Introducing the XFL
As someone who got to work closely with the Alliance of American football, I've realized the need for a developmental football league. There are so many talented players in the world, but there are only limited spots in the NFL. We now have a new opportunity for a league that can provide a spot for players to improve with game experience. My hopes for this league is that it ends up being a direct gateway where players can get better and then go to the NFL. Here is everything you need to know about the XFL!
What is the XFL?
You may be wondering what exactly the XFL is and how it's different from the Alliance of American Football (AAF)? The XFL is a professional football league that will help develop not only their players, but their coaches and potential rules for the NFL to adopt. If we take a look back into April of 2019, the Alliance of American football came to an unfortunate end. While it's terrible how the AAF ended, it could potentially be a blessing in disguise. The AAF is something that the XFL can learn from. Honestly, there were mistakes made in the AAF, but now Oliver Luck, the commissioner of the XFL, can apply past errors to better the XFL. What we learned from the AAF is that the NFL desperately needed a developmental league. There were over 70 players from the Alliance picked up to play in the NFL after the league broke up. We can look at some teams who are playing in the super bowl this week. The 49ers have three players from the Alliance while the Chiefs have one. The Eagles also gained their number one receiver, Greg Ward, from the AAF. Clearly, there are free agents who deserve a spot on NFL rosters. With the XFL, these "free agents" can find their home. We are able to see these players get an opportunity to play the game professionally. Some specific differences between the AAF and XFL include better pay, new rules, and different coaches.
Who is at the top of the tree for the XFL?
The XFL is filled with experienced executives from Vince McMahon, Oliver Luck, and Doug Whaley to name a few. Let's start with Vince McMahon, McMahon is the league's owner and has plenty of experience. He serves as the CEO of the WWE and is one of the world's most successful business owners. Oliver Luck, father of Andrew Luck, is the commissioner of the league. Luck has experience of being a professional executive, he's worked for the NCAA, NFL Europe, MLS, and also played in the NFL and CFL. Last is Doug Whaley, Whaley used to be the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills and is now the Vice President of operations for the XFL.
What are the teams and who are the players?
There are 8 different teams in the XFL, the Los Angeles Wildcats, Houston Roughnecks, Dallas Renegades, Seattle Dragons, DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, and Tampa Bay Vipers. Each team participated in the draft that took place in the fall, and there are definitely some notable players. Let's start with the Wildcats. Their starting quarterback is NFL journey-man Josh Johnson. Johnson was the starter for the Redskins not too long ago, but now he has the chance to once again prove that he's capable of being a starter. Speaking of chance, the Wildcats are taking a chance on a former college super-star who was wrongfully convicted of a crime. Shawn Oakman was a BEAST for Baylor and now has another opportunity to show what he's capable of. If you've picked up on the theme, the XFL is providing opportunities, and that's what I love about it. If we look at the Defenders, they are led by quarterback Tyree Jackson. Jackson was a fan favorite coming out of the draft in 2019. They also have a ton of talented receivers like Eli Rogers, the former Pittsburgh Steeler, and Rashad Ross, the best receiver from the AAF. The Dallas Renegades are led by former Steeler Landry Jones and AAF Star Phillip Nelson at quarterback. The Dragons have three players who I personally made a strong connection with through my time with the Alliance. Ja'Quan Gardner who despite his short stature showed that he has elite vision and can run between the tackles. The Dragons quarterback is BJ Daniels who played for the Seahawks, 49ers, and Falcons and they have safety Jordan Martin formerly of the San Diego Fleet. The Houston Roughnecks are led by Connor Cook at quarterback who actually started a playoff game for the Raiders! The New York Guardians are led by Luis Perez who has one of the best stories in the XFL and he has the big MecKale McKay to throw to out wide. The St. Louis BattleHawks have Taylor Heineckie at QB, the former Carolina Panther. They also have Christine Michael, the former Seahawk, at running back. The last team is the Tampa Bay Vipers, their quarterback is Aaron Murray who used to play with the Kansas City Chiefs. They also have the talented receiver Antonio Callaway who can be extremely dangerous with run after the catch. The XFL is clearly filled with talent and has potential to be an extremely meaningful and entertaining league.
Who are the coaches?
My favorite thing about the XFL is their coaches and what it's doing for the NFL. It's giving coaches of color and different ethnicities a real chance to show their talent. In the XFL, 3 of the 8 head coaches are african-american, compared to 3 black head coaches out of 32 in the NFL. This is an obvious problem, but this is another format for these coaches to get a job in the NFL. Let's talk about the coaches. The coaches are: Kevin Gilbride, Pep Hamilton, Jonathan Hayes, June Jones, Winston Moss, Bob Stoops, Marc Trestman, and Jim Zorn. All these coaches have lots of experience, but there are three in particular with big names. Bob Stoops, the former coach of Oklahoma, is the only coach to win a Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowl. This is an opportunity for him to show he's capable of wining professionally. Another one of the big names is Pep Hamilton, the former offensive coordinator for the Colts and the Browns. He was the OC for Andrew Luck when he was "the future of the league". The other big name is Marc Trestman. Trestman used to be the head coach for the Bears and now he gets his shot. If it's redemption or a first shot, the players aren't the only ones to show their talents.
The New Rules
This is where the XFL really separates itself from all the other leagues. Let's start off with my favorite rule, the sky judge. This was adopted from the AAF and has a referee in the box watching the game in full speed like every other fan. This alleviates any missed blatant calls and is an alternative that the NFL may look to. The new rules start with the kick off and ends with overtime. The XFL actually encourages returns and has a penalty that results any kickoffs that don't make it to the 20 to be automatically placed at the kicking teams 45 yard line. Overtime rules are different in that there are no ties. There are "5 rounds" to score points and will cause an inflation in points which will most likely cause more viewers. Another notable rule is that their are no onside kicks, but the teams get a 4th and 15 at their own 35 yard line and have to convert. The last noticeable rule involves after a touchdown. There are no extra points, they have to attempt a 2 point conversion or they can go for a "3 point conversion" which is one play from the 10 yard line. The XFL experimenting with these rules can give the NFL a trial to see what they want to implement into their own league.
Why do I love the XFL so much?
I love the XFL because there's always a way you can get better and the XFL is giving the NFL a platform to see if certain rules work, players are capable of playing in the NFL, and coaches are good enough to be in the league. The XFL will not only improve the NFL, but offers players a chance to show they are good enough once again. I hope to see the XFL and NFL correspond because I think it will ultimately give the viewers and the NFL the best possible league. The XFL provides a direct gateway for people into the NFL. The XFL gives players another shot at their NFL dreams and will provide the NFL with a much needed developmental league.