By RJ Ciancio
With Orlando coming to the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2019 campaign, Arena Football Talk thought now would be a good time to go over the team’s long and illustrious history to this point.
The Orlando Predators first season in the Arena Football League (AFL) was in 1991 with Perry Moss as the team’s first head coach. The team went 3-7, missing the playoffs. In 1992 the Predators went 9-1 making it all the way to the ArenaBowl where they fell to the Detroit Drive. This was this first year where any players from the Predators earned first All-Arena team states with Barry Wagner, Jorge Cimadevilla and Durwood Roquemore earring the honor. In 1993 the team was again near the top of the AFL mountain. After going 10-1 and beating the Miami Hooters in the first round of the playoffs they fell to the in-state rival Tampa Bay Storm in the AFL Semi-Finals. In 1994 the Predators continued to fall just short of being crowned champions as they fell to the Arizona Rattles in the ArenaBowl after an 11-1 campaign. Orlando had a down year in the regular season going 7-5. They thrived in the playoffs but fell tor the Storm and future National Football League (NFL) coach Jay Gruden in the ArenaBowl. Things got worse for Orlando in 1996 after going 9-5 as they fell to the Rattlers in the quarterfinals. The Predators had a rebound year, making it to the semifinals where they fell to future NFL Hall of Fame Kurt Warner after putting up a 10-4 record.
In 1998 the “War on I-4” reached its peak as former Storm quarterback Jay Gruden switched sides as he became the Predators head coach leading them to a 9-5 record and a franchise-first ArenaBowl win as they defeated the Storm 62-31. In 1999 the Predators fell to a 7-7 record and lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in the semifinals. Orlando returned to prime form as they went 11-3 beating the Storm in the quarterfinals, the Rattlers in the semifinals and the Nashville Kats in the ArenaBowl 41-38 as they won their second championship. Orlando once again fell on hard times as they went 8-6 falling to the Chicago Rush in the wild card round. The 2002 season was winding to the Predators as they were able to win the Southern Division with a 7-7 record as they beat the Buffalo Destroyers in the wild card round and took down the New Jersey Red Dogs in the quarterfinals before falling to the San Jose Sabercats in the semifinals. In 2003 Orlando went 12-4 before falling to the in-state rival Storm 60-50. The Predators took a small hit in the 2004 campaign as they fell to 10-6 as they lost to the Chicago Rush in the quarterfinals. The Predators came in second place in the Southern Division with a 10-6 record but were able to make it to the conference finals where they fell to the Georgia Force. Orlando had a rebound season as they made it all the way to the ArenaBowl where they fell to the Rush 61-69. The Predators fell hard in 2007 as they went 8-8 and were eliminated in the wild card playoffs to the Philadelphia Soul 41-26. Things didn't get much better for Orlando in 2008 as they went 9-7 before being eliminated by the Cleveland Gladiators in the wild card playoffs.
After skipping the 2009 campaign with the rest of the AFL the Predators were once again knocked down a peg as they went 8-8 and lost to the Jacksonville Sharks in the 2010 conference semifinals. In 2011 the Predators had a rebound year improving to 11-7 before repeating the same fate as the previous season, losing to the Sharks in the conference semifinals. The Predators fell very far as they we only able to post a 4-14 record, the second worst in team history. In 2013 the Predator had somewhat of a bounce back year as they went 7-11, making the playoffs when they would get knocked out by the Philadelphia Soul in the conference semifinals. Orlando was able to win the South Division in the 2014 season going 11-7. However, the Gladiators once again played spoiler, knocking them out in the conference championship. In 2015 the Predators repeated as South Division champions as they went 12-6 but fell to the Sharks on the conference semifinals. Sadly for Orlando, the 2016 season ended in disappointment as after going 12-4 they were eliminated in the conference semifinals. In the offseason the team folded.
With Orlando getting a team for the 2019 National Arena League season the new team has a lot to live up to.