2023 San Antonio Brahmas Season Summary

San Antonio Brahmas head coach Hines Ward in a week 10 game against the D.C. Defenders at The Alamodome on April 22nd, 2023 in San Antonio, TX. (© Michael Gonzales/XFL)

This is part three of what will be an eight-part look at each XFL’s team’s 2023 season. The plan is to post two parts per week over the next month. 

Part One: Orlando Guardians

Part Two: Vegas Vipers

What went right

The San Antonio Brahmas were a 53-yard field goal away from making the playoffs in the XFL South division. The team was able to overcome a lot of adversity to be on the doorstep of the postseason in the last week. Defensively, the Brahmas were one of the best in the XFL, leading the league in tackles for loss and finishing third in sacks. They also had one of the strongest special teams units with kicker John Parker Romo, who led the league in field goals; punter Brad Wing, who led the league in gross average, punts inside the 20, and who had the longest punt of the year; and kick returner Fred Brown, the only player to return a kickoff for a TD in 2023.

What went wrong

Perhaps no team in the XFL was as snakebitten with injuries as the Brahmas. One of their expected playmakers, WR/RB Calvin Turner, spent all year on the reserve list. The offensive line was constantly shuffled around due to injuries, and they were forced to claim other teams’ cast-offs for depth. Their top receiver, Landen Akers, spent a month on injured reserve. Starting RB Kalen Ballage and QB Jack Coan were injured on back-to-back plays in practice in late March, resulting in Coan missing time; a torn Achilles ended Ballage’s season. Coan’s backup, Reid Sinnett, broke his foot around that same time.

San Antonio was able to acquire Kurt Benkert from Houston and it looked like he’d take over for the hurt and ineffective Coan, but the leaky offensive line couldn’t keep him upright and he too was felled for the season, with fractured ribs, after just two games. For as automatic as Romo was as kicker, his miss of a makeable 53-yarder kept the Brahmas out of the playoffs. Expected to be in the running with St. Louis for the biggest crowds each week, San Antonio disappointed with their attendance figures.

Offensive MVP

Taking over the starting duties from Ballage in week six, RB Jacques Patrick became the workhorse after sharing time with Ballage over the first half of the season. Patrick scored five touchdowns and finished second in the league in rushing, while also ranking second on the Brahmas in receptions. San Antonio’s inability to pass block required them to run the ball often or get off quick throws, both of which forced Patrick to play a bigger role in the offense than anticipated. Patrick picked up where he left off in the XFL in 2020, when he ended the truncated season third in rushing.

Defensive MVP

He may not have had the big sack numbers of his teammate Delontae Scott, but LB Jordan Williams was the most important cog in coordinator Jim Herrmann’s defense. He had double-digit tackles in half of the regular season games and led the XFL in total tackles by a significant margin. He also tied for the league lead with 12 tackles for loss, even though he didn’t manage a sack. Williams always seemed to be around the ball and helped lead the Brahmas’ D from his weakside linebacker position.

Special Teams MVP

San Antonio’s struggles on offense led to its kicker getting plenty of opportunities. Thankfully for Brahmas fans, they had one of the best in the league in K John Parker Romo, who connected on almost 90% of his field goals, including a long of 57. Romo impressed to the point that he is the only kicker thus far to be invited to an NFL minicamp, where he will work out later this weekend for the Detroit Lions.

Most likely to succeed (in getting NFL opportunities)

Several Brahmas have already been invited to rookie minicamps, including Romo, Coan, OTs Chidi Okeke and Derrick Kelly, Patrick, and CB Luq Barcoo. DE Delontae Scott and LB Jordan Williams could be others who get at least a tryout. C Luke Juriga was the one constant on the San Antonio offensive line, so he may be on a team’s short list as well. In terms of sticking on a roster, or at least making it through training camp, Barcoo is at the top of the list.

QB concern level for 2024 (1-5)

Ho boy. Where to begin. First thing’s first: The offensive line needs to get fixed. No quarterback was going to be successful behind the group San Antonio trotted out most weeks. That being said, Coan showed enough that if he doesn’t latch on with an NFL team, he’d be the clubhouse leader for the starting gig in 2024. Jawon Pass started one game and played in three but he still looked a ways away from being a meaningful contributor. Paxton Lynch is also on the roster, a late-season waiver pickup for a team desperate for QB depth.

The wild cards are Sinnett and Benkert: Benkert had to be coaxed out of voluntary exile to play this year. Injuries to him and Sinnett may convince them this league isn’t a worthwhile investment in 2024. This gives San Antonio the rights to five QBs heading into 2024, but none are a sure bet. So many dominoes need to fall before we know what’s up for ’24, leaving this situation pretty dire: A 4, in fact.

Head coach hot seat rating (1-5)

There was no hiding the change in Head Coach Hines Ward’s facade as the season wore on: For the first few weeks, he was all smiles on the sidelines. By the end of the year, however, the jovialness seemed to disappear, a permanent scowl replacing the grin. Much of San Antonio’s struggles seemed out of Ward’s hands, which itself may have led to the level of frustration we saw. I don’t believe Ward is on the hot seat from the league; rather, if he was really as unhappy as he seemed, it could be a hot seat that is self-imposed. Therefore, I’ll split the difference and go with a 2.5. 

Offseason needs for 2024

Like almost every XFL team, the offensive line has to be upgraded. It’s a bit more dire for the San Antonio Brahmas than most others, however. More specifically, the need is at offensive tackle. If he decides to return to the XFL, the seriousness of Ballage’s injury may mean he won’t be ready for the start of the season, so another running back or two will be required. The Brahmas must figure out what they’re going to do at QB and whether or not the player they want to lead them in 2024 is on the roster right now. If everyone, or even three of the five, returns next year, they could at least create a real competition among them at the position. Defense and special teams are pretty much set. It’ll just be a matter of plugging whatever holes come up from players who move on to the NFL or who decide not to come back in 2024.

1 thought on “2023 San Antonio Brahmas Season Summary”

  1. Brahmas had QB Russo from Temple but they let him go inexplicably.
    He went on to crush it in the indoor arena league in Mass.
    Why don’t we get him back?
    He’s a proven player with many records under his belt.

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