Any other year and this weekend would have been a sports nightmare. The NFL just finished. The NBA really kicks it up after the All-Star break. Still a month away from March Madness. Every other year this would have been a weekend to go outside and do something productive with your life. Well, thanks to the return of the XFL, football was still in our lives this weekend.
No, the XFL is not at the same level of play as the NFL and anyone expecting that was bound to be disappointed. It's so rare for football leagues outside of the NFL to succeed because they simply don't have the talent of the NFL. The XFL doesn't either, but they make up for it in creativity and presentation. There's no telling if the XFL will last. As I said, non-NFL football leagues usually don't. It will surely be an uphill battle, but I'll say this: the XFL's opening weekend showed that they could be up for the fight.
We already ran you through everything you need to know about the league, but here are our biggest takeaways from the opening weekend of the XFL.
The XFL Rules are Awesome
Listen, we knew coming into this that the rules were going to be different. They were made to speed up the game and encourage points. There's almost no punting and the clock stoppage rules under two minutes are pretty awesome. The best rule, however, is the kickoff. In recent years the NFL has tried to fix kickoffs because they're super dangerous, but have mostly just made them a formality. Insert the XFL's new rules, where each team lines up five yards away from each other when the ball is kicked off. This not only is safer, but it opens up the potential for more exciting kickoff returns. How soon before the NFL adopts this rule? Two seasons?
QB Play Is a Mixed Bag
As expected, the QB play is really up and down in the XFL. They don't have the budget to sign big players right now, so they need to focus on giving guys who have washed out of the NFL opportunities. With that, you'll get someone like Cardale Jones, who has been on NFL rosters, but has never been able to break through as a starter. Jones was electrifying during his first game with the XFL and is one of the faces of the league. On the other hand, you have someone like Aaron Murray, who has also been on NFL rosters, but was just miserable in his XFL debut. I just assume the QB play is going to be a mixed bag all season and will likely determine how far this league can go.
The Broadcasts & Presentation Are A+
The NFL is a place of secrecy. Coaches are so terrified to give the other team an edge that they won't tell you anything about anything that they do week to week. Well, the XFL is going the exact opposite of that and gearing towards full transparency. The broadcasts literally have the coaches mic'd up so you can hear the playcalls on each down. That's fascinating and probably more educational to people who might just be getting into football. I really love it. Not only is the transparency great, but the broadcasts are magical. Greg Olson is a future star in the booth. Oh yeah, the sideline interviews right after a player messes up are gold. They really pulled the curtain back on all of this.
They're Embracing Gambling
Another big difference between the new XFL and the NFL is that the XFL is fully in on gambling. So much so that they're showing the spreads and point totals on the screen for the entire game. What was once very taboo in sports is now very common and normal. As more and more states legalize sports betting the overall interest is only going to grow and the XFL is at the forefront of this. Will the NFL ever catch up?
Fan Interest Seems High
It's very early, but the XFL seems to have a built in fanbase set to support the league right off the bat. That could always waver as the season goes on, but there was not only a whole lot of social media attention on the XFL, but according to Darren Rovel, the league already has surpassed ticket sales revenue of the AAF's entire season. That could mean a lot or very little. Only time will tell, but two days on top of Twitter's trending topics seem to point at the XFL being a success.