Moyseenko puts Mariners on offensive

May 26, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

BALTIMORE -- Mike Moyseenko believes in the option offense.

You wouldn't know it by watching him on a football field. He admits he has a "run first" mentality.

But on the professional side of life, it's a different story. Moyseenko has become a master of using aggressive moves and finding openings while making the right decisions with nothing but chaos around him.

It's a mentality that has landed the South Hagerstown graduate a position with the Baltimore Mariners of the American Indoor Football Association. The job employs all the skill and know-how he learned as a walk-on quarterback for the University of Maryland.

The only difference is, he's not in uniform. He's the offensive coordinator.

The "never say die" attitude led to his lofty position at age 24. His career is built on making bold first moves -- like knocking on the door at Maryland and then with the Mariners to ask for a chance.


"I guess I make the best of my opportunities," said Moyseenko.

If you need proof, just look at Moyseenko's track record.

Last year, Moyseenko took a chance by going to the Mariners.

"I was looking for a job to stay in football, looking on the Internet for openings and ideas," Moyseenko said. "Some of the guys from Maryland were going to try out for the Mariners. I contacted the management of the team and told them what I have done. They offered me the job to be the wide receivers coach."

That lasted for eight games. The Mariners started 1-7 and management decided to make a coaching change, but told the assistants they had the option to stay or leave. Moyseenko elected to stay. When Chris Simpson was named the head coach, the former Rebel received what amounted to a field promotion.

"He came in and said there wasn't time to change the offense," Moyseenko said. "He asked me if I wanted to be the offensive coordinator and that was it."

The Mariners went 3-3 the rest of the season, finishing 4-10. Now in his first full season on the job, Moyseenko is the youngest coordinator in the 14-team league and quite possibly in all of pro football.

The AIFA is on the same level as Arena Football 2. Both are considered as minor leagues for the Arena Football League, which is on hiatus until 2010. Players from both leagues have earned promotions to play in the AFL, much like the farm systems are used in baseball.

Arena football is known for a fast-paced, run-and-gun style. The indoor game was the starting point for players such as Kurt Warner. Offenses are pass-laden with quick plays and quick hits. Players are constantly in motion out of offensive sets to help disrupt defenses.

The fields are much smaller than the outdoor game. Most fields are arranged in the confines of a hockey ice rink, which don't allow room for sidelines. Winning teams usually score between 30 and 80 points in a game.

With a year of coaching under his belt and the backing of the Mariners, Moyseenko is putting his fingerprints on Baltimore's style of play. And in the arena football circles, the approach could be considered unconventional.

"I have a couple of new concepts to try and open up the field and find matchups," Moyseenko said. "We run the ball and we have the running backs catch 15 passes a game. If the other team doesn't have the ball, they can't score and it keeps the defense off the field. If we can get 80 yards a game, it is like getting 150 yards in an outdoor game."

Thus far, it's working. The Mariners are 5-4 and in second place in the North Division with five games remaining. The North consists of teams from Reading, Harrisburg and Erie in Pennsylvania and Washington. AIFA has teams as far west as Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico and as far south as the Carolinas.

The playoffs are still a possibility for the Mariners, which only adds to Moyseenko's resume.

"I do think I'm very fortunate to be here," Moyseenko said. "It might not be at the best level, but I'm fortunate to have this job. ... My goal is to stay here, but someday I'd like to get up the coaching ladder."

Getting to the bottom rung of that ladder has been a journey all its own. After playing for South Hagerstown, Moyseenko made Maryland's football team as a walk-on. Although he was never a threat to be a starter, Moyseenko ran the scout teams at practices to help the Terrapins prepare for opponents.

Then, Moyseenko made the decision to quit playing but wanted to stay with football. He began work as an assistant for Maryland's coaches "just to keep his foot in the door," where he gained more insight from people like former Terps offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe. It all shaped Moyseenko in many ways.

"Coach Taaffe always said take what (the opposition) gives you," the 2007 Maryland graduate said.

Moyseenko is using the same mentality with the Mariners. He loves what he does, but wants to do more down the line.

"I'm very fortunate. I might not be at the highest level of football, but I'm here and I'm coaching," Moyseenko said. "Coach Taaffe told me no matter the level you're at, be a success and you go anywhere. My goal is to stay, but someday, I'd like to get up the coaching ladder. I'd like to be a full-time coach, it doesn't have to be in outdoor ball. I love coaching."

So, as usual, Mike Moyseenko is keeping his options open.

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