Call it too auspicious of an idea, bad management, or unfortunate timing, but there may never be a legitimate secondary football league to challenge the NFL.
On Friday, the second edition of the XFL suspended its operations, fired its employees, and all but confirmed that it won’t be returning. You can add it to the likes of the USFL, AAF, and WFL that couldn’t cut it — though this time, it’s through no fault of its own.
The XFL lasted all of five weeks before play was suspended due to the coronavirus, which created an elongated absence that proved too much for the young league to handle.
An unfortunate casualty to sports’ freeze, which began in North America on March 11 — especially when Vince McMahon’s second version of the XFL was so much more legitimate than his first XFL two decades ago.
There were no outlaws this time around, no stage names on the backs of uniforms, no wrestling disguised in a helmet and pads. Just spring football with some ideas that the NFL should seriously consider moving forward to restore the public’s faith in it.
Sure, the NFL is America’s most popular league, but it’s also the most frustrating.
There’s controversy every Sunday, officials have too large of an impact on games, touchbacks reign supreme, and murky rules leave an all-too-often feeling of dissatisfaction among the fan base.
The XFL made gargantuan steps to address those issues.
Rather than eliminate action on kick-offs, the XFL placed the kicking team’s tacklers on the 35-yard line opposite from their kicker. The returning team’s blockers are on their 30, just five yards away from the defending side.
That way the pursuing team doesn’t get a 30-yard headstart that results in violent collisions that enhance the risk of injuries. It was a much more entertaining option than the NFL’s move of moving up the kicking team so they can boot the ball out of the end zone.
Elsewhere amongst the kicking game, the NFL has made extra points more interesting by moving it back a few yards, but the XFL took things an entertaining extra step further.
They eliminated kicking from the extra point set-up altogether.
Following a touchdown, XFL teams could opt to go for one, two, or three extra. A one-point try was 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.
It’s an interesting tweak that allows trailing teams more opportunities to get back into games — something that would help trailing teams in the NFL never truly feel like they were out of two or three-possession games.
But what football fans would most appreciate the NFL adopting from the short-lived XFL was the transparency.
The league instigated challenges and with it, gave fans an in-depth look at the exchange between on-field officials and the replay booth.
With it, you’re able to see the thought process of the decision-makers and hear the rationale behind those decisions.
Instead, in the NFL, fans get inconclusive review processes, bogus excuses from executives, and the overwhelming feeling that politics reign supreme when logic ultimately should.
Unfortunate circumstances might have forced the XFL to pack it in before they could truly get going, but the NFL should do right by the soon-to-be-defunct league and adopt some of these aspects to ensure a better game experience.