Like many of you who spent some time this weekend watching the XFL, my thoughts on the new league are basically, “Well, that was… something.”
There’s no denying that I was watching a version of football being played, and there were moments when I could almost forget that I wasn’t actually watching the NFL. Most of the time, however, I was constantly reminded that this was something far different than what I know and love. Despite some issues, both big and small, not all of it was terrible. So, let’s jump right into it and see what’s working, what needs to be improved, and what’s just terribly broken.
- Punts and kickoffs – Kickoffs in the NFL are inherently boring, and I for one am incredibly excited to see how this new style plays out. I think we’ll see some fantastic strategies start to emerge over the season as players and coaches get more comfortable with it. As for punting, it’s great to see the option for a return more often. In the NFL, most punts end with a fair catch. The XFL looks to be the opposite, with most punts being returned, and I think that’s fantastic.
- Mic’d up coaches – It was surprisingly fun to hear the plays being called and the strategies being discussed then relayed to the players. It was mildly distracting at times to be sure. But, overall, I think it’s a fantastic addition to a football game and just needs to be fine tuned and balanced out. I don’t know how it will affect the overall strategy of the league since other teams will be able to go back and listen, but, as a viewer, it was a delightful insight into the game.
- The Instant Replay – If a play is questionable there are dedicated officials who stop play, take a quick look at it, and tell the guys on the field what the call is and where to put the ball. In addition to that, the replay officials are also mic’d up so the transparency of replays is fantastic. They seemed to take half as long as they do in the NFL, we get to hear their reasoning, and then get right back to the game. If anything comes from this league and makes it into the NFL, I pray that this is it.
- The In-Game Interviews – There are times I found it fun and interesting to hear from the players immediately following a play, hearing their reasoning for what they did and plans going forward. I like the lighthearted nature and fun spirit of the interviews. Other times, though, I found the constant cuts to the sidelines to be distracting from the game. I like the idea, it just needs to be tweaked a little bit.
- The Double Pass – Did this ever happen? Is it ever going to matter? I heard a lot about this before the games, then I don’t think I saw it happen once. Seems like it was all hype and no payoff.
- The Tempo – The XFL is wanting to have fast-paced games. I think that’s a great idea. In theory… In practice, however, it leads to a bit of a hectic viewing experience. There isn’t much time during the game to watch replays, so any mildly interesting play or event during the game tends to just get passed over and the announcers and viewers don’t have time to understand what’s going on. This might just be that I’m used to frequent replays and having them hold my hand throughout the entire contest, but the games just felt a little too rushed most of the time.
- Bonus: The Overall Production – Both college football and the NFL have had decades to perfect their presentations. They are crisp and clean and can provide immediate answers to damn near any question or situation. The XFL just started (again), so they are behind the curve. I understand that it’s not easy, so I gave them a break on most things. The games just look like a sub-par product, and that image alone will chase people off. This will only take time to get right, but I felt it still needed to be mentioned. Make it look pretty and more people might stick around.
- The Two Minute Warning – This is a broken system that needs to be removed immediately. It’s not that the clock rules for the “Comeback Period” are complicated. They’re just ridiculous and hard to manage effectively. I don’t want to be forced to hear the Ref tell the play clock operator to add time back onto the clock every other play because nobody knows what’s going on. This whole starting the clock five seconds after the ball has been spotted is the most ridiculous rule I’ve ever heard in my life. Either start the clock or don’t. There’s no need to make things more complicated for the teams, the refs, and, most importantly, the viewers. Time is subjective, and I guarantee you that people are going to get pissed because they think clocks were started too early, or too late, or not at all, or any hundreds of other ridiculousness that the rule allows. Get rid of the whole system and find something easier to implement and control.
- Cameramen on the Field – What the hell are you doing out there? There’s a game going on! Get the damn cameramen off the field between plays. I don’t need close-ups of the guys on the field every single play. Instead, I need the players to be able to play their game without dodging some jack-ass in a red vest lugging around a camera because somebody thinks it makes things more exciting. It doesn’t! Get those fools off the field!
- The Quality of the Players – I get it. This is a new league, and not a lot of players are willing to go out there and play professional football, putting their bodies and possible futures on the line, for $55,000 a year. This isn’t something that the XFL will be able to fix overnight, but it is still a detriment to the league. I’m pretty sure that LSU, Alabama, Clemson, and probably even some weaker college teams, could beat most of these XFL squads right now. That doesn’t lend itself to an exciting game. Hopefully, the quality of the games will improve over the coming weeks, but, coming out of the gates, it was pretty cringe worthy at times watching these games.
Overall, I enjoyed the games. Not nearly as much as I enjoy NCAA or NFL games, but I still liked them. It’s safe to say that week one of the XFL was successful, and I think they are on the right track if they can just tighten up production, ditch the terrible two-minute warning system, and get some big name players on the field.
What I really hope happens is that the XFL makes it to their third year. If they can do that, I believe they’ll have a great quality product that will start to see some of their best ideas migrate over to the NFL.