Oliver Luck talks XFL gimmicks, head trauma, the AAF and gambling

On Monday, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was a guest on the Bloomberg Business of Sports Summit podcast.

On Monday, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was a guest on the Bloomberg Business of Sports Summit podcast. Hosts Carol Massar, Michael Barr, and Jason Kelly interviewed Luck about the business aspects of the upcoming league.

When asked about the differences between the old XFL and the new. Luck eagerly responded that the new XFL would be, “a league for serious football fans, where the game is taken seriously.” He added, “It’s an up-tempo, fast-paced kind of a game with fewer breaks and fewer stoppages,” and then pointed out that this was, “one of the things football fans complain about.”

As for innovations, Luck made a point that the game of football, as good as it was, had left room for a few innovations. “We’ve got some innovations we’re looking at doing that we feel will improve the game,” Luck said. “It’s a tough game to improve, because right now, I believe as many fans do, whether it’s the NFL, or major college football, it’s probably at an all time high in terms of the way the game is being played, and the quality of the game.” Luck added, “We feel there are a number of places we can innovate and be a bit different.”

Luck did not go into specific details as to the innovations he was referring to, nor did the interviewers inquire about further information.

When asked about the gimmickry of the 2001 version of the league, Luck pointed out he thought the new XFL would have plenty of “fun moments.” However, he clarified, “What we don’t want to do is have gimmicks. Americans care about football and it’s become sort of our secular religion, and our stadiums are our Cathedral.”

When asked about player nicknames, such as Rod Smart and “He Hate Me,” Luck mentioned, “Rod Smart was a solid player, but it was overshadowed by the name on the jersey.”

More seriously, Luck also spoke about the XFL’s planned response to head trauma. “In 2001, nobody was worried about head trauma. And now, in today’s football world, NFL, College, Pop Warner, High School, there is a serious legitimate concern. So, we want to make sure we are doing things from a health and safety perspective as well.” Later in the interview, he added, “Our players, at least initially, won’t be unionized. So, I think I have to look out as a Commissioner for our players.”

As for competition with the AAF, Luck was quick to point out he felt there was “plenty of space for all of us to coexist” in the current football landscape. “There are 85 million football fans in this country, almost half of whom are diehard passionate fans. We’re going to go into these markets, New York, Washington D.C., Dallas, Houston, Seattle, where we’ve got real passionate fans. Those are not markets where the other league is in, as they are playing in some smaller markets like San Antonio or Salt Lake City… they’ve chosen a little different strategy. I think there is plenty of football, in terms of the ability of the American fan to really enjoy and appreciate the game.”

More specifically, Luck remarked that he had been watching the AAF’s progress. “We’ve watched the Alliance and I think they’ve done some things very well, and some other things I think did not go so well, but we have our own business plan and ideals.”

Luck was also asked how the XFL would approach gambling. “We want to offer a league with Integrity and consistency so that folks do want to in fact gamble, wager. We want Vegas to put a line on our games, which is difficult for a brand-new league. The Alliance is finding that out as well.”

When asked for more details about gambling, Luck was not able to offer many specifics. “That’s all being figured out. It’s taking a relatively slow pace considering the state by state nature of this.” Luck also indicated that “things may not be clearer,” even when the XFL launches in 2020.

How far outside the box is the XFL willing to go?

It may be Vince McMahon who is funding 500 million dollars for the new XFL, but make no mistake, this is Oliver Luck’s league. How innovative will he take the 2020 version of the XFL?

XFL CEO Oliver Luck has made the media rounds for several months now. He’s done hundreds of interviews where he has stated that the 2020 version of the XFL will lean more towards being a conventional pro sports league than the 2001 version. It may be Vince McMahon who is funding 500 million dollars for the new XFL, but make no mistake, this is Oliver Luck’s league. As an executive, you can’t get someone who is more by the book than he is. His reputation is impeccable and he has all the makings and resume of a potential future NFL commissioner.

Since the original XFL folded in 2001, every football league that has followed has used the mantra “Real Football,” almost as a way of saying, “We are not going to do what the XFL did.” Oliver Luck’s selling point for the league has been that the new XFL is going to do what the original didn’t, and that’s to be all about football.

As illustrated here on XFLBoard in the past few months, the new XFL has an uphill battle in changing their image and negative perception. The original XFL was an outlaw league that didn’t play by the rules of traditional sports. The game rules were radically different. A big part of the league’s focus was sex and violence. The league bucked the system and strayed from tradition. From the team names to the player nicknames, the XFL was a proud enemy of the NFL, and they bragged about it.

Oliver Luck’s intention is to not repeat the same mistake twice. For starters, the XFL has been playing nice with the NFL. Oliver Luck has bent over backwards complimenting the NFL. He has many friends and associates within the league. Luck played in the league. He worked for the NFL as an executive, running NFL Europe for 10 years. His son Andrew is one of the most respected players in the NFL. Oliver Luck has stated on several occasions that the XFL can’t and won’t compete with the NFL. This is a 180-degree turn from what the original XFL’s mission statement was. The league plans on having no cheerleaders this time around, no “Death Blow” nicknames on the back of the jerseys, and no wrestling elements in the presentation whatsoever.

Despite all of this, the 2020 version of the XFL may still try to buck the system, but in a totally different way, with an entirely different approach. Despite Oliver Luck’s statements and the league’s new branding, there are hints that suggest the league is going to try and be different rather than just fit in to the sports landscape. As covered here last week, the league will have to be innovative yet again from a broadcasting standpoint. The league is also testing out new rules, but it doesn’t figure to stop there.

How far is the XFL willing to go outside the box? Let’s start with high school football players. Are they going to dip their toes in the water, or completely dive in and start recruiting 4 and 5 star recruits, in an effort to try and get them to skip college and turn pro in the XFL? Would Oliver Luck, a man whose previous job was as an executive for the NCAA, start to ruffle some feathers with his old bosses, and starting signing away potential college football players? Like an episode of HBO’s “Ballers,” does the league decide to take the stance that these young athletes need to start being paid?

Make no mistake about it. Once the XFL signs a top high school or college football recruit, there’s no turning back. The XFL will become an enemy of the state, whether that’s their intention or not. It will be seen as firing a shot against the system, the NCAA, and it could disrupt the NFL’s current 3-year eligibility rule.

Does the XFL target college football players in the transfer portal? The CFL has signed one recently in former Auburn/FAU WR Kyle Davis. He signed with Saskatchewan of the CFL rather than transfer to another college. This could clearly be another area that the XFL’s scouting department targets. Led by Oliver Luck, Doug Whaley, and Optimum Scouting, the XFL’s football brain-trust are leaving no stones unturned. XFL management even held court with player agents at the NFL Combine to try and sell them on the possibilities of their players signing with the XFL as undrafted free agents.

Allowing fans to call plays? On the surface, this sounds like another radical idea. The XFL’s brain-trust was in Jacksonville Florida this past week testing league rules with Your Call Football, a tech company which is finishing up their 2nd series of games this Monday night. Your Call Football allows fans to choose from one of 3 coach selected plays through their App. The clickbait and misleading nature of sports sites, is to suggest that the XFL is going to have fans be the coordinators rather than actual football coaches. On hand for the XFL’s partnership with YCF, was the league’s four hired GM/Head Coaches: Bob Stoops, Jim Zorn, Marc Trestman, and Pep Hamilton. The players in YCF playing in these games, and testing out XFL concepts/rules, were all signed up and scouted by the XFL’s Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko.

Hiring coaches

Thus far, the XFL has gone by the book when it comes to football hires… specifically, the league’s Head Coach/General Managers. The first four hires consist of two former NFL head coaches, a former NFL and College Football Coordinator, and a major college program head coach. Between the four of them, they bring many years of coaching experience, a national championship, and three Grey Cup championships in Canada. Will the league’s final four HC/GM hires all have the same type of pedigrees? Rather than go along the same formula, the XFL could decide to go in a different direction for their last four hires.

Former NFL player and future hall of famer Isaac Bruce has expressed an interest in joining the XFL as the HC/GM of the St. Louis franchise. Would the league consider someone who has no coaching experience? Could the last group of GM/Head Coach hires consist of coaches who have never held those roles? XFL VP Doug Whaley’s NFL PA collegiate bowl had two charismatic former NFL players coordinating defenses in Ed Reed and Bryan Cox. Both men do have coaching experience, but would the league think outside the box and hire one of them to run one of their teams? Your Call Football‘s two head coaches, Merril Hoge and Solomon Wilcots, are former players and NFL analysts. These types of hires would go against the grain of standard sports league hires.

Retread is an ugly word, and there are dozens of former NFL and College Head Coaches available that would fall into that category. Instead of sticking with the status quo, could the league look for someone as innovative and outside the box as a Kevin Kelley? The “mad scientist” head coach of the Pulaski Academy Bruins in Arkansas has won several state titles. His claim to fame is never punting, always going for onside kicks, and running several trick plays every game. If the XFL is looking to be innovative and re-imagine the game, would Kevin Kelley be someone they would target?

The truth is in order to stand out and get attention, the XFL is going to have to take a uniquely different approach than other upstart sports leagues have in the past. It’s a fine line of trying to figure out where the line is, and when it’s okay to cross it. You want to give sports fans a reason to watch, while at the same time, not giving them a reason not to watch. It’s going to be a delicate balancing act from now until next February. It’s pretty clear at this point that the XFL is not looking to be a developmental league. They have no interest in being a minor league, and they want to be a legitimate pro sports league. The goal is to start their own path and not follow the path of others. How does the XFL do that and still find a way to fit into the standard sports landscape?

XFL rule testing with “Your Call Football”

Jim Zorn,  Marc Trestman, and Pep Hamilton observe XFL rule testing with “Your Call Football”. (Photo source: https://twitter.com/xfl2020)

XFL head coaches Jim Zorn (Seattle), Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay), and Pep Hamilton (Washington D.C.) recently spent time working with “Your Call Football” in another test of the proposed XFL rules.

Your Call Football” is an interactive football competition where online spectators call the plays via a smartphone app.  Now in their second season, games are held on Monday evenings and played by relatively high quality players who are largely recent cuts from NFL and CFL rosters.

As well as “Your Call Football,” the XFL has also tested their proposed rules with community colleges, and is partnered with the Spring League to continue to test the league’s unique set of rules during their upcoming Spring 2019 season.

Additional details regarding the XFL’s proposed rules may be found here on XFLboard.com.

The amount of XFL rule testing being undertaken seems impressive, especially when compared to how the original XFL was rolled out in 2000-2001, with little chance to test the rules.

In 2020, please consider an XFL without Cheerleaders

Feb. 17, 2001, a television cameraman photographs the Los Angeles Xtreme cheerleaders before the start of an XFL football game between the Xtreme and the Las Vegas Outlaws in Las Vegas. (AP Photo)

Eighteen years ago, when Vince McMahon talked about the first version of his pro-football league, he continuously made the boast that his league would have the best cheerleaders. He insisted that football and cheerleaders belonged together, and that the cheerleaders should have a greater role in the game day product. ‘

Of course, other sports leagues are no strangers to promoting the sex-appeal of cheerleaders, but the 2001 version of the XFL packaged and sold the cheerleaders as sex objects.

At one point, in an interview with “ESPN The Magazine,” McMahon even made the outlandish claim that players would date the cheerleaders, and the fans would know if they were doing the “wild thing.”

“Yes, our cheerleaders will date our players,” McMahon said. “Yes, they’ll be hot babes … We’re going to have three or four of them surround our announcers — who’ll be sitting in the stands, by the way… then, when the quarterback fumbles or the wideout drops a pass — and we know who he’s dating — I want our reporters right back in her face on the sidelines demanding to know whether the two of them did the wild thing last night.”

That’s right. He said, “the wild thing.”

In an era that brought us reality television, Vince McMahon, the master showman, was willing to take things as far as anyone could imagine and put the cameras in places they had never gone before. The XFL cheerleaders were a key part of this plan.

On game day, the cheerleaders were normally not found on the field. They were featured on specially constructed platforms situated within the stands, right where the hungry eyes of the fans could get a good look at them. A large crowd of men usually surrounded the cheerleader’s location.

Why would a woman sign up to be an ogled at by strange men? Bonnie-Jill Laflin, a cheerleader with the XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme, revealed, “I decided to do the XFL because for me it was great exposure and I hoped it would help with my sports broadcasting career. But what they have shown so far on national TV is girls looking like strippers, and it looks like we may not get all the breaks we thought we would get.” Clearly, not everyone enjoyed cheerleading for the XFL.

Unfortunately for Vince McMahon, using cheerleaders to garner popularity for his league didn’t always go well. In what is now billed as the “worst halftime football stunt in history,” Vince McMahon sent a cameraman into the Orlando Rage Cheerleaders locker room. When fans realized it was a WWE-style scripted scenario, it fell as flat as a pancake… despite the fact it featured a cameo by a towel-clad Rodney Dangerfield. Even Rodney’s popularity couldn’t save the day, and this debacle is now how many remember the XFL.

Complete turnaround in 2020

When it comes to cheerleaders, in 2020 we will see a complete one-eighty. When Vince McMahon relaunched the XFL in January 2018, he said plainly, “There will be no cheerleaders.”  This is a far cry from talking about “the wild thing.”

In trying to create a new XFL that is all about “better football,” McMahon is now using a lack of cheerleaders as a wedge, just to prove how serious he is about cleaning up his league.

Recently, in an XFLBoard Discussion, user Tank55 nailed it:

“I think dropping the cheerleaders entirely was a really easy, clean way to separate yourself from the worst parts of the old XFL, especially considering today’s climate. You don’t have to waste any effort of explaining how 2020’s cheerleaders would be presented differently than in 2001.”

So, it’s a brand new XFL, and the lack of cheerleaders proves it!

So far, as shown in the results of this recent XFLBoard Twitter poll, fans seem to be in agreement with the plan to shelve the cheerleaders. However, the result is clearly not a landslide.

We will see what happens next February, when the players hit the field. How many fans will be disappointed by the absence of the infamous XFL cheerleaders?

In a well-known 2001 photo, San Francisco Demons fan Chris Wright held a sign proclaiming his young desires. We hope, eighteen years later, a grown-up Chris Wright is not too disappointed when he discovers the XFL Cheerleaders he once coveted are no longer part of the game day experience.

San Francisco Demons fan Chris Wright, 11, from Benicia, Calif., holds up a sign during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Xtreme, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001 in San Francisco in their first XFL game. The Demons beat the Xtreme 15-13. (AP Photo)

How changing the game again is the XFL’s best bet for success

The innovative SkyCam, as seen at a 2001 XFL game, is a technological advance other leagues use extensively today. When speaking of the 2020 version of the league, Commissioner Oliver Luck has gone on record stating they will be using and implementing about twelve new innovations.

For better or worse, the original XFL changed the way football is broadcasted forever. There are some football fans who don’t even realize it, as they are not old enough to remember the original XFL nearly two decades ago in a pre-HD era. Everyone who watches a college football or pro football game now, is seeing the innovations that the original XFL introduced. From the sky-cam to the on-field cameras, sideline reporters, and audio access with players and coaches. For all its obvious warts and failings, and much deserved ridicule in some instances, the XFL was way ahead of its time from a production/presentation standpoint. For this we thank the vision of Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol, and the execution of their teams at WWE and NBC.

Being ahead of the game is very important. There’s a famous quote that goes, “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” In many circles, this quote has been incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein. After all, anything in relation to brilliance can be attributed to him. The quote however belongs to Francis Phillip Wernig, who used the pseudonym Alan Ashley-Pitt. Thus, proving that someone can come along with a great idea or thought, and have it transported to someone with more notoriety or acclaim. Over time a great idea or thought can lose its author. This has happened in many fields, football being one of them.

The benefit that non-NFL leagues have is the luxury to take chances. They can try new things to innovate the game, and enhance the way it is presented. In 1974, the short-lived World Football League moved the goal posts from the front of the end zone to the back. The NFL followed suit immediately. The WFL also introduced what would become the modern day 5-yard bump zone. The USFL used 2-point conversions and introduced the coaches replay challenge system, two things the NFL would adopt years later.

The original XFL eliminated the extra point kick, because it was deemed too easy. The NFL and CFL have since both moved back their extra point kicks to make them more difficult. The AAF has adopted the XFL’s elimination of the extra point. As well as the shorter 35 second play clock and the sky-cam. The United Football League decided to have all their major replays reviewed by a video official up in the booth. The current XFL announced that idea, with XFL CEO Oliver Luck stating that the league would be borrowing Dan Rooney’s suggestion from many years ago. The AAF is currently implementing the “sky judge” in their games. After the NFC Championship fiasco, and some of its other failings, the NFL is currently reviewing making several changes to their review system, overtime rules, onside kicks and even potentially eliminating the extra point.

In order to stand out from the crowd and succeed, the 2020 version of the XFL needs to be innovative in how they present the game of football, on the field and off. There’s a fine line, where the league needs to tread carefully and wisely. The XFL wants to innovate and evolve the game of football, without getting away from what football is.

The first mission statement and company line of the current XFL, is they are going to stay away from gimmicks and put the game of football first. On the field, the original XFL was all about old school football. It was designed to be an in-your-face, smashmouth league. All the teams had to play on natural grass fields. Physical play was encouraged. Very few if any of the league’s quarterbacks started and finished the season in one piece. The “bump and run” was allowed all the way down the field. There were no touchbacks. Returners had to run out of the end zone. No fair catches, and the ball was live after being punted more than 25 yards. Then there was the infamous scramble, which replaced the coin toss. The league favored defensive play and hard hitting so much, that the rules needed to be tweaked as the inaugural season went on.

The new XFL figures to be the exact opposite. The league is more about the safety of the players. The rules that are going to be tested with the Spring League later this month, and that have been tested already, figure to be more offensive friendly than the original XFL. It works out to be a more wide-open game. The 2020 version of the XFL wants to play a faster up-tempo game with potentially 25 second play clocks, even going to the length of hiring an extra official for ball spotting just to get teams set up quicker after a play is over.

This past week on Tampa Bay radio, XFL CEO Oliver Luck mentioned that the league would be experimenting with a new communication system, that could eliminate the need for an actual huddle. The head coach would have audio access to all eleven of his offensive players on the field. Every player would hear the call directly from the head coach/play caller immediately, without the QB having to tell his teammates the call.

In the NFL and college football, after a head coach communicates his play to the QB, the audio communication is cut off. As Oliver Luck stated, the league is thinking of not cutting off the audio communication until the ball is snapped. It sounds radical but imagine using this technology with not only all the offensive players, but with all the defensive players as well. It’s like Tony Romo telling you where the ball should go right before the snap happens. Will the viewers at home and in the stands be able to hear this communication as well? Spectators to live games of the XFL in 2001, had audio access broadcast live through the speakers of the stadium. That might return yet again, but with new technology being implemented. The new XFL needs to make going to a game, something fresh and new, and not just another football game. Despite ratings being up in the NFL, attendance went down in 2018. The AAF is drawing poorly at the gate. You have to make the games affordable and give fans a reason to want to come and experience the games live.

Oliver Luck has gone on record stating that the XFL will be using and implementing about twelve new innovations. This is a part of the league’s goal of reimagining the game of football for the year 2020 and beyond. There’s already been talk and testing of a new kickoff, new overtimes and even bringing back the XFL original idea of a 3-point conversion after a touchdown. The league might be a little gun shy about letting their ideas get out there before they have an opportunity to test and then brand them as their own. Especially now with a competing spring pro football league on the horizon.

The reimagining of the game of football could extend to the way fans interact with the games and teams as well. The XFL has a loose partnership right now with “Your Call Football.” YCF is currently running their second series of games. The technology-based company allows fans to pick one out of three plays that the head coach chooses before every snap. Oliver Luck has also hinted at potentially letting the fans pick a play in the XFL. It may not be for an entire game, the way YCF implements, but it could be for a play or two each game. Luck has even hinted at the fans potentially making other choices like choosing a home team’s uniform before a game. It’s just another potential way of making the game more immersive for fans. The XFL’s app needs to be state of the art, it has to fully engage the fans in fantasy football, the game itself and potentially in gambling. With three of the league’s eight teams already in legalized gambling states, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Missouri, the league is in position to generate interest in their games through that resource as well.

The 2020 version of the XFL needs to be different and unique, just like the original… but in a totally different way. In order for the league to get attention and keep it. They are going to have to be revolutionary in how they present the game, in how they make the fans a part of the game, and how they build their league through their players and coaches. They can’t present just another league. It will not be enough to obtain, sustain or grow an audience.

XFL Announces Marc Trestman as Head Coach of Tampa Bay Franchise

Today, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck announced Marc Trestman has been hired as the Head Coach and General Manager of the XFL Tampa Bay franchise.

Last Friday, in what seems to have become a regular occurrence for all the XFL Head Coach announcements, the Tampa Bay Times leaked that Trestman would be named as the Head Coach/General Manager of the Tampa Bay XFL franchise. This was confirmed at the press conference held today at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium.

Trestman has had mixed success as a head coach in both the NFL and CFL, and most recently worked as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Earlier in his career he also served as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes (CFL), and Chicago Bears (NFL). His greatest glory came as a head coach in the Canadian Football League where he led the Alouettes to two consecutive Grey Cup championships and was named CFL Coach of the Year in 2009. Later in 2017, he also lead the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup championship.

“Marc is a two-time coach of the year who also led his teams to three CFL Grey Cup championships,” XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said in his statement. “He’s just the kind of offensive-minded coach whose style will fit the uptempo, fast-paced game we will deliver to fans when the XFL launches next February.”

“I am very excited to be on the ground floor with Oliver, his team, and the other coaches across the XFL to help re-imagine football,” said Trestman. “I started my coaching career in Florida while I was in law school, and personally know the passion and love for the game that football fans have in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.  I can’t wait to begin putting a coaching staff together and building a team that will play disciplined, fundamentally sound and exciting football come February.”

A Minnesota native, in college Trestman played as a quarterback for three seasons with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and one season with Minnesota State University Moorhead. He earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Miami Law School and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.

Spring Football Making Headlines

As a football fan for over three and a half decades, I can’t recall another time where non-NFL leagues have been in the news, as much as they have been in the last few weeks. There are actually two Spring pro-football Leagues, both making news at the same time. One in the AAF, that has started their inaugural season, and the other in the XFL, which is building towards theirs. These two leagues have been all over the landscape making news, and sometimes sharing in the actual headlines. Not only are both these leagues in the headlines, but they are in every conversation together. Look no further than the recent Johnny Manziel story.

Perhaps it has something to do with the times that we are living in. In 2019, it’s easier to carve out a piece of the headlines, even if it’s just a small piece on social media sites. Unfortunately, the usual headlines surrounding these types of leagues are not always very kind.


The AAF is finishing up their 4th week of play and they have already had their fair share of turmoil and critique. It started before their season even began. They lost three offensive coordinators and a head coach in Brad Childress. Their highly marketed Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Mike Vick then left his job just before the season started because he had other things to do.

The season started for the Alliance with decent fanfare and some mainstream sports media support. Almost immediately following week one, news came that the AAF’s main investor bailed on the league after week one, a story that was confirmed by Orlando coach Steve Spurrier in the Orlando Sentinel, only days after widespread denial. The league’s main investor took his money and went home. The reports of the league nearly missing week 2’s payroll are disputed. No definitive word on who the initial money man was, but it’s worth noting that Peter Thiel is no longer listed as one of the AAF’s financial investors.

Billionaire NHL Owner Tom Dundon came in to make the buy in, or bail out, depending on which way you want to look at it. What follows this, is a myriad of reports over how invested Dundon actually is, and whether or not, he is going to fully commit to the league. The AAF struggled at the gate in some of their markets, and their financial model started to take some criticism. Critique starts flying at the AAF in several different directions. From the bare boned app to the lack of TV coverage and marketing. Even a potentially non-related joke by Rod Woodson during a game telecast came off poorly, when he said no one is watching or listening.

This past week, reports came out that Businessman Robert Vanech is now suing the league, because of a claim that his idea of the AAF was stolen from him by Charlie Ebersol, and passed on to Bill Polian. To further cloud things, It’s revealed that the AAF was originally supposed to be XFL 2.0, with an offer of 50 million dollars to buy the XFL, being turned down by Vince McMahon. The idea that these two leagues exist because of the original XFL, has already been documented in previous articles on this site, like The Alliance Between Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon. A league being sued for controlling interest is not a good thing, but you could argue that there must be value in the league if someone is trying to fight to gain control or profit from it.

Fighting is also what has been taking place on certain corners of the internet. The battle is among AAF loyalists and anyone who isn’t one of them. Despite the silliness of it all, it’s actually refreshing to see an upstart league have some passionate supporters who really want to see the AAF succeed. There is an appetite for spring pro-football. The ratings for the AAF started out as 3 million viewers on their lone network game, and have since settled in at about half a million viewers in prime-time on cable. In today’s television landscape, this is respectable. The public having an appetite for spring football is there, being able to retain it in the future will be key.

Changing the perception of the XFL

The league that is actually the XFL, has also been all over the news of late. They have been sneaking their way into the conversation, despite not having any games to play. The league still hasn’t announced its TV deal or team names/identities, but they are halfway home in hiring all eight of their GM/Head Coaches, with Marc Trestman set to be named as the league’s 4th GM/Head Coach of the XFL’s pro football team in Tampa.

The XFL has been a nuisance for some die-hard supporters of the AAF, and other sports fans and media members every time the league makes news or announces a new head coach. The response has mostly been something to the likes of, “Is that really still a thing?” You get the sense that some people just want the XFL to just go away. There’s still a great amount of ridicule and disbelief in its existence. An issue that I touched upon greatly in the article Changing the perception of the XFL.

It’s worth noting that even in the XFL’s press conferences, their coaches have commented on how strange it initially felt to actually consider joining the XFL. Bob Stoops made mention of dismissing the idea initially, and most recently Jim Zorn admitted that the idea of being in the XFL felt strange to him because of the league’s first run in 2001.

Eyebrows are being raised all over the place, and it has nothing to do with Duane Johnson’s “Rock” character. More eyebrows were raised when the XFL’s pay scale for premiere players was revealed this week of being 400 to 600 thousand per season. The significance of this news was matched by the recent knowledge of the XFL meeting with player agents at the NFL combine, to present a potential package to the players who do not get drafted onto NFL teams in late April.

One of the biggest drawbacks of being an upstart football league in the past, has always been the lack of attention and exposure that they receive. Any attention given has always been of the negative variety. Any non-NFL football league has started out with a decent amount of attention from the mainstream sports media, only to fade away into being relatively invisible on the sports landscape. The leagues end up being treated as if they don’t exist, and they only enter the conversation when there is turmoil or struggles that are fairly commonplace with any upstart business. The conversations are usually about everything but the actual games, or the players/coaches that are involved in them.

The famous poet Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Getting attention for these leagues is half the battle. Being a part of the conversation is important, but there will be a moment that will be the deciding factor, as to whether or not these leagues are really going to make it… when the conversations become about the players and the games themselves. As soon as sports fans and the media start talking about the chances of Seattle beating Dallas on the road to make the playoffs, or how Houston’s offensive line matches up with New York upfront. That’s when you will officially know that the leagues have officially made it and are a real part of the sports landscape.

Marc Trestman to Coach XFL Tampa Bay

Marc Trestman most recently served as Head Coach of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.

Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times has reported that Marc Trestman will be named as the Head Coach/General Manager of the Tampa Bay XFL franchise.

Trestman’s appointment will be made at a press conference which takes place at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium at 11:00 AM ET on Tuesday 5 March 2019.  The XFL will be streaming the press conference live via Twitter and YouTube.

Trestman has had mixed success as a head coach in both the NFL and CFL, and most recently worked as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Earlier in his career he also served as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes (CFL), and Chicago Bears (NFL).

His greatest glory came as a head coach in the Canadian Football League where he led the Alouettes to two consecutive Grey Cup championships and was named CFL Coach of the Year in 2009. Later in 2017, he also lead the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup championship.

A Minnesota native, in college Trestman played as a quarterback for three seasons with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and one season with Minnesota State University Moorhead.

XFL to announce Tampa Bay Head Coach and General Manager Tuesday

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida. (Source)

The XFL will announce their first Head Coach and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Franchise:

  • When: Tuesday, March 5th at 11:00 AM ET
  • Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Who:
    • Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner and CEO,
    • Ken Hagan, Hillsboro County Commissioner,
    • Tony Muniz, Chairman, Board of Directors, Tampa Bay Sports Authority.

This will be the fourth Head Coach/General Manager announcement for the fledgling league. Previously, Head Coaches were announced for Dallas (Bob Stoops), Washington D.C. (Pep Hamilton), and Seattle (Jim Zorn).

Prior to the past Head Coach announcements, there were strong rumors indicating the candidate. In this case, there are no strong rumors as to who the candidate may be.

#XFL #SurpriseUs

Many hurdles before Johnny Football plays in the XFL

Johnny Manziel 2014 Browns training camp (Source)

The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League released quarterback Johnny Manziel on Wednesday, saying he “contravened the agreement which made him eligible to play.” This dramatic step may also spell out how Johnny Manziel may have many hurdles before he would be signed by the AAF or XFL.

For the Canadian Football League, the Johnny Manziel experiment is over. In Canadian style, the CFL made an effort to give Manziel an additional chance to overcome his personal shortcomings by signing him to an agreement that stipulated certain conditions. Also, in typical Canadian style, those conditions remained private and were never publicly spelled out.

On the day Manziel was released, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was quick to point out, “We didn’t release the terms of those conditions then, and we’re not going to do that now.”

Montreal Alouettes General Manager Kavis Reed further remarked on Manziel’s conditions of employment with “3DownNation” :

“Q: Did Manziel want to be released to pursue playing opportunities in the United States?

Reed: Johnny Manziel never gave any indication of that, during that whole process that wasn’t a part of it. Mr. Manziel violated a condition of the agreement with the league. Mr. Manziel was given opportunities to be able to rectify the situation and chose not to. This was not a part of the understanding, the league and our team put a lot of infrastructure in place for Mr. Manziel to be successful and it did not work out.”

We know Manziel was not released because he wanted to play in the AAF or XFL. However, in a tweet Manziel thanked his CFL team and fans, and then claimed he is now exploring new options in the United States.

Recently, on Barstool Sports’ Comeback SZN podcast, Manziel remarked he liked the idea of playing in the AAF or XFL. “It’s great for football, it’s great for the guys who need more opportunity, need more film and time to play,” Manziel said. “I don’t know exactly what my exact steps will be for the next years coming up, but at least there’s a lot of options.”

Will the future hold that Manziel will appear in either the AAF or XFL?

Manziel’s history is his biggest shortcoming, as he has dealt with several off-field issues. In 2016, a domestic assault charge against Manziel in Dallas was dismissed after he took an anger management course and participated in the NFL’s substance abuse program. More recently, Manziel revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, something he has been determined to overcome.

Football-wise, Manziel is a star. Given the nickname ”Johnny Football” he was awarded the prestigious Heisman Trophy as a freshman quarterback with the Texas A&M Aggies. Later, he was taken in the first round, No. 22 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. However, the Browns released Manziel in March 2016 after he posted a 2-6 record as their starter and suffered from several off-field controversies.

Manziel’s potential star quality aside, surely either the AAF or XFL would have to consider Manziel in the same way the CFL did, hiring him under similar strict conditions.

Keep in mind the XFL has already emphatically stated they will not hire players who have legal issues. However, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck has recently stated the details of this hiring policy are still under review.  Manziel’s history may test this policy, adding another potential hurdle in Johnny Football’s quest to play professional football.