Jan 3rd 17:00, by Tim Hanswillemenke

Playing GM – How can the Centurions turn the franchise around?

The Cologne Centurions come into their fourth year of ELF competition and are still yet chasing a winning season! But what can they do to change that?

© Fredrik Löwer

Jan 3rd 17:00, by Tim Hanswillemenke

Playing GM – How can the Centurions turn the franchise around?

The Cologne Centurions come into their fourth year of ELF competition and are still yet chasing a winning season! But what can they do to change that?

The offseason officially started. And with that, all 17 teams in the European League of Football are in the middle of recruiting, signing, and strategically preparing for the upcoming season in 2024.

The Cologne Centurions are one of those 17 teams that are trying to get better over the offseason. But what has already changed and what should change to turn things around for the German franchise?

2023 – Another Season to Forget  

The 2023 season was, just like the season before, a tough pill to swallow for all Centurions fans. With a final record of 4-8, the German franchise was not able to pick up a single win in their conference. As a consequence, the Centurions parted ways with their head coach Christos Lambropoulos at the beginning of October. Shortly before, the team announced that long-time general manager David Drane has stepped down from his role.

Next to Lambropoulos, defensive coordinator Javan Lenhardt, offensive line coach Jason Tillery, and running backs coach Glynn Mansfeld will not be with the team for the 2024 season. All reasonable decisions, considering the outcome of the last three seasons. But what has changed since then?

Status Quo – New Head Coach, New Everything 

As a start, the Centurions already found their new head coach who is one of the most experienced coaches the team has ever hired. Former Division I offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon will take over for the German franchise in 2024. The 67-year-old brings instant experience after working in football for over 40 years. With him, Greg Strudawa, who coached for Ohio State and LSU, will take care of the offensive line.

In addition, the Centurions announced Jag Bal as their new defensive coordinator. Bal worked as the head coach for the Berlin Thunder back in 2021 and worked for the Tirol Raiders as their defensive coordinator back in 2022 as well.  They have also signed Dave Donaldson as their special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach.

So, the Centurions are almost done with a complete overhaul of their coaching staff and front office. From my perspective, all these changes were must-haves when you think about a franchise that has yet to produce a winning season since they joined the ELF in 2021.

Playing GM – What’s next for the Centurions?

But what are good coaches able to do without any players? The Centurions have announced Isaiah Week who played for the Rostock Griffins and the Hildesheim Invaders in the GFL2 and the Swarco Raiders in the AFL. The German franchise also announced former Houston Texans wide receiver Connor Wedington and Swedish offensive lineman Vitkor Neumann.

In my opinion, the Centurions did a great job with their American wide receiver. It will be interesting to see if their quarterback Isaiah Weed is able to properly use him. In recent years, the German franchise did not have a quarterback who is a difference maker. To be successful in the Western Conference against the Paris Musketeers and Rhein Fire in 2024, you need to not only have a game manager but someone who makes a difference.

Homegrowns – Recruit, Recruit, Recruit

The Centurions focus should lie on signing difference makers that count as homegrowns. This will be difficult to pull off because Rhein Fire and other German franchises compete for the top German players. But if you do not sign at least handful of difference makers on each side of the ball that can help your team on a weekly basis, you are bound for another losing season yet again. The Centurions should at least manage to keep their youngster like offensive lineman Ole Krebs or defensive end Janek Wenke on their team.

E-Imports – Spend Big on the Offensive Line

Next to fighting for a great quarterback and difference makers at homegrown positions, the Centurions have to focus on signing the right E-Import players. Last year, the team had a mediocre E-Import group of which I would only consider re-signing British defensive back Chad Walrond. The Centurions should at least use two E-Import spots on their offensive line if they are not able to attract a few homegrown veterans for 2024.

With Viktor Neuman, the German franchise made a step in the right direction to build your offense from the ground up. The Centurions offensive line had great potential last year, but needs to get older and more experienced, so players like Ole Krebs or Marc Florian Schorn have a better chance to develop. A player to look out for on the Centurions roster should be Finnish tight end, wide receiver, and kicker Daniel Luoma. With is Division I experience over the last four years, Luoma has a shot to be a real difference maker for the Centurions as a European import player.

Will the Centurions Improve in 2024?

Let’s face it, the Centurions already have tough competition when it comes to recruitment. The best homegrown talents around the league are already under contract for next season. But the Centurions had a talented but young roster in 2023. If they manage keep most of their core players for 2024, I could see them make a jump regardless of any additions. But the Western Conference will be tough once again with the Paris Musketeers and Rhein Fire probably being the best teams in their group.

Maybe the Centurions find a Madre London 2.0 for the upcoming season, and they reach the playoffs just like in 2021. But for now, the German franchise needs to come up with some more big names before it’s too late.

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