Minor league indoor football often uses all sorts of gimmicks to try to get people to care about the team, or more importantly, in the door spending money.
This season in the Indoor Football League, two teams, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles and the Colorado Crush, owned by the same group have been trying something that’s never been attempted in professional sports: They’re letting the fans decide almost every aspect of the team. They let fans vote on uniforms, some player signings, and even calling the plays on offense via an app that updates in real-time.
While the idea is revolutionary, and has caught headlines, from HST to every major sports publication you can think of, it hasn’t exactly been a success on the field for either team.
Both teams are 1-6, tied for dead last in the Intense Conference (essential the Western Conference) with their only wins coming against each other. Against all other teams, they are a combined 0-10.
Salt Lake fired its head coach after the second game, presumably because he didn’t like the “Fan-chise” idea and having fans decide more about the team than head did.
But rather than focus on record, let’s try to focus on why these two teams have struggled, is it because of the fans and their play-calling, or because of other factors in the areas the fans have little say over?
Offensively, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles are second in the league (10 teams) in total yards per game at 249.7, roughly three yards off the league lead, held by the 7-1 Wichita Falls Nighthawks. So for Salt Lake, the fans are actually doing a great job calling plays, or they have so much offensive talent that they are able to overcome having fans decide their offensive fate. Salt Lake is second in the league in passing yards, and middle of the pack in rushing, so they’re pretty balanced. However, it hasn’t translated to points, as the team is sixth in the league in scoring.
It hasn’t been the same story for the Colorado Crush, who rank eighth in the 10-team league 187.6 yards per game, just three yards more than the worst team in the league. Their problem has been passing, where they rank dead last in the league with 786 passing yards through seven games, or, about 112 passing yards per game. Not great in the high-scoring world of indoor football. As you can guess, that’s translated to not a lot of points, as the Crush are averaging just 34.3 points per game, eighth, and a full seven points behind the next closest team.
So while the offenses aren’t scoring at an efficient rate, we’ll call the offenses a wash, second in the league and eighth in the league in yards is about middle of the pack, and that’s not terrible for two teams who let fans call plays. Though maybe you could blame the fans for the lack of scoring as play-calling gets harder in the red zone in indoor football.
Oddly, the real problem for both teams is defense, where fans don’t get to call the plays and it’s all on the coaches and players to decide things.
Both Salt Lake and Colorado are tied for dead last in points against per game, giving up 53.9 points per game, a full touchdown more than the next worst team in that category.
Things don’t get much better in yards allowed per game, where Salt Lake is seventh at 226.7 yards per game, while Colorado is even worse, letting opponents rack up 248.1 yards per game, second most in the league.
The big issues for both teams is a lack of big plays on defense. Salt Lake has made eight interceptions this season, tied for fourth most, but has just one fumble recovery, giving them nine forced turnovers this year, tied for second fewest in the league.
The worst team in the league at forcing turnovers? Colorado. Who has ZERO interceptions through seven games and just three fumble recoveries.
Combine that with the fact that these teams each have just five sacks, tied for second fewest in the league, and you have a recipe for disaster on defense.
So there you go, while both teams are struggling to pull out wins in their first season as “Fan-chises”, it isn’t completely, or even that much, the fault of the fans. They only pick the plays on offense and have some say over player decisions.
Instead, it’s the defense, the side that is supposedly coached and has its plays called by professionals who have been around the game in some form for most of their lives, who isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.
If there is one area where both teams are winners: It’s at the box office. Despite being a combined 2-12, the teams are third and fourth in the league in average attendance, averaging 5,232 (Salt Lake) and 3,919 (Colorado) fans per game, pretty dang good in this league.
But at some point you have to start winning. Having great attendance in the first year of a gimmick designed to bring in fans is all well and good, and hopefully creates fans who will come back often in the future, but at any level of sports, you have to eventually win a few games or fans will stop coming, no matter how involved in the team they are.
So yeah, good job calling the plays on offense fans, maybe these teams should let you call the plays on defense, just to see if they can have as much success.