The Washington Valor is a franchise primarily recognized by the Arena Football League. It is one of two teams owned by Ted Leonsis, president of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, to make its debut during the 2017 season. In its second year of existence, it won the Arena Bowl despite sporting a losing record in the regular season, only the second team in AFL history to do so.
Shaky Debut to Unlikely Success (2017-Present) Edit
Despite the league being down to five teams in 2017, the future looked promising when the Washington Valor, along with their sibling team in the Baltimore Brigade, debuted and planted the seeds for future franchises. With star players such as former MVP Erik Meyer and the eventual all-time leading receiver T.T. Toliver, the Valor were considered an up-and-coming powerhouse with the foundations in place for long-term success. Unfortunately for the organization, it wouldn't pan out quite as planned.
Playing in their inaugural game at home to a crowd of over 15,000 people, the Valor looked poised and efficient in their first meeting with the Baltimore Brigade, whom they soundly defeated 51-38. After that, the team essentially fell off a cliff. Offensive inefficiency began to plague the team as Meyer put in frequent underwhelming performances. In the next three weeks, the Valor would not put up more than 34 points against their opponents in any game, losing all three. After their fifth game, a loss to the Tampa Bay Storm, Erik Meyer was placed on injured reserve and wouldn't play again that season or any other (He announced his retirement later in the season). Meyer was replaced by Sean Brackett, a young back-up with minimal success starting in the AFL years prior. The downfall would continue regardless, as the team would lose their next six games, including two games decided by a single point. They would win two of their last three games, both against the Baltimore Brigade (the only team they defeated that season), to bring their regular season record to 3-11. As they had the lowest record in the league, they were the only team to not advance to the playoffs.
In a similar move to their last offseason, the Washington Valor acquired a former multiple-time MVP quarterback in Nick Davila, whose success with the Arizona Rattlers was almost unprecedented in league history. With a player of his caliber, the Valor were once again propped up to be a competitive team going into the season. However, with the league announcing for the 2018 season that every team would be guaranteed a playoff spot, there was little reason other than pride to put in a respectable regular season record.
Like their debut season, the expectations of greatness fell off fairly fast as the Valor lost their first two games against the Baltimore Brigade and Philadelphia Soul, though not without some competitive spirit. Ultimately, the fate of Davila would end the same way as Meyer a year before him—in the second game against the Soul, Davila suffered a career-ending neck injury that would force him out for the rest of the year. The following weeks would see three different quarterbacks starting at quarterback for Washington, including Warren Smith, Shane Austin, and the eventual full-time starter Arvell Nelson. In addition to the quarterback scramble, head coach Dean Cokinos was fired mid-season, after the team dropped to 0-4 against the Albany Empire, for Benji McDowell, who had never served as head coach. The changes helped little, as the team dropped their next three games, including a lopsided 21-48 loss to the Albany Empire. The Valor would win their first game in a 49-48 thriller against the Philadelphia Soul, a team that had lost starting quarterback Dan Raudabaugh earlier in the season. Losing their next three games, including two straight games in which they lost by more than thirty points, the Valor won their final game against the Baltimore Brigade to put their regular season record at 2-10, by far the lowest among the four teams.
As the lowest seed, the team would face the top seed Albany Empire in the playoffs in a new postseason system that had teams face each other twice in a point-aggregate system. Whichever team accumulated the most points in both games would advance to the Arena Bowl, no matter the outcome to the games. Washington would go on to lose their first game, though only by a single point in a 56-57 Overtime decision. With the offense finally clicking, the Valor were primed to take advantage of their underdog status. It went their way, defeating the Empire in a 40-47 victory in the second game, giving them a six-point advantage and were granted a trip to ArenaBowl XXXI. In a "Monumental" battle, the Valor would face the Baltimore Brigade, the team that made its debut at the same time as the Valor and under the same ownership, in the ArenaBowl. In a miraculous season of upsets, the 2-10 Washington Valor defeated the 7-5 Baltimore Brigade by a score of 69-55—the most points they had put up the entire season—to secure the first ArenaBowl title in the franchise's short history.