TAMPA — After a grueling 21-week season that spanned five months, Storm coach Tim Marcum certainly could use a break. Maybe some fishing or, perhaps, a few rounds of golf?
Not a chance.
"I'm a football guy," Marcum said. "That's what I do."
Less than a week after the Storm lost 69-57 to Spokane in ArenaBowl XXIII, Marcum was back at work. He recently went to Jacksonville to scout a Florida Tuskers (United Football League) practice in hopes of finding another piece to next season's puzzle.
"We're always looking to get better," Marcum said.
The Storm, back after the Arena League skipped the 2009 season, returned to its status as one of the elite teams, finishing the regular season 11-5.
"It was great to come back and be so well received," Marcum said. "This is a great AFL town."
The Storm led the league in attendance, averaging 15,237 during the regular season. While not all teams enjoyed such numbers — Bossier-Shreveport averaged 3,967 — Arena Football has plenty of reasons to be happy with its revamped business model, which includes reduced salaries.
"And now you're starting to see some more major markets come back into play," Marcum said.
There were 15 teams this season. Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Jose, Philadelphia and Atlanta are set to join next season. Seattle and New Orleans also are rumored to be vying for teams in 2011.
"This league can't ever get back to the level of salaries (prior to 2009)," Marcum said. "That can't happen, but this way can."
Despite the Storm — and league's — success, Marcum said there is work to be done, including airing games on stations other than the NFL Network.
"We're still not treated (in the media) like a major league," he said. "A (national) TV contract has to happen."
On the field, the Storm was up and down. It limped out to a 2-3 start before winning nine of their final 11, including eight straight. The Storm then went on the road to beat Tulsa and defeated visiting Orlando to reach the championship.
"We had the team to win it all," linebacker Cliff Dukes said. "We just made a few mistakes that hurt us."
Like the regular season, turnovers cost the Storm against Spokane, which forced two interceptions and a fumble.
"I still haven't gotten that game out of my mind," Marcum said.
Defensive lineman Tim McGill made the All-Arena first team while Dukes, defensive lineman Jermaine Smith and quarterback Brett Dietz earned second-team honors.
Beginning Sept. 1, the Storm has two weeks to re-sign players, all of whom were on one-year contracts. Marcum said he's looking to bring back "15 or 16."
"I know I want to be back," Dukes said. "My body feels ready to play right now. I love Tampa."