Early Thursday afternoon, I awoke from a short nap. I was working from home and figured I’d grab a couple of Zs during lunch because, well, I’m an adult and I can nap during the day if I want.
I rolled over and gabbed my phone, which greeted me with the following notification from ESPN: “Ex-Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to be OC of Arizona Hotshots of The Alliance of American Football.”
My half-asleep brain made several feeble attempts to organize and analyze the information it had just been fed. Freeze was becoming an offensive coordinator at one of the Arizona schools? Had I missed news of a firing? Wait, no it says the Arizona Hotshots. What the hell are the Arizona Hotshots? Is that the Arena Football League? No, no, The Alliance of American Football. What the hell is that?
After tearing down the cobwebs in my mind, some quick research provided me the following information...
The Arizona Hotshots are a professional football team that does not yet exist and will play in a developmental spring football league that does not yet exist.
The eight team league is scheduled to launch in February of 2019, and while it won’t be a formal farm system like minor league baseball or the NBA G League, it hopes to fill a similar role.
“Our objective is to take some of those people who can’t quite make it and make them into quality NFL players,” former NFL exec Bill Pollian, who’s helped the league assemble personnel and coaching staffs, told ESPN.
The league will try to succeed where others, like the AFL and XFL, have failed. It already has a CBS TV deal and a Starter apparel contract.
“Since NFL Europe expired 10 years ago, there’s been a real desire and frustration by NFL personnel people that there’s a missing link as far as a developmental type league for prospects that weren’t quite ready,” said former Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage told ESPN.
The league will look to bring in players on the fringes of NFL rosters who need development and reps. It’ll likely gun for big names like Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow and Trent Richardson. The most notable name associated with the Alliance is Steve Spurrier, who’s been lured out of retirement to coach the Orlando franchise.
The other franchise cities are Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, San Antonio, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, the new home of Freeze.
So how does Freeze factor into this weirdness?
The upside for the Alliance, which is trying to bring in headline-worthy names, is obvious. In addition to Spurrier and Freeze, the league will employ Mike Singletary (coaching in Memphis), Brad Childress and Michael Vick (both coaching in Atlanta) as well as Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward and Jared Allen as execs.
Rick Neuheisel, a longtime head coach in the Pac-12, will helm the team in Phoenix. In addition to Freeze, his staff will include former Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.
It’s a bit more surprising from the perspective of Freeze, who many thought could return to the collegiate ranks next season as a coordinator or perhaps even a head coach. The NCAA’s shockingly light punishment of Freeze means he could do so without any limitations. Despite the whole using-his-school-phone-to-call-prostitutes thing, Freeze’s success in Oxford should make him one of the most coveted offensive minds on the market.
But perhaps a developmental league is just right for Freeze. After a year spent rehabbing his image and tweaking his offensive philosophy in an experimental league, he could reenter the collegiate market with a higher stock.
Or maybe this is all some oddly lucid dream. I’m going back to sleep.