After a successful inaugural week for the XFL, there is some optimism around the league. There have been many attempts to create a second football league to either compete with the NFL or to try to become a partner in some way. The first XFL, the Alliance of American Football, the USFL and the World Football have all tried and failed. But the new XFL has the potential to stick around for a little.
Americans Love Football
Once the NFL season is over, football fans are left waiting months for it to return. The NFL has the longest offseason out of the four major American sports, as well as the shortest season. Football is America’s most popular sport, it reaches every corner of the country and most Americans can never have enough of it. The XFL could be just what fans to want during the NFL offseason.
The ratings back up American’s love affair with football. In the first game between the DC Defenders and the Seattle Dragons on ABC, it racked up 3.3 million viewers. The Alliance of American Football had 2.9 million viewers in its first game last February. That is not drastically higher, but it is a positive sign.
Besides Johnny Manziel, the Alliance of American Football lacked big-name players. The XFL is a different story, however. Players like Cardale Jones, Landry Jones, Antonio Callaway, Shawn Oakman, and Christine Michael are all names that football fans recognize. Big-names bring in money and eyes to the league. People want to see players make it to the NFL and some of these names have serious potential to make it there.
New and Interesting Rules
The XFL implemented new rules different from the NFL which gives it a separate identity from the NFL. A 25-second play clock was implemented rather than the 40-second clock in the NFL. There are no extra points in the XFL and coaches have a choice of going for one-point, two-points, or three-points.
The most recognizable rule change is the kickoff:
Instead of every player on the kicking team lining up next to the kicker at the 35-yard line, every player except the kicker lines up at the other team’s 35-yard line. Only the kicker and return man can move until the ball is caught or muffed. It keeps the kickoff in the game, but also makes it safer. A football game is supposed to start with a kickoff and it doesn’t seem right if it doesn’t. It is one of the most exciting plays in the game because of the chance of a swing of momentum.
Other changes are a shootout from the five-yard line in overtime, giving both teams a chance to have the ball in the overtime period. If a punt is a touchback, it goes to the 35-yard line instead of the 25. Also if a kick goes out of bounds on the kickoff, the receiving team takes it at the kicking team’s 45-yard line compared to their own 45.
The most exciting rule change is the two forward pass rule. Offenses are allowed two forward passes behind the line of scrimmage before moving the ball upfield. This is a great rule because who doesn’t love a good trick play? Trick plays create highlights that get shared around, which brings more eyes to the XFL. It has not been done yet, but once it is, it could be the play of the year.
These changes among others separate the XFL from the NFL and they are actually rules that make sense. It would not be surprising if the NFL implemented these rules themselves sooner rather than later.
Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck
Vince McMahon has made World Wrestling Entertainment into a global powerhouse. McMahon is worth around two billion dollars and he took 100 million out of WWE to make the XFL. WWE is worth around one billion dollars and it has been the top wrestling business for many years now. If there’s anyone that can bring a football league up and keep it there, it is Vince McMahon.
Oliver Luck is a football lifer. He played in the NFL and has been around the game since he retired in 1986. He is the commissioner of the XFL and he will be able to help McMahon run the league. With his football knowledge and McMahon’s ability to grow a brand, the league has a chance to stay alive for longer than people think.
Great Chance for Young Players
Everybody wants to see players get a chance at realizing their dreams. Most players who are drafted in the late rounds or go undrafted usually try to make the practice squad of an NFL team. If you don’t make the practice squad, there isn’t really much below that. Instead of sitting on a practice squad, players could go to the XFL and gain extremely valuable playing time. Every other major American sports league has at least one “minor” league affiliated with them. This is a perfect way for players to develop.
The quality of play will obviously be lower, but there are going to be players that benefit from this league. If the American Hockey League, the MLB farm system and the NBA G-League can survive, then the XFL can survive under the right management, which they have. It is only one week into the new league, but there are many positive signs. Week one is always good for new leagues and the next few weeks will be the most important. If the ratings are still high and the quality of play gets a bit better, which it will because week one was the first game action some of these players have had in years, then the league has a great chance at surviving.