The San Diego Legion were once a franchise in consistent contention. Now, even the simple of consistency seems foreign.
After making the playoffs the first two years of their existence, including a Final appearance in Year Two, the franchise seems a bit adrift. Baring the miraculous, they’ll miss the playoffs for the second straight year. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance, especially on attack. However, dropped games earlier in the year were too much to overcome once again.
What changes are on the horizon for 2023?
The roster is in an odd place. The Legion are a mid table team, but some big names on the roster could be moving on. Chris Robshaw’s original two-year deal ends after 2022. He’ll turn 36 in June. A return isn’t impossible, but his availability and performance since arriving has been less than the franchise hoped. Ma’a Nonu has captained the side at times this year, but the legendary All Black is 40 and lacks the speed he once had. Mainstay Joe Pietersen is 38 and seems to be on the verge of retirement every year. He remains an incredible goal kicker and second play-maker, but like the others, he’s more crafty than athletic. At 34, back rower Dan Pryor could also be nearing the end of his run. Its possible all four could be gone by the start of 2023.
Those decisions could be made by someone yet to be hired. Danny Lee hasn’t been a failure by any means. However, these owners have started churning through head coaches like no other team. After Rob Hoadley provided immense success in his first two years, a 5-0 run in the abbreviated 2020 season, and a Coach of the Year Award before being sacked between seasons. Since then, the team elevated a pair of assistants to co-HC to handle a messy 2021 campaign on and off the field, sacked them, and hired Lee. After six years managing Hawkes Bay in New Zealand’s NPC and four years in charge of the Honda Heat in Japan, Lee has the resume to deserve an extended chance in the job. This is a largely inherited roster. Will ownership allow him to develop the team, or will they look to hit the reset and seek immediate results once again?
Weighing heavily over all decision-making is the team’s new stadium. As they move to the brand new Snapdragon Stadium on the SDSU campus, they’ll want a strong performance on the field to justify leasing a 35,000 seat venue. One more year of big names in reduced roles could fill the seats, especially when paired with Eagles Will Hooley and Nate Augsburger manning the halfbacks.
Given recent history, it seems unlikely that San Diego will simply run it back in 2023. The answer might be a transition year: give the fans one more year of their favorites in reduced roles while developing the younger players before attempting to round out the roster transition with signings after the 2023 World Cup. If they can get 8,000 – 10,000 fans in Snapdragon every week, American talent will be thrilled to take their talents out west.