Spring football has been hit or miss depending on the decade, so it shouldn’t surprise those with mixed feelings on how the XFL will hold up their second go-around. Last year the Alliance of American Football held up well with viewers and attendance. Unfortunately, funding and poor financial planning killed that league.
The XFL had it right by waiting an extra year to get everything ready. Vince McMahon and the league have done a lot of great things. Let’s break down what has captivated fans in the United States for the past three weeks and what else could be in store.
Behind the scenes with official review.
One of the truly revolutionary ideas the XFL has unveiled is putting official review on microphones and cameras to hear and see how plays aren’t just reviewed, but handled up in booths and on the field. While there was initial skepticism on this, that’s gone now. Audiences who’ve tuned into the past three weekends have seen and heard plays discussed on what is deemed irreversible and what stands as a right call. This is huge because of controversies in previous years during not just the NFL regular season but calls in critical playoff games that have been botched by multiple umpires and referees. Instead of on-air analysts discussing or guessing probable outcomes, the XFL shows us what goes on and helps the audience understand. If the NFL starts to be hammered by viewers wanting this kind of transparency on a consistent basis, the league could relent and allow it.
Kickoffs are a hot issue in not just the NFL but the football world. The XFL may have found a solution to that.
Kickoffs in the NFL have the kicker putting the ball into play at the 35 yard line in their own territory, and the rest of the defense is behind him. The fielding team is at the 50 yard line, and the kick can be fielded at least 10-15 yards away from where the ball is placed. Usually, it’s kicked deep into opposing territory, but it cannot go out of bounds on the sidelines, for that would result in a penalty.
XFL: the kicker stands at his 30 yard line and must put the ball into play between the opposing teams endzone and 20 yard line. The coverage teams must stand at both the 35 (kicker’s defense) and 30 (receiving team minus the receiver) yard lines.
The XFL method leads to fewer injuries and penalizes the kicker if the ball is not placed at a certain distance. There’s also a better chance for onside recovery. Best of all it preserves the kickoff for those who insist football isn’t football without it.
Catching live action interviews, reactions and celebrations seems to be the wildest part of the XFL right now, and it seems genuine and laid back. Thankfully, the theatrics of the XFL almost 20 years ago don’t seem to be around, which we really don’t need.
Probably the most important plus outside of the officiating. Fan attendance has been great in cities such as Seattle, Washington D.C., St. Louis and Houston. Over two million people have tuned in to watch the games three straight weeks, showing that the sport is appreciated by a good number of people. The best thing Vince McMahon and the XFL did was choosing specific cities, either giving certain cities like St. Louis a shot at having a football team again, having teams in blockbuster, big money places like Seattle or Houston, or trying to pry interest and fans away from other teams such as the Washington Redskins or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sounds like these past three weeks have been fantastic. Could there be anything more in store for us?
Definitely. Criticisms of consistent offensive play on teams such as the Tampa Bay Vipers and Seattle Dragons have been valid because those teams haven’t been able to finish. If those teams can not just learn their offenses by the sixth week, but also finish drives with consistent scores, both teams could be threats given they’re solid defensively.
The extra point change should be fun to watch. Surprisingly, a lot of the coaches haven’t tried to go for the three extra points after scoring touchdowns. While it’s ok to be aggressive, getting only one extra point when you’re down by ten doesn’t seem like a good plan. Expect more coaches to gamble the later the season goes on.
With coaches willing to go for it, we’ll see how defenses respond to the aggression, especially if they want to hit harder or shutdown offenses through tight coverage. The XFL has done a great job with letting defense have a chance to hit and play, so if games start to get low-scoring, it’s probably because the defenses have a lot of room to play their full game.