When Dallas postponed their inaugural season from 2021 to 2022, they assumed it would be a less daunting task than kicking off in the height of a pandemic. They might have been wrong.
To call Dallas’s 2022 season even moderately successful would require some suspension of reality. The Jackals take an 0-10 record into Round 12. There’s a real chance they’ll go winless across their remaining schedule:
- Old Glory DC (Away)
- San Diego Legion (Home)
- Seattle Seawolves (Away)
- Toronto Arrows (Away)
- LA Giltinis (Home)
- Utah Warriors (Home)
That’s two potentially winnable games on either side of a tough four game run. San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, and LA are all likely to be playing for something when they come across the Boys in Teal. DC sits just above Dallas at the bottom of the overall table. However, Old Glory looks rejuvenated under Nate Osborne who’s trying to earn the full time coaching position with the franchise. (I was looking forward to referring to this weekend’s clash as the Toilet Bowl. I probably still will.) Only the Round 18 match against the Utah
Tankers Warriors looks winnable.
That doesn’t mean this season should be dismissed out of hand.
This is a season that saw the team lose their coach just days before the season started. This is a season that’s been hampered with injuries, making the roster Elaine Vassie built look far weaker on the team sheet than on the depth chart. This is a season where a freak stadium accident left several players injured and Dallas scrambling for loans just to fulfill fixtures.
This is a season that’s been completely unpredictable.
That doesn’t mean the team should be immune to criticism. A coach not being able to secure a visa is a problem; waiting to address it until days before the first match is more questionable. The initial move left many, including us, to speculate that a deal with Scott Lawrence was already done. It wasn’t. Lawrence joined the Eagles while Elaine Vassie unofficially took over the head coaching role with only one ‘rugby’ assistant coach while also maintaining GM duties. After that, they failed to add the same Nate Osborne that sat unemployed until joining DC. As of a few weeks ago, Shawn Pittman, the 2021 Coach of the Year, is on the market as well. Instead, the franchise stuck with a system that’s looked strained.
Vassie also deserves some deference here. We don’t know what the severance payment was to Michael Hodge. Neither Osborne nor Pittman would, or should, work for free. There’s no reason to believe that this franchise is flush with cash. It might have simply been an issue of cash flow not allowing them to make an addition.
None of this means that Vassie must hire a new head coach this offseason. She has the resume to demand a chance to coach this team and run the front office at the same time if that’s a challenge she wants. Scott Lawrence had success in a similar set up in Atlanta. That doesn’t mean Vassie would be equally successful, but it’s not impossible. She deserves a chance to lead this time with the runway afforded to a usual coaching hire.
Structural changes are still needed. If Vassie leads both on and off the field, hires are needed. A proper staff needs to be built around her. This team needs a minimum of two more rugby specialist coaches that can fill the gaps with this team. In the front office, she needs a proper assistant GM to lighten that load. That will cost money that may not generate immediate returns. As an expansion team that can’t win with its current structure, that cost may be the difference between building a proper franchise and the seats going unfilled until they have to start over and throw more money at a new regime.