Will the XFL become a home for the player formerly known as Johnny Football?

Johnny Manziel posing with Hamilton Tiger-Cat head coach June Jones in May 2018. Today, Jones is the head coach of the XFL Houston franchise. Will he get the chance to pose with Manziel once again?

Now that the XFL is starting to sign players, beginning with the recent signing of quarterback Landry Jones, other signings won’t be too far away.

If there is one potential XFL player signing that is highly anticipated among fans, it is Johnny Manziel.

We all know Manziel has had well documented problems.  We might be able to summarize his football career by saying, shear brilliance, followed by poor choices and bad luck. First, being his brilliant college career and well deserved Heisman Trophy, second, his NFL career with the Browns that went south, mainly because of poor personal choices, and third, his resurrection in the AAF that was cut short when the league folded like a cheap chair at the end of a party.

You may have noticed that we didn’t mention Manziel’s CFL career… mainly because we don’t really know what happened there. Last winter, after playing one season with the Canadian league, Manziel was cut loose under a veil of secrecy. The CFL even went as far as to say he had been “barred from the league.” It may have been another example of “poor choices,” but we cannot be sure.

That being said, when it comes to considering Manziel for the XFL, the league should start by looking back at his CFL career.

Manziel was brought into the Hamilton Tiger Cats training camp in the spring of 2018. Hamilton head coach June Jones had been a big fan of Manziel’s, and had followed his career since he had switched from receiver to quarterback at Tivy High School in Kerryville, TX.

“I’ve wanted him since he was a sophomore in high school,” Jones said to reporters at the time. “I think I was the first to offer him a scholarship.”

Later, Jones remained a big fan when he coached at Southern Methodist University, and Manziel starred for rival Texas A&M, eventually leading to a Heisman Trophy for the young player. Finally, when Jones was head coach of the CFL’s Hamilton franchise, he got the chance to coach Manziel in person, when he was signed to a two-year contract with the team.  It was also understood that the contract included stipulations that would help Manziel repair his off-field image and resurrect his football career.

It should be noted that Canadian football fans had great interest in the career of “Johnny Football,” and awaited his debut with marked anticipation.  Manziel’s hiring created a buzz. However, when the season began, Manziel held the position of second-string quarterback behind the Ti-Cats star Jeremiah Masoli. With little playing time on the table it was reported that Manziel was unhappy. Soon, he was traded to the Montreal Alouettes where he got the chance as a starter.

There was plenty of interest in Manziel once he hit the field in Montreal, with hopeful fans flocking to Percival Molson Stadium to view the event. Most fans were likely wondering whether it would be a train wreck, but still hoping they would witness the resurrection of a once-great football genius. What they got was a lackluster performance, and a bad home team loss. But, they came out to see it, didn’t they?

Flash forward to today. Manziel is again looking for a football league, and the XFL is looking for good players. The fans still seem to have faith in good old “Johnny Football” and would love to witness him throwing an XFL ball. For the same reason fans flocked to Montreal’s stadium, they will also show up to see Manziel if he starts in an XFL game. They will come to see someone who is still a star in their eyes, and dream of witnessing the game where Manziel’s train wreck of a career would be put back on the rails.

Having Manziel as a starting quarterback would help the XFL create a buzz, especially if he was placed in the Houston franchise where he could be reunited with coach June Jones, and once again throwing footballs under the bright, broad Texas sky. There could be nothing more poetic than this scenario, and the XFL needs to consider bringing it to reality.

It might sell a few tickets.

Will the league take a chance on Manziel, even after he was barred by the CFL? Of course, we do not know the reason he was cut by the Canadian league, but the AAF took a chance on him and that seemed to work out. Keep in mind that the XFL presently has personnel who worked in the CFL last season, and they might know enough about the situation to help XFL HQ make a wise choice on the matter.

Either way, the fans want to see Manziel get another chance. In the past the XFL has called itself a league of “second chances.”  Doesn’t this seem like a perfect match?

Speculation abounds after the XFL teases team identities

Like a burlesque entertainer removing one glove, this is all the XFL is willing to show…. today.

Today, the XFL released two thumbnails representing the identities of two of their eight franchises.

This immediately kicked-off a round of speculation, mainly focused on the left graphic being the head of a snake, with an eye and a fang showing, and the right graphic being the bottom left of a large “D”.

On Twitter 2020Hindsight thought the “D” could be the logo for Dallas, as the Dallas is known as the “Big D.”

In the XFLBoard Forum the conversation pointed to the fact that the AAF did a similar tease of their logos prior to the official release.  You can see the AAF teaser logos here:

There is no word on when the official team names and branding announcement will be made. It should be pointed out that when the AAF teased their logos, they released bits and pieces of each logo until all eight logos were teased.  Does this mean we are due for six more teaser graphics from the XFL?

It should also be pointed out that today’s teaser did not resonate with any mainstream media outlets. The only places reporting today’s teaser were XFL fan sites. This could be the most important takeaway from today’s release.

Opinion: The XFL team names must be worth the wait

In 2001, the New York/New Jersey Hitmen had a great team name, but many other XFL team names were ridiculed. Will the team names of the 2020 version of the XFL be any better?

The XFL hasn’t yet named their eight inaugural franchises, and continue to refer to the teams as XFL Houston, XFL Dallas, XFL St. Louis, etc. Although league staff had conveyed plans to announce actual team names prior to August, it is now the middle of August and the names remain unannounced.

There has been a few rumored names, and leaks such as trademark registrations for Seattle franchise names, but nothing has been confirmed.

We can only assume that the league has delayed the official team name announcement for a good reason. Right? It’s not like they’re deliberately trying to tease us.

High-level league officials are very tight-lipped about the situation, and will only give overall reasons for the delay, such as legal and trademark concerns. Actually, it makes sense that legal ramifications are a major part in their decision, but one would hope that this would have been completed already.

Presently, some fans are bothered by the delay of the announcement. But, not all. A straw poll currently running on Twitter is showing that the fan reaction is almost split in half.

However, there are some murmurings among staff on XFL teams that show anxiousness toward the lack of an announcement.  Most recently, Houston Head Coach June Jones declared that the team name announcement would take place on August 21st.

However, once this date was shared on Twitter, Jones’ statement was quickly retracted. It seems that Jones was gleeful in making this proclamation, but, either it was not his to make, or he was talking about a date that no longer worked.

Regardless of when the league finally names their eight franchises, the most important judgement will be the quality of the names, not the timeliness of the announcement.  That being said, it is hoped that the XFL has taken the time to test their chosen names with focus groups comprised of both fans and business partners.

One thing we should all remember is how the original XFL team names are now legendary in their “badness.” In fact, whenever any sports team is given a substandard name, the collective reaction is to compare the bad naming to the XFL, i.e., “That sounds like an XFL name.”

That’s right. The original XFL is remembered for many things, but mainly for its horrible team names. Granted the 2001 XFL team names were not all bad. However, with the genuine greatness of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Chicago Enforcers, and Las Vegas Outlaws, we had the very unconventional Memphis Maniax, Orlando Rage and Los Angeles Xtreme. It is a given that fans of these teams grew to love the names, but there was room for ridicule, and the ridicule came… and stayed.

In August 2000, the original XFL team names were announced with great fanfare, but it wasn’t done without a little drama. Just a week prior to the official announcement, the team names were leaked in the XFLBoard forum, including the name of the Birmingham franchise, which was to be the “Birmingham Blast.” Quickly, in the message board, fans begin to point out the inappropriateness of the word “blast,” especially considering past deaths that had been caused by bombings in the city. The XFL took note and quickly changed the name to “Birmingham Thunderbolts.” With some minor changes, they even used the same graphics as the original name. This was all done within the span of a week.

The moral of the story is that team names can be done quickly, but be ready for problems. Doesn’t it then follow that when team names are done slowly and methodically, they should be as good as we have ever seen?

After so many delays, we should be expecting quality team names. Then, maybe the XFL will finally be able to shed the weight of being known as the “bad team name league.”

Landry Jones has signed with the XFL

Quarterback Landry Jones at XFL Summer Showcase
Dallas, June 7, 2019

The XFL has announced that Landry Jones has signed a contract with the league. The former University of Oklahoma standout and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback will play for one of the XFL’s eight teams.

“We’re excited to welcome Landry to the XFL as our first player and first quarterback,” said XFL Commissioner and CEO, Oliver Luck. “He’s an accomplished athlete with outstanding college credentials and pro experience, and his heart and desire to play football epitomizes the type of individual we want in the XFL.”

“I’m looking forward to joining the XFL and playing the game I love,” said Jones. “I can’t wait to suit-up.”

Jones spent six seasons in the National Football League with the Pittsburgh Steelers and stints with the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Artesia, New Mexico native attended the University of Oklahoma (2009-12), where he set Big 12 Conference records in passing yards (16,646), completions (1,388) and touchdown passes (123). As a senior, Jones earned All-Big 12 second-team honors. In 2010, he won the Sammy Baugh Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate passer.

The XFL will sign seven other leading quarterbacks before its inaugural player draft in October and each team’s Head Coach will select their quarterback just prior to the draft. Details about the draft will be shared at a later date.

More high-powered hires for the XFL including NBC Sports Veteran Len Mead

On Wednesday, the XFL shared the details of four new staff hires, one at XFL headquarters, one in Dallas and two in Seattle.

XFL Headquarters

Len Mead has joined as Vice President, Media Partnerships in the league’s headquarters in Stamford, CT. He will manage the day-to-day relationships with the XFL’s broadcast partners FOX Sports and ABC/ESPN as well as exploring potential new partners in TV, radio, and other platforms. Len joins the XFL after nine years with NBC Sports Regional Networks where he was initially hired as VP Production & Programming for then Comcast Sportsnet New England before moving west to be General Manager of NBC Sports Northwest. Prior to NBC, Len worked in programming at NESN and ESPN where he was on the original launch team of ‘ESPN360’ (now ESPN3) and conceived the ‘Megacast’ concept which ESPN continues to use around major events.

XFL Dallas

Rob Carolla will head up communications for XFL Dallas after spending nearly 25 years as a sports administrator. He recently served as President of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) – the national organization for communicators in college athletics – concluding a six-year term on the Board of Directors in 2018-19. During stints at the College Football 150th Anniversary, Big 12 and Big East Conferences and Conference USA, he has handled various external duties on national, regional and local levels. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and was born and raised in New Jersey.

XFL Seattle

Michelle DeLancy has joined XFL Seattle as senior director of marketing, and will be responsible for building the XFL Seattle fan base, creating awareness campaigns, engaging fans across platforms including the game day experience and operations while driving business performance. A Seattle native, she most recently was the general manager at ABC Creators where she oversaw all aspects of the business including brand management, event operations, sponsor sales, athlete relations and development, marketing and communications. She spent the majority of her career with Virginia Mason Medical as executive director of the Boeing Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event held annually in the Seattle area where she oversaw all aspects of the event and the relationship with the PGA Tour.

Pete Tenney, also a Seattle native, joins as director of content production and operations, and will lead the team’s content and production department, overseeing the creation of all XFL Seattle digital content (video and graphics for web, app, etc.), use content to engage fans through storytelling and develop a social media strategy and execution for all XFL Seattle social accounts. He joins from the NFL Players Association where he served as creative director and produced an athlete content series teaming with Amazon, Spotify, EA Sports, and Warner Bros. Before his time with the NFLPA, he was a senior producer at Bleacher Report where he created athlete video franchises and live content.

XFL bolsters its ranks with new staff hires including former AAF Director of Player Personnel

The XFL bolstered its ranks with new staff hires, including a league-wide director of player administration, heads of communications in their Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Houston franchises, and a head of partnerships in LA.

Russ Giglio has joined as Director of Player Administration. Russ spent over eleven years at the NFL working in the Player Personnel and Football Operations departments, and most recently was the Director of Player Personnel at the former AAF. In his role at the XFL, he will be charged with overseeing Player Personnel policies and procedures, including the draft and waiver wire, and report to Doug Whaley, Senior Vice-President of Football Operations.

Lisa Milner Goldberg joins the league as head of communications for XFL Los Angeles, after eleven years working at Swanson Communications, a PR agency with a focus on boxing, individual athletes and live events. Allen Barrett will head up communications for XFL Tampa Bay after 11 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he most recently served as Senior Communications Manager.  Charles Hampton comes to Houston as head of communications for XFL Houston, where he spent eight years with the Houston Texans before heading up the athletic communications team at Grand Canyon University for the past four years.

Jim Baral also joins XFL Los Angeles as the Senior Director of Partnerships, after consulting for the Los Angeles Chargers for the past year and a half. A native of Los Angeles, Jim led media sales and marketing for Univision Networks and Cox Communications on the west coast for over 20 years.

XFL Reveals 2020 Ball Candidates

The XFL is testing a variety of game ball options.

As part of their Summer Showcase series, the XFL revealed a selection of ball options they are testing for the upcoming inaugural season.

The testing at the Summer Showcase is meant to gather feedback from players and coaches.

The balls being tested are brown, with white laces, and all feature a stylized purple and white “X” on each end. The difference between the balls seem to be the texture of the ball. There is no indication as to the manufacturer of the test balls.

The new ball design was originally shown in a Twitter post and then discussed in the XFLBoard forums.

The balls being tested are brown, with white laces, and all feature a stylized purple and white “X” on each end.

The idea of the XFL having a markedly unique football hearkens back to 2001, and the original black and red XFL ball. That ball was loved by fans, and hated by detractors to the league, even going so far as claiming the ball was hard to handle and throw. In fact, former XFL Quarterback and MVP Tommy Maddox has gone on record to say the original XFL ball was “very hard to grip and throw but they made adjustments to it and it became very easy to throw.”

Clearly, we can see how the 2020 version of the XFL is actively testing what may become their signature ball. Let’s hope they get it right, and the 2020 ball is just as loved as the 2001 version.

 

Details revealed for XFL “Summer Showcase” tryouts

Last week the XFL revealed they would hold “Summer Showcase” tryout camps in XFL cities. We have now confirmed that these tryouts are by invitation only, and there will be approximately one-hundred players invited to each camp, where the coaches and league’s football operations staff will conduct an evaluation.

Potential players have been scouted by the league and are being invited through their agents. The invitation process began on May 13th, and agents are being instructed as to the details of the timing and documentation required.

The players invited are expected to be players who are currently Street Free Agents, players from the 2019 NFL Draft class, etc. Immediately following each showcase, the league will begin considering players to sign to XFL League Contracts.

The XFL will be gathering info on these players for signings and for the draft. The tryout camps will entail:

  • Height, weight and measurements for each player
  • Combine like testing; 40 Yard Dash, Shuttle drills etc
  • Individual positional workouts and 1 on 1 drills led by the XFL coaching staffs
  • Private additional workouts and meetings with XFL Coaching staffs
  • Player interviews and background info

It is reported that the XFL intends to make the Showcases open to the general public and media. More details will be released soon.

The official dates and locations:

  • 6/7 Dallas- Maverick Stadium in Arlington, Texas
  • 6/8 Houston- TDECU Stadium
  • 6/14 New York- Sprague Field at Montclair State University
  • 6/15 DC- St. James Complex in Northern Virginia
  • 6/21 LA- Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Beach
  • 6/22- Seattle- Memorial Stadium in Seattle
  • 6/29- Tampa- Raymond James Stadium
  • 7/13- St. Louis- LFA Training Center

Note: This information posted with contributions by Mike Mitchell.

XFL to officially introduce June Jones as Houston Head Coach on Monday

June Jones will be the eight and final Head Coach hired by the XFL prior to their inaugural season kickoff in February 2020.
The XFL has announced they would introduce the new Head Coach/GM of the Houston franchise on May 20th at 11:30 am CT, at TDECU Stadium Club at the University Of Houston. The candidate, former Falcons and Chargers head coach June Jones, has widely been made known prior to the official unveiling, as it was originally tweeted by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

In the past, the 66-year-old Jones has spent three years as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and acted as interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers. More recently, he served as Head Coach  of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the past two years.

Jones also has some local experience, since (as a young football coach) he was wide receivers coach of the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. Later he served as quarterbacks coach for the Houston Oilers. In these roles, he had a hand in the careers of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Warren Moon.

Jones will be the eight and final Head Coach hired by the XFL prior to their inaugural season kickoff in February 2020.

XFL “Summer Showcase” Combines Coming Soon

The XFL will soon look to filling out it’s player rosters as it will be holding a series of “Summer Showcase” combine events in XFL cities during June and July.

In a recent tweet, the XFL announced the “Summer Showcase” as featuring innovative combine testing, football-specific drills and verified measurement opportunities.

The dates for each city are:

  • 6/07 – Dallas
  • 6/08 – Houston
  • 6/14 – New York
  • 6/15 – Washington DC
  • 6/21 – Los Angeles
  • 6/22 – Seattle
  • 6/29 – Tampa Bay
  • 7/13 – St. Louis

Players who are interested in playing in the XFL should probably submit an application through the XFL website.  Here is a direct link: https://www.teamworkonline.com/football-jobs/xfl/xfl-jobs