The long-awaited reboot of the XFL arrived over the weekend, ensuring football fans get more of the sport they love.
The eight-team league partakes in a 10-week regular season before a two-rounded playoff system that culminates in its championship game taking place on Apr. 26.
Providing an avenue for a legion of football players who couldn’t quite stick it in the NFL, the XFL has the makings of becoming a developmental league of sorts for the pros — which may be the only way it could properly survive. From the old USFL to the Alliance of American Football that couldn’t complete a full season last year, there have been numerous spring football leagues that fizzled out before gaining any sort of long-term momentum with the sporting public.
While the first version of the XFL, in 2001, toed the line between football, barbarism and WWE, the newest edition provides a more traditional brand of the game with rule changes that the NFL should seriously consider instituting.
If the XFL is, in fact, a guinea pig of sorts for the pros, the initial experiment in Week 1 was a promising one.
The first glaring difference between the XFL and NFL is on the kickoffs. Instead of the kicking team’s defense lining up with the kicker on their 30-yard line, the tacklers are on the opposite 35-yard line. The returning team’s blockers are on their 30, just five yards away from the defending side.
No side can move until the returner catches the kickoff, promoting more returns and ensuring player safety. Tacklers don’t get a 40-to-50-yard head of steam before projecting their bodies like missiles at blockers and returners.
This return method is much more entertaining than the onslaught of touchbacks that has become commonplace in the NFL.
The XFL even found a way to jazz up extra points, outlawing kicking while allowing teams to go for one, two, or three points after scoring a touchdown. A one-point try is an offensive play run from the two-yard line. A two-point try starts from the five-yard line, and a three-point-try will be run from the 10-yard line.
There is also the prospect of a double forward pass (as long as the first is behind the line of scrimmage) and a punt rule that places the ball at the 35-yard line in the result of a touchback to promote teams going for it on fourth down more often. That might be a bit too radical for the NFL, but it’s important to make a new football product appealing to the masses.
What the NFL does need to institute immediately for the 2020 season is the transparency of their replay reviews.
There are no coach’s challenges, but the XFL will initiate video reviews on any play they deem fit. The television audience is then taken inside the replay booth where we see an official viewing the play and explaining his reasoning, which is communicated to the on-field officials.
Talk about accountability — something the NFL seriously lacks when it comes to policing its officials.