Now that the new league has officially kicked off, we’ve gotten to see its unique rulebook and procedures in action.
If you’re here for all of my thoughts on the Tampa Bay Vipers’ season opener at New York, you’re in the wrong place. That game was… well, all I have to say right now is the same thing virtually all of #FangGang is saying: let Quinton Flowers eat.
But other than that on-field performance, I came away from that XFL game feeling like this whole thing might actually work. On top of that, I think football at large would improve by adopting some of what those of us who tuned in this weekend saw.
I grew up on the NFL Street video games, so I love the point-after conversion rule that lets you net anywhere from one to three extra points depending how far from the goal line you want to start. It’s much more fun than watching a PAT kick and can also turn a lot of three-possession games by traditional standards into two-possession games just by going for three, weird as it is to say “going for three” in a sentence about a point-after attempt.
The clock rules are also pretty good, as the game has long needed to be sped up. I love football as much as anyone, but modern offenses are too fast for the traditional clock and it can make many games feel like they’re dragging on as long as the typical five-hour Yankees-Red Sox game. It can get boring when you’re not completely invested in either of the teams. So cutting the play clock nearly in half and speeding up the majority of the game clock while allowing more stoppages inside the two-minute warning to encourage quick comebacks is speaking my language. I wouldn’t say it achieved the goal of speeding up the game’s runtime as a whole, since it still fit that roughly three-hour window the NFL shoots for, but I would say the pace of play was solid.
I also like the way they handle replays. Not that having a designated official in the booth looking at every play would work at the high school level, but it is something to consider for the higher levels. Removing coaches’ challenges and making all plays subject to review at any time speeds up the game and will save teams from burning costly timeouts because a coach on the field didn’t have the best view of a play that happened. Plus, a guy holding an Xbox controller and scrutinizing a replay while nose breathing super loudly into his headset is relatable for the Madden crowd.
Having a designated ball spotter, whose only job is to spot the ball, is something football should have had long ago. The one-foot catch rule should be in every league. The XFL’s illegal man downfield rule giving a three-yard limit makes it much easier to call the run-pass option, football’s hottest offensive trend.
Now, I don’t like to hate on something just because it’s different from what I’m used to. I’m a firm believer in trying to learn and understand anything, in and out of sports, before saying it’s trash. But this league does have a few things I’m not too crazy about.
Did you like the kickoffs? Neither did I. The shorter halftime break didn’t make much of an impact for me. The punting rules are OK, I guess, but in theory they’re supposed to reduce the amount of both punts and fair catches and I didn’t notice a difference in the game. New York punted six times! I do believe that people who don’t care to watch punts haven’t taken enough time to watch a good punter work, but that’s just me.
Saturday’s XFL games were better than Sunday’s by a lot, but so far this is watchable football and I’ll keep tuning in. It’s worth a look if you like football at all.