Tuesday, February 19, 2008
By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine
Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The Soul are back at work preparing for their fifth season in the City of Brotherly Love.
Off the field, Philadelphia has been an unqualified success by Arena Football League standards. The team has drawn an AFL-best 514,226 fans over the past four years and was recognized with the Commissioner’s Award as the Organization of the Year after last season.
But this is Philly, the city where championships dreams come to die, and on the field, the Soul have found themselves in the same position as the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers -- looking up at and envying a champion.
The Soul are coming off consecutive playoffs seasons but a second round loss to the Georgia Force last season did a couple of things according to team president Ron Jaworksi.
“It left us disappointed and motivated” Jaworksi said at the team’s annual media luncheon Tuesday.
“We regrouped and all met at (team owner) Jon Bon Jovi’s house in North Jersey to get on the same page. This is all about winning a championship. We are very, very close. I’m not in the guarantee business but we have one heck of a group of players.”
The high expectations for the team lay at the feet of third-year head coach Bret Munsey.
“I need to get Jaworksi and Bon Jovi off my butt and get that ring,” Munsey joked.
To do that, the Soul front office addressed Munsey’s two main concerns, they added a big-play wide receiver in Chris Jackson and acquired a solid backup to star quarterback Tony Graziani in Matt D’Orazio.
Jackson is a Bristol, Pennsylvania native who was a 2007 All-Arena selection with Georgia after making 145 receptions for 1,915 yards and 51 touchdowns.
And, the star receiver already has a rapport with Graziani. The two played together in Los Angeles from 2001 to 2004 and Graziani was Jackson’s QB when the former Washington State star was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2003.
“We see the same things on the field and set some records together,” Graziani said of Jackson. “We just seemed to hit the ground running (in camp) like we never missed a beat.”
His addition has Graziani and Munsey thinking championship.
“I’m not here to guarantee anything either expect we will have one of the better teams in the league and it will be a disappointment if we don‘t win a championship,” the quarterback said. “My career is winding down and I would love to do the Elway thing -- win a couple of championships and ride off into the sunset.”
“Just having a playmaker at that spot means so much,” Munsey added. “We went out and got who we thought was the best receiver in the league. I think Tony will now have the confidence on 3rd-and-10 or 4th-and-5 that Chris will be where he is supposed to be. I’m not sure we had that before.”
Meanwhile, D’Orazio was the signal-caller for Chicago in 2006 when the Rush won the Arena Bowl and provides excellent insurance for Graziani, who was banged up in each of the past two seasons.
“Tony went down and we had our tough times,” Munsey said. “He is one of the best in the league if not the best in the business but Matt was the quarterback on a championship team. He had some surgery but the doctors said he was completely healthy and we feel very good about bringing him in.”