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Jimbo’s toy team needs his attention

It was a year ago today when our good buddy Jimbo Ferraro spoke about the Las Vegas Gladiators team he owns and supposedly keeps tabs on from his home in Florida.

He had fired the head coach and was searching for the next unsuspecting martyr, which the Gladiators do more often than Tony Soprano curses, and Jimbo insisted the decision would either save the franchise from its losing ways or bury it deeper in a hideous abyss of failure.

“We need a guy to steer the ship here,” he said at the time.

The guy was Danton Barto.

He was fired 11 games into his tenure Monday and will coach the remainder of the season, to this point having produced one more victory than a dead man.

There might not be a life jacket sturdy enough to rescue the Gladiators. They are more of a train wreck than ever on the field, an unsightly disaster with one chance at being resuscitated:

Ferraro needs to finally treat this venture in a professional manner and not as one of his fancy toys, or sell it (preferably to someone who lives closer than 2,000 miles from the Orleans Arena) and save the money on jet fuel for those sporadic times he actually decides to stomach attending a home game.

What was once funny is now pathetic. What was once a lovable loser story in a Charlie Brown sort of way is now a more disturbing tale than any little girl possessed by demons.

What was once about offering local fans a football fix during the NFL’s annual hiatus is now about wasting people’s time.

It’s a pretty simple message for Ferraro: Get serious or get out.

“We need to become legitimate,” Gladiators president/general manager Sam Jankovich said. “It will cost us, but we have to do it. We have to prove to everybody that we’re committed and we’re going to do things the right way.

“We’re not going to throw money away for the sake of it, but we’re going to put the money where it needs to be.”

Jankovich said he recently presented Ferraro a seven- or eight-page evaluation of the franchise, but I can’t believe just the introduction didn’t need that much space. You can arrive to a 1-10 record in different ways and the Gladiators have done so in the worst one imaginable. That is, they no longer even give the hint of being competitive.

Hire coaches and general managers. Fire them. Sign players. Trade them. Cut them. Sign more. None of it matters unless Ferraro is willing to write checks with more zeroes. He wouldn’t do that when pursuing Danny White as coach nearly three years ago and his team is 14-29 since.

Jankovich already has a list of potential candidates and it’s expected Ferraro will need to pledge an additional $115,000 to acquire a staff experienced enough in the Arena Football League (how the game is played and what type of player best fits) to possibly dig the franchise out of this mess.

Say what you want about Ferraro hiring a general manager who had never seen an arena game, but at least Jankovich’s resume suggests he can identify coaching talent. The man hired Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson while at Miami.

It’s on Jankovich to do so again. He inherited Barto. The next choice needs to be better, and should be if the guy who controls the money allows it.

There are so many needs. A better coaching staff. Better talent. Better locker rooms. Better housing and food for players. Better practice facility.

Translation: A better financial commitment from the guy at the top.

“We have to stop the roller-coaster,” Jankovich said. “We have to stop the swinging door. Excuses are for losers.”

But …

“If Jim doesn’t open his wallet,” he said, “I won’t be here.”

Tell you what — if Jimbo doesn’t open his wallet to hire a coaching staff with some semblance of a clue and to upgrade all the other deficiencies surrounding his franchise, those 3,000 die-hard fans who continue to support the team should follow the lead of the masses and stay away.

I met Jimbo at the last home game. Seems like a nice enough fellow. Said all the right things in between turnovers and blown assignments. He is convinced Jankovich is capable of spinning a team of straw into, well, at least one that is gold plated.

Either way, it’s time for Ferraro to treat a professional franchise as such. Time to realize toys are for children.

Time to get serious or get out.

Ed Graney can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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