We cover what went wrong for the RFL teams who performed below our expectations in Season 6. As always, we take a bit of a stats-based approach to examine the ins and outs of the RFL.
Red Dragons 10-6
It comes as no surprise that the defending Relo Bowl Champions are first on this list. What did come as a surprise was their failure to return to Relo Bowl contention after their Season 5 run. Before the beginning of the season we were quoted as saying:
"We expect the multitude of elite playmakers on this team to keep them on track for yet another deep playoff run in Season 6."
The explanation may lie with an offense that finished the regular season with the third lowest yardage total in all of the ARC, just behind the Pioneers and Armadillos. Their defense was stellar as usual (Second in the ARC), so that gives us a clear picture of what went wrong for the Red Dragons. The offense is still certainly one of the better ones in the league on paper, boasting an 88 overall which is tied with their 88 overall defense. So, the lack of production from their key players seems to be the key factor here. There's nothing stopping this team from jumping right back into the playoffs next season, and I would expect an elite head coach like Coach Davis to find and implement the necessary changes to get the offensive production going in the right direction.
Another former Relo Bowl Champion and perennial powerhouse, the Thunderbirds, were a team that many believed would survive their staff turnover without many hiccups. At the beginning of the season we stated:
"This team is in the middle of their championship window, so keep an eye out for Toronto to be in contention for the Season 6 Relo Bowl."
The Thunderbirds' issues are a bit harder to pinpoint when you consider their defense was yet again tops of the league, and it wasn't even close. The dip in QB pressure and turnovers could have something to do with it, but you don't usually miss the playoffs with a defense that was 600 yards ahead of their closest competitor. Their offense wasn't spectacular, but they weren't bad either (8th in yardage). The real indicators to us were the league leading penalty numbers (55 total penalties on the season), and the lack of ppg (4th lowest in the NRC). This points to a lack of discipline under the new regime, and an inability to produce meaningful drives. This is another team that's very good on paper, but needs to address some of those offensive woes in the upcoming offseason.
The biggest surprise appearance on this list is the Orlando Wizards. A team who we believed would have no issues locking up a division that, at the time, had no leading competitor; the Wizards missed the mark in Season 6. In our early analysis, we had this to say:
"The Orlando Wizards (FKA San Antonio Marshalls) laid claim to the NRC South with a commanding 13-3 performance during Season 5. With their draft picks of WR Devon Flores and LE Morris Wright, the Wizards are primed to retake the division in Season 6."
A bottom 4 offense and bottom 4 defense would prove to be the combining factors in the Wizards path to the number one overall pick. However, the problem was more directly influenced by their inconsistent QB play - an issue that many RFL teams struggled with in Season 6. Tyler Agramonte would finish the season with 8 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 9 games played, while 26-year old Travis Fraser Jr would throw 9 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions in relief. We do not believe Agramonte himself is the issue however, when you consider the team allowed 59 sacks during Season 6. That stat is near only NFC counterparts Tom Wilson of the Shamrocks (65 sacks), Ja'Bre Jackson of the Gunners (63 sacks), and Billy Johnson of the Tigers (60 sacks). Following those 4 players, the next highest total is 38. It is clear that the Wizards, among all of their counterparts listed above, need to make serious efforts to address their pass protection before they can expect to see serious improvement. Agramonte also lead this team to the 2-seed in Season 5.
The London Bulldogs made their way onto this list as a team that was losing stride for stride with the aforementioned Wizards for a majority of the season. Nothing seemed to go right for this team during a season that can only be described as disappointing. We had this to say before the season began:
"The Bulldogs are retooling their team to give QB Timmy Merritt a shot to return to the Relo Bowl. With one season under his belt, the only thing that may be standing between Coach Reid’s Bulldogs and the playoffs might be the right gameplan."
The Bulldogs surprisingly boasted the 4th highest yardage total in the ARC, but they were near the bottom in points-per-game. Another team that struggled with inconsistent QB play, the Bulldogs could not put together enough meaningful drives when it counted. First-overall-pick Drew Brewer suffered a torn labrum, which would sideline him for a long stretch of his rookie season, and only mustered one sack in his time on the field. That is just one underperformance that contributed to a defense that was last in the ARC. Expect the Bulldogs to utilize the offseason to fill in the holes on their defense alongside their young playmakers added last offseason.
The Armadillos are a team that some expected to be competitive, but not quite playoff worthy. Ultimately falling short of the mark with only 2 RFL wins, they round out the final spot on this list. Our analysis before the season was as follows:
"Seasoned Signal Caller Devin Wade showed an impressive step forward during Season 5, and the team may look to ride his upswing into playoff contention."
With a defense that allowed the most points among ARC teams (also 5th in yardage allowed), and an offense that had the worst rushing attack in the ARC, the Armadillos showed many flaws. However, a majority of their struggles boil down to an unbalanced offense, which couldn't establish a run game. No offense better embodies the struggles faced by the pass-heavy, low-success offenses of Season 6 than these guys. Devin Wade lead the ARC in passing attempts (41 per game), and that's not a good formula for a guy that just started an upswing in his career. A balanced run game is still necessary to a team like this, and they didn't do themselves any favors. Veteran Carlows Barry averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and looks to be entering the latter stage of his career. The young speedster, Trevon Hurd IV didn't offer relief either with his 3.7 YPC. This is a team that desperately needs offensive line and an improved plan of attack. Their offensive line has an average rating of 76, with an age of 31, so expect that to drop significantly once we hit the offseason.