Carlstad Crusaders QB Danny Farley shines the spotlight on others as team’s offensive coordinator

Coaches and players don’t always see the game the same way. Players trust their own abilities and have a natural inclination to swing for the fences, betting on their talent. Even the quarterback, often considered a coach on the field, will want to throw the deep shot or go for it on fourth down more than might be prudent. A coach must see the big picture, staying level headed and weighing all the options. Sometimes this can be a source of conflict, but there have been no sideline blow ups between pivot and play-caller for the Carlstad Crusaders this year. The quarterback and offensive coordinator have been completely in sync, seemingly of one mind.

That is, of course, because they are.

When import Danny Farley signed with the Crusaders in advance of Sweden’s pandemic shortened 2020 season, he was given two jobs: starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. It was a role he had briefly assumed in the interim during a mid-season coaching change for Germany’s Solingen Paladins in 2019, but in Sweden, Farley has been given the keys to the car and is now ready to lead his offense into a championship matchup with the Stockholm Mean Machines.

“It’s been a blast. I’m very blessed and fortunate to be where I’m at with this team right now,” he says. “I’m with a younger team that still has some veteran leadership but a great young wide receiver corps. It’s been a lot of fun being the offensive coordinator, working with [head coach BD Kennedy] on the offense all the time.”

Before taking the role himself with Carlstad, Farley hadn’t always had the best luck with coaches. Injured his senior year of high school, the quarterback had apprehensive coaches pull scholarships out from underneath him, leaving the youngster scrambling for options. A stint in junior college took him to Rhode Island where he was hurt again but the staff that recruited him was fired and lazy paperwork denied him a medical redshirt, costing him a year of eligibility. Farley thought he was in the long-term plans when he transferred to Delaware Valley, but a late season switch to a triple option offence left him on the outside looking in and he was forced to finish his college career at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Photo: Riku Exposures

It wasn’t until Farley made his way to Europe in 2017 that he was able to become the passer he always knew he could be. He’s found success in Germany with the Saarland Hurricanes and Solingen Paladins, Finland with the Porvoo Butchers and now in Sweden. He’s fallen in love with the European game and now calls Germany his full time home, he’s even fluent in the language. While he was originally scheduled to suit up for the Cologne Crocodiles before the pandemic hit and canceled the GFL season, heading to Sweden for a championship run has been more than just a consolation prize. The Crusaders have provided a top notch environment for him to grow as a player and coach and a dedication to organizational excellence that rivals any on the continent.

“Practice schedule wise, this is one of the most professional environments I’ve seen in Europe,” Farley raves. “We practice three times a week, sometimes four depending upon the game we have.”

As a quarterback in his prime in charge of his own offense, you’d be forgiven for expecting Farley to put the ball in his hands often and air it out. After all, he spent much of his college career without a chance to fully demonstrate his abilities. Nothing could be further from the truth however. In pursuit of the best possible offensive scheme for his team, Farley put the emphasis elsewhere and eschewed big numbers personally in favor of notches in the win column.

“I’m definitely not a stats guy, that’s for sure,” he says with a chuckle. “The last few weeks, we’ve gotten more into the running game using two back sets. To start the season we were more reliant on the spread game with four wide receivers and some zone read stuff but we’ve gone into more of a pound it mentality because of the offensive line and running backs that we have.”

Photo: Tommy Börzsei

That late season strategy is predicated on strength in the trenches and Farley credits his offence’s success to a hulking offensive line that is the finest in Sweden. The Crusaders big men have only surrendered four sacks all year, nine fewer than the next best team, and have opened big holes in the running game.

“I’ve played in a lot of places in Europe and I was in a lot of different situations in college. This is by far the most blessed I’ve been in terms of being on an offence with veteran leadership up front and knowing that we have guys up there that can move bodies,” Farley gushes about the group. “It allows us to be varied offensively. We can go with a zone attack, we can block iso, we can even pull our guards and tackles if we need to or we can get into play action and bootleg stuff. I’m very blessed to have those guys in front of me.”

There is, of course, another reason for the shift to a power ground attack, tested through trial and error.

“We tried different things. We tried no huddle, we tried the spread system, we tried two back sets and we noticed that the more we could run the ball and control the clock the better it was for us,” Farley explains. “We’ve got the best defense in the league and now they’re coming off the bench fresh and relaxed after having a chance to watch for a bit.”

That defense is what has grabbed headlines for Carlstad all seasons and for good reason. They held opponents to an average of 8.3 points a game and are the reason the Crusaders are favored by pundits heading in to Saturday’s title bout. Farley insists the praise is not misplaced.

“In practices, we’re playing against those guys three or four days a week. I know how tough it is moving the ball against them, everybody on our offence does,” he grins. “They are some of the best I’ve seen in Europe and I played against Schwabisch Hall, I’ve played against top defences in the GFL. Those linebackers we have, the secondary, the defensive line, we have a lot of talent and veteran leadership over there. I trust those guys and I’ve been very fortunate knowing that as long as we are taking care of the ball and controlling the clock then we are going to be in good position to win games late.”

Farley led the Solingen Paladins in Germany’s GFL2 in 2019 Photo: Solingen Paladins

After a slow build this season, taking home a Swedish championship against the top-seeded Mean Machines and their potent aerial attack will be no easy feat for Farley and his Crusaders, but the quarterback believes the strengths of his team are tailor-made for this exact situation.

“You look at a lot of championship teams all over the world, they’ve got great defenses and can run the ball. You find a lot of those types of teams getting into the playoffs and making runs because that is the perfect recipe,” he says. “When you have a great defense that can keep opponents out of the endzone and a rushing attack that can grind the clock, keep the ball in your hands and set up play action, it makes it very difficult for other team’s offensively.”

That’s a credit to Farley and the rest of the coaching staff, who have built schemes and systems perfect for their teams strength. In his first season in control of an offence, Farley has adapted and changed as required, never afraid to shine the spotlight on other parts of his team. A game away from his first championship victory, he doesn’t hide how meaningful it would be to win as both a player and a coach.

“It’s everything. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve gotten to a few championship games and fallen short,” Farley says, with a slight catch in his voice. “This is huge and it would mean more to me than anything I’ve accomplished in my athletic career.”

If you’re outside Sweden, watch the Swedish Championship Game live here. Carlstad Crusaders v. Stockholm Mean Machines, Saturday, October 24, 15:00 (3pm) CET, 09:00 ET

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.