In case you haven’t heard (but I suspect you have), Vince McMahon is bringing back the XFL in 2020. You remember the XFL, right?
It was the one-and-done league from 2001 that mixed bombast and sleaze with subpar football. It went out of business because – by the end of its lone campaign – so few people cared about it there was no reason to keep it around.
That McMahon is giving football another try isn’t all that puzzling since he seems to have a genuine passion for the game. Not sure why he is reviving the XFL brand, though, because it will only remind us what a failure the original was.
But he’s got some disposable income and really wants a gridiron do-over, so more power to him.
He mentioned last Thursday when he announced the revival that he wants suggestions on how his league should “reimagine” the sport. About the only things he seems intense about are shorter games (around two hours) and no halftime (a move which might make for some really sloppy play by tired players in the fourth quarter).
But, as a fan of Brand X leagues I have a few ideas and am not shy about sharing them.
The first and best, of course, is to raid the NFL for talent and field teams with the best players possible. But even though Vince has deep pockets, I doubt they’re that deep.
Most likely the new XFL, like the old XFL, will be stocked with players not good enough to stick on NFL rosters.
But that’s OK … if you can’t have the best players, you can make up for it by being wildly creative and having the best rules.
So here are some outside-the-box changes to consider …
Touchdowns will be worth 7 points instead of 6 (I stole that from the old World Football League), and the PAT kick is eliminated in favor of a run or pass from the 2-yard line with a successful conversion worth 1 point.
(There was no extra point kick in the old XFL, either, by the way).
I also think there needs to be creative ways for defenses to score points.
You can keep the safety, of course, but the unit can record a single point for their team by recovering a fumble or making an interception.
Radical? A little, perhaps.
But not nearly as radical as this; the new XFL should have no kickoffs, no punts and no first downs.
Each game begins with the team that wins the toss starting at its own 20-yard line. From there, it has 10 plays to try to score a touchdown or field goal.
If it fails to score, the opposition takes over wherever the drive ends. Or, if on its final down (the 10th down) a team finds itself deep in its own territory, it can concede two points to the opposition in exchange for the other team starting at its 20.
You always hear that football is a game of field position, and these rules truly up the ante when it comes to strategy.
McMahon said he wanted the new XFL to be concerned with player safety, so from that standpoint the elimination of kickoff returns should go a long way toward lessening the likelihood of concussions. I know fans love the “headhunter hits,” but I think it’s time we evolve when it comes to how the game should be played.
Other changes that would differentiate XFL 2020 from what you see in the NFL and college football:
- End zones are 20 yards deep (that rule is borrowed from the Canadian Football League) and goals posts are situated on the goal line.
- All backs are allowed in motion toward the line of scrimmage (also borrowed from the CFL).
- Receivers need just one foot in bounds to be credited with a reception AND as long as the pass catcher has the ball and keeps the ball from touching the ground up to the point that his knee hits the turf and ends the play, it will be ruled a completed pass.
- Any pass that is “thrown away” is considered intentional grounding (spiking to stop the clock is excluded).
- Teams have 20 seconds to snap the ball after officials give the “ready to play” signal.
Anyway, if you’re reading this Vince, I hope these suggestions help. And if, in 2020, I can see the Birmingham Brigade faced with a 10th and goal situation against the San Diego Surf, I’ll feel that my work here is complete.