In the AFL, the quarterback position is the key to any team's success. Good play at quarterback can make up for other deficiencies. Gary Horton breaks down the position for each team heading into 2008.
Long-time starter Sherdrick Bonner is gone and Lang Campbell may be the guy. He played well in Austin in 2007, but he is in a new system with new receivers. However, he has a great weapon in WR Siaha Burley and it may take time to develop chemistry. Backup Jeff Smoker is also in the mix to be the starter because he has AFL starting experience when he played in Nashville. Jordan Palmer will probably be the backup behind Bonner and Smoker.
Aging veteran Bonner is out of Arizona after spending 14 years with the Rattlers and he inherits a roster loaded with talent in Chicago. He replaces oft-injured Matt D'Orazio, and at age 39 he can still make all of the AFL throws. He threw for 4,036 yards and 83 TDs with only 13 interceptions in 2007, and he has two AFL championships under his belt. Russ Michna is set to be Bonner's backup in Chicago.
Raymond Philyaw comes to Cleveland from Kansas City and he brings immediate stability to the QB position for a new franchise. He will not only bring on-field production, but he will also provide leadership in the locker room. A year ago he threw for 4,338 yards with 85 TDs and only 11 interceptions, for a 124.1 QB rating. Jason Fife will be Philyaw's backup.
John Dutton returns after a solid, but not spectacular, 2007 season. He threw for 4,320 yards and 84 TDs, but he also had 17 interceptions and he didn't always make the plays he usually does. Now he is without his best receiver, Damian Harrell, who moved on to Chicago, and it remains to be seen if he has enough targets. Brandon Kirsch is the backup in Colorado.
Matt Nagy posted solid numbers in 2007, with 3,557 yards, 75 TDs, 15 interceptions and a 104.4 QB rating. He played in the Arena Bowl two of the past three seasons, and while he has played on four teams in seven years, he has a knack for winning and his decision making and accuracy are good. However, Nagy has many new receivers this season and he may need some time to jell with his new targets. Brian Jones will be Nagy's backup in Columbus.
Clint Dolezel continues to play at an amazingly high level, and 2007 was another great season. He threw for 4,475 yards with 107 TDs and only nine interceptions and posted a great 128.2 QB rating. He can make every throw, he is another coach on the field and nobody does a better job of reading defenses and making good decisions. Chris Sanders will be Dolezel's backup in 2008.
Chris Greisen is coming off a record-breaking 2007 season. He threw for 4,851 yards with 117 TDs and only 12 interceptions for a 132.0 QB rating. He can make every throw in the game and he has excellent recognition skills and poise. However, he lost two-thirds of his dynamic receiving trio in the offseason. The Force's biggest question entering 2008 is if Greisen will have enough weapons to keep this offense explosive. Tom Arth will be Greisen's backup.
Grand Rapids Rampage
There is a competitive two-man battle between AFL veteran Adrian McPherson and young James MacPherson, but both may play in 2008. Adrian threw for 3,193 yards with 51 TDs and 14 interceptions for Austin and Grand Rapids in 2007. He is an excellent athlete and a big threat to scramble, but his accuracy is sometimes inconsistent and he makes some bad decisions at times. James was a backup in Georgia a year ago with marginal production, but his coaches like his poise and upside.
Kansas City Brigade
John Fitzgerald is now listed as the starter with the departure of Philyaw to Cleveland. Fitzgerald did not play in 2007, but was a head coach in AFL2 and his last AFL action was in 2006 with Austin. He has good intangibles, but he is not likely to come close to last season's QB production. However, his play should be steady. Travis Cole and Matt Kohn will be ready to take over for Fitzgerald, if he can't get the job done.
Los Angeles Avengers
Sonny Cumbie is poised to have a breakout season and he is blessed with a deep receiving corps and a lot of explosive weapons. He is confident, can make every throw and is coming off a 2007 season in which he threw for 4,370 yards with 83 TDs and only 13 interceptions. He must play with a little more weekly consistency and his pass protection must hold up, but there appears to be no limit to his success. Andy Collins and Tim Hicks are also on the Avengers' QB depth chart.
New Orleans VooDoo
After sitting on the bench the first half of the 2007 season watching Andy Kelly struggle, Steve Bellisari came on strong late, throwing for 2,287 yards with 47 TDs and 12 interceptions. The VooDoo can build around the lefty with mobility, but his biggest problem may be finding a go-to wide receiver. Free-agent acquisition Derrick Lewis is out for the season with a knee injury, which is a big blow to Bellisari. Stan Hill and Danny Wimprine will be ready to back up Bellisari.
New York Dragons
If he stays healthy, which has not been the case for two years, Aaron Garcia is an elite AFL QB. Even in a limited role in 2007, he threw for 1,724 yards with 45 TDs and only four interceptions, which tells you something about his accuracy and decision making. He is mobile and a master at reading defenses and finding matchups, but his receiving corps is not elite. Rohan Davey and Ryan Vena will back up Garcia in New York.
Shane Stafford returns for his second season with the Predators. Although his numbers were decent in 2007 (4,284 yards and 76 TDs), he didn't seem to play with great consistency and he didn't produce enough big plays. He has a good, but not great, receiving corps, but his physical tools are good enough to provide better production in 2008. Jake Eaton will back up Stafford in 2008.
If he can stay healthy, Tony Graziani could be headed for a huge season. He has a great supporting cast and a new big-time receiver in free agent Chris Jackson, who played with him in Los Angeles for four seasons. Even with some missed time in 2007, he threw for 2,841 yards with 64 TDs and only eight interceptions for a 117.0 QB rating. He is tough, will take a hit, and has excellent leadership. Matt D'Orazio, who played in Chicago last season, is an interesting insurance QB if his back is healthy.
San Jose Sabercats
Mark Grieb may be the most dependable QB in the league. He has led the Sabercats to three championships in six years, and he threw 100 TD passes and only 13 interceptions for a 128.3 QB rating in 2007. He has great vision, reads defenses well and makes good decisions. Most importantly, he has an excellent group of receivers. Scott Rislov is the backup in San Jose.
Tampa Bay Storm
Brett Dietz exploded onto the scene in 2007 and he wound up as the co-rookie of the year in the AFL. Most of his stats -- 47 TD passes, 2,395 yards and a sparkling 119.3 QB rating -- came in the second half of the season. With a full season in front of him and a deep receiving corps, his production should be off the charts. Stoney Case is Tampa Bay's backup.
There were four QBs in the AFL who threw for over 100 TDs, and Joe Germaine was one of them. He has made a great transition from the NFL to the indoor game and he can make every throw, but he enters 2008 without his all-world receiver, Siaha Burley. Danny White has built this team around Germaine. Jason Gesser and Royal Gill will back up Germaine in Utah.