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Tampa Bay Vipers: Season Recap, Grades, What the Future Holds

Vipers Helmet (via Twitter @XFLVipers)

The season seemed to end at the worst possible time for Head Coach Marc Trestman and the Tampa Bay Vipers. Right as things seemed to get on track, the Coronavirus scare in the United States put a slamming halt on the season resurgence. The Vipers end their first season with a 1-4 record. This certainly isn’t what anybody expected, but with the way things ended, some positives do come from Tampa’s turnaround.

Now, Vipers fans are singing in the street celebrating their new NFL quarterback Tom Brady. While Brady won’t be gracing the field in Raymond James Stadium for the XFL’s team that plays there, he will certainly have an impact on how Tampa Bay will interact and treat their second team in the Vipers. That is up to the fans.

Before we get into the season, Brady could really help the Vipers drum up interest in football in the Tampa area. He could lead more fans to be drawn into football 12-months a year, similar to what Brady helped to do with hundreds of thousands of fans in Massachusetts and the New England area. Either way, next year should be very interesting for the XFL and the Vipers organization.

Season Wrap: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Tampa’s season can be summarized by “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” before the season hopes were high for Aaron Murray and the Vipers, then once things started, a combination of injuries and sloppy play lead the Vipers to an 0-3 start to the season.

Looking abysmal on offense, and never finding a stride with their trio of quarterbacks. Murray’s injury lead to a split share between Quinton Flowers and Taylor Cornelius under center. The handling of playtime lead to Flowers’ abandoning of the team, which gave the reigns completely to Cornelius. Only then, around the middle of week three did the team start to iron things out.

It was also a huge boost to the team when they activated defensive end Obum Gwacham and offensive guard Andrew Tiller off of injured reserve. Gwacham helped regulate the Vipers pass rush, and Tiller helped solidify the power run game, which helped the team to their first win in shutout fashion against the DC Defenders.

If the Vipers were to continue their season, there would have been a chance that they at least played themselves into a respectable place in the standings. While New York was also trending in the right direction, Tampa had games against the Landry Jones-less Dallas Renegades and the DC Defenders who were amidst a change in starting quarterback again before their season came to an end.

Respectfully, the Vipers could have finished the season with a 4-6 record. Assuming wins against Dallas, DC and New York to finish their season. While that wasn’t going to get them into the playoffs, a lot of the signs would have been positive seeing the team win three of their last four games of the season.

That’s all based on speculation. Who knows what would have happened with injuries and so forth. But Vipers fans have a lot to be positive about heading into XFL 2021.

Season Grades:

Not every single coach and player will receive a grade for the 2020 season. Some players we didn’t see enough of, others we feel as if the jury is still out on their performance.

Coach Marc Trestman: C-

C is average. Trestman was clearly below average. It wasn’t the handling of Flower situation, or holding on to play calling duties for a game too long that did him in. Just in general, it seemed as if Trestman carried a bland taste with whatever he did all season long.

QB Aaron Murray: D

Face it, Murray is going to be in a Fox booth calling games next year if the XFL returns for its second season. He’s done. He was bad in game one, and never had another shot to see the field. His one season highlight came from his sideline interview on ESPN where he showed his skill at being an analyst. The former SEC standout has an incredible wealth of knowledge, and has the personality to coach the quarterback position. Just in a way of “do as I say, not as I do…”

QB Taylor Cornelius: B+

All in all, Cornelius impressed in 2020. It was a short sample size, but his expectations were nothing coming into the season. He is a far from perfect quarterback and his play was not deserving of a B+ but given what was expected, he exceeded all of his expectations. With a bit of polish, he can be the front-runner for starting QB in 2021.

QB/RB Quinton Flowers: C

Expectations were must higher for Flowers heading into the season. Personally, in season previews, I tabbed Flowers as someone who could throw for, run for and catch touchdowns this season. Flowers finished the year with 106 passing yards and one interception, with 78 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Far from expectations, but if he hadn’t stirred up some drama with play time and handled it like an adult, we could be looking at things different. It’s a safe bet Flowers will be with another XFL team, if he’s in the league at all.

RB De’Veon Smith and RB Jacques Patrick: A+

The first, and only A+ that will be handed out today. Smith and Patrick were a two-headed monster in the backfield. Both running backs were in the top-3 in rushing in the XFL. Smith had 365 yards while Patrick had 254 yards and 2 TDs. Both backs put up performances that should get them looks from NFL teams hoping to add a power back. Patrick more so than Smith, but that is only because of age. Patrick just turned 23 on January 7, but Smith is 25. We’ll certainly keep tabs on these two big backs.

WR Dan Williams: B+

Williams didn’t have a lot of expectations coming into the season. He was a surprise starter named by Trestman before week one, and he showed up all season long. Williams certainly seems like a player who could be back for a year two with the Vipers in 2021.

TE Nick Truesdell: C-

Truesdell had the biggest expectations of any receiver in the Vipers offense heading into the season. Truesdell was banged up and had some issues with ball control when he was on the field. Many thought Truesdell would play for a year and get an honest shot at the NFL, but now at 30-years-old, the tight end may be looking at another year in the XFL.

WR S.J. Green: F

One drop for Green in 2020. No catches. Probably the biggest letdown for the Vipers offense this season. When Green signed with the XFL, talking heads dreamed up his impact being big for whichever team lands his services, but his 2020 was forgettable. He could possibly head back to the Canadian Football League while the XFL is in it’s extended offseason.

CB Tarvarus McFadden: A

McFadden had the type of season Vipers fans were expecting out of Jalen Collins. Collins won’t be included on this list since he didn’t finish the year with the team, but rest assured he would receive a double-F minus. McFadden had two interceptions on the season, one went to the house for a pick-six. He was far and away the team’s defensive leader in the secondary.

S Robert Priester: B+

Priester was the bright spot of the Vipers secondary alongside McFadden. An interception and a sack on the season, compliments the fact that he was a season long contributor.

Many of the other players on the team will finish the year with an incomplete grade. Five games isn’t a long time to grade a full body of work.

What the Future Holds:

We’re unsure how much movement there will be in the XFL between year one and year two. In my eyes, I’d expect between 50-60% of the roster to change from year one. A lot of fresh faces in a league where that’s what it is all about. Many players showed that they have enough to move on, some for good reasons, some for bad. I think the Vipers retain 1 QB (Cornelius), 1 RB (Smith), 3 WR and 2 OL on offense.

I believe Andrew Tiller, Martez Ivey, and Jordan McCray are good enough to land NFL contracts. On defense, there is some youth at DT that could use another year and some of the secondary members haven’t shown enough to move on, or retain their job. The coaching staff could also see some changes in year two.

Most of the XFL staffs were full of veteran coaches, and it showed early with some out of touch mentalities. But the youth prevailed and we saw the births of some coaching stars that could very well be moving on to bigger jobs.

Stay tuned to XFL News Hub for the latest Tampa Bay Vipers offseason news.

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