A year ago this week, we did our first series on what a modern NFL expansion team would look like, and it’s now time for the 2019 version. In this four-part series, I will cover team creation (city, branding, staff), followed by the expansion draft, free agency, and the NFL Draft. The final results from last year can be found here.
Mexico City was an option last year, but staying in the United States this time, Albuquerque would give fans in between Phoenix and Dallas someone to cheer for other than the Cardinals or Cowboys. And while Bryan Cranston is a Rams fan, we could even see Heisenberg himself make a cameo at the stadium to build some hype around the franchise.
In terms of territory, the biggest gap in the U.S. without an NFL team is easily the northwest, as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nebraska are all without a team in their state. We saw the kind of enthusiasm Fargo has based on their College GameDay appearance from a few years ago, and similar to Oklahoma City in the NBA, it could be a small-town feel with big-city fire.
Going across the pond will always be an option when discussing NFL expansion, and being the first team to break ground in Europe would lead to loyalty from the local fans that want their own team to support. Plus, London also has some really good branding possibilities (Knights, Monarchs, Royals, etc.), which is worth taking into account.
Salt Lake City
With the Raiders moving to Las Vegas next year, a franchise in Utah would be sandwiched between Vegas and Denver, so market research would be key in determining whether or not the location is feasible. If it is, Salt Lake City is said to be one of the best places to live in the country, and the surrounding area could provide a stunning mountain backdrop for the stadium.
A football team in Toronto would have the best homefield advantage in sports thanks to frigid temperatures and a rabid fanbase, especially since the Drake curse was just broken by the Raptors. Fargo was also a strong contender because of the cold climate, but the choice seems clear… good luck to the rest of the league traveling north for January playoff games.
The choice: Toronto
Team Name (Uniform Colors)
A nickname for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “Mounties” could honor those who serve and protect the nation while also being a quality name for an NFL franchise. The colors—which would match the uniforms of the police force—are basically a black-heavy version of what the Chiefs wear.
Polar Bears (White/Light Blue/Black)
The main thing holding Polar Bears back as a name is the similarity to the Chicago Bears’ name, but perhaps it would lead to a rivalry between two cold-weather teams. And unlike the next team name, the logo would definitely be intimidating.
While Puffins might be a little too cute, the color scheme and uniforms would look great with some orange mixed in, and the whole country could rally around the small bird as a point of national pride.
Snow Owls (White/Black/Yellow)
For a bigger Canadian bird that can match up with the likes of eagles, falcons and ravens in the south, snow owls are majestic creatures with a coat of white that would make for an icy color scheme and uniforms.
When you consider logo, references, stadium sound effects, and history, it doesn’t get any better than Wolves for a team name. The uniform possibilities would be awesome, too, as black and white can be the main options with grey as an alternate.
The choice: Wolves
NFL teams should be lining up to hire Aikman if/when he decides to leave the broadcast booth for a front office job, and an expansion team would give the Hall of Fame quarterback more input than a normal general manager is afforded. Aikman knows what it takes to build a championship team after leading the Cowboys to three championships in the ‘90s.
Caserio seemed to be on his way to Houston this offseason, but New England successfully blocked the move—though it sounds like an exit could come in 2020. No one really knows exactly what the stipulations are in his contract, but it’s at least worth checking in to see if Caserio is a candidate to run an expansion team.
The brother of former Monday Night Football announcer Sean McDonough and former Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, Terry is a key member of Arizona’s front office as the VP of player personnel. He may be persuaded to join the Wolves if he desires a lead job building an NFL team.
Pioli had been Atlanta’s assistant general manager over the past five years, but he stepped away this offseason for what many people believe to be a gear-up for a GM job in 2020. Pioli was in charge of the Chiefs from 2009 to 2012, and perhaps more importantly, he worked in New England’s front office from 2000 to 2008.
Now that Mike Mayock is in Oakland, Riddick is arguably the best talent evaluator on television, but it’s difficult to get an exact measure of his scouting ability because he doesn’t put out prospect rankings for ESPN (which Mayock did at NFL Network).
The choice: Troy Aikman
It’s important to have the general manager and head coach be on the same page, but that should be no problem with Troy Aikman and any of these candidates. Daboll is trying to replicate the Patriots offense in Buffalo as their coordinator, and he doesn’t seem like a guy that would need personnel control if he became a head coach.
I wouldn’t be able to make the case for McCarthy any better than Aikman did after the Packers disrespectfully and dishonorably fired him, so the Super Bowl-winning head coach would be the early favorite heading into the interview process. There are currently only six active head coaches that have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and McCarthy would be the seventh.
Rhule was apparently close to being hired by the Jets until the two sides got hung up on hiring assistants, and it’s probably only a matter of time before he gets a job in the league. At Temple, Rhule coaches the Owls to back-to-back ten-win seasons before taking over at Baylor and improving from 1-11 two years ago to 7-6 last season.
Not only has Riley coached the No. 1 overall pick in each of the past two years, but he’s also led Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff in both seasons. I would want someone that can be around for a long, long time to coach the team, and Riley certainly fits the billing at 36 (in September).
The preference for offensive coaches probably gave Freddie Kitchens the edge over Williams for the Cleveland job, but I’m not sure the Browns made the right choice, as the fiery 61-year-old led them to a 5-3 record and will be looked back upon favorably no matter what happens in 2019 and beyond.
The choice: Mike McCarthy
He obviously flamed out rather quickly as head coach of the Giants, but McAdoo is a proven offensive mind that worked under Mike McCarthy for eight years with the Packers. In a coordinator role, McAdoo wouldn’t have to deal with some of the responsibilities that caused his downfall in New York.
Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach for the past two years, Taylor was brought in by Chip Kelly in 2013 as a quality control coach and worked his way up the organization under Doug Pederson. Still just 31, the younger brother of Bengals head coach Zac Taylor may need a few more years of seasoning before getting the opportunity for a lead job, so the information he gathered from Kelly and Pederson would hopefully be useful for multiple seasons.
Everyone is trying to get a fruit from the Sean McVay tree, and Waldron is one of the options coming down the pipeline. Besides being in Los Angeles over the past three years (going from tight ends coach to pass game coordinator to quarterbacks coach), it’s worth noting that Waldron also spent time with the Patriots back in 2008/2009.
The choice: Press Taylor
Capers was fired by the Packers in 2017, but if he and McCarthy are still close, perhaps they can recapture some of the magic that led to a championship at the start of the decade. Also, it should be noted that I prefer running a 3-4 defensive scheme.
One of the best defensive minds in the history of football, LeBeau was out of the league last season, but I would bet that his passion for the game hasn’t dwindled a bit with his 82ndbirthday closing in. LeBeau is the master at sending defenders from anywhere to get after the quarterback, and an expansion team will need to be creative to manufacture pressure.
I avoided lateral moves for offensive coordinator and obviously head coach, but the Wolves would have had a chance to convince Williams to come aboard before the Jets hired him, and there would be a collaborative approach to constructing the Toronto roster, including adding the right pieces on defense with the defensive coordinator’s input.
The choice: Gregg Williams
Special Teams Coordinator
Clay is the assistant special teams coach in San Francisco, but he could be promoted to the top job for us. For staff comradery purposes, Clay was with Press Taylor in Philadelphia for a couple years.
A special teams coordinator for the past decade, Mallory has plenty of experience, including winning Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints. The former Michigan linebacker was one of the minds behind the successful onside kick New Orleans had to start the second half of their win over the Colts.
Zook coached special teams for five years in Green Bay until Mike McCarthy’s firing, and he clearly wants to stay in the game after joining the staff of the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF earlier this year. He also has experience as a head coach at Florida (2002-2004) and Illinois (2005-2011).
The choice: Ron Zook
Team name: Wolves
General manager: Troy Aikman
Head coach: Mike McCarthy
Offensive coordinator: Press Taylor
Defensive coordinator: Gregg Williams
Special teams coordinator: Ron Zook
Come back tomorrow for Part II, which will cover the results of an NFL expansion draft.