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Shock notes

Back with a Shock notebook, compiled from Monday's visit to team headquarters in the Valley.

Read on for more on how Spokane split up the pool of money for coaches, Kyle Rowley's Elway-esque run and updates on the health of Raul Vijil and Ben McCombs.

By Jim Meehan

jimm@spokesman.com, (208) 765-7131

Nobody on the Spokane Shock coaching staff is getting wealthy.

Rob Keefe is believed to be the Arena Football League’s lowest paid head coach, probably by a sizable amount. There’s a good reason. He wanted it that way.

The AFL allows teams to spend $100,000 on coaches’ salaries. It’s up to each team to decide how to distribute the money among its coaches. Most teams pay three coaches, some pay two. Some utilize unpaid volunteers. Spokane is thought to be the only team with four paid coaches: Keefe, offensive coordinator Matt Sauk, defensive coordinator Alex Sirianni and line coach Travis Crusenberry.

“If I have X amount of money and I’m on Team A and we get ousted in the first round of the playoffs, is that worth it?” Keefe said. “It’s not worth it to me. My coaches have bought into it, just like the players have bought into making $1,800 a week in the old AFL to $400 now. It’s a sacrifice, an internship.”

Was the notion of paying four coaches suggested to Keefe?

“No, not at all,” said Keefe, who will lead Spokane (14-3) against visiting Milwaukee (12-5) in the National Conference championship Thursday. “I was gone for three hours (Monday morning) dealing with sponsorships for next season. As that was going on, the players were here, watching film and stretching and there are coaches here.”

“I think what you’re seeing is the teaching of small classes. Sirianni has six in his room, ‘Cruse’ seven in his room, Sauk 11 in his, five in mine. If I only have two coaches, there’s not as much teaching time and maybe instead of six or seven, there’s 13 in a room. Guys are learning the game quicker.”

Keefe’s willingness to accept lower pay rankled some AFL head coaches.

“If this is the model you’re giving me, this is the best way I can see us winning,” he said. “What they see is, ‘Look at these idiots taking less money, threatening me and I have my owner in my ear saying, Why don’t you hire another guy.’ And when you beat them, it gives validation to what we’re doing.”

Keefe’s ultimate goal is to coach in the NFL, but he thinks that opportunity, if it happens, is several years down the road. His name could surface in Philadelphia, where he was a player on the Soul’s 2008 championship team. Philly is rejoining the AFL in 2011 and is looking for a head coach.

“I think they know how much I’m about Spokane,” Keefe said. “I don’t think they’ll even go after some of our players.”

Keefe has a two-year contract with Spokane. That doesn’t prevent him from looking at other options, but he likes the Shock organization and proving others wrong.

“I think people think it’s a fluke (that Spokane has the AFL’s best record),” he said. “I kind of feel that around the league. It’s more, ‘Spokane didn’t beat Chicago, Chicago lost versus Spokane.’ ”

McCombs, Vijil out

Defensive end Ben McCombs and wide receiver Raul Vijil aren’t expected to play Thursday and it’s doubtful they’d be available next week if Spokane advances to the ArenaBowl.

“All it really is is we’re running out of time,” Keefe said.

Vijil has indicated he wants to return next season. “So let’s be smart,” Keefe said. “You’re a part of this more than anyone else. I mean, he could have been offensive player of the year if he was healthy.”

Channeling Elway

Clinging to a 30-27 lead early in the third quarter against Arizona last Friday, Shock quarterback Kyle Rowley went airborne on a 10-yard scramble that resembled John Elway’s memorable helicopter spin in the Super Bowl. Rowley said he wanted to make as much yardage as possible because it gets tougher to score inside the opponents’ 10.

“I knew I didn’t have the vertical to get in (the end zone), but they probably helped me get closer than I would have,” said Rowley, who spun nearly 360 degrees after taking a hit from the side and landing at the 1-yard line. “When you get a first down, one of the worst places you want to be is around the 8-yard line because then you may have to check it down and it gives them a chance for a stop.”

Huey Whittaker scored two plays later.

Notes

Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner, who once played for Iowa in the AFL, will be part of NFL Network’s broadcast team Thursday. … Center Antonio Narcisse, who was on injured reserve since May 25, looked great in his return Friday, Keefe said. Narcisse had a key block on Ed Ta’amu’s 6-yard touchdown on a screen pass. … Ta’amu’s TD catch was selected as the AFL highlight of the week. Spokane’s Travis Williams, who had an interception and a tackle that stopped Trandon Harvey at the 2 on fourth-and-goal, was named defensive player of the week.

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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