Jim Zorn knows how cool it is to be the first starting quarterback of a franchise.
He is proud that he was the Seattle Seahawks’ first starting quarterback in their 1976 expansion season. No one can ever take that away.
On Saturday, Brandon Silvers will be the first starting quarterback for the XFL Seattle Dragons when they play their first-ever game at the DC Defenders at 11 a.m. (PT), with Zorn as his coach.
“You don’t think about it as a player, because he has played in games before, but it really is something to savor and to remember,” Zorn said of being the first starting quarterback for a franchise.
Silvers, who beat former Seahawk B.J. Daniels to earn the starting job, is more focused on getting a victory Saturday than he is on his place in history.
“I haven’t really thought about it much because we’ve been game-planning the past two weeks since we got back to Seattle,” Silvers said. “So I haven’t really thought about that and I am excited to get things going.”
Silvers was the very first Seattle Dragon. Each team was assigned a quarterback before October’s draft, and Silvers, the former Troy star, was assigned to Seattle.
Silvers threw for 10,677 yards at Troy (2014-17), completing 64.4% of his passes. Despite that, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound quarterback was not taken in the 2018 NFL draft. He was invited to the New Orleans Saints rookie camp, but was not signed.
He then signed with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football. He began as second string behind Christian Hackenberg, the former Penn State star who was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets. Silvers got hurt in the third week and was out a month. During that time, Zack Mettenberg, another quarterback with NFL experience, emerged as the starter.
When Mettenberg got hurt, the team brought in Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, but Silvers finally emerged as the team’s starter. He started in the team’s seventh game, was pulled for Manziel midway through the game, then reentered later and rallied his team to an overtime win.
“I got benched during that game for some reasons I don’t know why, but I came back in late and won that game,” Silvers said. “Johnny is one of my favorite teammates of all time, so it was nothing he did … but having to come back in there cold, eight minutes left and down two touchdowns (and win), I felt really good.”
Silvers played all the way in the next game, which turned out to be the team’s last as the league folded.
“It was a hectic year, but once I got in I took full advantage of it,” he said.
Silvers completed 80 of 125 passes for 799 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions for the Express. That helped him get signed by the New York Jets in April, but he was cut a month later. Silvers doesn’t believe he has gotten a fair chance in the NFL.
Whether or not he gets a fair chance could depend on how he does with the Dragons. But Silvers said his mind is on the XFL and Saturday’s game.
“You’ve just got to go out there and win games and play good,” he said. “After the season, it will take care of itself as long as you are winning games and playing good.”
The Dragons and Defenders scrimmaged last month in Houston, with Seattle reportedly losing by three points. Silvers threw a pick-six in that scrimmage, but don’t read too much into that with neither team wanting to show too much.
CBSsports had the Defenders first in their preseason XFL power rankings and the Dragons eighth. Silvers laughed that off, wondering how anyone could figure that out before any games have been played.
“I have no idea how good other teams are, and I don’t know how good we can be,” he said. “I know we have a lot of good players, and I know we can be great, but you just don’t know (the competition).”
Dragons offensive coordinator Mike Riley did not travel with the team because of a family matter. Zorn will take over Riley’s play-calling duties against the Defenders. Zorn is hopeful Riley can return soon.
*The team elected four captains: linebacker Steven Johnson from Kansas, running back Kenneth Farrow from Houston, long snapper Noah Borden from Hawaii and receiver Keenan Reynolds from Navy.