-October — which is great timing for a lot of NFL teams looking to fill those IR spots. They are also considering letting a certain number of players on each team out of their contracts even during the UFL season.
In its two short years in existence the UFL has sent more than 100 players to the NFL (for usually a $25,000 transfer fee per player) and also two coaches this season in Virginia’s Jay Gruden, who’s now the OC for the Bengals, and Hartford’s Chris Palmer who’s the OC for the Titans.
As for Glanville, he says he signed on because he just loves coaching so dang much – almost criminally so.
“You do what you love,” Glanville told ESPN.com. “The best part of this deal is watching players get better. That’s what it’s all about. If I was feeling any better, they’d have to send me to jail.”