Top questions of the ELF off-season

Europe’s newest league has dominated the news cycle this off-season as expansion teams, marquee signings, and overall buzz builds towards its second season. Now with 12 teams up from eight, new faces, places, and stars are certain to emerge in a league looking to capitalize on the momentum of its debut season.

However, with the off-season, now more than three months old, several key questions around next season remain.

What’s happening in Düsseldorf?

The Rhein Fire’s reignition from the ashes of NFL Europe has excited football fans across the region. The city that played a host of the 2021 ELF championship game has been able to draw several key German players signings offensive lineman Sven Breidenbach, AFI-All Europe guard Nick Wiens, ELF-All Star fullback Patrick Peotsch and linebacker Martin Pinter.

Yet the head coach and quarterback positions have yet to be announced. Düsseldorf has only signed one American import so far in receiver Nathaniel Robitaille. For a franchise with as much potential as the Rhein Fire expect league commissioner Patrick Esume to use his vast connections to pluck a big-name quarterback and or coach for Düsseldorf.

Umm Coach?

The 2021 Hamburg Sea Devils have had a busy off-season signing three American imports, British running back Glen Toonga, and offensive coordinator Kirk Heidelberg. Last year, Hamburg head coach was former NFL coach Ted Daisher. Daisher lasted about two weeks into the season before he was let go, despite an undefeated record. Offensive coordinator Andreas Nommensen promptly took over as interim head coach helping the Sea Devils reach the title game.

Since the off-season, Nommensen has left the sidelines and joined the media, becoming a part of the German sports outlet Ran’s NFL coverage. Whoever the head coach in Hamburg is next year will also have the assistance of Kendrall Elison who returns as defensive coordinator.

With so many pieces already in place, it’s likely Hamburg has already found its coach for the 2022 season and is just waiting to make it official.

Barcelona is also without a head coach at the moment. Former CFL coach Adam Rita and the Dragons went their separate ways following the 2021 season. Twitter rumors swirled that former NFL coaches Wade Phillips and Jeff Fisher had inquired about the position, yet no announcement has been made. A summer coaching on Spain’s coast could be an intriguing pitch to sign an experienced coach looking to dip his toes into the international game.

Powerless Surge?

The Stuttgart Surge have yet to make much noise this offseason. While other teams have announced a litany of signings the Surge have been relatively quiet, announcing the additions of former Frankfurt defensive back Benji Barnes and offensive lineman Benhur Ayra. American tight end David Meza also has announced he is re-signing with Stuttgart. Head coach Martín Hanselmann is also back and will look to improve after a 2-8 season last year.

The Surge lost key imports as quarterback Aaron Ellis and linebacker Zachary Blair have signed elsewhere. Stuttgart fans should be checking their feeds looking for announcements soon given the off-season’s timeline. The Surge will certainly need some additional help to compete in a central conference that features the defending champion Frankfurt Galaxy and Austrian powerhouses the Tirol Raiders and Vienna Vikings.

Is expansion really over?

Commissioner Patrick Esume was teasing expansion before the league even played its first game back in June. Esume made clear the ELF had strong connections in large cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Istanbul, Munich, and London. While expansion materialized in Austria, Düsseldorf, and the Turkish Capital, other large metropolises were left without a team. When asked about expansion in the league’s opening press conference (8:00) Esume named London as an almost certain future expansion point, yet it seems no agreement has been reached.

The league announced its schedule in November, locking in 12-teams spanning five countries. The once-promising concept of a London franchise along with the NFL Europe nostalgia of Amsterdam and Paris were left out.

Don’t be surprised to see the ELF add another team or two this off-season as we’ve seen the dynamic league adjust on the fly before. If the league, investors, and teams on the ground can come to terms before kick-off, it could be a game-changer for a league trying to cement itself as pro football in Europe.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football