The Chicago Rush has been one of the more successful franchises in Arena Football League history. The franchise has made 10 playoff appearances but last season was the first time the Rush missed the postseason in its history.
With new ownership taking over, the Rush looks to return back to respectability in a league that has seen a plethora of changes since returning from a cancelled 2009 season. The Rush typically attracted more than 14,000 fans to Allstate Arena before the lockout in 2009, haven't had the same success with its fanbase since.
Although the Rush have continued to enjoy on-field success, the front office has been in constant change and this began to alienate fans. Attendance dipped and so did popularity. With a new staff in place and a change in ownership, the Rush worked feverishly throughout the offseason to change the image of the franchise.
The Rush were owned by the AFL last season and later bought by Julee B. White but her deal was terminated by the league after logistical complications. David Staral purchased the franchise a few days afterward and has worked hard to reestablish a deep commitment to the Rush fans.
Enter media day this past Monday when the team debuted its new logo and jerseys for the media and its season-ticket holders. The Rush added red to its typically blue and silver logo and changed its jerseys with a red trim around the numbers and text.
The Rush will begin its 12th season this Saturday at home against the Iowa Barnstormers. Noticeably absent from the Rush roster this season will be Russ Michna, the team's all-time leader in passing yards (13,980) and touchdowns (249).
Starting in his place will be Carson Coffman, a two-year AFL pro out of Kansas State. Coffman spent last season with the Utha Blaze as a backup to starting quarterback Tommy Grady.
Michna has found a full-time job that pays him more than his AFL salary and is handling family duties according to head coach Bob McMillen.
"Russ [Michna] got married, Russ has got a job that he gets paid very well at what he's doing," McMillen said. "We have talked to Russ, we were talking to Russ up until last week. As much as we would love Russ here, us as an organization have to move forward. We have a lot of confidence in what Carson [Coffman] brings to the table and he learned from a great quarterback in Utah last year. He's had a great camp."
McMillen said the team will continue talking with Michna but it depends on if the quarterback can manage a grueling 18-game schedule with his new job and family. McMillen noted that Michna isn't a person who doesn't give 100 percent effort into what he is doing.
For Coffman, this will mark his first season as a full-time starter in the AFL. Coffman set a single-season completion percentage record at Kansas State in 2010 and threw for 2,060 yards and 14 touchdowns that season for the Wildcats. The 6-foot 3-inch signal caller is excited about being named the opening game starter for the Rush this season.
"My parents are coming up for the game from Kansas City," Coffman said. "I'm really excited, we've worked hard in [training] camp, I'm excited about the [players] we've got. I'm ready to see what we can put out on the field."
Coffman didn't sound liked he lacked any confidence in transitioning his success from outdoor football to the indoor game. Coffman mentioned the faster pace of the AFL and how his precision will need to be better than when he was at Kansas State.
"I got to sit behind the best quarterback in the league [last season]," Coffman said. "It was a great experience for me, I learned a lot. Me and Tommy [Grady] became really close. [Offensive Coordinator Matt] Sauk is a great coach in Utah and I was very appreciative of the opportunity and how much I got to learn from those guys."