Statement from Commanders’ Mike Riley, Daryl Johnston, Vic Gregovits

From a Commanders news release

On behalf of all of us with the San Antonio Commanders organization, we were shocked and incredibly disappointed to learn of the Boards’ decision to suspend football operations.

Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian delivered a quality football product that fans nationally were watching on TV, online, and here in San Antonio on each and every game day.

While all startups encounter some challenges, we believed ours could be addressed in the offseason, after a successful completion to our first season.

We are grateful to our players, coaches, staff, corporate partners, and especially our fans that supported us from the moment our team was announced through the record-setting attendance — San Antonio proved to be the best fans in The Alliance time and time again.

We hope to be able to share information from The Alliance about ticket refunds in the future.

Thank you for your support and for believing in us.

Sincerely,

Mike Riley, Head Coach
Daryl Johnston, General Manager
Vic Gregovits, Team President

Commanders GM Daryl Johnston says team’s decision on Johnny Manziel was all about winning

Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston talks with linebacker Darnell Leslie at the end of practice Tuesday at the Alamodome. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston talks with linebacker Darnell Leslie at the end of practice Tuesday at the Alamodome. – photo by Joe Alexander
Three days after former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became available to AAF teams, Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston discussed why the team stuck with it’s current group of quarterbacks.

“It’s a winning decision, what gives us the best opportunity to win. This game is all about winning,” Johnson said at Tuesday’s practice at the Alamodome. “I think when we talked to everyone in the organization. We felt the decision that we made gave us the best opportunity to win. It’s not about putting people in the seats. It’s not about all these different things people have brought up.

“For us it’s about winning. That’s what this game is. That’s why these coaches are here. That’s why these players are here. Our job is to do everything that we can possibly do to put them in the best position to win the game. That’s the sole reason for all the decisions that we make.”

The Commanders are coming off their third straight road victory. They lead the AAF West with a 4-2 record and play their next game at the Alamodome on Saturday night against the Salt Lake Stallions.

Logan Woodside has started every game at quarterback for the Commanders this season. Last week he was the AAF offensive player of the week. Marquise Williams and Dustin Vaughan are the other two quarterbacks on the Commanders’ roster.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that they way system is set up, if we’re going to add someone to the roster we’re going to have to take somebody off,” Johnston said. “That was part of the combination of everything that we looked at.”

The Commanders had the AAF’s first rights rights to Manziel because he played at Texas A&M. Manziel signed with the league on Saturday. When the Commanders decided not to take him, the Memphis Express claimed Manziel on Saturday night. The Express had lost their starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger to an ankle injury on Saturday afternoon. Memphis has put Mettenberger on the injured list.

“Memphis is in a completely different situation than we are right now,” Johnston said. “I think it was adventageous for Johnny. I think he gets his best opportunity to have success. That’s the whole timing thing.

“Is it going to be good for him to come into a situation where you’re seven weeks into a 10-week season? You’ve got to learn the playbook. Learn the vocabulary. Establish a rapport with all the skill players. Can you get it done quickly enough to have success? I think Memphis gives him a really good opportunity and I don’t think we were going to provide that.”

Johnston was asked if the Commanders considered signing Manziel in order to have his rights for next season.

“We’ve got three healthy quarterbacks who have been great for us throughout this whole process,” Johnston said. “You talk to Matt Troxel (Commanders offensive coordinator), you talk to Mike Riley, both of them love the quarterback room. That’s what we’re trying to create here. That’s the big thing. Playing for 2020, how much to do we hurt our chances in 2019? That’s part of that balancing act that you have to do.”

Johnston was also asked if AAF officials tried to influence the Commanders in a way that would benefit attendance.

“There was never any pressure from the Alliance to do something we weren’t comfortable with doing,” Johnston said. “So I give them a lot of credit for that. They let each franchise make those decisions. In a situation like that probably the biggest one here so far through this entire journey they stayed true to the way they’ve set things up from day one. They did not force us at all to make a decision.”

Daryl Johnston, Kenneth Farrow II on Commander’s run game

San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston watches Thursday's practice at Central Catholic High School. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston watches Thursday’s practice at Central Catholic High School. – photo by Joe Alexander
The San Antonio Commanders have been able to control the clock at times this season with their running game.

In Sunday’s victory over the Birmingham Iron, Kenneth Farrow II had the dominant performance in the game by carrying the ball for a league-record 142 yards.

The game gave the team the sense that their combination of an offensive line that is coming together is meshing with the running back crew of Farrow, Trey Williams, David Cobb and Aaron Green.

“The good thing about it is we’ve got a room full of running backs who can kind of make that happen at any time,” Farrow said. “Like last week, Trey (Williams) went off for 75 yards on a few carries. It’s kind of whoever has got the hot hand. Hopefully we can get a game where we’re all feeling it and we’re all busting it.”

Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston emphasized multiple benefits of the strong running game. The most obvious is to move the ball and dominate time of possession. The other is to create space and opportunities to hit passes for big gains.

“That methodical approach in the run game, that now you start to pull up a defense and you can get over the top,” Johnston said. “That’s what we’ve got to add this week. When people watch the film and see that we’re very competitive against Birmingham in the run game, a defense that’s pretty stingy, now if we can start to get more players added down into that box, we can start to get some favorable matchups on the outside. That’s what I hope the run game does.

“If people start to see that balance that we have, we should be able to pre-snap, be able to determine, because we’re going to the play at the line of scrimmage with multiple options in a run-pass situation that we’ll be able to choose the one best for that situation.”

For Farrow, who was slowed by injuries at the beginning of his pro career, there were no complaints about the workload after having 30 carries against the Iron.

“We got the win. That’s all that matters,” Farrow said. “It was fun getting in a rhythm and seeing the O Line have a good game like they did. It was definitely a fun day.”

Kenneth Farrow II finally healthy –
Greg Luca’s story in the Express-News:

expressnews.com

Commanders vs. Iron: No room for mistakes

Kenneth Farrow II scored the Commanders' first touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run on Sunday against the Orlando Apollos. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow II has run for a touchdown the last two games in a row. – photo by Joe Alexander
Ask the San Antonio Commanders about the Birmingham Iron and a theme appears:

The Iron don’t make mistakes.

If you want to beat the Iron, you can’t make mistakes.

“I think they forced more punts than anybody in the league,” Commanders coach Mike Riley. “Then they’re just really, really solid. I think that’s their team. That’s why they’re undefeated.

“They’ve been in pretty close games. But they’ve won them because they haven’t beat themselves. I’m sorry to say we’ve beat ourselves. We’ve thrown two touchdown interceptions. Then we’ve had too many penalties. That’s kind of been the difference in the games.”

The Commanders (1-2) and Iron (3-0) play Sunday at 3 p.m. Central time. The game is televised on CBS Sports Network.

The Birmingham defense has made five interceptions, including two by Jamar Summers. The Iron defense allows a league-low 7.0 points per game. The Iron have given up only one rushing touchdown this season and no runs longer than 24 yards.

“Really good defense,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “They have a really good linebacker corps. In the secondary they move around a whole lot. It will be a big challenge for us. I know they’re coached really well. So it will be fun to go down there and play against them.”

Birmingham quarterback Luis Perez has had modest stats but avoided turnovers. In three games he has thrown 102 passes with only one interception and no touchdowns. Woodside has thrown two touchdown passes this season, but also five interceptions including two that were returned for touchdowns.

“We’ve got too many mistakes, too many critical mistakes,” Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said. “Some of these interceptions are game-changers. The two pick-sixes really changed the flow of that game each time. We gave up points in the red zone on another interceptions. Not only are they interceptions, but they’ve been costly.”

The Iron haven’t been putting up big rushing numbers either. Running back Trent Richardson, the most high profile player on the team, averages only 2.5 yards per carry. But Richardson has been tough to stop in short-yardage situations and has six rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 10 passes.

The Commanders have a stronger overall running game this season at 149.0 yards per game and 4.81 yards per carry. Kenneth Farrow II has run for two touchdowns. Trey Williams made his season debut last week and averaged 10.7 yards per carry.

But for the last two weeks, the Commanders have been hurt by turnovers and penalties and wound up with losses.

“I think we’ve had a good week,” Riley said. “I think the reaction to the last loss has actually been a good one by this group as far as their work. I think we’ve had three of our better practices of the year.

“That’s what a loss will do for you once in a while. I think enthusiasm for the work was maybe at a little higher level.”

A road victory Sunday would even the Commanders’ record to 2-2. A loss would give them a three-game losing streak with two more road games coming up before the team returns to the Alamodome.

“I think there is obviously a sense of urgency,” Riley said. “Nobody likes losing. I think the only way to dig is out of it is to really, really work at preparing and getting ready to play and the attitude is really the key to that preparation and preparation is the key to how you’re going to play. How you play is if you’re going to win. It dominoes.”

Commanders GM Daryl Johnston on Johnny Manziel, Jason Witten

Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston talks to the defensive front at practice Tuesday at Farris Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston, shown at practice during training camp in San Antonio, shared his thoughts on former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel and Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten.
San Antonio Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston talked to the media on Thursday following the team’s practice.

The two biggest topics where Jason Witten, who announced he is returning to play for the Dallas Cowboys, and Johnny Manziel, who might be available to play in the Alliance of American Football after his CFL contract was terminated yesterday.

First a little background on a few points.

– Daryl Johnston spent his NFL career as a fullback for the Dallas Cowboys and won three Super Bowls before retiring and starting a TV career.

– Johnston makes a few references to Tom Dundon. Dundon is the investor who pumped $250 million into the AAF.

– Charlie Ebersol is the league founder.

– Stefan Charles is a former NFL player who signed with the San Antonio Commanders last week.

Daryl Johnston on whether the Commanders are trying to sign Johnny Manziel:

“Nothing with us right now. I think there has been some (talks) with Charlie Ebersol and Tom Dunden. But nothing with us directly here in San Antonio at this point.

“I had a conversation with Tom Dundon. He was the one who informed me yesterday of what happened and that Johnny Manziel was now available. He just said he belongs to you in San Antonio, so what are your thoughts? I said let’s just sit back and see what the league thinks and then we’ll move ahead from there. We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now here locally in San Antonio. We’ll see what the Alliance talks about.

“But it is different. And I asked Tom, I said what is the difference here with some of the other high profile players that have asked to come down? He said the big thing is they’re demanding different salaries. The one thing that Tom wants to make sure is that everybody in the Alliance is paid the same that first year, second year salary will be the same. That was the one big thing.

“It sounds as though Johnny Manziel is comfortable coming down here and playing for the salaries that have been established with us in the Alliance.”

Daryl Johnston on Johnny Manziel and other players coming to the AAF:

“Obviously with his connection to Texas A&M, he comes to San Antonio before he goes anywhere else. The one big thing about this league, and we’ve seen this now with the success of the first couple weeks and the ratings that we’ve got there’s been a lot of discussion. So there’s a lot of guys who are now interested in the Alliance. Obviously as we move through the season we’re going to continue adding players we think can help us win.

“Stefan Charles is one of those guys. Stefan was out there for the entire time through this process but until he really started to hear about it and really see what the Alliance was all about, he was a little bit hesitent to join. So he’s a classic example of one of those guys that you can add late because they’re just starting to hear about it and get their interest.

“The other thing, the Alliance is at the (NFL) combine right now. They’ve got a presence up there. They’re already starting to take a look at some of the guys who are going to be at the bottom of this year’s draft, those sixth-round players, potentially free-agent guys, the type of guys who typically come to us in the Alliance. That’s great.

We’re always looking to add some people as the season goes along. We’re starting to get a presence in some of the other parts of the football calendar.”

Daryl Johnston on Jason Witten returning to the Cowboys:

“I’m happy for him, I really am. I missed him as a player last year. I know the Dallas fans are going to be ecstatic. The one thing you forget about and what he’s done statistically is amazing throughout his career, but that leadership. That was so important during his time with the Dallas Cowboys. No. 1 they’ve got their leader back on the offensive side of the ball and throughout the team.

“I thought he was in a good place with his decision last year. Not a lot of people make that choice and go back, so it will be interesting to see what happens next year.”

Logan Woodside, Daryl Johnston, Mike Riley on Commanders’ four-game road trip

Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside has completed 38-of-75 passes for 478 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in the first two games. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside has completed 38-of-75 passes for 478 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in the first two games. – photo by Joe Alexander
The San Antonio Commanders play their first road game of the season Sunday when they are in San Diego for a rematch with the Fleet.

That game is the first of four straight on the road for the Commanders. Here is what starting quarterback Logan Woodside, general manager Daryl Johnston and head coach Mike Riley had to say about the schedule:

From Logan Woodside:

“Something I’ve never gone through. I’m excited to go through it with this group of guys. I think they will handle it really well and it will be good for us.”

From Daryl Johnston:

“I’ve never done this before. I’ve never done a four-game road trip so this is going to be interesting. It’s not easy. We are all creatures of habit. We like our routine. We’re going have a different routine. The good part of that is we’re going to have the same routine for four weeks.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this team responds. I’m excited for it.

“If you come back and you have success on this month-long trip, we expect to come back to San Antonio in that first home game for our fans to be out there – just as they have the first two weeks, have been great with their support. If we can come back with a nice performance on this month-long road trip, we’re expecting the Alamodome to be pretty excited when we get back into town.”

From Mike Riley:

“We’ll reep the benefits of that with more home games later on and we got to open up at home right away. We’re just not going to worry about it. You know what it’s the product of. You’ve got the basketball tournament in town. That’s OK. We’ll be alright.”

Photos from Wednesday’s practice at Central Catholic High School:

Stefan Charles adds size to Commanders’ defense

Defensive tackle Stefan Charles was signed by the Commanders on Tuesday and was at his first practice with the team on Wednesday. - photo by Joe Alexander
Defensive tackle Stefan Charles was signed by the Commanders on Tuesday and was at his first practice with the team on Wednesday. – photo by Joe Alexander
New defensive lineman Stefan Charles got into his first practice with the San Antonio Commanders on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-4, 324-pound defensive tackle from Canada, who signed with the team the day before, was easy to spot in drills with Commanders defensive line coach Jeff McInerney.

“How about the size. Holy smokes,” said Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston, who got his first impression of Charles while doing NFL television broadcasts. “He’s a player that I actually remember doing Detroit games. I remember him on Detroit’s defensive line.”

Johnston and the Commanders staff watched film of Charles against the offensive lines from the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

“He’s working through that guard-center-guard area and he’s doing really well,” Johnston said. “This was something that we had talked to coach McInerney about coming into the season being a little bit light in the D line probably in size and numbers. We only had five guys.

“We just felt it was time now as we see what some of the teams are doing, the running game is becoming important in this league. We wanted to get a little bit bigger up front and I think we achieved that with Stefan.”

Daryl Johnston on why Logan Woodside became Commanders’ starting QB

San Antonio quarterbacks Logan Woodside (right) and Marquise Williams this week as the Commanders prepared for Sunday's game against the Orlando Apollos. - photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio quarterbacks Logan Woodside (right) and Marquise Williams this week as the Commanders prepared for Sunday’s game against the Orlando Apollos. – photo by Joe Alexander
The San Antonio Commanders scored their only touchdown of the season opener on a 3-yard run.

That scoring run, however, was set up by the Commanders’ longest offensive play of the game – a 46-yard pass from Logan Woodside to Alonzo Moore.

The long pass was an example of why Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said Woodside earned the starting quarterback position.

“When you have the opportunity to have explosive plays like we did to Alonzo Moore down to the goal line, that makes the offense’s job that much easier,” Johnston said. “So to have that faith, that trust to turn that ball loose and to know your wide receiver is going to go up and make a play or keep that defense from making a play, that’s a big step. We felt that’s where Logan had made strides toward the end of training camp.”

Johnston won three Super Bowl as a fullback with the Dallas Cowboys. His outlook on offense was influenced by former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the part long passes played in Turner’s approach. Commanders coach Mike Riley, while a big proponent of a strong running game, also includes long pass plays in his game plan.

“I love the way Mike constructs the vertical elements in this passing game,” Johnston said. “Logan is the one guy, and this is a phrase Norv always talked about, turn the ball loose. When you get one-on-one, we should win that. Logan is the one quarterback, and Marquise (Williams) is getting a little better at it, of trusting our guys in one-on-one situations – that they’re going to make a play and that nothing negative is going to happen.”

For the game, Woodside completed 18-of-36 passes for 255 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions and was sacked three times.

Woodside also completed a 37-yard pass to Greg Ward Jr. and a 22-yard pass to Mekale McKay.

“We consider one-on-one vs. our guys a win for us,” Johnston said. “Logan is the one guy who has really kind of bought into that. We’re starting to see Marquise do it a little bit more. And it’s the area we’re going to try to push Dustin (Vaughan) to, because I still really feel that Dustin throws the best football out here.

“When we’re in skelaton and we’re throwing on air, Dustin is outstanding. When we get into the team elements I’d like to see Dustin stretch the field a little bit more and be a more aggressive. We felt that was something Logan was doing that was going to benefit us.”

Commanders’ De’Vante Bausby makes key interception vs. Fleet: photo gallery

Commanders cornerback De'Vante Bausby returns a third-quarter interception in the season opener against the San Diego Fleet on Saturday at the Alamodome. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders cornerback De’Vante Bausby returns a third-quarter interception in the season opener against the San Diego Fleet on Saturday at the Alamodome. – photo by Joe Alexander
San Antonio Commanders defensive backs made three interceptions in Saturday’s 15-6 victory over the San Diego Fleet at the Alamodome.

Two of those came near the goal line or in the end zone to potentially keep the Fleet from scoring.

De’Vante Bausby’s interception was near the middle of the field. But two snaps after the cornerback from Pittsburg State produced his turnover, the Commanders scored the only touchdown of the game.

“Short fields are critical,” Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said. “It’s the one way you can come out on top and it’s the one way you can find yourself on the short end of a score afterword.

“To have your defense not only take away an opportunity for points to go on the board for your opponents, but to provide you with an oppornity for points on the board is a huge flip.”

Here is the scene:

The score is tied 6-6 late in the third quarterback. Fleet quarterback Mike Bercovici completes a first-down 17-yard pass to Brian Brown just across midfield to the Commanders’ 47-yard line.

The next play, Bercovici throws a pass intended for Gavin Escobar, the former Dallas Cowboy. Bausby steps in front, intercepts the pass and returns it 19 yards.

Commanders coach Mike Riley looks for a big offensive play when San Antonio takes over. Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside hits Alonzo Moore for a 46-yard gain on the final play of the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Commanders running back Kenneth Farrow II scores the only touchdown of the game from 3 yards out and the Commanders lead 12-6.

Commanders GM Daryl Johnston on the state of the team prior to season opener

Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston (left) and head coach Mike Riley walk off the field at the end of Wednesday's practice at Central Catholic High School. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston (left) and head coach Mike Riley walk off the field at the end of Wednesday’s practice at Central Catholic High School. – photo by Joe Alexander
Since the just-finished NFL season started last fall, Daryl Johnston has been a busy man off the field.

The former Dallas Cowboys fullback put together an initial roster for the San Antonio Commanders, gathered a group of quarterbacks in the protect-or-pick quarterback draft, built a 75-man training camp roster, and finally cut down the roster to 52 players for the regular season.

“A lot of your heavy lifting has already happened,” Johnston said. “Now it’s time to sit back and continue to tweak it if we have to tweak it. Keep your fingers crossed that nobody gets hurt. I’m exicted to see what these guys can accomplish.”

The regular season is now just a few days away. The Commanders open the Alliance of American Football season on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Alamodome against the San Diego Fleet.

“This is the real deal. This is going to be fun,” Johnston said. “I’m really excited for these guys.

“My biggest concern is can you manage the emotion. Do we have some silly penalties at the beginning of the game because we are a little bit too amped up? We’ll see how the guys do monitoring all those emotion.”

The Commanders have 19 players on their roster who list their hometowns in Texas. Aaron Green from Madison High School is the one San Antonian on the team. Wide receiver Josh Stewart from UTSA played his college home games in the Alamodome. Punter Joseph Zema played at Incarnate Word, where the Commanders held their mini-camp.

The combination of regional talent and young players all trying to make their mark has come together in a relatively short period of time.

“I’ve been impressed with the chemistry,” Johnston said. “And they did it on their own. Maybe the fact that we were in a smaller hotel and we kind of had to be around each other. But these guys have become good friends.”

You don’t say

My favorite conversation in Wednesday’s practice came after a dropped pass:

Player: “Did you see how I tried to catch it?”
Coach: “How did you try to catch it?”
Player: “Like a dumbass.”

Cool moment

Johnston stopped after practice to talk to Tony Green, father of Commanders running back Aaron Green. The elder Green also played high school football in San Antonio and later was a defensive back at Baylor. He spent a brief period of time with the Kansas City Chiefs. Tony Green was later on the coaching staff at Edison High School.

Wednesday’s injury report

SAN DIEGO FLEET
LB Travis Feeney (Elbow) LIMITED
CB Curtis Mikell (Ankle) DNP
WR Nelson Spruce (Calf) LIMITED
C Jeremiah Kolone (Ankle) LIMITED

SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS
RB Trey Williams (Foot) DNP
CB Jordan Thomas (Thigh) DNP
S Derron Smith (Foot) LIMITED