XFL 3.0: The Return of the Players League

XFL- LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 - Credit Adam McCullough
“For the Love of Football.” XFL- LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough

On March 11, Utah Jazz all-star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Although through no fault of his own, the positive test set in motion a domino effect which led to the XFL cancelling play for the remainder of their season on March 12.

On April 13, the XFL officially declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Most assumed that the league was over and mourned the loss of what was shaping up to be such a promising start-up football league. 

On May 26, fans of the league found out that the XFL would likely go up for sale, which was intended for July 23rd. 

On June 5, the sale was delayed to August 3rd, which would end up being the most important day in the history of the league. 

Media members, fans and players were awaiting the time of the XFL auction which was slated for the afternoon of August 3rd. However, in a stunning move, the XFL was bought before the auction and sold to Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and the RedBird Capital Group for $15 million. 

The move is being praised by everyone involved in the league. With Johnson’s history in sports and entertainment, he should be able to follow the vision of the XFL and their slogan “For the love of football” which took the world by storm with the return of the league in 2020. 

Garcia and Johnson reportedly have hopes of playing in 2020. The new ownership group will likely stick with the eight team format for the time being, although the locations of the teams are negotiable for now. 

With the XFL being a smaller league, a bubble situation may work for a full season or at least a round robin style tournament to maintain fan interest in the league. 

But the best part about the XFL was always the novelty of the league, the access to the players, and the opportunity for talented football players to get national exposure. With that framework in mind, let’s take a look at the return of the XFL from the perspective of the players themselves. 

I interviewed six XFL players from 2020, one un-drafted NFL free agent and one XFL coach. Asking everyone three questions, I wanted to get a scope of how the people directly involved in this situation were reacting and most importantly how they felt about possibly returning to the XFL in 2021. 

Question 1: How did you react when you saw that “The Rock” bought the XFL for $15 million?

Jordan McCray: OL, Tampa Bay Vipers

“I was happy to see it was bought just in general, but to see it bought by the Rock was amazing. Him playing in other leagues before, the CFL and being so involved in entertainment, I was very excited.” 

Derek Dennis: OL, NY Guardians

“I kind of already knew that the XFL would be coming back, but seeing that the Rock bought it was exciting but not surprising. His story and his football background is something that you cannot put a price tag on.” 

Ray Rychleski: DB coach, NY Guardians

“Very excited. I don’t think it could have gone to a better group. It seems like they want to get football back as soon as they can. With a woman pro owner and a gentleman who loves football and a group in RedBird Capital that loves sports, this is super exciting.” 

Cole Boozer: OL, DC Defenders

“I woke up to a bunch of texts from XFL people saying ‘hey the XFL is back!’ and I think that The Rock buying the league is huge for the XFL. Everything he has done in his career, the Ballers and all that, he has also been on the other side of being cut. I think this group will create a league that can thrive.” 

Ernesto Lacayo: K, Seattle Dragons

“Definitely shocked. We had heard the rumors of Disney buying the XFL, but hearing that the Rock bought it, I am very excited and it seems very promising. 

Desmond Sturdivant: Undrafted NFL Free Agent

“It is huge because it gives athletes like myself another opportunity to play the game. For someone like The Rock to even consider but actually buy the XFL is huge. I really liked what they had going this past season and I hope they can get a full season this year. 

Quentin Gause: LB, LA Wildcats

“I was excited. It is an opportunity for more guys to get to play professionally. The Rock played in the CFL for a while, never got to the NFL so he is the perfect guy for it. He understands the player side and the business side.” 

Tre Watson: LB, Dallas Renegades

“This is the Rock’s time. Him being a former athlete and with the quality of play the XFL already had, his sports and entertainment knowledge will be huge.” 

Question 2: Would you play in an XFL 2021 season if called upon?

Jordan McCray: OL, Tampa Bay Vipers

“100 percent. We had a great time and it was fun to play with guys who wanted to play football at a high level.”

Derek Dennis: OL, NY Guardians

“If I am still a free agent, absolutely. I had a lot of fun in New York and it was amazing to be back home playing in NFL stadiums. To come back from Canada and play US football was awesome.”

Ray Rychleski: DB coach, NY Guardians

“100 percent. I would love the opportunity and am excited for that to happen.” 

Cole Boozer: OL, DC Defenders

“I would for sure be interested in coming back. I love the fans there (DC) and they were awesome to me.” 

Ernesto Lacayo: K, Seattle Dragons

“ I would definitely play. If the NFL does not come calling, I will absolutely play. I would like to know that now so we can get some work in before training camp starts.”

Desmond Sturdivant: Un-drafted NFL Free Agent

“Of course, no hesitation whatsoever.” 

Quentin Gause: LB, LA Wildcats

“I definitely would yes. I think the leadership will be a lot better, make some great changes. I will keep playing till I can’t anymore.” 

Tre Watson: LB, Dallas Renegades

“Call me immediately!” 

Question 3: What was your favorite memory from your time in the XFL?

Jordan McCray: OL, Tampa Bay Vipers

“Our first win. Having that seltzer shower and celebrating with my guys, as well as earning a little extra money, that was a good day.” 

Derek Dennis: OL, NY Guardians

“Getting into the game in Dallas. Even after everything that went down (ejections) it was exciting to get thrown into the fire, be a veteran leader and show what I was about.” 

Ray Rychleski: TE/DB coach, NY Guardians

“When we won our first game, the Seltzer bash was awesome. After the game, no matter who won or who scored, all that mattered was that we won. That was my favorite moment, watching my guys celebrate after a good win.” 

Cole Boozer: OL, DC Defenders

“Either the time in New York when we beat them 27-0 and I had a lot of fan interaction or when we beat St. Louis. We were on top of the conference and controlled our own destiny at that point.” 

Ernesto Lacayo: K, Seattle Dragons

“The first home game we had and the first kickoff. I was lucky enough to do the first kickoff there and the roar of the crowd was incredible. I could not even hear my own thoughts, the crowd was so loud, I will never forget that moment.” 

Quentin Gause: LB, LA Wildcats

“I did an in-game speech before we played Tampa and DC. It goes,‘As God as our witness they shall fall to our feet. They shall not rise, no pain no gain. No pain no gain’ When I did that in both games, we won both games.” 

Tre Watson: LB, Dallas Renegades

“That would have to be our wins against LA and Seattle. It is always good to get a win and when you are out there trying to prove yourself every day, a win on the resume always helps.” 

Conclusion

In case you haven’t noticed already, everyone involved in the XFL in 2020 absolutely loved the league. From the friendships to the rule changes to the pure competition on the field, the XFL has what it takes to be a legitimate football league. 

Something that was floated on social media, which had apparently been discussed by Garcia and Johnson, was the idea of a bubble like the NBA and NHL are currently doing. There was not a single player I talked to who had an issue with a bubble. 

In a time where we are struggling with health and safety protocols, the XFL has an advantage with a smaller league, and players who are willing and able to commit to some sort of action in 2021. 

With Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia in charge, and backed by RedBird Capital Group, the XFL has a unique opportunity to return to a “bubble” in 2021 with willing participants. Not only that, but they will be able to establish themselves for a run at a full season in 2021 with the fanbase and media support to expand past the eight teams we saw in 2020. 

The XFL is nowhere near what it was in 2001 under Vince McMahon. The growth we have seen from the league in just a five week stint is nothing compared to what Johnson and Garcia will be able to do in the next two years. 

So, XFL fans, football fans, and those of you desperate for sports. Buckle up, grab some popcorn and prepare for the journey of a lifetime. 

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.

 

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

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. 

XFL Players signed to NFL Squads

With COVID-19 paralyzing the majority of the sports world, NFL Free Agency has been the main focus of sports fanatics across the country for the last week. Included in that are twelve XFL players who have agreed to NFL contracts at the time of this article.

After the NFL and XFL finally allowed XFL players to make the jump officially on Monday, the best of the XFL have been leaping at the chance to make their mark on the National Football League.

Here are the players from each team that have signed to NFL contracts:

  1. Houston: QB PJ Walker to the Carolina Panthers
  2. Houston:LB DeMarquis Gates to the Minnesota
  3. Houston: CB Deatrick Nichols to the New Orleans Saints
  4. St. Louis: QB Jordan Ta’amu to the Kansas City Chiefs
  5. NY: S Dravon Askew-Henry to the New York Giants
  6. NY: DE Cavon Walker to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. NY: OT Jarron Jones to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  8. Dallas: TE Donald Parham to the LA Chargers
  9. Dallas: LS Christian Kuntz to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  10. DC: TE Khari Lee to the Atlanta Falcons
  11. DC: S Tyree Kinnel to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  12. TB: LS Nick Moore to the Baltimare Ravens

PJ Walker signed the most lucrative contract we know of so far, agreeing to a two year $1,565,000 contract with a $150,000 signing bonus.

Jordan Ta’amu will back up NFL superstar and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, giving the Chiefs a viable backup option who can slide right into the offense if Mahomes is out. This was an emphasis for the Chiefs in the offseason after Mahomes missed two games during the 2019 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed the most XFL players to NFL contracts, bringing 4 XFL athletes to the Steel City. These players are Cavon Walker, Jarron Jones, Christian Kuntz and Tyree Kinnel. Pittsburgh brings the XFL sack leader, a versatile DB in Kinnel and two players in Kuntz and Jones who have played on both sides of the ball in their pro football careers.

While twelve players have made the jump, stars such as Cam Phillips, Josh Johnson, Cardale Jones, and many more XFL standouts have yet to agree to XFL contracts. Look for these players and others to sign NFL deals after the draft, which was recently confirmed by Roger Goodell to be held April 23-25.

In the meantime, with a move that impressed the sports world, the XFL will pay all players their full contracts, even though the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 viral pandemic. Even those twelve players who have agreed to NFL contracts will likely not sign officially until after the NFL draft in order to receive their full financial compensation from the XFL.

So, while you are in quarantine or self-isolation, check out some NFL free agency news or maybe re-watch an old XFL game. In a time where the news is not always good, take solace in the people who after months and years of hard work, will now get a shot at their dream: playing in the National Football League.