Lawsuit reveals Ebersol’s initial intention to go with XFL

McMahon may been thinking about resurrecting the XFL all along.

Earlier today, Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell tweeted about a lawsuit filed by investor Robert Vanech against the Alliance of American Football and Charlie Ebersol. He also revealed how Ebersol’s original plan was to restart the XFL by purchasing the league for $50 million from Vince McMahon.

  • Lawsuit details here.

Many observers have made the conclusion this gives evidence McMahon had an offer on the table to sell the remnants of the XFL for a substantial amount, and reacted by quickly turning around and reforming the league himself.  On the other hand, some think McMahon already had plans to resurrect the XFL.

There is ample evidence McMahon desired to revive the XFL all along, especially if you consider remarks he made in the 2016 Charlie Ebersol produced “This Was The XFL” special, an ESPN Films production in their “30 for 30” series.

When Dick Ebersol asked McMahon whether he had any thoughts about trying to restart the football league, Vince answered thoughtfully and quickly, “Yes, and no. I don’t know what it would be, whether it would be another XFL or how different I would make it but somehow it would tie-in with the NFL itself and the owners.” Afterward, the two men discussed the possibility of going back into a partnership, with Vince making the final comment that he was sure, “they could find a way.”

Afterward, in 2017, fans noticed how McMahon began to trademark new football related names, giving additional hints he hadn’t given up on his dream to create his own football league.

As revealed in the lawsuit, when Charlie Ebersol showed considerable interest in the XFL, it did seem to trigger McMahon to restart his pet project.  This left Ebersol to start his own league and attempt to do it quicker and better than the XFL.

We await the verdicts, both in the pending lawsuit, and the seemingly increasing friction between the XFL and AAF.

Oliver Luck announces the hiring of Jim Zorn as the head coach and general manager of XFL Seattle

Jim Zorn introduced as the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in Seattle.

Replay press conference on YouTube:

At the press conference, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck lauded Zorn. “I watched Jim Zorn play for the Seahawks, an expansion franchise, and I was totally captivated with his style of play. He was innovative. He was creative. He did all those things as a player that we want to do as a league.”

“He’s a great individual, and a man of high caliber,” Luck added.

Zorn is best known as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks for their first eight seasons. Afterward, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks before being hired by the Washington Redskins to be their head coach starting in the 2008 season. After leaving Washington, Zorn was hired as quarterbacks coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and later as the quarterbacks’ coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jim Zorn Named XFL Head Coach in Seattle

SEATTLE, WASH., February 25, 2019 – The XFL today announced that former NFL quarterback and head coach Jim Zorn has been named the head coach and general manager of the new XFL team in Seattle.

“It’s an exciting day when Jim Zorn returns to his professional football roots,” said Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner & CEO. “Jim comes to the XFL with terrific credentials as an NFL player and coach and a reputation for innovation. As the Seahawks first quarterback, he’s well-known in the Pacific Northwest and he appreciates our vision to reimagine the game.”

“I’m thrilled to be heading back to the sidelines, and I thank Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck for this opportunity,” said Zorn. “It’s not often that on the professional level a head coach also gets to choose his players, so this situation is truly unique. I’m looking forward to working with my coaches and staff to field a competitive, top-flight team for the amazing and loud football fans of the Pacific Northwest.”

Zorn joins Bob Stoops (Dallas) and Pep Hamilton (Washington, D.C.) as XFL head coaches named to date.

Zorn spent 11 years as a quarterback in the NFL, having the distinction of being the expansion Seattle Seahawks’ first signal caller in 1976 and remaining with the team through the 1984 season. He also played for the Green Bay Packers (1985), the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1986) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987). A rare left-handed passer, Zorn threw for more than 21,000 yards during his NFL career with 111 touchdowns and rushed for 1,504 yards scoring 17 touchdowns. He played college football as a quarterback at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, (Cal Poly Pomona) from 1973 to 1974.

Once he left the field, Zorn began a successful college coaching career in 1989 as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach at Boise State University. In 1992, he became offensive coordinator at Utah State University for three seasons before moving on to the University of Minnesota as quarterbacks coach from 1995 to 1996.

Zorn became an NFL coach in 1997. He served two stints with the Seahawks, first as an offensive assistant (1997) and then as quarterbacks coach (2001-2007). He also worked as quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions (1998-2000), Baltimore Ravens (2010), and Kansas City Chiefs (2011-2012). Quarterbacks benefitting from his expertise include Charlie Batch, Matt Hasselbeck, and Joe Flacco. Zorn was the head coach of the Washington Redskins in 2008 and 2009. He is a member of the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor and recently served as a head coach for the 2019 Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii, an all-star game that annually showcases the nation’s top 100 high school players.

About The XFL The XFL will reimagine football for the 21st century when it kicks off the weekend of February 8-9, 2020. The new league is committed to delivering a fan-centric, innovative experience, including fast-paced games and a family-friendly environment, complemented by cross-platform viewing options and real-time fan engagement.

Football is America’s favorite sport boasting over 85 million fans, but the traditional season is just too short. Seeing a tremendous opportunity to fill the void, Vince McMahon, XFL Founder and Chairman announced on January 25, 2018, the launch of a new league, which he is personally funding. McMahon is building the XFL with the same commitment and resolve that he has demonstrated building WWE into a global media and sports entertainment powerhouse.

Delivering authentic, high energy football for the whole family at an affordable price, the XFL will offer fast-paced games with fewer play stoppages and simpler rules. The league will launch with eight teams, 45-man active rosters, and a 10-week regular season schedule, with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game. The XFL will also establish a health, wellness and safety program that meets the needs of today’s athletes.

The XFL will embrace the latest on and off-field technology, providing live game coverage, content and real-time engagement across multiple platforms, giving fans greater access than ever before. The XFL is committed to building grassroots relationships with local organizations in its host cities through social responsibility partnerships, and the XFL will enjoy the support of WWE’s many extraordinary resources and promotional capabilities.

The XFL will launch next year in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.

Seattle takes an important step toward spring football

Jim Zorn’s name and position on the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor. (Source)

If there is a place where spring football may thrive, it’s Seattle. After all, February weather in Seattle can be downright “spring like,” an important consideration for the potential quality of both the game and the fan experience.

Seattle has the weather, the fans, and a fabulous stadium, and on Monday the Emerald City will be given the name of the first Head Coach and General Manager of Seattle’s XFL franchise.

  • Event: Monday February 25th at 1:00PM Pacific Time. CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA

The biggest name rumored to be débuted as Head Coach of XFL Seattle is Jim Zorn.  Zorn will be forever connected to Seattle as he was the first starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, a position he filled from 1976 to 1984. If Zorn is the one who is named on Monday, be sure they will talk about his career in Seattle and his name and position on the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor.

Zorn’s past coaching career includes a less than successful stint with the Washington Redskins, but don’t think that will dissuade Seattle football fans from embracing him. When it comes to football, Zorn will be a welcome sight for Seattleites when he is seen on the sidelines at CenturyLink Field.

Ever since the venerable Kingdome was imploded in March 2000, Seattle’s new gem has been CenturyLink Field. Home to the Seattle Seahawks it will now host Seattle’s XFL team. CenturyLink is an open-air stadium with a capacity of 68,000 under its overhangs that cover about seventy percent of the seating area. It’s perfect for football.  Will the XFL crowd fill the seats? Doubtful, especially in the first season. However, 25,000 fans in the lower bowl would be more than respectful.

CenturyLink Field is notorious for its crowd noise. It twice held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor stadium, first at 136.6 decibels in 2013, followed by a measurement of 137.6 decibels in 2014. It will be interesting to see how an XFL fan crowd will attempt to match these levels.

Monday is an important step to bring spring football to Seattle next February. Soon, Seattle’s team name, logo and colors should be ready to be revealed. Another important step in the process, especially for fans to begin to rally around their new team.

XFL Seattle Head Coach Announcement Monday

Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, future home to Seattle’s XFL franchise.

The XFL has announced it will reveal the Seattle franchise’s Head Coach on Monday 25 February 2019.

  • Event: Monday February 25th at 1:00PM Pacific Time. CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA

This announcement will come only four days after XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck announced Pep Hamilton as Head Coach/General Manager of the XFL Washington franchise.

Earlier this week, on St. Louis radio, Luck mentioned the upcoming XFL announcements. “We’ve got a cadence going of about one Head Coach announcement per week and we will get all our markets done by the end in March,” Luck explained.

A week ago, SiriusXM NFL Radio host Alex Marvez tweeted the rumor that former Quarterback and and NFL coach Jim Zorn was rumored to join the XFL as a coach.

It is felt Zorn would be a likely candidate for the XFL Seattle Head Coach/GM position, since he has sports ties to that city and currently resides in the local area.

Zorn is best known as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks for their first eight seasons. Afterward, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks before being hired by the Washington Redskins to be their head coach starting in the 2008 season. After leaving Washington, Zorn was hired as quarterbacks coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and later as the quarterbacks’ coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Pep Hamilton to lead XFL Washington

Pep Hamilton (left) and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck (right) (Credit Twitter 

Former NFL and college assistant coach Pep Hamilton is the new Head Coach and General Manager of XFL Washington D.C.

Hamilton’s hiring was officially announced by XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck on Thursday, at Audi Field in Washington D.C.

In the past, Luck knew Hamilton through his son, quarterback Andrew Luck, who was coached by Hamilton both at Stanford and later with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.

(View the announcement video below)

 

Pep Hamilton, a Washington D.C. native, recently resigned his position at Michigan. He has plenty of football experience, with eleven seasons coaching in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Colts, and most recently with the 2016 Cleveland Browns.

“I’m excited to join the XFL and lead the team in Washington, a city with which I have a lifelong attachment,” Hamilton stated on Thursday. “I appreciate the confidence Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck have in me, providing an opportunity to be the head coach and placing the football operations of their Washington team in my hands. We plan to put together a terrific, hard-working staff, and a great football team for fans in and around our nation’s capital.”

Pep Hamilton Named XFL Head Coach in Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. February 21, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Pep Hamilton, who has more than 20 years of experience as a football coach in the NFL and with major college programs, has been named the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in Washington, D.C.

“We are thrilled to welcome Pep Hamilton to the XFL family,” said Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner & CEO. “Pep, through hard work and dedication, has climbed the coaching ladder in the college and pro ranks, and has earned this opportunity to become a head coach for the first time in his career. It’s meaningful that Pep will lead our team in Washington, where he played quarterback and began his coaching career at Howard University.”

“I’m excited to join the XFL and lead the team in Washington, a city with which I have a lifelong attachment,” said Hamilton. “I appreciate the confidence Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck have in me, providing an opportunity to be the head coach and placing the football operations of their Washington team in my hands. We plan to put together a terrific, hard-working staff, and a great football team for fans in and around our nation’s capital.”

Hamilton, who joins Bob Stoops as a newly-named XFL head coach and general manager, has focused his coaching career on the offensive side of the game. He has coached and developed many outstanding college and professional quarterbacks, including Jay Cutler, Brian Griese, Andrew Luck, and Alex Smith.

Hamilton joins the XFL with more than 10 years of coaching experience across five NFL teams: the Cleveland Browns (2016); Indianapolis Colts (2013-15); Chicago Bears (2007-09); San Francisco 49ers (2006) and New York Jets (2003-05).

With the Browns, Hamilton was the associate head coach on offense, and before that, served three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Colts, who went 22-10 during his first two seasons, winning two AFC South division titles and advancing to the 2014 AFC Championship Game. That season, the Colts set franchise records for passing yards (4,894) and net yards (6,506), with the passing total leading all NFL teams.

During Hamilton’s three seasons in Chicago, he worked as the Bears’ quarterbacks coach and before that was the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. He held the same positions with the New York Jets for two seasons after beginning his NFL coaching career as the team’s offensive quality control coach in 2003.

Hamilton’s college career includes two years as the University of Michigan’s assistant head coach and passing game coordinator (2017-18), working with head coach Jim Harbaugh. Hamilton joined Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford in 2010 as the wide receivers coach, then served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2011-12).

He began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Howard University, for five seasons (1997-2001). Hamilton added the role of offensive coordinator to his responsibilities during his final three seasons. Hamilton earned his bachelor’s degree in business in 1997 from Howard where he played quarterback from 1993 to 1996, receiving the school’s scholar-athlete award in 1995 and 1996.

About The XFL The XFL will reimagine football for the 21st century when it kicks off the weekend of February 8-9, 2020. The new league is committed to delivering a fan-centric, innovative experience, including fast-paced games and a family-friendly environment, complemented by cross-platform viewing options and real-time fan engagement.

Football is America’s favorite sport boasting over 85 million fans, but the traditional season is just too short. Seeing a tremendous opportunity to fill the void, Vince McMahon, XFL Founder and Chairman announced on January 25, 2018, the launch of a new league, which he is personally funding. McMahon is building the XFL with the same commitment and resolve that he has demonstrated building WWE into a global media and sports entertainment powerhouse.

Delivering authentic, high energy football for the whole family at an affordable price, the XFL will offer fast-paced games with fewer play stoppages and simpler rules. The league will launch with eight teams, 45-man active rosters, and a 10-week regular season schedule, with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game. The XFL will also establish a health, wellness and safety program that meets the needs of today’s athletes.

The XFL will embrace the latest on and off-field technology, providing live game coverage, content and real-time engagement across multiple platforms, giving fans greater access than ever before. The XFL is committed to building grassroots relationships with local organizations in its host cities through social responsibility partnerships, and the XFL will enjoy the support of WWE’s many extraordinary resources and promotional capabilities.

The XFL will launch next year in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.

Oliver Luck on XFL Broadcast Package, Seattle’s Head Coach Announcement

Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, future home to Seattle’s XFL franchise.

Today, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was on the Charlie Brennan Show on St. Louis KMOX radio, and gave an update on the progress of league announcements, including a hint Seattle’s Head Coach will be announced next week.

Luck confirmed the league will have a 10-game season starting the weekend after the Super Bowl, followed by two semi-final games in week eleven, and the championship game at the end of April.

The XFL Commissioner also mentioned the upcoming XFL broadcast package. “We are very close to announcing a very strong broadcast package,” Luck said. “Two of the four games will be broadcast over-the-air, terrestrial, major carriers, and the remaining two games will be broadcast over cable, but fully distributed cable sports brands people will recognize.”

Luck also talked about the upcoming XFL announcements. “We’ve got a cadence going of about one Head Coach announcement per week and we will get all our markets done by the end in March,” Luck explained. “At some point, probably in April, we will be able to launch the team names, team colors, identity and logos.”

This seems to be a change in the timeline, since, in past interviews, Luck had hinted the team names and colors may be revealed in March.

As for Seattle, Luck revealed next week the XFL would be in Seattle to announce the team’s Head Coach. It has been rumored former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn is being touted for the job.

XFL to announce Washington’s Head Coach on Thursday

Former Michigan assistant head coach and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is rumored to be the first Head Coach of the Washington D.C. XFL franchise.

The XFL has announced it will reveal the Washington, D.C. franchise’s Head Coach on Thursday.

  • Event: Thursday February 21st at 1:00PM ET. Audi Field, Washington D.C.

The candidate doesn’t seem to be a secret, as the rumor mill has already spit out former Michigan assistant head coach and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as the man who will be named to the position.

Hamilton has plenty of football experience, with eleven seasons coaching in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Colts, and most recently with the 2016 Cleveland Browns. Early this month, Hamilton resigned his position at Michigan to “pursue other opportunities.”

Other former NFL players and coaches who are rumored to have been courted for an XFL Head Coach position are former Linebacker and Indiana University of Pennsylvania alum, Jim Haslett, and former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn.

Where will the XFL get their players?

The XFL’s football operations department has direct knowledge of the entire pool of college players that are looking to become pros. This will help them in the process of finding the hidden gems that may be overlooked.

One of the biggest and most valid points of contention against the XFL is the uncertainty over where their pool of football talent is going to come from.

Despite a $500 million dollar investment from Vince McMahon, and the announced pay tiers of $250 thousand (plus) per year for top players, and $150 thousand for their second tier players, which would put the XFL as the second highest paying football league, next to the NFL there are still legitimate questions about where the league’s talent pool is going to come from.

With the recent growth in salaries for the CFL and the existence of the AAF, and their three-year 250k total player contracts, the pickings would appear to be very slim. So, that begs the question being asked yet again, “Where will the league get its players, if it’s not from those leagues.”

The NFL

The XFL can’t and won’t compete for players with the NFL However, the largest bulk of the XFL’s 2020 rosters will come from the NFL’s roster cuts in September, the time period where the XFL will be having a league wide draft. On September 1st, all 32 NFL teams will cut down from 90 players to 53. That number becomes 63 when the 10 player practice squads are finalized. That brings the total of players without NFL jobs after cut down day to 864.  That’s 27 players cut per team who won’t land on an NFL roster. Multiply this by 32 and you got 864 players. There will be competition for some of these players from other leagues, but the advantage of starting a new league is the other leagues already have hundreds of players under contract. They are not going to cut 300 players to sign 300 new players. Even still, their leagues are not big enough to field 800 players.

The XFL will be fielding 8 teams with 45-man rosters and 7-player practice squads. That means that their league’s eight active rosters will have a maximum of 416 total players. Certainly not all of them will be from this crop of 864. Oliver Luck mentioned in a recent interview that the league plans on signing 450 players overall. Those who are not drafted into the XFL will remain under league contract. They will be available to be signed when injuries occur.

Some of the players that don’t make NFL rosters will be veterans. There will be veterans cut, who don’t make it to their second or in most cases, third contracts. There was an interesting study from the NFL last season, reported by long-time NFL reporter John Clayton. In 2018, The average NFL player experience level went down from 5 years to 4.3,meaning the league continues to get younger. The NFL went from 860 players in 2017, who had three-years or more experience in the league, to just a little over 600 in 2018.

There are several unsigned veteran NFL players who are on the outside looking in right now with no jobs in any league. Names like Terrelle Pryor, Landry Jones, Chad Kelly, EJ Manuel, Christine Michael, Matt Jones, etc. There are over 200 of these types of players, still looking for a way back into the NFL. The problem is that every year the NFL adds over 300 rookies to their roster through the draft and undrafted free agents. That’s 300 new rookies coming into the league, which means that over 300 current players lose their jobs. Excluding the likes of players like Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel, there are hundreds of unsigned NFL vets in that 27-30 year-old range that could end up being targets for the XFL. Usually not the type of players that developmental leagues look towards signing.

The real challenge for the XFL will be trying to convince a player like Cardale Jones or Braxton Miller, to forgo any practice squad spot to play in their league. It would take a serious sell job to pull this off. While the maximum contract for a 16-week  NFL practice squad player is 120K a season, which would be less than The XFL’s 250K a year salary. The mere possibility of making it back onto an NFL roster, could sway players to ride the season out, in the hopes that they carry a clipboard on Sundays. It would take some influence from the XFL’s coaches and the league’s CEO in Oliver Luck to convince a player that getting game reps will make them a better player in the long haul and more money.

College Football

A portion of the XFL’s rosters figure to be made up of players who do not make it into an NFL camp. On average every year, there are over 12,000 draft eligible college football players, and only 256 of them get drafted. Up to 100 undrafted free agents or so, end up cycling into the league or making rosters. So, that leaves a good number of college football players without anywhere to go.

The XFL has an “in” with this department because of their scouting department in Optimum Scouting, and with XFL Vice President Doug Whaley. Optimum and Whaley have both been in charge of putting together rosters for college football all-star games in recent years. Whaley has been the director of the NFL PA Collegiate Bowl the last two years. Eric Galko and Optimum Scouting has not only scouted all of the primary college all-star games like the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Games, but Eric Galko has been in charge of compiling rosters for games like The Dream Bowl, a collegiate all-star game featuring players from small schools.

The XFL’s football operations department has direct knowledge of the entire pool of college players that are looking to become pros. This will help them in the process of finding the hidden gems that may be overlooked. It’s worth noting that Eric Galko also works with “Your Call Football,” a tech based company that allows fans to choose from a select group of plays on each snap. Two teams comprised of former NFL players and hopefuls play a series of games, starting this coming Monday. The XFL is expected to do their next round of game and rules testing with these players. In fact, several of these players wound up in NFL camps, and in the CFL, after last year’s series of games. This March, the XFL’s football department will also be working with the Spring League, a series of games and teams that feature former NFL players and hopefuls. Players from both the TSL and YCF rosters could end up in the XFL.

There is yet another element that could potentially benefit the XFL in their quest to recruit college football talent. Coaches like Bob Stoops and Pep Hamilton have direct knowledge and experience in recruiting. Players that ended up with their program and players that didn’t. Both XFL Head Coach/General Managers have recent knowledge of players in big schools and big conferences, that they have coached,  and coached against. Their recruiting knowledge will help them pinpoint and acquire talent.

There is a taboo area of College Football, that hasn’t been touched upon yet here. As many know, the XFL has left open the possibility of signing college football players who are not yet eligible to be drafted into the NFL. The group of players from college could be one or two-year players, or even players who do not want to transfer or sit out a year. This could also extend to players who are on the Junior College Level. Players that may have big time program talent, but not the grades, or that may have some character issues. There likely won’t be a large number of players from this group, but the door is open for this possibility. If a big named player were to sign, that could open up the possibility for more prominent college players taking the plunge. This leads to the next potential pool of players.

High School

Probably more controversial than a 2-year college player deciding to turn pro in the XFL, is the possibility of a high school football player forgoing college to become a pro-football player. The arguments against this are valid. From a physical maturity standpoint, it’s easy to understand why people would object to this. For a football player to be able to turn pro immediately after high school, he would have to be a rare physical specimen along the likes of a Herschel Walker or Adrian Peterson. The odds are against this happening, and if it does it will be on a very small scale. I don’t see more than a handful even trying out for the league, but once this door is opened, there’s no closing it. The idea is not so crazy for Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee, who is starting the Pacific Pro League, specifically to sign high school football players. I don’t see the XFL entertaining this at a grand scale. Perhaps a player or two at most could come from this pool.

Conclusion

There are so many unanswered questions about the XFL, like their still unannounced TV deal, to their league plans of presentation and talent. There are so many doubters of the league, and rightfully so, based on the league’s past, the history of upstart leagues and the current landscape of pro football.

There’s a quote by famous American Poet, Author and Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is the approach the XFL will be taking. Perhaps some of it by choice, and some if it out of necessity.