Power Rankings: The 2017 German Football League

Although the German American football season has started, many of the teams will either open their seasons this weekend or next. We hereby present our rankings of the German Football League teams, ranked from bottom to top.

#16 – Cologne Crocodiles

Finally a first league American football team is back in Cologne. After the collapse of the Cologne Falcons after the 2014 season, the Cologne fans had to wait two years before the Crocodiles managed to bring the top American football back to Cologne. The club’s greatest success came in 2000, when it won the German Bowl for the first and, so far, only time. In 2016, the Crocodiles were 13-1 in the GFL2 winning a promotion game against the Dusseldorf Panther. Quarterback Michael Eubank and running back Kevin Parks aim to boost the Cologne hopefuls, who are a well-trained team looking forward to a injury-free season.

#15 – Hamburg Huskies

The off-season did not treat the Hamburg Huskies well. The Huskies lost many players, nine to the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes alone. Essentially the club’s entire receiving corps will play in Kiel in 2017 (Marvin Amankwah, Kwame Ofori, Diego Sanchez and Philip Schulz). The Huskies also lost German running back Jens Koppe and defensive lineman Goncalo Garcia to the Hildesheim Invaders. On a positive note, the Huskies brought in running back/receiver Josh Hartigan. Hartigan helped Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders capture their seventh Swedish championship title last year.

Still, the Huskies were not impressive in their GFL opener, losing to the Berlin Adler 30-8.

#14 – Ingolstadt Dukes

After an undefeated season (16-0) GFL2 season in 2016 the Ingolstadt Dukes join Germany’s top division with much ambition. The Dukes are young and full of homegrown talent. The club has signed on many sponsors which should enable the team to speed their ascension to the top of the GFL table. The Ingolstadt Dukes have signed quite a few athletes for 2017 including newcomers All-American wide receiver Sheldon Augustine, Andrew Berg (Harvard), and Richard ‘Sweetfeet’ Samuel (Trnava Bulldogs, Texas Southern).

#13 – Marburg Mercaneries

The Marburg Mercenaries finished 2-12 in 2016 and lost one of their stars, running back Silas Nacita, to their Hessian rivals the Samsumg Frankfurt Universe. However the team has also strengthened – especially with the signing of former Universe quarterback Emanuel Lewis. Still we don’t see the Mercaneries in a position to compete with GFL South powerhouses like the Unicorns and Universe. It will be a stretch for Marburg to clinch a playoff spot.

#12 – Berlin Adler

It’s been since 2013 that we saw the the six-time German champion Berlin Adler reach the GFL playoffs. However, we could see a return to the top half of the table for the Berlin Adler, who have spent the off-season building up their squad. With many departures, (five veterans retired, five more transferred to the Berlin Rebels or the Potsdam Royals) have come many additions (six newcomers from the Berlin Bears, Kobras, Thunderbirds and Bullets). In the end it could again be just enough for the club. On the import front, the Adler return running back Devon Francois (Alcorn State) and have brought in offensive lineman Sam Jaeger and linebacker Burton de Koning (Ottawa Redblacks, CFL).

The Adler opened their 2017 season on a positive note, topping the Hamburg Huskies 30-8.

#11 – Munich Cowboys

The Cowboys finished 2016 at 5-9 and missed the GFL playoffs. They were busy in the off-season signing new head coach Garren Holley who quickly signed European veteran Ryan Newell, who returns to the Cowboys after spending two years away with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Cineplexx Blue Devils (Austria). Also new to Munich is the Cowboys new signal caller Ben Wilkerson.

The Cowboys fell in their GFL opener 29-14 to the Saarland Hurricanes.

#10 – Hildesheim Invaders

For Hildesheim, the jump into the playoffs will probably still be too big. The team led by head coach and European football legend Joe Roman is nevertheless unpleasant to play and always has the potential to annoy clubs at the top of the table. The Invaders have not lost many players in the off-season and look to improve on a 5-9 2016 record. They return the leader of their offense, import quarterback Zach Cavanaugh and add defensive back Jacob Adelman.

#9 – Stuttgart Scorpions

The Stuttgart Scorpions want to go back to the GFL finals. Since their ascent to Germany’s top league in 1995 the Scorpions have only missed the playoffs in 2013 and 2016. Although there have been a lot of departures among the players including starting quarterback Shane Carden, a lot of new talented athletes were signed to fill the void. Among them is quarterback Connor Sullivan from the University of South California. Defensively, the Scorpions signed two Americans in defensive back Ronnie Hicks from the Grenoble Centaures and linebacker Christian Holmes from the Tamworth Phoenix. Besides those imports, a plethora of new German players from around the country have strengthened the Scorpions’ roster.

Stuttgart fell in their 2017 season opener 14-13 to the powerful Samsung Frankfurt Universe.

#8 – Allgau Comets

In 2016 the Allgäu Comets finished at 8-7 after a 30-6 first round playoff loss to eventual champion New Yorker Lions. The Comets have a well coached squad and finished fourth in the GFL South. Some key returners hope to guide the Comets back to a postseason berth. Linebacker Niall Padden returns after he led the league in tackles in 2016 with 145 and was fifth the year before recording 112, helping the Comets to become one of the top defensive teams in Germany two years in a row. Quarterback Cedric Townsend also returns after throwing for 2,608 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2016.

#7 – Saarland Hurricanes

The Saarlanders have been an established ‘middle of the table’ team for several years now. In 2015 and 2016 it was enough to reach the GFL playoffs. The Hurricanes finished the 2016 season with a 8-6 record and advanced to the German quarterfinals where they were eliminated by the Dresden Monarchs. Head coach Tom Smythe is benefiting the addition of eight former players of the newly demoted Rhine-Neckar Bandits. This season may be the best chance yet for the Hurricanes to make the leap into the top of the table. The biggest addition for the Hurricanes is former Green Bay Packers free safety Charles Clay.

Saarland opened their season with a 29-14 win over the Munich Cowboys.

#6 – Berlin Rebels

Head coach Kim Kuci returns to guide the Berlin Rebels in 2017 after helping the club to a 10-4-1 record last season. Kuci’s Rebels were the surprise team of 2016 and have been busy this off-season securing the return on some some top players and adding even more firepower. The GFL’s leading rusher, Lawrence McCoy, will return to Berlin. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Dutch running back Chris Smith, who has transferred from the New Yorker Lions. Quarterback James Harris completes the offense, and he will do more than just hand the ball off. On defense, American linebacker Daniel Holland returns to make the Rebels defense as dangerous as their offense.

The Berlin Rebels opening their 2017 season with a surprise Big6 loss to the Milano Seamen 14-13 in Milan, Italy.

#5 – Frankfurt Universe

Since being promoted to the top league and securing Samsung as a title sponsor in 2016, the Frankfurt Universe have made it clear that their goal is the German title. After blowing through the most of the competition in 2016 going 12-2 in the regular season, only an unfortunate playoff defeat against the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes prevented the Universe from converting that good season to an excellent season.

For 2017, the Universe lured 30 new players to the squad, most of them with high-class experience. Offensive linemen Nils Stockinger and Soufian Dohouch nad running back Steffen Haenelt were acquired from the Stuttgart Scorpions and five players from the demoted Rhein-Neckar Bandits, including quarterback Sonny Weishaupt, will all play in Frankfurt in 2017. The biggest winfall, however, was the acquisition of defensive back John Tidwell, who spent last pre-season with the NFL’s Denver Broncos before missing the 53-roster on the final cut. Tidwell will only further bolster the top defense in the GFL. Other keys players include new running back Silas Nacita, linebacker Dustin Illetschko, and wide receivers George Robinson and David Giron.

#4 – Kiel Baltic Hurricanes

Despite an early season out-of-league loss to the Amsterdam Crusaders, the Hurricanes GFL season was more successful than the previous year’s finishing 11-4-1. The team again finished third in the the GFL North, thus securing a playoff spot for the tenth year in a row. With a huge defensive effort the Canes won the first quarterfinal round against the Frankfurt Universe 10-3 and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2013. Here, they lost 38-21 to the eventual champion New Yorker Lions.

As in 2016 head coach Marcus Herford will guide the Baltic Hurricanes, who return much of their import talent including dangerous playmakers like Xavier Mitchell and Chris McClendon. Australia quarterback Jared Stegman will line up under center. Is this enough to overtake the Dresden Monarchs and New Yorker Lions in the GFL North? We’re not so sure.

#3 – Dresden Monarchs

In 2016, the Monarchs (10-2-2) were led by the GFL’s top passer quarterback Brandon Connette and had the strongest scoring offense in the league. The Monarchs lost their two games on the road in Kiel and Braunschweig and tied their home leg against Braunschweig.  They defeated an overmatched Saarland Hurricanes squad in the GFL quarterfinals before once more going on the road to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the semis. Like the two previous seasons, the GFL South champions proved too tough a nut to crack for the Monarchs and the 35-26 defeat ended the season that ultimately had very similar results to the two previous seasons.

Connette has departed Dresden for Finland’s Helsinki Roosters. His shoes will be filled by Garrett Safron who has spent time with the Milano Seamen and was in mini-camp with the Oakland Raiders in 2015. Also joining the Monarchs are a quartet of Australians surely enticed by the Monarchs Australian national team head coach John Leijten. Dresden may be able to maintain their spot at near the top of the GFL table if they can repeat the offense feats they pulled off last season.

#2 – Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns

The Unicorns are the six-time consecutive GFL South champions and 2016 German Bowl runners-up. The Unicorns last won the GFL title in 2012. Head coach Siegfried Gehrke departs after leading the Unicorns for 26 years and is replaced by Jordan Neumann who graduates from his role as an offensive coordinator.

Schwäbisch Hall’s roster boasts Germany national team running back Danny Washington and quarterback Marco Ehrenfried. 

#1 – Braunschweig New Yorker Lions

The defending champions have been nearly untouchable this decade, winning the last four consecutive German Bowls. In 2016, the Lions were 14-1-2, going 9-0 at home. The Lions have not rested on their laurels in the off-season and been busying reloading to defend their title. The biggest signing was quarterback Casey Therriault who has started the season for the Lions for the first time in many years. For the past two years he has joined the team mid-season.

Running back David McCants and wide reciever Tissi Robinson return and the Lions add defensive back/running back Nathaniel Morris and linebacker Jonathon Rollins. We think that head coach Troy Tomlin has his Lions are well positioned to repeat as German champions and the #1 American football team in Europe.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.