Unbelievable interest in the gutted XFL

From a report in The Athletic, twenty different bidders have submitted non-disclosure agreements to begin negotiations to purchase the XFL.

By all reports, the “robust market” has come as a surprise to the firm Houlihan Lokey, the XFL’s global investment bank that is handling the deal. In fact, they expect six additional contenders to join the negotiating process, which they do not expect to complete until September.

To assist in keeping itself viable, it is reported that the XFL has begun discussing extending stadium leases.

“I understand the debtor has modeled for 2021 a made-for-TV, 12-week tournament-style approach to its business, since the XFL is particularly well suited for a crowd-free experience that could thrive in the current environment, given its existing innovations such as in-game audio from players and coaches and live on-screen sports wagering information,” Houlihan managing partner William Hardie said.

Just prior to the XFL filing for bankruptcy in mid-April, the league gutted itself by laying off players coaches and staff in each of the eight XFL cities. A skeleton crew remained on payroll in the XFL head office, however its well-regarded Commissioner Oliver Luck was sacked. Luck, who left the NCAA to accept a $20 million per year role with the league, has now filed a lawsuit against XFL owner Vince McMahon for wrongful termination.

Prior reports suggested McMahon was part of an investment group that was vying to purchase the XFL from bankruptcy. However, McMahon has debunked this rumor in a deposition released this week, where he confirmed he would not be back with the XFL.

Vince McMahon claims he does not plan to buy back the XFL

“I don’t know why that’s out there, making me out to be the bad guy” ~ McMahon

After the XFL was shuttered and then placed into bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been rumored that Vince McMahon was planning to buy back the league from bankruptcy.

Today, as part of the bankruptcy filing, McMahon cleared the air in his deposition.

“I don’t know why that’s out there, making me out to be the bad guy, [that] I’m going to buy the XFL back for pennies on the dollar, basically,” McMahon said in the deposition.

“That helped me move into the direction of, ‘I’m not going to be a bidder, not going to have anything to do with it.’ I do hope that someone will pay a lot of money for it, and I do hope that it will survive.”

McMahon originally launched the XFL in 2001 and rebooted the league in 2019. McMahon owned 80% of the league through his management company Alpha Entertainment and 20% through the WWE.

The brokerage firm Houlihan Lokey has been hired to handle the sale of the league. Letters of intent are due June 12 from interested parties. Final bids are due July 6, subject to approval by the bankruptcy court, in hopes of putting potential new owners in position to get the XFL back on the field.

Is Vince McMahon trying to buy back the bankrupt XFL?

Vince McMahon may be having second thoughts about giving up his XFL dream, as there has been reports he has been making inquiries about re-instating lease agreements in some XFL cities.

According to a recent story in The Athletic, the XFL has reached out to at least the Seattle and St. Louis markets about reinstating lease agreements.

It is possible that McMahon may be trying to purchase the XFL, which he currently owns through Alpha Entertainment and the WWE, from the Delaware bankruptcy court that is working to deal off the league to the highest bidder.

It was also reported that XFL president Jeffrey Pollack is still employed by the league, and that XFL headquarters remain at least partially open.  However, McMahon would have to revive the league without its commissioner Oliver Luck, who has been fired and is the midst of an ugly wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

The XFL did refund all fans who had purchased tickets, which could be seen as a goodwill gesture to fans who may be asked to come back to league once pandemic concerns are alleviated.

If McMahon is indeed interested in reviving the XFL, and succeeds in doing so through a bankruptcy purchase, it may be deemed as one of the most incredible sports business moves in recent history.

XFL Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The XFL has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, per Darren Rovell. The filing revealed that the WWE did have partial ownership of the league at 23.5%. Other creditors included Dallas Coach Bob Stoops ($1M), Marc Trestman ($777K), as well as Ticketmaster ($655K), and other coaches investing $583K each.

Vince McMahon had been reported to be willing to put around $500 million into the league, but according to Forbes, his net worth has dropped $1B in the last year. 

After the XFL suspended day to day operations on Friday, there was still hope that the league would return in 2021. This breaking news makes that very unlikely, signaling the end of the line for the XFL officially. While Chapter 11 does allow for re-structuring of debts, any bankruptcy filing for a professional sports league is not a good sign. 

In a statement the league expressed its regrets:

“The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football. Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”

Daniel Kaplan of the Athletic is now also reporting that the XFL is for sale. That would mean trademarks, logos, rights, the whole 9 yards. This would allow for someone other than Vince McMahon to buy the league and maybe take a 3rd run at making it successful in 2021 and beyond. ”

This is a breaking story and will be updated as we continue to receive credible information.

 

Is this the end of the XFL? Only Vince McMahon Knows

Will the XFL be back? Only Vince McMahon knows the answer.

The XFL suspended operations Friday morning and has laid off nearly all of its staff, with only a handful of executives remaining in place in order to complete the shutdown.

In short statement relayed via the Twitter account of ESPN national NFL writer @SeifertESPN, the message was, “Given the uncertainty of the current environment, the XFL has suspended operations and is evaluating next steps.”

A change of plans

It was only a few weeks ago that the XFL canceled its remaining season as part of a nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, at that time, XFL COO Jeffrey Pollack pledged that the league would be back in 2021.

However, it is rumored that a recent evaluation of the league’s finances warranted a drastic change in plans.

XFL Employees laid off

On Friday 10 April, XFL employees were told they were laid off in a 10-minute conference call from Jeffrey Pollack.

“The XFL as an entity has been hard hit and is affected more directly than most in the sport industry,” Pollack told staffers. “We had no alternative than to stop right in the middle of our first season, just as we were continuing to build our foundation and our future. As a result of the pandemic’s impact and given the uncertainty we are now living with and facing, the decision has been to immediately suspend day-to-day operations of the XFL in Stamford and each of our eight markets. What this means is that everyone’s employment by the XFL is terminated, effective today.”

Pollack then told employees that funds had been deposited into their bank accounts, “providing your earned, but unpaid salary through April 12, plus payment for accrued and unused vacation time.”

It should be noted that the given layoff date of April 12th was only two days in the future.  This must have been an additional shock to most employees, who may now be wondering how they will pay their bills.

Pollack also indicated that a “small skeleton” staff would be present in Stamford, Conn. to allow employees to collect personal belongings from the XFL office, though the coronavirus prevention measures in place meant that the logistics of that move have yet to be determined.

Pollack assured them that the layoffs “had nothing to do with your performance or what was achieved.” He ended by saying that it has “been my absolute pleasure and honor to work with all of you… I appreciate, love and respect you all.”

Almost immediately, on social media, many former employees expressed shock in the sudden decision. Later, a few more even expressed dismay that their corporate email accounts were shut off so quickly.

It has also been reported that players were surprised by the sudden decision, and were not officially notified.

The league announces it’s departure with a cheap gif

The only official message to the outside world, including fans and players, was an animated GIF of actor Jake Gyllenhaal waving goodbye. Nothing more.

“Ceasing operations” is a serious decision

It took the league two years to build a head office and teams, with coaches, staff and players. Ceasing operations and sending everyone home is a sure sign the league won’t be back for at least two years. 

Some staff may be remaining in Stamford, but the word is that they are only there to complete the league’s business.  The implication is that they will be laid off as well, once everything is wrapped up.

Why did this happen?

The word is that finances are the reason.  By all reports, the league was originally well-funded, and was budgeted to have the money to operate for three seasons. However, the league’s first season was already cut in half, meaning that their first year’s revenue plan was already derailed. With the second season looking like it was in jeopardy, or at the very least, would consist of teams playing in front of empty stadiums, the league would have been looking at a second year of very low revenue.

Financial projections likely indicated it would run out of money before it had a chance to play another down of football. If the league remained in operation, and did not play, it would just hemorrhage money until the bank account was empty.  The only logical decision was to quit now, and retain the remaining funds that were originally set aside for the league.

It is also believed that the devastatingly depressed stock market had a role to play in the league’s financial fortunes.

It should be noted, by all reports, the XFL is paying its employees out until the lay-off date, and continuing to honor player contracts. It is also expected that they will pay their bills and not leave any creditors wanting payment as they shutter their operation. This is something the original XFL did when it folded in 2001. The expectation is that this version of the league will do the same.

Will the XFL be back?

People who are close to the league are convinced that this is the end of the XFL.

However, it is logical to say, that by shuttering the operation now, and saving the remaining money that was set aside to fund the league, could mean the XFL could be fiscally viable to continue once the COVID-19 crisis is completely over.

Many will admit it does not look good for the league. However, it is well-known that this league is an ongoing vision of Vince McMahon. Does this mean we can expect the XFL to return once the COVID-19 crisis is over?

Only Vince McMahon knows the answer.

XFL Suspends Day to Day Operations

Multiple sources (ESPN’s Field Yates and Kevin Seifert) have confirmed that the XFL is suspending “day to day operations” and will be terminating the majority of their employees. 

XFL COO Jeffery Pollock held a conference call to read a statement and per ESPN’s Field Yates, Pollock said employees were informed of the decision on Friday. 

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo also reported that the XFL will pay employees through Sunday, but there is no confirmation on whether or not the league will return in 2021 and beyond. 

In an audio of the call from Jeffrey Pollack to employees, he said “it’s been no secret how quickly and dramatically the pandemic has affected all of our lives, the lives of so many others, and and the operations of professional sports leagues in the United States and around the world.”

“The XFL as an entity has been hard hit and is affected more directly than most in the sport industry,” Pollack told staffers. “We had no alternative than to stop right in the middle of our first season, just as we were continuing to build our foundation and our future. As a result of the pandemic’s impact and given the uncertainty we are now living with and facing, the decision has been to immediately suspend day-to-day operations of the XFL in Stamford and each of our eight markets. What this means is that everyone’s employment by the XFL is terminated, effective today.”

Pollack then told employees that funds had been deposited into their bank accounts, “providing your earned, but unpaid salary through April 12, plus payment for accrued and unused vacation time.”

A “small skeleton” staff will be present in Stamford, Conn. to allow employees to collect personal belongings from the XFL office, though the coronavirus prevention measures in place mean that the logistics of that move have yet to be determined.

Pollack assured them that the layoffs “had nothing to do with your performance or what was achieved.” He ended by saying that it has “been my absolute pleasure and honor to work to know and work with all of you… I appreciate, love and respect you all.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated as XFLBoard continues to receive credible information

Analyzing Tampa Bay Vipers trades during 2019-2020

A newly acquired wide receiver S.J. Green practicing for the Vipers before heading into a Week 4 matchup against the DC Defenders. (Credit: XFL.com)

The Tampa Bay Vipers were one of the more active XFL teams when it came to wheeling and dealing before and during the season. In all, the team made seven trades in 2 ½ months. Here are the seven trades, and how they ended up working out for both sides. I’ll borrow from Pro Football Focus’s scale terminology in grading the deals: Elite, Very Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Poor.

December 11, 2019: Traded DT Trevon Sanders to LA for DT Leon Orr

Sanders was selected in the third open phase by the Vipers in the XFL Draft, meaning he was likely buried on the depth chart at defensive tackle as camp opened. Orr was a sixth-round pick by LA in the defensive front-seven phase. Orr, from the University of Florida, may have wanted to play closer to home. He didn’t last long in Tampa and was cut during mini-camp.

Sanders made the Wildcats and accrued five tackles prior to being placed on injured reserve on March 3rd. He played a reserve role in LA’s 3-4 defense. Given the draft pedigree of both men in terms of where they were selected, Sanders outplaying Orr could be considered a surprise. Tampa Bay could’ve used a backup DT as the year progressed with injuries to Ricky Walker that led to a late-season trade for DT Kellen Soulek.

VIPERS VALUE: BELOW AVERAGE

WILDCATS VALUE: AVERAGE

December 17, 2019: Traded CB Arrion Springs to LA for CB Jalen Collins

After acquiring what turned out to be valuable depth just six days earlier, LA went to the Viper well once again, fleecing Tampa Bay even more in their follow-up trade. Springs, selected in the first round by Tampa in the defensive backs phase, emerged from camp a starter for the Wildcats, registering 16 tackles, an interception, and a pass defensed. As far as the “why?”: Like the earlier trade, you must wonder if Springs, who played college ball at Oregon, preferred a return to the West Coast. If not, this seems awful early to give up on your first-round selection if you’re the Vipers.

Tampa’s corners had an up-and-down year. They took a chance on the troubled Collins and his NFL 2nd round draft background, but he turned out to be a bust. Selected by LA in November’s supplemental draft, Collins was buried on the depth chart in Tampa, notching just one assisted tackle and a pass defensed before being waived outright on March 3rd.

VIPERS VALUE: POOR

WILDCATS VALUE: VERY GOOD

January 12, 2020: Traded WR Freddie Martino to Dallas for WR Stacy Coley

Another high-round draft pick was exchanged in this deal. Coley, picked in the fourth round by Dallas, was sent to Tampa for Martino, whom the Vipers plucked in the second phase of the open draft. While Coley made the Vipers after camp broke, he was waived three days before the season opened to make room for a backup tight end to fill in for the injured DeAndre Goolsby. Tampa’s receiving corps was relatively deep, so Coley wasn’t horribly missed. It should be noted that no other team picked Coley up during the season.

Martino was behind a number of talented receivers in Dallas before he was put on injured reserve on March 9th. In his time with the Renegades, Martino snagged four balls for 58 yards with a long of 32. He was not the first option in Hal Mumme’s pass-heavy offense, but there were clearly enough balls to go around. Had he not been traded, it’s unlikely Martino would’ve cracked Tampa’s starting lineup. Still, a minor contributor is more than what the Vipers received.

VIPERS VALUE: BELOW AVERAGE

RENEGADES VALUE: AVERAGE

January 19, 2020: Traded G William Campbell & WR Alonzo Moore to Seattle for DT Shane Bowman & QB Chase Litton

This trade was consummated just prior to cut-down day for all eight XFL teams, and was the final trade made by Tampa before the season began. Campbell and Moore were both 10th round draft picks by Tampa in their respective positional phases. The Dragons’ starting left guard for four games, Campbell was waived by the Dragons on March 11th in one of the last transactions made before the league suspended operations for the season. Up to that point, he had been the lowest-graded Seattle offensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus. Moore was a third-string receiver at one of the three starting spots, bumped up to second-string with the season-long injury to Kasen Williams. Moore ended third on the team in receiving yards with 110 on eight catches.

Bowman was the fourth defensive tackle in the rotation for the Vipers, and his playing time may have eventually been challenged by Kellen Soulek, whom the Vipers traded for at the end of February. Bowman had two tackles and one for loss on the year. The trade for Litton was intriguing at the time, thought to be perhaps a signal the Vipers weren’t happy with their backup QB spot. But when Aaron Murray got hurt, Taylor Cornelius stepped right in and despite an uneven performance in the games he started, the Vipers never looked to Litton. In fact, Quinton Flowers would’ve been next up. Litton ended up getting waived on March 4th when Tampa needed the roster spot for another running back. Once again, Tampa’s trading partner came away with the bulk of the production in a starter and a key reserve.

VIPERS VALUE: BELOW AVERAGE

DRAGONS VALUE: ABOVE AVERAGE

February 18, 2020: Traded LB Korey Toomer to Seattle for WR S.J. Green

Toomer was a Vipers acquisition during camp, but he did not report. This trade sent him back to the west coast, where he played in college (Idaho) and where he made his biggest NFL impact (Seattle Seahawks). It didn’t seem as if he would report to Tampa, so the fact the team got anything for him is a plus. Toomer was listed as Seattle’s backup outside linebacker and may not have had enough time to get up to speed in the Dragons’ defense to make a contribution.

Green was a CFL legend who entered the XFL and was claimed by Seattle. He played for Tampa head coach Marc Trestman in Canada and played his college ball in South Florida. It’s possible that, like Toomer, he engineered a trade to be closer to familiar territory. It was thought that the 34-year old Green could step in and be a factor, but he didn’t catch a single pass. This was a trade that was significantly affected by the early shutdown of the league, as these two may have had more of an opportunity in the second half of the season once they were more comfortable with their surroundings.

VIPERS VALUE: AVERAGE

DRAGONS VALUE: BELOW AVERAGE

February 24, 2020: Traded LB Anthony Stubbs to St. Louis for CB Trey Caldwell

A coach’s decision inactive for two of Tampa’s three games up to the point of the trade, Stubbs was dealt to St. Louis for cornerback depth needed when Rannell Hall went on injured reserve. When the BattleHawks activated CB Marquez White from injured reserve, it made Caldwell expendable. Caldwell was active for both games for which he was on Tampa’s roster, playing mostly on special teams in backing up Tarvarus McFadden. Stubbs went from a team that played two linebackers in its base to another team that played predominantly a 4-2-5. Suffice to say, Stubbs’s playing time in St. Louis didn’t increase with his address change. He ended the year as a third-sting linebacker behind Dexter McCoil and Shaq Jones. It was a need-for-need depth trade that didn’t hurt either team but didn’t help them a ton in the short-term, either.

VIPERS VALUE: AVERAGE

BATTLEHAWKS VALUE: AVERAGE

February 28, 2020: Traded CB Trovon Reed to St. Louis for DT Kellen Soulek

Rounding out the third trade in ten days for Tampa Bay was another deal where you are forced to read between the lines to figure out what happened. Reed was placed on I.R. by St. Louis on January 21st. Somehow, he ended up on Tampa to be traded BACK to St. Louis. The best that I can figure is that in order to be activated off injured reserve, you have to clear waivers. It’s similar to the NFL’s process where players have to clear waivers before they are put on I.R. during the preseason. There’s a gentlemen’s agreement among teams to not claim those players, something to which the New England Patriots, in particular, have not always adhered.

Perhaps something similar is in place in the XFL. The unspoken agreement would explain why no team claimed DE Obum Gwacham, for example, when Tampa activated him off IR. But the Vipers may have claimed Reed anyway, knowing that St. Louis wanted him. In order for St. Louis to get him back, they’d have to give something up. In this case, it was backup DT Kellen Soulek. It’s a little surprising Tampa couldn’t get something more, unless Reed wasn’t intent on playing for the Vipers. Soulek didn’t notch any stats for St. Louis and was inactive in week five for Tampa Bay. On their depth chart, he was third-string DT behind Josh Banks and Shane Bowman. Reed had four tackles upon his return to active duty for the BattleHawks, indicating that he was seeing playing time on defense there. It’s another situation where Tampa got something, even if it is a deep reserve, for someone who may not have played for them. Speculation about how this came about makes attaching a grade more difficult.

VIPERS VALUE: BELOW AVERAGE

BATTLEHAWKS VALUE: AVERAGE

SUMMARY

Tampa made a few shrewd moves to get something out of Korey Toomer and Trovon Reed, but if they plan on being this active in the trade market in 2021, they need to get better value and depth from their deals. This season wasn’t a promising start for them on that front.

Additions/Changes the XFL Should Consider for 2021 Season

Year one of the XFL is considered by many to be a success. The level of transparency, rule changes, and the play on the field made fans feel optimistic about season two going well for the league. Even with all the good things fans were able to see, nothing ever goes perfect the first time around. The league will be examining everything that went well and didn’t go well in its first season. Here are some things the league might want to consider when they start to plan out the 2021 season.

Review the Point After Touchdown Rule

This was one of the rules that stood out to experts and fans before the season as an intriguing rule. It was fascinating to some to see how coaches would strategize how aggressive or conservative they would be. In the beginning of the season, coaches were on the more conservative side of going for just one or two point conversions. By week five, teams were more willing to go for the three point conversion, but it wasn’t happening as much as fans were hoping it would happen.

The simple solution to this is reviewing the rule to see if they just want to make it only a one point play or a two point play. Teams seemed to be unwilling to go for the exciting three point play as it was too much of a risk. Going for it at the two or five yard line makes it a higher percentage of a chance to get points after their touchdowns. It might be easier if they make teams just convert from one place only. The league might decide to keep the rule the same and hope coaches will be more aggressive or change it to force only one decision for coaches to make.

Expanding the League to Ten Teams

It may not be the smartest decision since the league took a hit financially from COVID-19, but it’s at least a fun topic to have for fans. Many people have been speculating that the XFL has considered adding at least two more teams to the league for the 2021 season. There are cities that fans have said to be good choices including San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia among others.

Birmingham has already been working on plans to try to make a run at the XFL to put a team in their city after seeing success with the Birmingham Iron in the AAF. San Diego and San Antonio were two cities that saw success in the AAF in terms of attendance before the league folded. Many have speculated that if it wasn’t for the AAF, the XFL would have a team playing in San Diego. As for Philadelphia, there were rumored to be one of the 21 finalists to land an XFL team so they might be considered in the future.

Change Start Date to Later

Once again, COVID-19 may have something to say about moving their start time back if the NFL is forced to start later. If COVID-19 doesn’t push the NFL start date back, it should be something the XFL still considers. While the TV ratings performed well with the games average over one million viewers per game, the league would have seen a hit in the ratings because of the NCAA March Madness and the NBA/NHL playoffs coming around as well as the start of the MLB season.

If the league wants to see success, it could consider starting play in April or May to move pass March Madness. The NBA and NHL playoffs would be tough to compete with, but the ratings for those games wouldn’t really change from the regular season until the finals came around. The league could have their championship game in late June with only the MLB to compete with on a national television scale. Most likely, this change wouldn’t happen, but it is something to consider if they want the most success in the TV ratings.

Add More Mobile Quarterbacks

Defenses proved to have too much speed for some of the offenses to handle. It showed on the field that any quarterbacks who were able to escape from the pocket and make plays with his feet were more successful than just pure pocket passes. The top four passers in the XFL (PJ Walker, Josh Johnson, Jordan Ta’amu, and Taylor Cornelius) are all considered mobile quarterbacks. They all proved to be viable starters in the XFL and made major impacts on their teams. Pocket passers like Landry Jones, Cardale Jones, and Brandon Silvers all took hits with either turnover issues or low completion percentages.

The game is evolving and it was shown in the XFL. Quarterbacks with fast legs were more successful in invading fast, athletic pass rushers than ones that stay in the pocket. That’s why the XFL has to consider building the league around mobile quarterbacks who are playmakers. PJ Walker and Jordan Ta’amu are off the board as they signed with NFL teams, but we saw the emergence of mobile quarterbacks like BJ Daniels, Quinton Flowers, and Tyree Jackson so flashes of big play potential. Those are the young quarterbacks the league needs to build around for 2021.

Create More XFL-Themed Shows

The XFL Pre-Game show that Jonathan Coachman and Alyse Ashton hosted before games on Saturdays and Sundays were fun for fans to watch. They gave good insight on upcoming games, breaking down previous games, and gave good player profiles when shown. The level of good production shown by the league should give fans more of a craving to see more great content like that shown on TV or the internet. The documentary the league was shooting giving fans behind the scene looks at moments like St. Louis’ first home game or the Seattle-DC season opener was fun to watch as well. A great way to do that is for the league to consider creating more shows that has the experts breaking down games and teams like NFL Live or Sunday NFL Countdown.

Creating more shows could lure more outside fans into watching the XFL as they can learn a little more about the players and coaches that make up the league. Hiring exclusive XFL insiders to have a show that is completely dedicated to inside knowledge of the XFL and breaking down film tape would be great for fans. Individual teams could locally host coaches shows to engage the community more to get to know their local team. Post game shows would also be beneficial as fans would love to see more of those type of contents to fuel their love for the XFL.

2020 LA Wildcat takeaways and a sneak peak into 2021

LA Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson (Credit XFL.com)

Because of the COVID-19 shortened season, the LA Wildcats only played 5 games in 2020, finishing 2-3. Although this is a smaller sample size than expected, let’s check out some key takeaways from the season, take a look at what players might make the jump to the NFL and look forward to 2021. 

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Josh Johnson can lead this team for at least another season

Josh Johnson, QB for LA, was injured all throughout training camp and did not play in Week 1 against Houston because of a thigh injury that limited Johnson during the entire season. In the 4 games Johnson played, he totaled 1,076 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes with only 2 interceptions. Johnson was 2nd in yard passing, 2nd in touchdowns and led the XFL in QB rating and yards per attempt. Assuming Johnson remains in the XFL with LA, he showed the league that he can and will lead the Wildcats and be one of the best in the league while doing it. Now with PJ Walker gone, Johnson is the clear #1 QB in the entire XFL. 

  1. The Wildcats were not wrong to fire Pepper Johnson

After their disappointing loss in Week 1 against the Roughnecks, the Wildcats fired then defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson after surrendering 25 unanswered points in the 2nd half to Houston. While LA still finished bottom in the league in points allowed, the team was tied for first in the XFL in takeaways and clearly had a defensive unit that was improving under head coach Winston Moss. The Wildcats played uninspired football on defense in Week 1, and that attitude never resurfaced after DC Johnson was let go. With another full training camp for the defense to mesh, their takeaway prowess will help the Wildcats reemerge as one of the most dangerous defensive units in the league in 2021. 

  1. LA needs a running back

The LA Wildcats did not have a running back in the top TWENTY in the league in rushing yards in 2020. Let that sink in. One of the reasons Josh Johnson had so many passing yards is because Elijiah Hood and DuJuan Harris could not be counted on to carry the offensive burden. And this was not a game plan issue, both the LA backs are actually rated lower in the league when you look at yards/carry compared to just total yards. If LA wants to succeed in 2021, pairing Josh Johnson with a dynamic backfield is paramount to success going forward. Getting a running back like CAP in Dallas or the duo backs in Tampa Bay would open up an entire part of the offense that we did not see from the Wildcats this season. 

Wildcats to the NFL?

Who from LA should go to the NFL you ask? What an amazing question with an amazing answer. 

Offense: Josh Johnson, Tre McBride and Nelson Spruce

Defense: Cedric Reed, Mike Stevens and Ahmad Dixon

Overall, in order for LA to have success in 2021, they need an improved running game and more consistency on defense. They have shown as a team that they can create takeaway and have big plays on offense, but both need to be more steady in their production for extended success next season. Just a few more playmakers on both sides of the ball would go a long way for the Los Angeles Wildcats. 

Season in Review: 2020 Dallas Renegades

The Dallas Renegades huddle in preparation for their final game against the New York Guardians (Credit XFL.com)

A season filled with high expectations, the Dallas Renegades were hoping for big things from their team. They were the first team to hire their head coach and general manager in former University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. During his time in the first offseason, Stoops was able to bring top assistant coaches like offensive coordinator Hal Humme. He was able to convince quarterback Landry Jones to join the XFL and the two were paired together in Dallas.

The team was able to draft some key players including Derron Smith, Jeff Badet, Donald Parham, and Frank Alexander. All the talent was displayed during training camp and made fans and experts believe they were the team to beat. While things didn’t go as according to plan, the team did have themselves within contention for the playoffs before the season ended after five games. Here are the top storylines for the team.

Bob Stoops Returns to the Sidelines

It was a great moment for the XFL as they hired their first head coach in the new league as they hired former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He was the biggest name to be brought in the league and added a lot of attention to the XFL. Stoops was able to build a formable team starting with Landry Jones at quarterback. Adding in the talent on offense with Cameron Artis-Payne, Lance Dunbar, Jeff Badet, and Donald Parham. His coaching staff was built well with legendary offensive coordinator Hal Mumme and defensive coordinator Chris Woods leading the team.

The 2020 season didn’t start out as well as the team was 2-3 before the season ended. The offense didn’t perform as well as expected with all the speed at receiver. Mumme’s offensive play calling was also put into question as the running game wasn’t used as well as fans would have liked. The Renegades’ defense turned out to be the strength for the team as they were able to keep the team in most of their games. Stoops had a good start to the coaching staff and the players on the team, but key pieces to receiver and play calling could put the team over the top next season.

Quarterback Play Was Inconsistent

Landry Jones and Philip Nelson both started at least two games this season for the team. Both quarterback played the position differently throughout the season. Nelson was safer with the ball and wasn’t as likely to throw it down the field. Jones was more aggressive with his passing which resulted in multiple turnovers. He was also better at moving the ball down the field and scoring touchdowns. Nelson struggled to get the offense in the end zone. It might have been a result in play calling, but the quarterbacks played inconsistently. They were accurate with the ball, but mistakes were made by both players.

Donald Parham Led Receiving Attack

The receivers on the Renegades did not leave an imprint on the offense as much as experts expected. It was their star tight end who stole the show in the passing game. Donald Parham impressed at training camp with his size and reliable hands. He showed those off this season as he caught 24 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He led the team in yards and touchdowns and made it clear he was the top target on the team. As he heads to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers in the NFL, Parham proved to be a reliable target and will have a chance to make it in the final roster.

Defense Kept Renegades in Games

Statistically, the defense of the Renegades wouldn’t blow you away with the numbers. They ranked no higher than fourth in a specific defensive team stat. Fans can make the argument that the defense was able to keep them in most of their games. The problems came with the offense turning the ball over too much and putting the defense in bad spots. In three of the five games, the defense allowed six or less points in the first half. Every game this season the team was within six points of their opponents heading into the second half.

Derron Smith and Josh Hawkins provided strong play in the secondary with shutdown coverage and big turnovers. Their linebacking core was one of the best in the league with speed and sure tackling helped the defense perform well. Asantay Brown and Greer Martini led the team in tackles and were both exceptional in coverage. The pass rush of the defensive line was inconsistent at times as the team was second to last in sacks with six.

Road Warriors, Home Sick

It was an odd sight to see as the Dallas Renegades went 2-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. The Renegades thrived on the road as they came from behind in both games at one point to beat LA and Seattle. Dallas’ offense struggled in two of their three home games not being able to produce more that 12 points in those games. Landry Jones threw three interceptions in the first quarter of the other home game against Houston that resulted in a 27-20 loss. It’s a rare sight in sports to see a team struggle at home, but performing well on the road might have helped the team out late in the season if the league was still going.

Dallas Renegades 2020 Schedule

Week One: St. Louis BattleHawks 15, Dallas Renegades 9, Record: 0-1

Week Two: Dallas Renegades 25, LA Wildcats 18, Record: 1-1

Week Three: Dallas Renegades 24, Seattle Dragons 12, Record: 2-1

Week Four: Houston Roughnecks 27, Dallas Renegades 20, Record: 2-2

Week Five: New York Guardians 30, Dallas Renegades 12, Record: 2-3

Dallas Renegades Stats

Passing: Landry Jones: 83-119, 70% completion percentage, 784 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, 77.2 QB rating

Philip Nelson: 62-94, 66% completion percentage, 439 yards, three interceptions, 63.2 QB rating

Rushing: Cameron Artis-Payne: 47 carries, 241 yards, 5.1 avg, two touchdowns

Lance Dunbar: 30 carries, 146 yards, 4.9 avg, one touchdown

Philip Nelson: six carries, 25 yards, 4.2 avg

Austin Walter: four carries, 19 yards, 4.8 avg

Landry Jones: five carries, 15 yards, 3.0 avg

Marquis Young: three carries, 12 yards, 4.0 avg

Receiving: Donald Parham: 24 catches, 307 yards, four touchdowns

Flynn Nagel: 26 catches, 217 yards, one touchdown

Lance Dunbar: 26 catches, 154 yards

Jeff Badet: 16 catches, 108 yards

Cameron Artis-Payne: 23 catches, 101 yards

Josh Crockett: five catches, 86 yards

Sean Price: six catches, 78 yards

Freddie Martino: four catches, 58 yards

Jazz Ferguson: nine catches, 54 yards

Austin Walter: two catches, 31 yards

Marquis Young: four catches, 20 yards

Jerrod Heard: one catch, ten yards

Top Five Tacklers: Asantay Brown 28, Greer Martini 28, Tegray Scales 24, Tenny Adewusi 22, Ray Ray Davison 17

Top Sacks: Tegray Scales 1, Ray Ray Davison 1, Micah Abernathy 1, Frank Alexander 1, Hau’oli Kikaha 1, Gerald Rivers 1

Top Interceptions: Josh Hawkins 2, Derron Smith 1

Kicking: Austin MacGinnis: 10-10, 46 long

Punting: Drew Galitz: 18 punts, 775 yards, 43.1 avg, nine In20

Kick Return Leader: Austin Walter: 17 returns, 431 yards, 25.4 avg, one touchdown

Punt Return Leader: Flynn Nagel: six returns, 97 yards, 16.2 avg

TE Donald Parham, head coach Bob Stoops, and OT Pace Murphy pay respect to the national anthem prior to the Renegades final game against the New York Guardians. (Credit XFL.com)