Each year, as the NFL season draws to a close, I along with numerous football fans lament our long wait for the upcoming season. While the NFL Draft brings a touch of football to a bleak spring landscape, it’s not quite the same as watching the teams take the field to play the game.
This year, an option is available to fans of the sport. It comes to us courtesy of World Wrestling Entertainment mogul, Vince McMahon. Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘new and improved’ XFL. When I heard McMahon’s plans to resurrect his brainchild that famously failed in 2001, I responded with a bit of my signature sarcasm.
The new version promises no gimmicks, no WWE-XFL crossovers, and a fan-first approach to the game. We are nearing the inaugural season of XFL 2.0, and I am curious enough to give it a look.
Naturally, there are differences between McMahon’s spectacle and the National Football League. The size of the XFL is considerably smaller than the NFL and consists of eight teams, divided between East and West Divisions. The teams are:
St. Louis Battle Hawks
Tampa Bay Vipers
New York Guardians
Los Angeles Wildcats
Other departures from the NFL that may take some getting used to include:
The teams play a ten-week season
There will be two games back to back on Saturday and Sunday during the season. Thursday night games will take place during the final weeks of the season.
The postseason is made up of two semifinal games and a championship game.
According to Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner, the league listened to the fans complaints about the NFL and did things a bit differently. Two issues driving the departure from NFL rules are player safety and the pace of the game.
The primary way the XFL is addressing player safety are changes to the kickoff and punts. Notably, during kickoffs, players on the kicking team can’t barrel down the field towards the kick returner until after the returner catches the ball. During punts, the punting team players cannot move past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
Regarding the pace of the game, the XFL’s play clock will be 25 seconds. Additionally, teams have two timeouts per half, and the game clock will continue to run during incomplete and out of bounds plays during the last two minutes of each half.
There are other notable rule differences include:
Teams cannot score points via kicking. Field goals are right out. Following a score, the XFL extra point system gives teams the chance to choose between three different point- after-attempt scenarios:
1point: Run a play from the 2-yard line
2points: Run a play from the 5-yard line
3points: Run a play from the 10-yard line
Players need only one foot inbounds to catch the ball
Clock management forbids running out the clock during the final two minutes of play
There will be no coaches’ challenges
If behind the line of scrimmage, teams can attempt two forward passes
I’m withholding judgement on the revamped XFL until I’ve seen a game or two. One thing I am sure of is that Vince McMahon is, among other things, a showman. The season kicks off on February 8th at 2:00 pm Est on ABC. Will you be watching?