There’s a big decision to be made for the Legends before they square off with Memphis this weekend. Starting quarterback Matt Simms has been the go to guy through the first four games this season, but that may change after Aaron Murray’s strong relief appearance last Sunday when the Legends won their first game of the season.
Let me back track here for a minute and fill everyone in, who may not be familiar with the AAF or even Aaron Murray and his significance, or the reasoning behind his popularity in the peach state. Aaron Murray was a four year player, and a three year starting quarterback at the University of Georgia. Murray and UGA football had great success over the years with a total record of 36-18 and finished as two time SEC East Champions. Individually in his career he threw for 13,166 yards, 121 touchdowns, and an overall QBR of 158.6. Many Georgia fans have titled him as “the last great Georgia quarterback” with their recent struggles at the quarterback position before Freshman phenom Jake Fromm walked into Athens two years ago. Needless to say, Aaron Murray was a fan favorite.
The AAF had a very unique way of assigning players to teams for its inaugural season. The Alliance implemented a three phase procedure for player allocation. Phase One is College Selection, players will be allocated to teams based on where they competed in college. If a players college is outside of the Alliance’s footprint then that player moves on to Phase Two. Phase Two is a Professional Selection, where players are allocated to Alliance teams based on where their most recent CFL or NFL team. And if that doesn’t assign you to a team then you move on to Phase Three. Phase Three is an Open Selection. If a players college is outside of the Alliance footprint, and he did not play in the CFL or NFL, then he is not allocated and available to be offered a contract by any team in the Alliance.
The AAF then hosted a Quarter Back draft. Players were allocated to teams as mentioned above, and the first round of the draft was a “pick or protect” method, where if a team elected to protect a player, they selected their player before the teams electing to not protect a player from their region
With the second overall pick in the AAF’s QB Draft, Atlanta elected to protect Aaron Murray. They went on to select Matt Simms from the University of Tennessee in the second round, Peter Pujals from Holy Cross in the third round, and Justin Holman from UCF in the final round. The Legends protected the hometown kid, and the marketing team took full advantage of the situation. From local news stories and interviews, to team jersey photoshoots, and even a photoshoot with Atlanta legend and then OC Mike Vick, which is another topic I won’t get into in this write up.
It was led to believe Aaron Murray would be QB1 after training camp and take that first snap in Legends history, except we were all wrong. Three days before the game the Legends starting lineup was released, and I think its safe to say to 99% of everyone outside of the organization expected Aaron Murray to be listed as the starter. Matt Simms was listed as starting quarterback. Personally, I liked the idea. It really solidified to me that the AAF wouldn’t be the next XFL. It was truly a league built for guys who may have fallen out of professional football, or who never got a chance to make a name for themselves and get a shot at playing professional football.
I was all for Matt Simms, even after the week one beatdown, the close loss in San Diego, and the 300+ passing yard performance loss to Birmingham. I still believe this team can win games with Matt under center, but when the home town fans are lead on the way they were and the team falls to 0-3, you start to question if and when a change is coming. I was at the home opener two weekends ago, and the fans in attendance made it very obvious with the “We Want Murray” chants whether Matt performed well or not. It wasn’t a good look for the fanbase at all in my opinion. However I see where the frustration comes from when your starting quarterback has a sub 60% completion percentage and more interceptions than games played.
At the point where I’m typing this, the Legends still have yet to announce a starting quarterback for this Sundays game, and Matt Simms was listed as a “Did Not Participate” in practice after injuring his hand in last Sundays game. The marketing team has gone as far as advertising a picture of Aaron Murray with the words “We Back” and a special $11 ticket promotion.
In an unfortunate fashion, Matt’s injury giving way to Aaron’s opportunity was one of the best things that could have happened for Aaron to prove his worth. Aaron had a phenomenal game going 20 for 33 with 254 yards, and leading the team in rushing yards with 54 yards on 7 carries. Head Coach Kevin Coyle said after the game “He did alot of good things, we felt we had four guys that are capable quarterbacks. Certainly, Aaron proved that” Coach Coyle also said “I am not going to make a decision without watching the film and seeing the whole game. Aaron did some good things tonight and Matt did some good work earlier in the season”.
I would expect to see Aaron get the start this weekend given the fact that Matt has not been participating fully in practice, however this team has showed time and time again, you never know what to expect. Whether Aaron keeps that starting job is up to him and his performance with this opportunity he has been given
The Atlanta Legends host the Memphis Express this Sunday March 10th at 4pm ET for the first of three home games in a row at Georgia State Stadium. If you can, take advantage of the $11 ticket promotion and catch all of the action live with us. And if not this weekends game can be seen live on CBS Sports Network!
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Image via USA Today Sports