When it comes to secondary football leagues, the prevailing thought process by some is that big markets and big venues should be avoided at all costs. The idea is that a pro football league should go into places that do not have any pro football teams. Despite the fact that there is no Pro or College Football taking place in the spring whatsoever, people tend to hang on to this narrative. As if a team playing football during March in Dallas is somehow competing with the Cowboys.
There is another thought process that says that northeast teams should be avoided as well, in the months of February and March, because of weather concerns. The New York Guardians check off all these boxes. Biggest market, large venue and winter weather. The original XFL’s top two drawing teams in attendance and ratings were New York and San Francisco… two NFL cities. The current XFL has 8 of the top 21 TV markets in their league. Two of the top five drawing teams in the NFL are the Jets and Giants. While a lot of that has to do with the resale market for tickets, it might shock some that a team like the Jets, that has been out of the playoff mix for almost a decade, is ranked second in attendance behind only Dallas. The Jets were second last year in attendance as well. The Tri-State area loves football, but earning it’s respect and admiration is no simple task. The NY/NJ market is the kind of place where people will give you a bouquet of flowers, with a note attached that says “You better be worth it.”
Being in a big market is not just about attendance and ratings. It’s about partnerships, sponsorships and business opportunities. Why does someone rob a bank?…. because that’s where all the money is. Is it any surprise that the New York Guardians are scheduled to have 8 of their 10 regular season games on network television. Eight games split up on ABC and Fox with ESPN and FS1 tentatively scheduled to air a game a piece. When it’s all said and done. 9 of their ten games may end up airing on broadcast television.
Let’s take an in-depth weekly look at the New York Guardians regular season schedule.
Week 1- The Guardians open their season at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon February 9th on Fox, 2pm eastern against the Tampa Bay Vipers. New York starts and finishes their season with three straight division opponents. New York and Tampa start and end their regular seasons against one another. On paper, this matchup features two of the league’s most experienced signal callers in Matt McGloin and Aaron Murray. That could change by opening day, but it’s an advantage both teams have, in terms of quality of play right out the gate. The weather for this one could be tricky. A 2pm start time helps, but all bets are off this time of the year. The Guardians experienced and accomplished coaching staff led by Kevin Gilbride, knows this venue and the elements attached to it like the back of their hands. Marc Trestman, despite leading a Florida team this go around, is no stranger to coaching in winter weather, having won multiple championships up north in Canada.
Week 2- The Guardians travel to the Nation’s capital to play the Defenders, in what could be the league’s best overall venue and atmosphere in Audi Field. This game will take place six days after the opener, and is another 2pm game, this time on ABC. The Defenders boast one of the league’s best rosters, led by Cardale Jones at quarterback. Weather could also play a factor in this game as well.
Week 3- Pro Football returns to St. Louis, as the Guardians face off with the BattleHawks on Sunday February 23rd, 3pm on ESPN. New York should have a good idea of where they stand after this game. This can be a very difficult place to play, especially if the BattleHawks come in flying high with a 2 and 0 start. It should be an emotional scene regardless, and it wouldn’t shock me if some old STL greats end up being a part of the ceremonies for the BattleHawks opener. New York will be playing the spoiler role and attempt to ruin the homecoming party.
Week 4- This starts a stretch of four straight non-divisional games. New York is back home, playing LA at 2pm eastern on ABC. This is the lone game on their schedule, where the Wildcats play at 11am pacific time on the road. LA Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson returns home, where he starred for the Giants and Jets many moons ago. This game features the countries two biggest markets in LA and New York.
Week 5- New York travels to Dallas, to take on what will be argued as the prohibitive favorite in the entire league, with Bob Stoops, Hal Mumme and the Renegades. The game will air on Fox at 5pm. By week five, the teams in the league should be hitting their stride, a scary thought if you are facing Dallas. Yes this is Bob Stoops first rodeo as a pro football coach, but his track record speaks for itself, and once he gets his feet wet, there could be some serious hell raising going on in Big D. Tough spot for the Guardians.
Week 6- New York is back home, playing their third straight Saturday game, this time against The Houston Roughnecks on ABC. Kevin Gilbride and June Jones have an interesting history between one another. Crossing paths on more than one occasion. Both coaches spent time in Houston coordinating the Run and Shoot offense for The Oilers. Gilbride has always run a variation of that offense. Oddly enough, Gilbride replaced a departing June in Houston, and then years later, Gilbride was fired mid season as the Chargers Head Coach, only to be replaced by Jones. This will make for an interesting reunion when both coaches cross paths once again.
Week 7- The Guardians travel to CenturyLink Field to face the Dragons, in what will be their final non divisional regular season game. The game will air on Sunday 3pm on ABC. If Seattle is in strong contention by this point. This could be one of the toughest places to play in the entire league.
Week 8- Here’s where the playoff push starts for every team in the league. For three straight weeks, every team in the XFL will finish their seasons with three straight divisional games. With two teams making the playoffs in each division. The final three weeks will decide who gets in and who doesn’t. Barring an 0 and 7 or 1 and 6 start. Teams with 3 and 4 or even 2 and 5 records will still be alive in the playoff hunt. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a 5 and 5 team could make the playoffs. Two teams in the original XFL did exactly just that, in the Demons and Enforcers, who both finished their seasons at 5 and 5. New York kicks off this crucial stretch at home against St. Louis. This game will air on Fox.
Week 9- The regular season home finale for The Guardians. This time with DC traveling to MetLife Stadium, for a Saturday 2pm game on ABC. This will be either both teams fighting for their playoff lives or potentially a game that could ultimately decide the division in the end.
Week 10- The final week of the regular season lands with The Guardians in Tampa. It also lands on Easter Sunday. The game is tentatively scheduled for a 6pm Sunday starting time on FS1. However, both Disney and Fox have an asterisk attached to this game, and the other divisional matchup between STL and DC. The latter is scheduled for a 3pm start on ABC but both games may flip positions and channels prior to week ten taking place. The date set for that decision is March 10th.
The biggest surprise on the schedule is that New York is playing at home in Week 1. Some experts expected New York to have a back loaded home schedule for weather purposes. The Guardians won’t be kicking off the league on Saturday, but the concern has always been of not leaving a good first impression. Not so much in terms of the end result, but more so when it pertains to the quality of play. Weather can play a factor in the style of game presented in week one. If the goal for the league is to have a high scoring, wide open and fast paced game, Mother Nature might have a say in that. The Guardians would love to make a good first impression, something that unfortunately the original XFL New York team was unable to do. In that case, nearly 19 years ago, weather wasn’t an issue in the opener, it was the quality of the team and how ill prepared the league was right out the gate. The Guardians are on the big stage all season, but not under the big lights. The latest start time for any of their home games is 5pm in late March against St. Louis. The Guardians didn’t get the primetime network nods on Fox that Dallas did in back to back weeks late in the season. The league and the teams will all be under pressure to produce a quality product right out the gate. However, New York may have the most pressure to get off to a good start. While some markets will have some leeway in the early going, the Tri-State area can be pretty rough on a team, if it’s not up to snuff. Especially a new team in a new league.
Mike Mitchell is a freelance sports writer, analyst, and a general lover of all football. Mike was one of the original XFLBoard.com Team Reporters in 2001, reporting on the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. We have welcomed him back to the XFLBoard and love his ongoing insightful contributions.