The rebooted XFL vows to “reimagine the game of football,” and that means the league will play by its own rules when it hits the field next month.
Today XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck and Head of Officiating Dean Blandino unveiled the official rules and gameplay innovations for the eight team circuit, alterations designed to offer a unique twist to a familiar game.
A 3-point conversion?
Multiple forward passes behind the line of scrimmage?
A “soccer style” overtime?
It’s a go.
If you’re a pro football league that isn’t the NFL you need to give fans something different, and the XFL promises to do that when it kicks off on February 8.
“We’re super excited about giving our fans a true fan-first league and one built for the 21st century,” Luck said. “We’ve designed a fast, up tempo game. Our tagline ‘less stall, more ball’ describes very much what we’re aiming for.”
Offenses will be allowed to throw up to two forward passes behind the line of scrimmage, which is sure to create new deceptions in a team’s bag of trick plays.
There are more scoring options as well, thanks to tiered conversions. The extra point kick has become passé in spring football – the original XFL spurned it as did the short-lived Alliance of American Football last year.
That being the case, a team that scores a touchdown in XFL 2.0 has the option of running a play from the two, five, or 10-yard line, worth 1, 2, or 3 points, respectively. Should the defense run back a fumbled ball or take an interception to the house on the try, it’ll score the same amount of points the offense was aiming for.
Thus, a contest that features a nine point differential is still potentially a one score game.
“The innovation that had the most interest from fans was the extra point because of the strategy involved,” Luck said. “Anything that brings strategy into the game of football is welcome. Fans get to think along with the coach in wondering, ‘What would I do in this situation?’ and of course everyone likes to second-guess coaches.
“The high risk really caught the attention of our fans.”
Kickoffs will also look much different than they do in the NFL – or any other league, for that matter.
The placekicker kicks off from his 25-yard line and the ball must be in the air and in play between the opponent’s 20-yard line and the end zone. The coverage team, on the other hand, will line up on the receiving team’s 35-yard line with the return team stationed five years away on the 30. Each team must have three players outside the hash marks on both sides of the ball and cannot move until the ball is caught by the returner.
Out of bounds kicks and kicks that fail to reach the 20-yard line will result in an illegal procedure penalty, taking the ball to the kicking team’s 45 yard line.
This rule keeps kickoffs in the game while all but eliminating the “big collision” aspect.
As for onside kicks, teams must alert officials beforehand and the kickoff will be traditional, with the kicking and receiving teams lined up 10 yards apart.
Punts have been tweaked, too; members of the kicking team can’t advance past the line of scrimmage until the ball has been booted away, although “gunners” can move laterally after the snap.
Tie games will be settled in “penalty shootout” style. A round will consist of one offensive play per team at the opponent’s 5-yard line, with a successful run or pass into the end zone worth two points. The team with more points after five rounds is the winner.
Although not as sexy, the rule that might have the biggest impact involves timing. Games will feature a 25-second play clock and a running clock will be used except in the final two minutes in each half. Only then will the clock stop on incomplete passes and out of bounds plays, meaning games should finish well under three hours.
“We’re focusing on the three Cs – clarity, consistency and credibility for all our stakeholders,” said Blandino, who will oversee officiating crews drawn from the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks. “We want to make sure our games are administered efficiently. What frustrates fans is when we have a lot of stops and starts.”
The inaugural XFL season opens on February 8 with two games.
The DC Defenders host the Seattle Dragons at 2 p.m. on ABC, while the Los Angeles Wildcats travel to Texas to take on the Houston Roughnecks at 5 p.m. on Fox.
Sunday, February 9, Fox will feature the Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians at 2 p.m., and the Dallas Renegades welcome the St. Louis BattleHawks to town at 5 p.m. on ESPN, capping off week one action.
For a complete breakdown of XFL rules as well as the season schedule, go to xfl.com.