The XFL’s First Million Dollar Game

Home town fans could be sparse, but QB’s on opposing teams both come out swinging in defense of their own league.

LOS ANGELES – (AP) (21 April 2001) –The stands in the Coliseum are expected to be nearly empty and the national television audience may be the smallest ever for a pro sports title game.

To the San Francisco Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme, it’s still 60 minutes of football with a championship at stake when they meet today in The Million Dollar Game for the XFL’s first title.

“Our team and entire organization are just excited to be in the game and can’t wait until it starts,” said Demons coach Jim Skipper, a longtime NFL assistant.

The Xtreme’s Tommy Maddox, the Most Valuable Player of the XFL after throwing for a league-high 2,186 yards and 18 touchdowns, also is eager for the 5p.m. kickoff.

“I just love playing the game and winning,” said Maddox, a former UCLA star and NFL backup. “To be able to play for a championship, I don’t care what league it’s in, that’s exciting.”

The title game, with the winning team dividing up the $1million bonus, concludes what began as a promising first season for the new league jointly owned by the World Wrestling Federation and NBC. But crowds dwindled and viewers tuned out by the millions.

After a debut that had the highest ratings in its time slot on NBC, some of the league’s games later in the regular season were believed to have been the lowest-rated prime-time programs ever on one of the three major networks. NBC is almost sure to back out of its two-year deal after the game.

Attendance also has been thin — Los Angeles’ semifinal victory over Chicago drew only 13,081, the Xtreme’s smallest crowd of the season and 22,802 fewer than their home opener.

Despite the waning interest in the league, XFL president Basil DeVito has said the XFL will be back next year.

Critics have questioned the quality of play in the eight-team league, but the players and coaches believed it improved over the course of the 10-game regular season.

“There are a lot of people out there who have really missed the boat,” Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski said. “There are a lot of good players in this league. To bash this league is to bash NCAA football around the country. This is better than college football.”

Skipper noted that about half the Demons players have been on NFL rosters. He said that, while the league may not have big, fast and agile linemen, the players in the new league’s skill positions “are as good as anywhere.”

Members of today’s winning team will receive $22,000 to $26,000 apiece, depending on how they vote to split the bonus. That is about half the salary each was paid for the entire 10-game season.

The Demons and Xtreme split two regular-season meetings.

The Demons won 15-13 at San Francisco on Feb.4, when Pawlawski completed 31 of 47 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Panasuk kicked a 33-yard field goal as time ran out.

The Xtreme won the rematch in the L.A. Coliseum 24-0 on April 7, with Maddox throwing for 164 yards and one score while Pawlawski passed for 136 yards, with two interceptions.

The Demons are expected to have Pawlawski back following a shoulder injury.

Message to the Sports World: Don’t Write Off the XFL

(20 April 2001) — As the first ever XFL season comes to a closing, let’s take some time to recollect some of the many exciting moments of the inaugural season.

In the first televised game in XFL history, the game of football was presented to Sin City. In this opening day shutout, the world was introduced to none other than “He Hate Me”, Rod Smart. This nickname took off to become one of the most popular nicknames in modern day sports. And, although many people have come up with their own version of his nickname, Rod Smart proved that he was the one hated by many.

In the second weekend, names like John Avery, Tommy Maddox and Jermaine Copeland were uncovered as the Chicago Enforcers and Los Angeles Xtreme took it to each other for four quarters and two overtimes.

Week number three proved that Mike Pawlawski was one of the best quarterbacks in the league as he and Terry Battle fought back late in the game as the San Francisco Demons scored 13 points to defeat the Memphis Maniax.

Jim Druckenmiller introduced himself to the XFL world as the Memphis Maniax beat the Xtreme in what was the messiest and wettest game of the year.

In week number five, Jeff Brohm and the Rage proved themselves to be for real as they became the only 5-0 team in the league. This week also proved to be the turning point for the Chicago Enforcers regular season as a last second LeShon Johnson touchdown defeated the Dealers of Doom, Las Vegas Outlaws 15-13.

Thinking they were on a role, the Chicago Enforcers traveled to Memphis who soon brought Chicago back down to earth with a last second Druckenmiller touchdown pass to Hobbs. ‘Druck’ also passed for over 400 yards in week six.

On March 18, the Orlando Rage finally experienced what a loss felt like. At the hands of Tommy Maddox and the Xtreme, Orlando was demolished by a score of 31-6. Orlando also lost Jeff Brohm for the rest of the season, which later proves to be fatal to the team’s success.

Week number eight…the Birmingham Bolts become the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention and the Orlando Rage become the first team to clinch a bid for the million dollars waiting at the end.

Only two weeks left and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen need just one victory to clinch their play-off spot. But, the Enforcers have other plans as Kevin McDougal and LeShon Johnson carry the team into a second place tie in the East Division.

The final week of the season, and still three play-off seeds are open. Los Angeles and Chicago help themselves with big wins over San Francisco and Orlando, respectively. Due to a Las Vegas loss, San Francisco is in the play-offs as well.

The first ever XFL play-offs…as expected, these games proved to be exciting! Like usual, the XFL comes through again with tons of action as the San Francisco comes back from a 16-0 deficit to defeat the team with the best record, Orlando Rage. And, in the rematch of the best game of the Inaugural Season, the Chicago Enforcers literally hand the game over to the Xtreme in Los Angeles. This sets up a tie-breaker between the San Francisco Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme in the ‘Million Dollar Game’.

Recalling some of these games or moments might have given you goosebumps. As you know, all of the games in the first ever XFL season were very exciting and most of them came down to last minute touchdowns, or last minute turnovers. Even with a short, 10-week season, the XFL provided enough big plays and memorable moments to last a long time.

This league has a lot to be proud of as it broke barriers in many aspects of sporting broadcasts. Although it does not admit its liking of the XFL, NFL officials have gone on the record saying it will incorporate some of the great ideas the XFL has introduced to the game of football. The XFL must take pride in its accomplishments, look at its strong spots and improve its weaknesses, a task which is already under way.

Even though the Chicago Enforcers were beat by the Xtreme, I am proud of the effort my team put forth this season. Coming back from an 0-4 start to make the play-offs is no easy task. But, they did it and gave Chicago something to talk about in the sports society.

With one full season under our belts, we, the die-hard fans of the new football league, must all stand proud. The media was against us before we even started the season, and we stood tall drawing better television ratings than MLS, golf, NHL, arena football, NBA on NBC, the NHL All-Star game, and the NFL’s All-Pro game. More season tickets were sold in its inaugural season than what was anticipated, thus the league averaged an astounding 23,000 fans in attendance per game. Not bad for a start-up league!!

Personally, I am proud to be an XFL fan and will continue to wear my Chicago Enforcers gear in the off-season. I look forward to the day the Enforcers main office calls my house to ask me if I want to renew my season tickets…my response will be “Hell Yeah!” I am proud to admit that I was part of those 1.6, 1.7, etc television ratings every Saturday night on NBC and Sunday night on UPN. And, I will be the first one to stick it to the media when our league, the fans league, the XFL, makes its return in 2002.

As this article and the XFL Inaugural Season comes to an end, my friends, it is now time to go back to my “Chicago Fans Only Enforcers Supporters” article. To my team, the Chicago Enforcers, I now applaud for the effort you put forth this season making every minute of every game exciting. You turned a dismal season into one that opened the eyes of an entire league. And, although you fell short in the end, I continue to applaud and support the XFL…

…and, I ask those true, die-hard XFL fans to do this with me upon the completion of this Saturday’s ‘Million Dollar Game’. After the game, I will remove my Chicago Enforcers hat, tip it to Vince McMahon and his XFL staff for putting together such an awesome, entertaining football league, a league that actually cares about us, the people in the stands or watching on television. To Vince McMahon and his staff, I can’t wait until the second season.

And, to the rest of the world, don’t write off the XFL!

— Troy Pringle – ChiEnforcers1@xflboard.com

The XFL’s Xclamation Point On Saturday

The football experts predicted that LA would make it to the championship. San Fran wasn’t expected to be there.

(19 April 2001) — It’s been a wild season for the XFL. The misunderstood league has had a lot of ups and downs in it’s first year. No sports league has ever recieved more scrutiny then the XFL. The league is trying to carve out a niche for itself in a sporting world that is not willing to accept it. Saturday Night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the LA Xtreme are pumped up to claim one million dollars and the XFL’s very first championship. They face the league’s most popular team and their California rival, the San Fransisco Demons. The football experts predicted that LA would make it to the championship. San Fran wasn’t expected to be there.

There are so many storylines developing for this game. The playoffs were a mild success for the league this past weekend. The ratings were up on both NBC and UPN. The NBC telecast went up 20 percent and the UPN game on Easter sunday went up 5 percent. With all that being stated, it appears that the Million Dollar Game will be the XFL’s final broadcast on NBC, at least in primetime. NBC, part owner of the league, has a iron-clad contract with the XFL for 2 seasons. If NBC were to part ways with the league, they would have to pay a penalty somewhere in the range of 10 to 30 million dollars. That sum would cover their end of the bargain for the second season of the XFL. Unless NBC moves the game to a better timeslot or to one of it’s cable partners. This is it, Saturday Night is most likely, the XFL’s final broadcast on NBC. They wanted the XFL to save saturday nights and to help replace their NFL loss. It didn’t work. The expectation level was too high for a brand new sports league.

So here we are, On NBC, Saturday Night at 8pm eastern, 5pm pacific, 1 million dollars is up for grabs and the future of these players pro careers is also on the line. The winner walks away with the XFL’s very first championship and 1 million dollars, the loser gets absolutely nothing. The pressure level will reach epic proportions on saturday night. The LA Xtreme and Demons have met twice this year. At Pac Bell Park in Week One, the Demons beat LA in dramatic fashion with a game winning field goal, in what was perhaps one of the XFL’s best games this season. In week 10, LA avenged that loss with a 24 to nothing shout out at home. Round 3 begins this saturday night with all the marbles up for grabs. The XFL’s offensive player of the year, Tommy Maddox has finally matured into a quality quarterback. The UCLA star left college at the tender age of 19 and was drafted by the Denver Broncos. He was brought in to eventually replace Denver Icon John Elway. Not a good situation for him. Maddox ended up as a backup for the Giants and Rams. He barely played and was jettisoned out of the league. The XFL and Al Luginbill provided Tommy Maddox with the opportunity to prove himself as a leader. Luginbill’s history with developing quarterbacks is very good. The evidence: Kurt Warner in NFL Europe. Maddox was not even projected as LA’s starter. The Xtreme selected Scott Milanovich with their first ever draft pick. Maddox outplayed him in camp and the rest is history. Tommy is now being courted by the NY Jets, the Chiefs and several other NFL teams. This may be his last ever XFL game. If he falls on his face, he may ruin his chance to get back to the NFL. Talk about pressure. The Xtreme is the league’s most talented team. No one would argue that point. The Xtreme wideouts are very talented and this will be their stage to prove themselves. Peyton Manning’s favorite target at Tennessee, Jeremaine Copeland has been the best pro wideout outside of the NFL the last two years. Copeland broke the pro record for receptions in a game last year with NFL Europe. This year, He has led the XFL in receiving. Copeland is joined by Kansas State Star, Darnell McDonald. McDonald averaged a touchdown a game this season thanks to his 6’4 220 pound frame. These two great young talents are joined by young NFL vets, Damon Gibson and Damon Dunn. In the backfield, Saladin McCollough is emerging as a great young back. He is backed up young NFL vets, Ken Oxendine and Rashan Sheehee. The offensive line is led by a monster in Jerry Crafts. The nearly 400 pound tackle has provided great protection this season along by his side has been good young pro prospects in Bobby Singh and Chris Brymer. The LA defense has NFL vets like Leomont Evans, Jamal Duff and Ron Carpenter but their strength is their youth. Al Luginbill attempts to add another championship this saturday to his mantle.

The most fascinating story by far in this game is Demons Head Coach, Jim Skipper. Skipper left a cushy job in the NFL as Giants assistant head coach/running backs coach to join the XFL. He left right before the 2000 NFL Season to pursue his dream. Skipper watched as his former team, the Giants got to a superbowl last year. Skipper left the Giants becuase he wanted so badly to become a head coach and in the NFL, the opportunity was not there for a great african american assistant like Jim Skipper. His dream was to be a head coach and he had waited long enough. He couldn’t wait anymore and now he has gotten the opportunity to live out his dream with the San Fransisco Demons. The XFL has been a dream league for hardcore football fans and for pro football players and coaches who want to showcase their skills. Skipper has done a fantastic job with his team. The Demons have been hampered by injuries to their roster all season long, but they battled through adversity to surprise the critics. The offense is led by California legends, Mike Pawlawski and Pat Barnes. Pawlawski has battled through serious neck injuries to get to where he is now. Barnes has been a quality NFL backup and he has proven himself as a starter in college and NFL Europe. It looks like Skipper has a tough decision to make at Quarterback if Pawlawski is healthy. Barnes was fantastic last week in Orlando and it will be hard to sit him for this game. The Demons offense has been riddled with injuries but they have found alot of good young talents for the future in Calvin Anderson and Brian Roberson. Their passing attack runs through CFL Star, Jimmy Cunningham. The 5’7″ star has always played bigger then his stature and he is one of the league’s most exciting players. The San Fran defense has also played well this year and they are led by NFL veterans like Craig Powell, Dwayne Harper and Toby Wright. Their young defensive stars like Eric England, Jermaine Miles and Wendell Davis have also played extremely well. The football coaching and playing talent is there on both teams and their dreams and hopes have come down to this big game.

This is it, the final showcase for the XFL in year one. The stakes are high for both teams on so many levels. In a way, the XFL has one final chance to show what the league is all about. This is their showcase game. It could be the final XFL game for many of these players. Some will move on to the NFL. Some will be let go next season. For the league as a whole, People have been told to expect a second season. NBC or not. It remains to be seen whether or not, the XFL will continue on. If they don’t have a second season. Then Saturday will be their last ever game. The Xclamation point of a wild year and the Xclamation point to yet another football league.

— Mike Mitchell – MMitchell@xflboard. com

Million Dollar Game Conference Call

Comments made by the starting Quarterbacks and the Head Coaches during a media conference call on Wednesday, prior to the Million Dollar game.

Los Angeles Xtreme

Quarterback Tommy Maddox

On receiving the Player of the Year Award…

“It’s a big honor and anytime something like that happens, it’s overwhelming. I think it’s a team award more than a personal award. You have to look at the supporting cast. I have been very lucky to be surrounded by a lot of talent at the receiver and running back position as well as the offensive line. You prepare yourself to play well, but it’s been a great year to be apart of and you hope to have a chance to play for a championship when you start out and there are only two teams have that shot and we are one of them. I love playing and winning the game and to be able to play for a championship, I don’t care in what league, I am very excited about that. There are a lot of people watching the game. I get a lot of feedback from people that have watched and enjoyed the game and I think the ratings are overrated.”

On the NFL…

“I am thinking about San Francisco. I didn’t play in this league to get back in the NFL. I played because I wanted to play the game of football. This was an opportunity for me to do that. My concern is to win the first championship and after that I will sit down and figure out where to go from here.”

On Mike Pawlawski and Saladin McCullough…

“It is great to play against Mike. He is going to bring his A game. You are going to have to be sharp during the game because he is going to be sharp. All the games that we have played together have been close except for last week. We jumped on them early and it got out of hand. Other than that, all of our games have been close. I know he is questionable, but I know if Mike can play, he will. I feel fortunate to have been able to beat him last time.”

“Saladin McCullough is the X factor. He brought something to the table where teams have to focus on him during the week. He can run the ball well, last week he rushed for 164 yards and he can also catch the ball well. The offensive line has worked very and they are opening wholes and giving him a chance to get into the secondary and he is tough in the open field.”

On the receivers…

“From top to bottom, we may not have an NFL superstar, but from top to bottom they are the best receiver core I ever played with. The league has a lot of skilled position guys that are very good. Are receiving score is special because they all do different. We have guys that are big and physical and we have guys that can run by you. There are a lot of motivation that goes with why these guys are playing in this league. Some are motivated by the chance to play in the NFL someday and this is their best chance. Sometimes when you get the chance to play in the NFL it is a let down because you work so hard to get there, there are not those let downs on this team. Back when I was in the NFL, we were a little rugged coming out of camp. But guys got use to playing again. I think we got to the level where we wanted to be rather quickly. The level of play the last five weeks have been great. Everyone jumped on us early and never gave us a chance. I wouldn’t say the level of play is bad in this league. There are a lot of players that deserve to go to the next level. When I was in the NFL, I was kind of frustrated because I couldn’t go out and play a full 16 game season. That’s been the most fun about this league. Not only can you learn from your mistakes, you have a chance each week to go out and correct them. I have a chance to play for the championship because we were able to sustain things over the season and when we got knocked down we got back up and went on.”

On Jose Cortez…

“Jose had a great year leading the league in field goals. In the beginning he was struggling a bit with his confidence and to his credit he continued to work hard. He has been great for us down the stretch. In week three when he kicked four field goals and won the game for us helped his confidence. It’s been great to see him go through the year the way he has and he is a great kicker with a strong leg and is very accurate.”

On the XFL Salary…

“Being around the guys has been great because you don’t have to deal with all of that because people know that we have to do this together. We can’t go out there and worry about the individual things because that is when you get beat. People are really focused on winning and what it takes to win so it’s has been great.”

On going back to Texas…

“I going to go home and evaluate everything and go from there.”

Head Coach Al Luginbill

“This group of individuals will do something special, they don’t get these opportunities every day. When you do get them you extend the effort so that when you walk away you gave everything that you have to accomplish what you want on that particular day. You only have three hour to get this done. It’s a one time shot for this year and it’s what everyone in this league is tried to do and get to and we are fortunate enough to be here and now we are trying to win the game.”

On the running game…

“There is no question over the last few weeks he has brought a lot to the table for us. He balances up our offense, He is an excellent running back, he has great field vision and is an outstanding receiver. The three things you look for in a running back. The ability to carry the ball with natural instincts, the ability to catch the ball and the ability to pass protect and he does all three well. People have to make a choice. Are we going to take away the pass first or the run first and let them try to beat you throwing the football. Against Memphis they said ‘we are going to run it if you will,’ and we didn’t do it that day we got behind in the ball game, so it was our intent to be able to run the football against San Francisco and make sure they weren’t able to take the running game away from us.”

On Tommy Maddox…

“I don’t think his NFL experience had anything to do with it other than it matured him to what professional football is all about. We heard what people said about him and we said ‘the heck with that, we are going to clean the slate here and start over with a young man that we feels has a chance to be excellent and if we are right, this organization is going to be successful. Early in the year there were people taking pot-shots at our offense and in the first three to four weeks we were very inconsistent and that falls down on the quarterback and head coaches shoulders. But we hung in there and stuck with what we knew we could do and got better and better. Tommy had a lot of great people around him with a great supporting cast. I told people he is the person that runs our ship. If you don’t have an outstanding player at that spot, you are going to have a difficult time winning.”

On Tommy Maddox going to the NFL…

“I have never seen anything but focus. I think he will be very careful about what he does with is future. He has a future in this league. If this leads to a bigger and better life for Tommy Maddox, because he is able to play and start in the NFL, that is great.”

On the quality of play…

“Let’ make sure we understand the product. The ratings didn’t have anything to do with me. Our focus was winning the football game. I do not pay attention to the media or I wouldn’t have come to work in this league. It is a great opportunity to be successful, but I knew it would not happen overnight. We are further along than any of us expected to be. People on the outside did not have a true fill for what our game was all about and don’t now how difficult it is to put eight teams together from scratch. The Play was spotty for the first five or six weeks, but eventually it became very interesting week in and week out. Not really because the greatest thing we will have is the continuity of people coming back. Our league will be established. I think we will pick up where we left off. I am not a proponent of long training camps. A mini-camp in December, training camp in January and kick it off in February. Our punter is our third quarter, which is part of the 38-man roster. Noel Prefontaine has played quarterback on all levels.”

San Francisco Demons

Quarterback Mike Pawlawski

On the shoulder…

“Shoulder is good I have been taking snaps, so I’ll be ready to go on Saturday. As a thrower at the end of the season, I don’t think your shoulder is ever 100% but actually going through camp it actually feels pretty remarkable. It is as close to (100%) as it can be at this point in the season. Well I got a lot going on right now, My wife and I just had a baby on Monday, so on top of the title game I have a lot of other things on my mind too. I am pretty excited about, I had this experience two years ago in the Arena Football League and it was pretty fantastic, and I went to a couple of Bowl games when I was at University of California (Berkley) and I really enjoyed those. Each game has its own dynamic. I am fortunate to play on a team full of guys that I love to be around, that makes it pretty special. The fact that it is an inaugural bowl game for this league makes it pretty special because the guys no that everything is going to be record establishing and this will go down as the first championship game.”

On the XFL…

“I can say unequivically that there are a lot of people who have missed the boat that want to dislike this league for whatever reason they want. There are a lot of players in this league that can really play the game. For them to bash this league and football would be to put down NCAA Football. There is no way college football is as good as this. The players in this are either a missed opportunity or missed a step or that close to being NFL players. A lot of them have been and a lot of them are hoping to be NFL players again and will have a chance I would imagine based on the inter league chemistry a lot guys will be able to play in the league again. I think people who are bashing our league have there own personal reasons. My understanding when I took media course is there wasn’t suppose to be any personal bias when you read the news, but who am I to comment on the media.”

On Tommy Maddox…

“Tommy had a great year. Tommy and I came out (of college) the same year and were rivals in the Pac 10 we played each other. We shared a trading card together so we have known each other for quite awhile. I am just really happy for him, he has played extremely well this season and I am glad to see him have that kind of success.”

On Rivalry…

“Why not. I have lived in Southern California, so I understand it from both sides, clearly northern California is right. Anytime you a interstate game between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it could not be more perfect. You have the LA Dodgers and Giants, you use to have the LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers, it just fits. Nobody in the Pac-10 like the LA Schools.”

On winning the game…

“We have to score more points than they do. I don’t know about the running game, but I hope we make some changes. The last time we played them, it did not work so hot. We did not execute really well either, we definitely didn’t bring our “A” game for that one. We made a lot of mistake and a lot of mental errors. You can’t win playing against a good team making mental errors. They were in playoff form and at that point, we weren’t. This has been a team that gets up for games all year long. The team has always found a way to win games and they showed it last week when we got up for the Orlando game and won that one. This team finds away to win when it is really focused.”

On Playing at the Coliseum…

“I played down there at Cal when they use to have a track. People are a lot closer to you, which I guess is good if you are the home team. It’s not like playing at Oregon or Washington State where are right on top of you howling profanities. You enjoy playing at the Coliseum because of all the history and what goes on down there. My memories of the Coliseum is going down there and playing USC with the history of Troy blaring in the back ground and you couldn’t hear yourself speak, and them talking about Marcus Allan, O.J. Simpson, Rickey Bell and all these guys, and you think “my God, how can this school have all these players.” But I love playing down there. The last time we played there was actually the first time I ever loss at the Coliseum.”

On Pat Barnes…

“Pat has been great. I said it all year long that Pat deserves to be a starter in this league, there no question about it, he is a hell of a quarterback. Having Pat here, as a coach you have to be extremely happy because you have a guy that should be starting and for whatever reason coming out of camp, I got pegged as a starter. Pat is a great quarterback, he has played extremely well and has come through and is in a tough position as a backup you don’t get the snaps all year long and your not put in the same position as a starter, so it’s harder to be successful. He has done a great job when he has come in, he has won two out of three games when he played. I loved him when he was at Cal, I covered him, I worked at a radio station. I was a huge Pat Barnes fan back then and nothing has changed since.”

Head Coach Jim Skipper

“Our entire team and organization is very excited to be at the game and can’t wait for the game to start.”

On the team…

“I think our guys had our eyes on the final prize throughout the season, we just persevere and hang in there and I think we work as a unit. Our goal was to do whatever it took to get into the playoffs so we could be in the championship hunt. I do not think we have a superstar on the team. We play real good and everybody just pulls their load and we stick together and we have a blue collar mentality and when we get in tough situation, I think that come out. We preach all year long that the game is not over until it’s over and it doesn’t end until it ends. Each game has its own personality. Sometimes you can jump off to a big league or sometimes you can get into a whole. When things happen to you early, you have time to overcome it.”

Depth at QB…

“We were lucky to have two guys. Mike Pawlawski is having a outstanding year for us and he went down with a neck injury and Pat Barnes stepped in and did a terrific job for us. We happen to be in a situation where we have two outstanding players. I think Pat Barnes can play and be a starter in this league. He is a true professional. They are very compatible with one another.”

On the League…

“We look at our roster and we have over 50% of our players that have been on NFL rosters. I though outside of the O lineman we had people at the skilled position that is good as anywhere. I think there is a little bit of a drop off from the NFL, meaning that it is hard to find offensive lineman. There are a rare breed of cats, you might be able to find the size your looking for, but you have to have good footwork and that is a rare combination. Outside of offensive lineman, our skilled people are just a notch below. But as far as pure ability to catch the ball and run, our receivers are as good as anywhere.”

On the extra point and defense…

“What happens is one point is now from one yard, when originally it was from two yards. From the two-yard line the percentage is roughly 45 percent, so from the one-yard line the percentage is going to be higher. It’s a 10-point lead and the cut off nine, it went from seven to nine.”

On the defense…

“Our defense has been playing consistent defense throughout the year. We were ranked number one most of the year, then we had trouble stopping the run, but guys stepped it up real big last week. Now we are playing rock solid defense.”

On the Demons and NFL…

“I think the New York Giants and San Francisco Demons are blue-collar teams. They give it there all every snap. When I made my final decision that was calculated in that the Giants would go to the Super Bowl. It just so happens that Super Bowl Sunday was the exact same day we would break training camp. I have been a career assistant and I know if the opportunities come, they will be few and far in between minority or not. It’s not like you can take a civil service exam and whoever scores the highest gets the job.”

The Sports World Hates The XFL

They hate us? or They Hate We?…… The Sporting World has made their agenda well known. They have two words for The XFL…. GO AWAY!…… Ever open your local newspaper or listen to your local sports radio? If you are looking for coverage of your favorite XFL team, Good luck! The only attention that the XFL gets is negative attention. The games are not taken seriously and the players and coaches are ignored. The sporting world has had a field day with the XFL’s ratings. Here are two numbers for you: 1.2 and 1.1. Those are The NHL’s ratings on ABC. I don’t see too many press releases on those stats. Anybody ever hear about NFL Europe ratings? Well I’ll tell ya, NFL Europe averaged a 0.3 on Fox Sports Net last season. Where’s the press on those figures? Have the XFL’s ratings been good? No, but are they comparable to other sports franchises? Yes.

Here are some more fascinating figures…Major League Soccer.. 0.2, Golf average 2.0 this year, NBA average on NBC, 2.3, Arena Football ratings average 0.2. Outside of Tiger Woods, Nascar, NCAA Finals and the NFL. Sports ratings are in a slow period. Let’s face it, the XFL has made alot of mistakes and their ratings have been a huge dissapointment. Last week, the XFL on NBC drew a 1.5. Only 1.4 million viewers watched the broadcast. The game only ranked 14th out of the top 20 rated sports programs on television. The UPN telecast ranked 19th. The XFL made alot of mistakes and hopefully as a brand new league they can fix their mistakes.

It’s a fact. History dictates that the only football that Americans want to see is the NFL and College. Even the mighty NFL failed miserably in trying to create a spring football league in the United States. Remember the World League of American Football. It lasted two years and is now known as NFL Europe. The CFL tried to expand to American teams. That didn’t work either. Everybody knows the story about the USFL. They tried to compete with The NFL head on and they lost big time. There have been many other spring leagues that have come and gone. The Arena League has survived as a small time league with unique features. Their attendance averages about 7,000 but it’s not pro football. It’s 50 yard ball in small arenas. The XFL, quite frankly, is trying to do something that has never been done. No 2nd US Pro Football League has made it since the AFL (now AFC) in the sixties. You can thank Joe Namath for that one.

The media points out the quality of the football. Eighty-three percent of the players in the XFL have spent time with NFL teams. Seventy-eight percent of the XFL’s players are 29 and younger. The XFL players are college all stars, NFL rookies and draft picks, NFL Veterans slashed because of the cap, CFL stars, Arena League stars and NFL Europe stars. All the media has to do is research the teams. I’m not making this stuff up. The information is available. Take a look at the rosters for yourself. The coaches have the same type of resumes. Recently a poll conducted with NFL employees shows that 89 percent of them support The XFL. The NFL of course, doesn’t want any of it’s employees coming out to make good remarks about the XFL. CBS president, Les Moonves has gone on record stating that he wants to use XFL features in next season’s NFL broadcasts.

For all the talk by the media about Vince McMahon’s entertainment shows, Dick Ebersol, NBC and the cheerleaders, the media has never bothered to focus on the players, coaches or the way that the XFL treats it’s fans and viewers. How many friendly stories have you seen about the XFL? Not many and if you have the positive publicity has come from NBC employees, XFL employees and the fans that have experienced the games. The last part of that group is all that really matters, the fans. This season, the XFL gave fans free trips to follow their teams. Some fans were even allowed on the field when a team won. A selected fan was granted a 2,500 dollar bonus. Now if that’s not catering to the fans. I don’t know what is. How often are sports fans treated like garbage. Hey if your favorite NFL team goes 7 and 9 get ready for a ticket increase. The same goes for other sports franchises. Not one media outlet mentioned how the XFL treated it’s fans. How many sports teams do you know that you would give you 2,500 dollars if your team won? When Chicago fans came out in a monsoon to watch their team the XFL gave those fans free tickets for the next home game. How cool is that! That’s why XFL games average 23,000 fans per game. Not bad for a startup league with bad or no publicity.

As a football fan, I want to see The XFL make it. I think it’s a shame that only 1,800 football players get to play pro ball in the states with The NFL. The XFL gives players and coaches a chance to showcase their skills in this great country. So many great young players get overlooked when they get out of college. Some have bad luck and get injured in the NFL and they never get another chance to play pro ball. The XFL gives players and coaches, the opportunity to prove themselves. Some players will benefit from having played in The XFL. They will move on to The NFL and get another chance to make it. The same goes for the coaches. Be on the lookout for Hitmen runningbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, and yes he’s related to the great Vince himself, the man, NFL’s very championship is named after, Vince Lombardi.

As for the fans, the XFL has been a fan friendly league that is willing to listen to us. They have screwed up in alot of instances but the effort has always been there. The rules and TV features have been great. There is still alot of room for improvement in certain areas. There will be alot of structural changes in the off-season. I don’t know if this league is going to make it. History tells me that it won’t, but I hope that it does. The league is a breath of fresh air and I hope that other sports leagues take notice and use some of the features and practices that Tthe XFL does.

I have a feeling that the sporting media will continue to ignore this league in the hopes that it will all go away. These same types made fun of the ABA’s 3 point shot. These same types ragged on the AFL’s teams, uniforms and rules. It’s not a good idea to walk around life with a closed mind, I remember a certain group of critics that told Christopher Columbus that he was a fool. They told him that the earth was flat and that his mission as pointless. Thank god, Good Ol’ Chris didn’t pay attention to the critics.

Mike Mitchell – mmitchell@xflboard.com

FOUR TEAMS BEGIN QUEST FOR $1 MILLION

AS XFL PLAYOFFS OPEN THIS WEEKEND

ORLANDO HOSTS SAN FRANCISCO SATURDAY ON NBC;
CHICAGO VISITS LOS ANGELES SUNDAY ON UPN

STAMFORD, CONN. – After a grueling 10 weeks of regular season football left only four teams standings, the Orlando Rage, Los Angeles Xtreme, Chicago Enforcers and the San Francisco Demons will start all over again in a two-week war where the winner will walk away with $1 million.

The XFL playoffs open this weekend with the semifinal round pitting the Rage against the Demons and the Xtreme against the Enforcers, with the winners advancing to next Saturday’s XFL championship, “The Million Dollar Game.”ä

The playoffs open Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET (live on NBC) when the Eastern Division champion Rage, 8-2 and an unblemished 5-0 at home during the regular season, host the Demons (5-5) at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

The Rage are looking to continue their roll through the XFL behind back-up QB Brian Kuklick, with regular starter Jeff Brohm sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury. The teams met once this season, with the Rage dropping the Demons, 26-14, in Orlando in Week Two.

Sunday the playoffs move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the high-flying Western Division champion Xtreme (7-3) hosts the XFL’s hottest team, the Enforcers (5-5), at 7:00 p.m. ET (live on UPN).

Los Angeles won the division last week with a 24-0 blowout of San Francisco, but will be weary of a streaking Enforcers team which has won four straight, and is looking to continue an incredible turn-around after starting the season 0-4. Los Angeles defeated Chicago in a wild, double-overtime thriller, 39-32, back in Week Two.

The winning teams will earn the chance to play for the XFL’s million-dollar prize on Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 p.m. on NBC. “The Million Dollar Game” will be held at the site of the highest-seeded team based on regular-season records.

In addition, the XFL unveils its new extra-point options this weekend. Following a touchdown, teams may elect to run or pass for a one-point conversion from the one-yard line, a two-pointer from the five-yard line or a three-pointer from the 10-yard line. A defensive team returning a turnover into the end zone will earn the attempted point total.

 

XFL SEMIFINAL #1 SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS AT ORLANDO RAGE SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2001 8:00 p.m. ET AT THE FLORIDA CITRUS BOWL ON NBC

KELLER’S BREAKDOWN: XFL VP/FOOTBALL OPERATIONS MIKE KELLER SETS THE MATCHUPS

KELLER’S KEYS TO VICTORY:

ORLANDO RAGE: 8-2, Eastern Champion Orlando has excelled this season because of balance on defense as well as on offense. Galen Hall and Will McClay started with the basics in the draft by building around the offensive and defensive lines, added a smart and talented QB and filled in the gaps. The Rage has feasted in 2001 by establishing their running game with the threat of big passing plays. A consistent performance by Brian Kuklick is critical for the success of the Rage. The Orlando defense has bent but rarely broken this season.

S.F. DEMONS: 5-5, Western second seed Jim Skipper’s lunch bucket boys have made this season a success by equal measures of determination, luck and a never-quit attitude. Mike Pawlawski has been the heart and soul of a Demons team that has just found a way to win. They will have to capitalize, as they have all season, by moving the stakes and continuing to score when they get the opportunity. San Francisco’s chances will come down to big plays by their special teams, creating and capitalizing on turnovers and getting in Brian Kuklick’s face early and often.

ORLANDO OFFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO DEFENSE

Orlando Offense: Brian Kuklick must eliminate the mistakes and turnovers that have started to create some doubt in the minds of the Rage team. The best battle of the day may be in the trenches where the best OL in the XFL will try to dominate perhaps the most underrated DL in the league. If the running game goes, Kuklick will find opportunities to exploit the SF defensive backs. Orlando will try to get the upper hand early on the Demons defense and take the pressure of f their quarterback. If they accomplish that task, the Rage will roll.

San Francisco Defense: Not a big name in the bunch, the Demon defense will quietly take away an opponents primary weapons and force them to play their game. SF must shut down the ground game of Orlando then set their sights on forcing Kuklick to throw the ball into coverage. The Demons pursue well and have been opportunistic. They must give Pawlawski the ball for short drives and some quick scores. San Fransisco cannot come out with a lackadaisical attitude as they did against Las Angeles to finish the regular season. If they do.their season will really be finished.

ORLANDO DEFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE

Orlando Defense: The Rage are strongest when teams have to go the distance on them. Speed and talent in the defensive backfield and at linebacker shores up regular mismatches between opponents and the Rage defensive line. Given time, Mike Pawlawski will eat up a defense with precise passing. On his back he cannot be a threat. The Rage have succeeded with ball control and keeping the ball away from opponents. Orlando’s best bet on defense will be to disguise defenses, cause an early turnover and then let their DB’s take over in a passing dual.

San Francisaco Offense: The Demon offense sputtered last week against LA. Nothing seemed to work. Mike Pawlawski must get time to throw and the creative minds of the Demon offensive staff must find a way to find mismatches downfield. It may come down to a special teams score or turnovers to put the Demons into short drives. They will be hard pressed to stand up to the Rage if they have to go the long route.

THE FIRST TIME THEY MET
FEBRUARY 10: SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS AT ORLANDO RAGE

ORLANDO, FLA. – After spotting the San Francisco Demons a touchdown, the Orlando Rage roared back to score twice in a 41-second span late in the first quarter, then built the lead to 26-7 en route to a 26-14 win at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

The Rage relied on what would become their trademark balanced attack in the win, scoring on a long pass from Jeff Brohm to Mario Bailey, twice on the ground and once on defense. Demons QB Mike Pawlawski threw 52 passes on the day, completing 36 for 294 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Summary

 

ORLANDO RAGE TEAM NOTES

  • RB Derrick Clark, who is the starter and goal-line runner in Orlando’s three-back rotation, led the Rage in rushing this season with 395 yards. He scored a touchdown in seven of Orlando’s 10 games and also led the team in point-after conversions with five.
  • QB Brian Kuklick enters the playoffs with just three professional starts under his belt (2-1 record). Kuklick has completed 55.7% of his passes (68-122) for 994 yards and six touchdowns but has been intercepted 10 times.
  • WR Dialleo Burks finished fourth in the league in receiving yards (659) on just 34 receptions. His 19.4 yards per catch average was tops in the league, and he finished second in the league with seven touchdown receptions. Burks’ 51-yard TD reception against Chicago last week marked the second time in two games that Burks had a reception for 50+ yards and marked his 4th play of 40 or more yards this season.
  • Orlando Rage players scored the first and last touchdowns of the 2001 season. WR Kevin Swaynescored the first touchdown in XFL history with a TD reception from QB Jeff Brohm early in the first quarter of the Feb. 3 opener against Chicago. WR Dialleo Burks scored the last touchdown of the inaugural XFL season also against Chicago on a pass from QB Brian Kuklick. Both touchdown passes covered the exact same distance..51 yards.
  • In 23 “Red Zone” opportunities this year, the Rage have put points on the board on 20 occasions including 16 touchdowns – for a scoring success rate of 87.0%.

ORLANDO RAGE PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT

QUESTIONABLE: DT Mark Campbell (Knee), S Hassan Shamsid-Deen (Shoulder), C Cal Dixon (Quad), OL Sean Love (Back). PROBABLE: TE Terrance Huston (Cervical), DE James Roberson (Back), RB Brian Shay (Knee).

SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS TEAM NOTES

  • Last week, QB Mike Pawlawski didn’t complete a touchdown pass for San Francisco and had two interceptions in a game for only the second time this year. He finished second in the league in passing despite missing two games with a neck injury and finished with a mark of more than 200 yards though the air per game.
  • RB Kelvin Anderson filled in nicely when RB’s Juan Johnson and Terry Battle were sidelined with injuries and has rushed for 206 yards as a starter in the Demons’ last four games.
  • WR Jimmy Cunningham is the only receiver to play and catch a pass in all 10 San Francisco games and he has caught at least two passes in every outing this year, pacing the Demons with 50 catches for 406 yards and three touchdowns, all team-leading totals.
  • DE Jermaine Miles shares the Demons’ record in tackles for lost yards with eight for 41 yards
  • Mike Panasuk fell below the 40-yard mark as a punter for the first time this season after his performance at Los Angeles. He finished the year with a 39.6-yard mark. In addition, he made five of 11 field goals during the regular season and opponents averaged just 17.1 yards on 35 kickoff returns.

SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT

DOUBTFUL: QB Mike Pawlawski (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: RB Juan Johnson (Knee). PROBABLE: LB Jon Haskins (Knee), DE Jermaine Miles (Ankle), C Michael Kiselak (Toe),

LB James Williams (Achilles and Groin), S Toby Wright (Achilles).

XFL SEMIFINAL #2 CHICAGO ENFORCERS AT LOS ANGELES XTREME SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2001 7:00 p.m. ET AT THE L.A. COLISEUM ON UPN

KELLER’S BREAKDOWN: XFL VP/FOOTBALL OPERATIONS MIKE KELLER SETS THE MATCHUPS

KELLER’S KEYS TO VICTORY

L.A. XTREME: 7-3, Western Champion The Xtreme are coming into the playoffs with a full head of steam. They should be full of confidence and ready take on all comers. Coach Al Luginbill has found a nice balance in his offense. The emergence of Saladin McCullough has come at just the right time to take some of the pressure off Tommy Maddox. The receivers are the best combination in the XFL and their special teams can be explosive. If the Xtreme is to win they must keep their composure should the Enforcers explode for a big play on them.

CHICAGO ENFORCERS: 5-5, East second They came out of nowhere but this team never quit and that will be their strongest attribute. Coach Ron Meyer did a terrific job at keeping this team together. As Kevin McDougal brought a steadying influence to the offense the defense simply crushed teams in their stretch drive for the playoffs. All of that being said, the future of Chicago rests with the health of John Avery’s hamstrings. A healthy Avery can create the imbalance needed to shake up the Xtreme. Don’t take anything away from Leshon Johnson, but Chicago needs a productive Avery.

LOS ANGELES OFFENSE VS. CHICAGO DEFENSE

LA Offense: Way too many weapons. The most productive QB in the league, an emerging running game, a solid offensive line and the best set of receivers in the league create a formidable offensive machine. Playing their best as the weather got better they will be hard to beat at home. Maddox is the master at moving the stakes, McCullough has given him the balance that has made him even more dangerous. If LA gets on a roll, they can put some big numbers on the board.

Chicago Defense: Steadily improving throughout the year, this unit is playing a fairly dominant style of football coming into the playoffs. The D-Line has done a decent job of stuffing the run setting up a feast for the Chicago backers and pass coverage. Early in the season the backs gave up big plays, but have settled down into a reliable coverage group. They will be tested by Maddox but have the skills and determination to take the best LA has to offer and make a game of it. The blitz of the Chicago LB’ers will key the success of the enforcers.they must get to Tommy Maddox.

LOS ANGELES DEFENSE VS. CHICAGO OFFENSE

LA Defense: The LA defense has been stifling as of late. Shutting down Orlando then San Francisco at home has given them the kind of confidence to excel in the playoffs. Solid in the defensive line they create pressure and opportunities for the secondary. They must be the ones to stop John Avery and LeShon Johnson or Kevin McDougal will ‘Big Play’ the secondary to death.

Chicago Offense: Big Play pretty sums up the Enforcer offense. John Avery has shown the ability to “take it to the house” any time he touches the ball. Kevin McDougal has given Ron Meyer and the offense a steady, reliable and productive signal caller who can burn a defense with his arm or his legs. If Avery is limited, so will be the Chicago offense. Johnson has been productive but he just does not put the pressure on a defense the Avery does. If Chicago bombs the Xtreme early this game will be very interesting. The Enforcers have overcome incredible hurdles to get this chance.they may become, truly, a force this weekend.

 

THE FIRST TIME THEY MET
FEBRUARY 10: CHICAGO ENFORCERS AT LOS ANGELES XTREME

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – Trailing 25-13 late in the game, the Xtreme scored twice in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, before winning a 39-32 thriller over the Chicago Enforcers in the second round of overtime at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Summary

 

LOS ANGELES XTREME TEAM NOTES:

  • The last time LA and Chicago played, the Xtreme came from down 12 points with 12 minutes to go to force two overtimes and beat the Enforcers 39-32 at the Coliseum in Week Two. The victory was the first in Xreme history. The contest has stood up as the only double overtime game this season.
  • This weekend’s game will feature the season leaders in passing touchdowns and yards (Tommy Maddox-LA); rushing yards (John Avery-Chi); receptions (Jeremaine Copeland-LA); receiving touchdowns and total touchdowns (Darnell McDonald-LA); scoring, field goals made, and field goal accuracy (Jose Cortez); and interceptions (Corey Ivy-Chi).
  • The Xtreme boasts the best passing attack in the league averaging 214 yards per game in the air while the Enforcers come armed with the best rushing attack averaging 126. 5 yards per game on the ground. The Xtreme have the only quarterback to throw for over 2,000 yards in Tommy Maddox (2,186). The Enforcers have the only running back to rush for over 800 yards in John Avery (800).
  • The Xtreme and the Enforcers have combined to win seven of the ten XFL Offensive Player of the Week award this season. Enforcer quarterback Kevin McDougal (Weeks Five and Nine) and running back John Avery (Weeks One and Eight) have each won the award twice. Xtreme quarterback Tommy Maddox (Week Seven), RB’s Saladin McCullough and Rashaan Shehee(Week Ten), and receiver Jeremaine Copeland (Week Two) have each won the award once.
  • The Xtreme defense led the league in takeaways with 24, while the Enforcers defense led the league in interceptions with 15 and ranking second in total takeaways with 23.

LOS ANGELES XTREME PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT:

OUT: WR Larry Ryans (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Damon Gibson (Toe), RB Saladin McCullough (Hamstring), WR Darnell McDonald (Calf). PROBABLE: CB Terry Billups (Hamstring), G Chris Brymer (Knee), S Tinker Keck (Bicep), RB Ken Oxendine (Achilles), C Jose Portilla (Knee), S Jeff Russell (Shoulder).

 

CHICAGO ENFORCERS TEAM NOTES:

  • In only nine games RB John Avery finished the regular season with 1,097 total all-purpose yards for an average of 121.9 yards per game. On the season, he has 800 yards rushing and 297 yards receiving. He also has seven touchdowns (5 rushing, 2 receiving).
  • Since quarterback Kevin McDougal was inserted into the starting lineup, the Enforcers are 5-1.
  • Starting tackle Christopher Perez finished his CFL season on November 26 by helping the BC Lions win the Grey Cup. After playing 21 games for the Lions, he joined the Enforcers in January and on Saturday, he will be playing in his 32nd football game since July of 2000.
  • The Chicago Enforcers were last in the XFL in pass defense, giving up 192.2 yards per game in the air. However, the Enforcers led the league in interceptions with 15 as Corey Ivy (5) was first and Dorian Brew (4) was second in the XFL in picks.
  • Enforcers place kicker Andy Crosland entered the Orlando game with five field goals in nine games. Against the Rage, Crosland made all three of his field goal attempts, including a career best 42-yarder.

CHICAGO ENFORCERS PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT

DOUBTFUL: DE Jason Chorak (Ankle), DE Casey Dailey (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: RB John Avery (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Ray Austin (Shoulder), LB Jamie Baisley (Calf), DB Dorian Brew (Ankle), DB Quincy Coleman (Bicep and Shoulder), WR Fred Coleman (Pectoral and Ankle), S Kerry Cooks (Ankle), DE Larry Fitzpatrick (Ankle), G Paul Janus (Hand), G Rob Murphy (Knee), OT Christopher Perez (Ankle), T Tony Ramirez (Knee), TE Willy Tate (Hamstring).