LAS VEGAS (August 20, 2016) – The Detroit Drive went to six consecutive ArenaBowls from 1988 through 1993, capturing four titles in that span. The Tampa Bay Storm won ArenaBowls V, VII, IX and X, winning all four. By and large, these two spans of dominance had historically been known as the greatest dynasties in the history of the Arena Football League.
That is to say, until the 2011 Arizona Rattlers started to really get things rolling.
Since that point, the Rattlers are 86-20 in the regular season and 14-2 in the playoffs. They are 59-6 in that run at home. They have three ArenaBowl titles in the last five years and came up one play short of beating Jacksonville in ArenaBowl XXIV. That doesn’t even include the fact that last year in Stockton, Arizona came up literally inches shy of beating a San Jose team which finished with the most wins and best winning percentage in the history of the AFL. It is anyone’s guess what would have happened had the Rattlers met Jacksonville in the ArenaBowl instead of the SaberCats, but it’s safe to say that Arizona would have been favored to win the game.
The average final score in Arizona games since 2011? Arizona 63 – Opponents 48
Five straight Western Division titles and the regular season National Conference championship this year to follow that up. Six straight seasons scoring at least 1,000 points. Six straight conference title game appearances. Four straight ArenaBowl appearances from 2011-2014 and now five in six years.
Yes, the Arizona Rattlers have done just about everything a team could be asked to do, and they’ve arguably accomplished more than any other franchise has in such a short period of time.
As we all get set to turn our attention to Glendale for ArenaBowl XXIX, it’s only appropriate to reflect back to the day the dynasty really got started, a day that happened to take place just 15 miles or so up the road in downtown Phoenix.
The Rattlers finished 16-2 in the 2011 regular season, yet what was, at the time, the best regular season in AFL history was spoiled when Aaron Garcia found Jeron Harvey right in the middle of the end zone on the final play of the game to win Jacksonville’s first Foster Trophy. It was a sour moment for the Rattlers for sure, but it was perhaps in that moment that we should have realized how special this team was to become.
At the time, Garcia was 40 years old and was an established future Hall of Famer nearing the end of his career. Nick Davila was just barely 26, and he stood toe-to-toe with a legend, throwing for eight TD passes in the biggest game of his career. He had just thrown 117 touchdowns in the regular season, completed 70.7 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 127.7.
Kevin Guy was only 38, and he had just won his very first Coach of the Year honor.
Sure, there were some older veterans on that team which came so close, but then when you look closer, you see that Tyre Glasper was 24, Marcus Pittman was 25, Kerry Reed and Virgil Gray were 27, Anttaj Hawthorne was 30 and Marquis Floyd was 31. These men had several good years of football in front of them still, and they were already at the top of the AFL. Maurice Purify wasn’t even in town yet, and Rod Windsor was on the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns that year after posting a dominant rookie campaign in 2010 which still sits atop all of the receiving records for newcomers.
Not all of those names are still around in Arizona, but many stayed for years to come and collected at least one championship. Several now have diamonds on three fingers. It is certainly clear how this team has stayed so good for so long.
Davila is already the all-time leader in passes completed, passing yards and passing touchdowns in ArenaBowl history, records which he is only going to build upon at ArenaBowl XXIX. He also is the youngest man ever to throw for 700 touchdowns or 30,000 yards in a career.
Windsor has already broken all of the Rattlers’ all-time receiving records and joined the rare 10,000 receiving yard club this season.
Purify had a record seven touchdown receptions in ArenaBowl XXV and is the first man to win ArenaBowl rings in four straight seasons.
Guy is already No. 4 all-time in postseason wins and is one of the six men to win at least 100 regular season games in the League. He is also on a short list of AFL coaching royalty to have at least three championships joining Darren Arbet (4) and the late great Tim Marcum (7).
Are the Arizona Rattlers the greatest dynasty there ever has been in the Arena Football League? Time will certainly tell. But one thing is for certain, win or lose on August 26: This franchise is far from finished building its legacy.
“At the end of the day, (if) we can be considered one of the best runs in arena football history or sports history, I’d be satisfied with that,” said Davila. “But right now, it’s about winning for me, and it’s contagious and I want to keep doing it.”