What Are The Next Steps For The Memphis Showboats? | John DeFilippo

What Are The Next Steps For The Memphis Showboats?

It’s been a rather disappointing season for the Memphis Showboats in the UFL. The team came into the league with high hopes and expectations, boasting quite a bit of talent on both sides of the football.

With Case Cookus at the helm – the former Philadelphia Stars standout – and a reloaded offensive unit, Memphis was predicted by many to give Birmingham a run for their money in the USFL conference.

Fast forward seven weeks, and the Showboats are 1-6. Not to mention, they just gave up 47 points to the previously winless Arlington Renegades.

To be honest, “disappointing” is an understatement for how things have gone in Memphis this year. They’ve been blown out in almost every single game, showing very few signs of life throughout this losing streak.

Clearly, things need to change. A lot of them, in fact. That said – if this team wants to improve, and carry that momentum into next season, they need to continue to stay positive despite the struggles.

What’s Next For Memphis?

The question at hand is: where do the Memphis Showboats go from here?

Aside from trying to stack a couple of wins to close out the season, the focus now shifts for John DeFilippo, Dennis Polian, and the rest of the Showboats staff. For Head Coach DeFilippo, he’s looking at how his players are going to respond to this adversity – swallowing a bitter pill with playoffs no longer on the table:

“Whenever you’re in a tough situation like this, and you’re out of playoff contention, you’re really looking to see how people respond. Are people going to respond by playing hard, or are people going to be checked out? You have to be really careful, because your tape is your resume in pro football. People look to see how you react in certain times.”

DeFilippo had a rather difficult task this year. The Head Coach of the dissolved New Orleans Breakers was handed the reins to the Memphis Showboats – formerly run by Todd Haley and Dave Razzano.

John, alongside new General Manager Dennis Polian, had to put things together rather quickly throughout the merger process. They kept quite a few Showboats players, while adding some from the Breakers, and other USFL/XFL teams. With so much unfamiliarity on the roster, John and his staff had to adjust quickly to what was a much different scene in Memphis, compared to New Orleans in the USFL.

At this point in the season, with Memphis losing the way that they are, one would assume that DeFilippo and his personnel are looking to make some major changes this offseason. These next three games will be pivotal in moving in that direction, and the decision making behind it. Every single player should be aware that they may not have a roster spot next year, depending on how things play out in 2024.

“When you grade free agents in the offseason in the NFL I always wanted to see their worst game statistically. How well did he handle himself? It’s really easy to handle yourself when you’re dialing up touchdowns. So that’s always a part of evaluating tape: how does this player react during the worst of times?” – Coach DeFilippo

Their “star” addition, no pun intended, was Case Cookus. Cookus has not played up to expectations, looking rather skittish in the pocket. This is partially due to the poor play of the offensive line, one that hasn’t looked like the unit DeFilippo & Co. expected under Jim Turner.

Something else that has plagued this team is their inability to run the football. With how often they are playing from behind, it’s tough for Memphis to call as many run plays as they would like.

Offensive Coordinator Doug Martin spoke on these issues this week, and the problems it causes for their schemes as a whole:

“Yeah it’s difficult. We really want to be balanced. Coach Flip wants to call runs, and we want to be a 50-50 team. When you go down that far, it does dictate what you can call. We’ve tried to be really patient. I think we’ve given it as much as we possibly could given the scores. Hopefully, defensively we play a little more stout at the beginning of the game. We need to score earlier, too. Get some points on the board. Keep our defense in it so we don’t fall behind.”

Doug Martin also spoke on the importance of evaluating this roster, and making sure they know the in’s and out’s of these players prior to the regular season’s end.

“You want to come out of this season knowing this team really well. Obviously, we inherited this team, and didn’t know a lot of the players when we got here. We were one of the few teams who had to undertake that, and that’s difficult. We want to come out of here knowing that ‘yes, this guy can help us’, or ‘we need to move on from this guy’ – you want all those questions answered before we finish this so we know we can make improvements next year.”

Where Is The Defense?

One glaring sore spot for Memphis this year has been their defense, or lack thereof. Defensive Coordinator Carnell Lake was one of the few members from Todd Haley’s staff who stuck on the team, after DeFilippo took over.

Last year, Memphis had an opportunity to make the playoffs down the stretch because of their defense. Lake had this unit operating as one of the best in the entire USFL during those final several weeks.

This time around, things have been different. Memphis had an infamous collapse in week two against San Antonio, and it’s all been downhill from there. Since that loss, the Showboats are allowing a whopping 37.6 points per game. Their defense has been unable to stop any team, no matter who’s been back there at quarterback.

Statistically, it’s been a disaster for Memphis all year. They are allowing 350 yards per game (8th), and opponents are scoring an average of 31.1 PPG against them (also 8th). They’ve given up the most passing yards of any team in the UFL. Not to mention, the Showboats have had 28 touchdowns scored on them this year – the next closest defense is Arlington, with 19.

Something has to give. Carnell Lake spoke this week about making some adjustments, and doing what they can to improve upon the mistakes. To be quite frank, when it comes to mistakes, there’s been a lot of them.

“When we evaluate the film after the games, we look and see systematically, from a coaching standpoint, how we can put these guys in the best position. What is it that we’re not doing here, or is there a way to shuffle the deck in terms of our roster to give guys a shot who haven’t had a chance yet…some of it is to say ‘hey look, here’s the details we need, you guys need to go back to the drawing board during the week and improve in these areas’. Missed tackles, busted assignments, bad leverage in the run or passing game. If you have several people on the defense doing that at the same time, it tends to have consequences.”

Clearly, John DeFilippo is frustrated with the lack of defensive success. Memphis has just 13 sacks this year, which is tied in last place with the Houston Roughnecks.

“We haven’t affected the quarterback this season. It’s the same formula, you have to find a way to get the quarterback to move his feet, and hit the quarterback. We need to get pressure.”

One has to wonder if Carnell Lake will be feeling some heat following this season’s performance. His defense has severely underperformed in every category. If things don’t improve over these next few games, it would not be surprising to see Lake exit the UFL before the 2025 season. Just like the players – every coach on this staff needs to produce at a high level to retain their positions.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, the Memphis Showboats have a lot to figure out as a franchise. They’re the worst team in the UFL at this point, having fallen to the Arlington Renegades 47-23 this past Saturday.

Heading towards 2025, it’ll be intriguing to see if the team adapts to some of the strategies that other organizations have implemented. For example, the Birmingham Stallions and San Antonio Brahmas in particular targeted a lot of talent outside the two leagues, bringing in NFL free agents. This has resulted in plenty of success, with the two teams having a combined 14-2 record.

With three games left to play, it is now a test of resiliency and determination for Memphis. The playoffs are a lost cause this year, but there’s still plenty to fight for: your future.

This weekend, the Memphis Showboats will hit the road to take on the Michigan Panthers at Ford Field.

What are your thoughts on the Memphis Showboats season so far in the UFL? What do they need to do to improve? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!