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Cleveland Gladiators
Cleveland Gladiators Logo
The current logo for the Cleveland Gladiators

Founded:

1997

Arena:

Quicken Loans Arena

Location:

Cleveland, Ohio

Team Colors:

Red, Black, White

Owner(s):

Dan Gilbert

Current Head Coach:

Steve Thonn

Division Titles:

3 (2002, 2011, 2014)

Championships:

0

The Cleveland Gladiators is a franchise primarily recognized by the Arena Football League. The team was founded in 1997 under the name New Jersey Red Dogs. Four years later, the team renamed themselves the New Jersey Gladiators. Two years later, the team relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada and renamed their team accordingly. Finally, in 2008, the team relocated once again to Cleveland, Ohio, where they would then go by their current Cleveland Gladiators title, and have remained there since then.

New Jersey Red Dogs (1997-2000)Edit

Newjerseyreddogs

The New Jersey Red Dogs logo.

The New Jersey Red Dogs entered the league for the first time under former AFL head coach John Hufnagel, and found success early on. The Dogs' debut match on the road against the former AFL team Anaheim Piranhas ended with a 33-32 victory. They would win their first home game against the Iowa Barnstormers 45-21 the week after. They suffered their first loss against former AFL team Florida Bobcats in week three. After their loss to the Bobcats, the Dogs won six straight games, including an overtime finish against the Albany Firebirds and one of the highest scoring games in AFL history in week eight, defeating the Texas Terror by a score of 91-62. The Dogs' hot streak ended in week ten with a 33-45 loss against the Orlando Predators. The Dogs finished the last four games of the season 1-3, and finished with an overall record of 9-5 for the 1997 regular season. The Dogs earned a wildcard spot, where they would face the Orlando Predators at home. They lost the game 37-45.

After a successful debut season, the New Jersey Red Dogs entered their second year in the league with a win against former AFL team New York CityHawks by a score of 53-34. A week two loss against the Albany Firebirds began an up-and-down trend that the Dogs faced throughout the 1998 season. From there, the Dogs went 1-2 the next three weeks. In week six, the Dogs started to surge as they defeated the Orlando Predators at home 60-49, and went 3-1 the next four weeks. They ended the last four games by losing two in a row, then winning two in a row, which put their overall record for the 1998 season at 8-6. In the same playoff position as they were the year prior, the Dogs faced the Albany Firebirds at home in the wildcard round, winning by a score of 66-59. The following week, the Dogs were blown out by the Tampa Bay Storm 23-49, missing the chance to play in ArenaBowl XII.

The New Jersey Red Dogs fired head coach John Hufnagel and let future AFL Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Garcia sign with the Iowa Barnstormers prior to the 1999 season. They eventually hired Frank Mattiace to lead the team going forward. His debut game as head coach would result in a road loss against the Arizona Rattlers. The Dogs won their next three games, including two games decided by two points or less. The Dogs would then lose their next three games by a combined thirty points. The Dogs continued their streaking ways by winning their next two games, including a win against the former AFL team New England Sea Wolves by a score of 44-43. They would finish the last five games of the season 1-4, their only win coming against the New England Sea Wolves once again by a single point. They finished the 1999 season with an overall record of 6-8. They would not reach the playoffs for the first time since their inception.

For the 2000 season, the New Jersey Red Dogs acquired former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox as a starter to replace former Red Dogs starting quarterback Rickey Foggie. With Tommy Maddox at the helm, the Red Dogs were poised to compete. The NFL experience would not result in wins, however, as the Red Dogs started 0-2 through their first two weeks. The Dogs first win came against the former AFL team Buffalo Destroyers 62-42 in week three. The Dogs would lose their next three games by a combined twenty-seven points. Their season picked up some when they won their next two games against the Grand Rapids Rampage and Oklahome Wranglers. However, they would go on to lose their next five games, and ended up firing head coach Frank Mattiace after a week ten loss against the Buffalo Destroyers. They promoted future ArenaBowl-winning head coach Kevin Guy to see over the team for the rest of the season. His only win as Red Dog head coach came in the final week of the season against the Florida Bobcats. The Red Dogs finished the 2000 season with an overall record of 4-10, a franchise worst at the time.

A New Image (2001-2002)Edit

New Jerseeeeeeeeee Glads

The New Jersey Gladiators logo.

Prior to the 2001 season, the formerly known New Jersey Red Dogs changed their names to the New Jersey Gladiators, complete with new uniforms and a new logo. They hired former ArenaBowl winning head coach Lary Kuharich to lead the team in a new direction after a disappointing 2000 season. Much to the dismay of the newly formed Gladiators, things didn't start well, as the Gladiators went 0-4 to start the 2001 season. They got their first win against the former AFL team Detroit Fury in week five. The team's first win would be their only win for a major chunk of the season, as the Gladiators lost their next six games, with five of the six games being decided by thirteen points or more. Their next win of the season came from an upset win over the Indiana Firebirds in overtime by a score of 62-61. The Gladiators would go on to lose the remaining games of the season, and finished the 2001 season with an overall record of 2-12, a franchise worst.

As many would suspect, the Gladiators fired head coach Lary Kuharich prior to the 2002 season. They replaced him with rookie head coach Frank Haege. The Gladiators lost their debut match against the Buffalo Destroyers, but went on to win four of their next five games, already eclipsing the total amount of wins they had all of the previous season. In week seven, the Gladiators put up a franchise worst (at the time) fourteen total points in a loss against the Chicago Rush. Despite the bad game, the Gladiators finished strong, going 5-2 to finish out the season, putting their overall record for the 2002 season at 9-5, while clinching a division title. Despite the turnaround season, the Gladiators lost their first playoff game against the Orlando Predators by a score of 46-49.

Relocation to Las Vegas (2003-2007)Edit

Laz Vegas Glads

The Las Vegas Gladiators logo.

The newly named Las Vegas Gladiators were trying to follow up a fairly successful season with head coach Frank Haege. Heading into his second year, the expectations were to win and win efficiently. This goal wasn't met to start, however, as the Gladiators opened the season 0-2. Their first win of the season came against the Tampa Bay Storm in week three, and the team went 2-2 the next four weeks. The Gladiators would go on to win their next three games, putting their record at 6-4. The Gladiators' next two games were on the road against the Grand Rapids Rampage and Orlando Predators, where they suffered blowout losses to both teams by twenty-five points or more. They finished the remaining season 2-2, putting their overall record for the 2003 season at 8-8, barely making a playoff spot. The Gladiators would finish the season the same way they finished the last season, with a loss in the first round of the playoffs, this time against the Arizona Rattlers.

Throughout their existence, the Gladiators have had a tendency to be influenced by streaks, whether hot or cold. This trend would continue into the 2004 season, as the Gladiators lost their first two games, then won their next two games after that. After suffering a week five loss against the Georgia Force, the Gladiators defeated the visiting Arizona Rattlers in overtime by a score of 65-64. The Gladiators would lose the next four games, three of them on the road. They would subsequently win the next four games after that, three of them at home. Still vying for a playoff spot, the Gladiators needed to defeat their division rival Los Angeles Avengers to get a step ahead. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, they lost the game 51-54. They would go on to win their final game of the season, but after losing to the Avengers, their playoff hopes were destroyed. The Gladiators finished the 2004 season with an overall record of 8-8.

Prior to the 2005 season, the Las Vegas Gladiators fired head coach Frank Haege and replaced him with current Pittsburgh Power head coach Ron James. They had hoped that with a new head coach and Clint Dolezel at the helm at quarterback, the Gladiators could achieve success early on. The Gladiators won their debut game for the first time since the 1998 season against the visiting Los Angeles Avengers. The Gladiators' up-and-down season started from there as they lost their second game, won their third game, lost their fourth game, won their fifth game, and lost their sixth game, putting their record at 3-3. The Gladiators won the next two games on the road against the Columbus Destroyers and Arizona Rattlers, putting up at least sixty-three points in each contest. They lost their next two games, including a week nine loss against the San Jose Sabercats, where a total of 156 points were scored in the game. The Gladiators would win their next two games, and then finish off the remaining schedule 1-3, putting their overall record for the 2005 season at 8-8, the same record the Gladiators have had for three straight years.

The Las Vegas Gladiators were trying to escape the clutches of mediocrity and inconsistency that had plagued them for the last three years. What didn't help the Gladiators was a quarterback controversy between rookie quarterback Jason Fife and journeyman Craig Whelihan. The Gladiators would open the season with a loss to the former AFL team Austin Wranglers. The Gladiators went on to defeat the visiting San Jose Sabercats by a score of 51-48, but then lost the next three games following their lone win. The Gladiators started to find rhythm as they went 4-1 the next five weeks, their only loss coming at the hand of the visiting Arizona Rattlers in week eight. Their winning ways would end abruptly, as the Gladiators were defeated in every single remaining game to close out the season, including one of the Gladiators' biggest losses in franchise history against the Arizona Rattlers in week sixteen, losing by a score of 28-75. After said loss, head coach Ron James was fired, and Mike Hold would lose his only game as the Gladiators' interim head coach. The Gladiators would finish the 2006 season with an overall record of 5-11.

The 2007 season would be a team in transition, as with the hiring of new head coach Danton Barto and the search for a franchise quarterback began. Those within the discussion were two rookie quarterbacks, Brian Jones and Shaun King, along with unproven veteran Nick Rolovich. This uncertainty would prove fatal for the Gladiators, as they lost their opening game against the Austin Wranglers by a score of 36-57. Their first win came in week two against the Grand Rapids Rampage, where they put up a season high 79 points. From there, the team would lose their next nine games by a combined score of 376-570. Their only other win of the season would come against the Utah Blaze, where they managed to squeeze out a 54-53 win on the road. The Gladiators would lose the rest of their scheduled games to close out the season, putting their overall record for the 2007 season at 2-14, a franchise worst.

Move to Cleveland (2008-Present)Edit

In 2008, the Las Vegas Gladiators moved their base of operations to Cleveland, hoping to capitalize on the already football-oriented market. Once there, they fired Danton Barto as head coach and brought in former Indiana Firebird head coach Mike Wilpolt. Despite the fresh start, the Gladiators history of streak-influenced performances continued for the team in 2008. The Gladiators won their first three games, marking the first time in franchise history that the Gladiators had won their first three games of the season. The Gladiators lost the next three games, including a blowout loss against the New Orleans VooDoo by a score of 24-63 in week four. Cleveland started to right the ship after three straight losses, going 4-1 the next five weeks, including a game against the Los Angeles Avengers where they put up a season high eighty-three points. The ship sprung some leaks for the rest of the season as the Gladiators went 2-3 to close out the season, putting their overall record for the 2008 season at 9-7, their first winning record since the Gladiators were based in New Jersey. Their winning ways were rewarded with a wildcard spot in the postseason. They won their first game against the Orlando Predators 69-66, their first playoff win since the 1998 season. They would go on to win their second game on the road against the Georgia Force, marking the first time the Gladiators have ever won more than one playoff game in a single season in franchise history. In the final game before the ArenaBowl, the Gladiators lost to the eventual ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia Soul by a score of 35-70. Mike Wilpolt also won Coach of the Year honors for his performance with the Gladiators.

In 2009, the Arena Football League decided to suspend operations for the year. No team would play for the entirety of the season and most (if not all) contracts between players and coaches, and their respective teams, were voided.

When the AFL resumed operations in 2010, the Gladiators had to rebuild their team from scratch. They hired former Houston Thunderbears and Grand Rapids Rampage head coach Steve Thonn to lead the team and signed established veteran quarterback John Dutton. The success wouldn't come early, as the Gladiators started 0-3 to start the season. They matched their losing column with three more wins to put their record at 3-3. After losing the next two games against the Jacksonville Sharks and Chicago Rush, the Gladiators would flip-flop for the rest of the season, going through a pattern of winning a game, then losing a game. Cleveland would finish the 2010 season with an overall record of 7-9.

In 2011, the Gladiators decided to start rookie quarterback Kurt Rocco over John Dutton for the season. The change looked to be a good one, as the Gladiators won their first three games of the season, only the second time in franchise history that they were able to achieve the feat. Cleveland suffered their first loss against the New Orleans VooDoo by a score of 33-34, and lost again to the Jacksonville Sharks the week after. The Gladiators would go 3-1 in the next four weeks, only to go 1-3 in the next four weeks after that. In week fourteen, the Gladiators achieved the biggest blowout win in franchise history against the San Jose Sabercats, winning 82-21. The Gladiators went 2-2 to finish off the season, putting their overall record for the 2011 season at 10-8, earning them a playoff spot. The Gladiators hosted the Georgia Force in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose 41-50.

Prior to the 2012 season, the Gladiators let go of starter Kurt Rocco (who eventually signed with New Orleans) in favor of veteran quarterback and former stater John Dutton. The Gladiators lost their debut game against the Georgia Force, but went 3-0 the next three weeks of the season. They would lose the next two games against the Tampa Bay Storm and Jacksonville Sharks. They followed up the two game losing streak with yet another three game winning streak, including a 53-34 romping of the visiting Tampa Bay Storm in week nine. Cleveland lost its next two games against the Philadelphia Soul and Iowa Barnstormers, but the next game would mark a first in AFL history. Cleveland issued the first AFL forfeit in league history after a players' strike left the Gladiators without a full team to play with. The game was marked as a 0-2 victory for the Pittsburgh Power. The Gladiators would go 2-4 to close out the season, putting their overall record for the 2012 season at 8-10.

The Cleveland Gladiators let go of veteran John Dutton after the 2012 season to try and work out two unproven quarterbacks into the starting role: second-year quarterback Chris Dieker and former Tampa Bay Storm starter Brian Zbydniewski. As was the case back in 2007, having a quarterback competition wouldn't help Cleveland much, as the opened up the season 0-3. Their first win came on the road against the Philadelphia Soul in overtime, winning by a score of 64-57. Cleveland would lose its next two games before getting their second win against the Chicago Rush, putting their overall record at 2-5. From there, the Gladiators went on to lose the next seven games, effectively putting them out of playoff contention. The Gladiators finished the rest of the season at 2-2, putting their overall record for the 2013 season at 4-14.

Steve Thonn was entering his fourth year as the Cleveland Gladiators' head coach, the longest tenured head coach in team history, and was trying to get something to happen in order to secure his job. The team kept quarterback Chris Dieker to lead the team, and started off well enough. They went 3-0 the first three games of the season, including a last second touchdown victory against the Iowa Barnstormers. Despite the hot start, Steve Thonn benched starter Chris Dieker for his poor play, passing for only seven touchdowns in three games. The team brought in former Pittsburgh Power backup quarterback Shane Austin to start for the rest of the season. They defeated the one of two 2014 debut teams Los Angeles Kiss in week four to start the season 4-0, a first in team history. The team won their next five games, with three of the five games coming down to the last possession of the game, to boost their record to 9-0 on the season. Their first loss came at the hands of a revamped Pittsburgh Power team in week ten, losing by a score of 34-48. The loss didn't phaze the team, however, as the Gladiators went on to defeat every single opponent for the rest of the regular season, including two last second victories over the reigning American Conference champion Philadelphia Soul. The Gladiators finished the 2014 season with an overall record of 17-1, not only a franchise record, but an AFL record for most wins in a single regular season by any team in league history. Their record would also reward Cleveland with the privilege of hosting ArenaBowl XXVII at their home stadium. For the third time of the season, the Gladiators faced their division rival Philadelphia Soul, where they defeated them for a third consecutive time in the last moments of the game 39-37, in the first round of the playoffs. In the American Conference game, they defeated the surging Orlando Predators 56-46, giving them the chance to face the two-time reigning ArenaBowl champion Arizona Rattlers at ArenaBowl XXVII. Their luck finally ran out in the ArenaBowl, getting blown out by the Arizona Rattlers 32-72 to close out the season. This would mark the first time the Cleveland Gladiators had ever made it to an ArenaBowl in franchise history, along with many other various broken franchise records along the way.

Current Roster (As of 10/13/14)Edit

QB
10 Shane Austin
12 Chris Dieker
WR
- Tom Gilson
16 Dominick Goodman
6 Thyron Lewis
- Royce Pollard
6 LaRoche Jackson
2 Collin Taylor
2 Christian Wise
17 Alvin Ray Jackson
80 Tyrone Collins +
OL
51 Shannon Breen
71 CJ Cobb
- Corey Howard
79 Kitt O'Brien
95 Jason Jones
71 Chad Schofield* +
69 Jason Thomas*
- Dashawn Johnson +
- Dominic Alford*
DL
95 Luke Black
11 Gary Butler
38 Rudy Cerami
94 Willie McGinnis
- Larry Ford*
58 Jacob Hardwick +
97 Julian Miller +

DE

- Jamie Clavell-Head
50 Louis Nzegwu
- Robert Rose +
LB
98 Alex Daniels* +
45 Anthony DeGrate
33 Brian Brikowski
DB
96 Randy Colling
22 Dominic Jones
3 Joe Phinisee
21 Rashad Barksdale*
- Brian Gamble*
- Brandon Stephens +
23 Tony Tatum +
26 Marrio Norman*
K
11 Aaron Pettrey


(Symbol Definitions: + = Injured List; * = Exempt/Suspended List)

Team StatisticsEdit

Overall Record (Regular Season): 123-144

Overall Record (Postseason): 5-7

Overall Record: 128-151

Best Single Regular Season Record: 17-1

Best Single Postseason Record: 2-1

Best Single Season Record: 19-2

Worst Single Season Record: 2-14

ArenaBowl Record: 0-1

Years in the AFL: 17

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