Personnel changes are part of arena football nearly as much as high-motion receivers and dasherboards.
Spokane made changes at two of the indoor game’s most impactful positions this week, turning to Kyle Rowley at quarterback and probably Paul Stephens at middle defensive back after a 1-2 start, including the worst loss in franchise history last Friday.
New-look Spokane faces second-ranked Arizona (2-1) tonight in Phoenix.
“Those (two positions) are the quarterbacks on both sides of the ball,” coach Andy Olson said. “We’ve made the corrections, we’ve had a great week of practice and hopefully these changes pay off.”
Adam Froman, filling in at starting quarterback following Erik Meyer’s injury in the season opener, has been intercepted six times. Spokane has committed 12 turnovers, including eight interceptions, and ranks last in the AFL in turnover margin (minus-2.33 per game). Shock quarterbacks have been sacked nine times, tied for 15th in the 17-team league.
Rowley had a spotty 2011 season with Spokane, tossing 78 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He was picked off three times in a 22-point regular-season loss at Arizona and three more times in a playoff loss to the Rattlers. He was replaced by Steven Sheffield in the latter contest, won by Arizona 62-33. Rattlers coach Kevin Guy told the Arizona Republic earlier this week that his team put in a claim on Rowley.
“I’m comfortable with the offense, the terminology,” Rowley said. “I get rid of the ball differently at times than other quarterbacks. We’ve tried to focus on that a little bit in the red zone. I like to get the ball out of my hands and get it into the receivers’ hands and let them make plays.”
Travis Williams, a key member of Spokane’s ArenaBowl championship team in 2010, struggled in the first three games and was released on Tuesday.
“Travis has a CFL contract with Montreal,” Olson said. “We felt it got to the point where the effort wasn’t there and that’s why the change was made. We all know Travis can do it and I respect him very much, but I think his heart was elsewhere and his mind was elsewhere.”
Stephens, who was tossed out of the San Jose game last Friday for throwing a punch after a play, will probably start at middle DB. Josh Ferguson, who tore his ACL about 11 months ago, could play for the first time this season.
Arizona, which lost to Jacksonville in the AFL title game last season, is led by former Shock quarterback Nick Davila, the 2011 MVP. He’s tossed 22 touchdowns, just one interception and is No. 1 in passer rating (137.2). Former Spokane linebacker Kevin McCullough is on injured reserve.