Today, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was on the Charlie Brennan Show on St. Louis KMOX radio, and gave an update on the progress of league announcements, including a hint Seattle’s Head Coach will be announced next week.
Luck confirmed the league will have a 10-game season starting the weekend after the Super Bowl, followed by two semi-final games in week eleven, and the championship game at the end of April.
The XFL Commissioner also mentioned the upcoming XFL broadcast package. “We are very close to announcing a very strong broadcast package,” Luck said. “Two of the four games will be broadcast over-the-air, terrestrial, major carriers, and the remaining two games will be broadcast over cable, but fully distributed cable sports brands people will recognize.”
Luck also talked about the upcoming XFL announcements. “We’ve got a cadence going of about one Head Coach announcement per week and we will get all our markets done by the end in March,” Luck explained. “At some point, probably in April, we will be able to launch the team names, team colors, identity and logos.”
This seems to be a change in the timeline, since, in past interviews, Luck had hinted the team names and colors may be revealed in March.
As for Seattle, Luck revealed next week the XFL would be in Seattle to announce the team’s Head Coach. It has been rumored former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn is being touted for the job.
The XFL has announced it will reveal the Washington, D.C. franchise’s Head Coach on Thursday.
Event: Thursday February 21st at 1:00PM ET. Audi Field, Washington D.C.
The candidate doesn’t seem to be a secret, as the rumor mill has already spit out former Michigan assistant head coach and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as the man who will be named to the position.
SOURCE: Pep Hamilton, who’d resigned Monday at #Michigan to pursue other opportunities, is expected to become the new head coach and GM of the XFL’s new Washington, DC franchise. Word is he’s been working on getting a staff together the past week or so.
Hamilton has plenty of football experience, with eleven seasons coaching in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Colts, and most recently with the 2016 Cleveland Browns. Early this month, Hamilton resigned his position at Michigan to “pursue other opportunities.”
Other former NFL players and coaches who are rumored to have been courted for an XFL Head Coach position are former Linebacker and Indiana University of Pennsylvania alum, Jim Haslett, and former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn.
One of the biggest and most valid points of contention against the XFL is the uncertainty over where their pool of football talent is going to come from.
Despite a $500 million dollar investment from Vince McMahon, and the announced pay tiers of $250 thousand (plus) per year for top players, and $150 thousand for their second tier players, which would put the XFL as the second highest paying football league, next to the NFL there are still legitimate questions about where the league’s talent pool is going to come from.
With the recent growth in salaries for the CFL and the existence of the AAF, and their three-year 250k total player contracts, the pickings would appear to be very slim. So, that begs the question being asked yet again, “Where will the league get its players, if it’s not from those leagues.”
The XFL can’t and won’t compete for players with the NFL However, the largest bulk of the XFL’s 2020 rosters will come from the NFL’s roster cuts in September, the time period where the XFL will be having a league wide draft. On September 1st, all 32 NFL teams will cut down from 90 players to 53. That number becomes 63 when the 10 player practice squads are finalized. That brings the total of players without NFL jobs after cut down day to 864. That’s 27 players cut per team who won’t land on an NFL roster. Multiply this by 32 and you got 864 players. There will be competition for some of these players from other leagues, but the advantage of starting a new league is the other leagues already have hundreds of players under contract. They are not going to cut 300 players to sign 300 new players. Even still, their leagues are not big enough to field 800 players.
The XFL will be fielding 8 teams with 45-man rosters and 7-player practice squads. That means that their league’s eight active rosters will have a maximum of 416 total players. Certainly not all of them will be from this crop of 864. Oliver Luck mentioned in a recent interview that the league plans on signing 450 players overall. Those who are not drafted into the XFL will remain under league contract. They will be available to be signed when injuries occur.
Some of the players that don’t make NFL rosters will be veterans. There will be veterans cut, who don’t make it to their second or in most cases, third contracts. There was an interesting study from the NFL last season, reported by long-time NFL reporter John Clayton. In 2018, The average NFL player experience level went down from 5 years to 4.3,meaning the league continues to get younger. The NFL went from 860 players in 2017, who had three-years or more experience in the league, to just a little over 600 in 2018.
There are several unsigned veteran NFL players who are on the outside looking in right now with no jobs in any league. Names like Terrelle Pryor, Landry Jones, Chad Kelly, EJ Manuel, Christine Michael, Matt Jones, etc. There are over 200 of these types of players, still looking for a way back into the NFL. The problem is that every year the NFL adds over 300 rookies to their roster through the draft and undrafted free agents. That’s 300 new rookies coming into the league, which means that over 300 current players lose their jobs. Excluding the likes of players like Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel, there are hundreds of unsigned NFL vets in that 27-30 year-old range that could end up being targets for the XFL. Usually not the type of players that developmental leagues look towards signing.
The real challenge for the XFL will be trying to convince a player like Cardale Jones or Braxton Miller, to forgo any practice squad spot to play in their league. It would take a serious sell job to pull this off. While the maximum contract for a 16-week NFL practice squad player is 120K a season, which would be less than The XFL’s 250K a year salary. The mere possibility of making it back onto an NFL roster, could sway players to ride the season out, in the hopes that they carry a clipboard on Sundays. It would take some influence from the XFL’s coaches and the league’s CEO in Oliver Luck to convince a player that getting game reps will make them a better player in the long haul and more money.
A portion of the XFL’s rosters figure to be made up of players who do not make it into an NFL camp. On average every year, there are over 12,000 draft eligible college football players, and only 256 of them get drafted. Up to 100 undrafted free agents or so, end up cycling into the league or making rosters. So, that leaves a good number of college football players without anywhere to go.
The XFL has an “in” with this department because of their scouting department in Optimum Scouting, and with XFL Vice President Doug Whaley. Optimum and Whaley have both been in charge of putting together rosters for college football all-star games in recent years. Whaley has been the director of the NFL PA Collegiate Bowl the last two years. Eric Galko and Optimum Scouting has not only scouted all of the primary college all-star games like the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Games, but Eric Galko has been in charge of compiling rosters for games like The Dream Bowl, a collegiate all-star game featuring players from small schools.
The XFL’s football operations department has direct knowledge of the entire pool of college players that are looking to become pros. This will help them in the process of finding the hidden gems that may be overlooked. It’s worth noting that Eric Galko also works with “Your Call Football,” a tech based company that allows fans to choose from a select group of plays on each snap. Two teams comprised of former NFL players and hopefuls play a series of games, starting this coming Monday. The XFL is expected to do their next round of game and rules testing with these players. In fact, several of these players wound up in NFL camps, and in the CFL, after last year’s series of games. This March, the XFL’s football department will also be working with the Spring League, a series of games and teams that feature former NFL players and hopefuls. Players from both the TSL and YCF rosters could end up in the XFL.
There is yet another element that could potentially benefit the XFL in their quest to recruit college football talent. Coaches like Bob Stoops and Pep Hamilton have direct knowledge and experience in recruiting. Players that ended up with their program and players that didn’t. Both XFL Head Coach/General Managers have recent knowledge of players in big schools and big conferences, that they have coached, and coached against. Their recruiting knowledge will help them pinpoint and acquire talent.
There is a taboo area of College Football, that hasn’t been touched upon yet here. As many know, the XFL has left open the possibility of signing college football players who are not yet eligible to be drafted into the NFL. The group of players from college could be one or two-year players, or even players who do not want to transfer or sit out a year. This could also extend to players who are on the Junior College Level. Players that may have big time program talent, but not the grades, or that may have some character issues. There likely won’t be a large number of players from this group, but the door is open for this possibility. If a big named player were to sign, that could open up the possibility for more prominent college players taking the plunge. This leads to the next potential pool of players.
Probably more controversial than a 2-year college player deciding to turn pro in the XFL, is the possibility of a high school football player forgoing college to become a pro-football player. The arguments against this are valid. From a physical maturity standpoint, it’s easy to understand why people would object to this. For a football player to be able to turn pro immediately after high school, he would have to be a rare physical specimen along the likes of a Herschel Walker or Adrian Peterson. The odds are against this happening, and if it does it will be on a very small scale. I don’t see more than a handful even trying out for the league, but once this door is opened, there’s no closing it. The idea is not so crazy for Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee, who is starting the Pacific Pro League, specifically to sign high school football players. I don’t see the XFL entertaining this at a grand scale. Perhaps a player or two at most could come from this pool.
There are so many unanswered questions about the XFL, like their still unannounced TV deal, to their league plans of presentation and talent. There are so many doubters of the league, and rightfully so, based on the league’s past, the history of upstart leagues and the current landscape of pro football.
There’s a quote by famous American Poet, Author and Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is the approach the XFL will be taking. Perhaps some of it by choice, and some if it out of necessity.
In January 2019, Sports Business Journal reported the XFL was looking for broadcast partners that would air nearly all their games. They also reported that the league was in talks with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports.
Today, we await an announcement about the XFL’s major network broadcasting plan, which we are told is imminent. We also remain curious about the XFL’s plan to stream games online in “totally different ways.”
When the XFL was relaunched, back in January 2018, Vince McMahon stated that he felt that fans wanted more out of their sports broadcast, and they did not necessarily want digital streams to be a straight simulcast of a television broadcast. He felt they wanted “totally different ways” to watch football.
McMahon claimed he aimed to leverage digital streaming as part of broadcasting arrangements for the XFL, and that, unlike in 2001, the XFL would not consider viewership to be an important statistic.
“To me the landscape has changed in so many different ways. Just look at technology and companies like Facebook and Amazon bidding for sports rights. Even if ratings go down, there’s no denying that live sports rights continue to be valuable and continue to deliver,” McMahon stated as part of the XFL relaunch.
So, you can play football, have nobody watch on broadcast television, and still produce a valuable product?
When McMahon said “valuable,” one of the things he may be referring to is online gaming. For example, when the AAF kicked off two weekends ago, their game day experience came with an App where users could follow the game in real time and predict the next play. Although there is no money changing hands, this type of live game prediction could easily lend to gambling, and this is where many feel the AAF may find its greatest success.
Will the XFL follow suit? Likely so.
In 2001, the XFL changed the way football was broadcast, with live mics, on-field cameras, and extensive use of a Skycam, which is now a major part of any football broadcast. Today, we await to see how the XFL will re-invent live streaming, and now, online sports gaming.
The fans have spoken! What do the names Dallas Outlaws,Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Avengers, New York Hitmen, St. Louis Stallions, Seattle Wolfpack, Tampa Bay Sharks and Washington Generals have in common? They were the top vote-getters in our “Fan Choice: Team Name Poll.”
Why did we do this? Mainly, to give XFL fans a voice. Plus, we did it back in 2000, and it was a whole lot of fun. Why not do it again? Just as in 2000, we understand the league’s marketing team is in the process of selecting team names using more stringent criteria than we have presented. That’s their job, and we respect them for it. We just wanted to have a little fun while we waited for the official team name announcement.
Two Rounds of Voting
In the first round of voting, 14 – 28 January 2019, we asked fans to submit team name ideas for each of the eight XFL cities. For each city, we compiled a list of the most popular team name suggestions.
In the second round of voting, 28 January – 14 February, fans were asked to vote on as many of the team name suggestions they thought were worthy. As well, fans were allowed to “write-in” any team name they thought was better than the suggested names.
Voting was strong. In the second round, fans made a total of 18,258 unique votes. By “unique” we mean multiple entries by the same IP address were filtered, leaving only the first entry by any particular IP address as a counting vote. By doing this, we ensured any one individual couldn’t sway the results through multiple entries.
We present to you the results of the XFLBoard Team Name Fan Choice voting.
If we could go out on a limb, we would assume Zorn would be a likely candidate for the XFL Seattle Head Coach/GM position, since he has sports ties to that city and currently resides in the local area.
Zorn is best known as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks for their first eight seasons. Afterward, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks before being hired by the Washington Redskins to be their head coach starting in the 2008 season. After leaving Washington, Zorn was hired as quarterbacks coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and later as the quarterbacks’ coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
A spring pro-football league debuts to good fanfare and support from the NFL. Designed as a developmental/feeder system, this league fields teams in non-NFL markets like Birmingham, San Antonio and Orlando. The upstart league opens on network television with NFL announcers and good crowds at some of their opening games. Sound familiar? The last two letters in the league name also match up. Except in this case, I am referring to the debut of the WLAF in 1991, and not the AAF in 2019.
It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to upstart football leagues that are not the NFL, when all of them have failed. That includes the World League of American Football. By no means, do I consider the WLAF, which would eventually become NFL Europe, a failure. The idea was ahead of its time… field pro-football teams in non-NFL markets and try to expand the NFL game globally. Careers were made in that league. American Football has become more popular in Europe since 1991. Like the original XFL, which innovated and changed the way football is broadcasted forever, NFL Europe left a positive mark, despite being a colossal financial failure. The NFL’s money couldn’t save it. The novelty wore off quickly in the States, and the cost of running a football league, even back in 1991, was a losing proposition. The WLAF had a network and cable TV deal, netting them 48 million dollars, which translates to roughly 90 million in 2019. The league employed the single entity model and was fiscally responsible, but over time, you have to be profitable to run and continue a league. The NFL kept the league afloat and on life support with their deep pockets for as long as it could, before eventually pulling the plug in 2007.
The Alliance of American Football debuted last weekend. The birth of this league is traced back to the brainchild of Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol. It was the failure and success of the XFL that led Dick’s son Charlie to attempt to try and succeed where McMahon and his father hadn’t. ESPN’s “This Was The XFL” special, directed by Charlie Ebersol, gave birth to the Alliance and the returning XFL. Vince McMahon announced the relaunch of the XFL, and a few months later Ebersol introduced the AAF. Both parties cited the original XFL’s failings as a driving force, in getting it right this time. The XFL decided not to rush into launch, as they did the first time. The AAF decided to rush to the front of the line and launch only months after announcing. These two leagues are going to be attached at the hip, and compared to one another for as long as they exist, or co-exist.
The AAF’s opening weekend has to be considered a success. Despite some of the uneven and sloppy play, which had to be expected, given the poor original XFL idea of having only a 30-day camp, the AAF proved that there is an appetite for football when the NFL and college seasons have ended. The AAF’s only regular season game on Network TV did fairly well. Much like the original XFL, curiosity helped spike the opening week’s number. The TV ratings world is much different than it was back in 2001. In 2019, drawing a 2.1 national rating on network tv is a positive. That same number matched up with the XFL’s championship game back in April of 2001, when the last Los Angeles pro-football team won the championship, as the LA Xtreme hoisted the league’s trophy. At that time, the XFL was on its deathbed and an afterthought. Having nearly 3-million viewers was considered a failure 18-years ago. In today’s TV landscape, networks are pleased to have that kind of audience.
It’s rather telling that the most critically acclaimed moment for the AAF last Saturday night was a missed roughing the passer penalty. Fans were rejoicing when San Antonio’s Shaan Washington took off quarterback Mike Bercovici’s helmet with a massive hit. Football fans expecting a penalty flag were pleasantly surprised. A mistake turned into a rallying cry of fans praising the league, however the hit was reminiscent of the original XFL and a now dead era where hits like that were commonplace in football. For better or worse, there are many fans of football, who watch and love the game because of the physicality involved. The sport has been neutered to some extent in this regard. Still, player safety is important and the sport still wants to remain applicable to the future generations of kids who decide to play it, and the parents who will allow them to.
It might be fleeting but there’s no denying that at this moment in time. the AAF is on the map. For an upstart league, that’s all you can ask for. You want exposure and you want to be noticed. You want the public to give you a chance, and to follow you. The AAF has succeeded in getting positive attention for their league. A large part of that, has to do with the mainstream sports media, giving them a fair shake. Something other pro-football leagues did not receive in the past. Having the NFL loosely associated with the league helps. The Alliance is not seen as adversarial to the NFL and the NFL’s media partners are welcoming the AAF with open arms. Reports are already out there of the NFL possibly taking a financial stake in the AAF, and the potential of the league expanding into more markets. It’s only week one, but the vibes around the league are positive.
So where does this leave the XFL? To paraphrase a quote from Charlie Ebersol, during his promotional run up to his league debut, “If we can’t do it, no one else will be able to.” Initially seen as an egotistical dig at the XFL and any other leagues that attempt to follow, the bold statement has some truth to it. The argument can be made that if the AAF succeeds in proving that there is a market for spring pro-football, that it will become fertile ground for all the leagues that attempt to follow. For a very long time now, any non-NFL league was brushed aside, dismissed and ignored completely. The AAF succeeding in what was deemed a “valley of the dead,” would breathe new life into the idea of football in the spring or summer. If the AAF fails, it will appear that there is no market place for any pro football that isn’t the NFL. Something that has held true for a very long time. Being a minor league isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Everyone loves the idea of them existing, but minor league sports are not treated like major sporting events, and in order to make money. That’s what you need the public to do. They have to treat your league as if it’s important to watch every single week.
Being first to a market, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be the best in that market. The Betamax format was on its way to becoming the industry standard until the appearance of JVC’s VHS a year later. While Betamax was revolutionary, by the time VHS rolled around and produced a better product, it faded away in popularity and eventually became obsolete. The Betamax proved that the public wanted a new and different way to watch movies and tv shows. They opened up the door, then VHS walked in and created a whole new universe. The AAF can set the market and appear to have it on their own, this will force the XFL to be better than them. The XFL is going to be forced to produce a better product. In terms of the quality of play, the broadcast innovations, the branding/marketing and the overall style of their entire league. The key to a lot of this is money. The financial backing and profitability. The TV rights deal that the XFL announces, will be the first telltale sign. TV money is how you survive and thrive. Leagues have died in the past because the money ran out. You have to be able to draw at the gates and be able to have strong advertisers and sponsorships. The AAF may need NFL money to survive, much like the WLAF/NFL Europe. That’s their end goal to begin with, to become the NFL’s minor league. Like the Gatorade league is for the NBA. The XFL has designs of being what the USFL should have been. A viable pro football sports property in the spring. Both leagues have clear missions.
The only non-NFL league to survive was the American Football League. They merged with the NFL over a half a century ago, and the rest is history. Since then, the graveyards are filled with the head stones of football leagues. There is an ancient Italian proverb that translates in some circles to, “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.” Recent history suggests the reverse has held true in upstart football leagues. Failure has had many fathers and sons. Success hasn’t been born yet in this field, or has it?
CEO & Commissioner of the XFL, Oliver Luck, joined the Dan Sileo Show on 97.3 “The Fan,” in San Diego, to talk about the success the AAF had in their first weekend, and more so about the football talent the XFL wants to showcase.
Luck pointed out that the AAF opening weekend proved, “there is no question there is an appetite for good quality football.” Luck went on the point out that there is a vast amount of football talent that doesn’t get a chance to play in the NFL, and he feels leagues like the AAF and XFL can serve to give them a place to play the game they love.
Luck also alluded to big news regarding the television partners. “We will be announcing shortly our broadcast partnerships and they’re going to be as strong as Bob Stoops was in coaching circles,” Luck said.
Luck also revealed how well-respected NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino will be working with the league, to make sure XFL officiating is done correctly.
It has been a busy weekend! Not only did the AAF kickoff their inaugural football season, the XFL was basking in their recent victory of hiring Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops to a Head Coaching job in Dallas, and still made time to celebrate a one-year countdown until their own kickoff in 2020. However, the XFL excitement didn’t end there, as the rumor mill was churning out more Head Coach candidates.
On Saturday, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported that Pep Hamilton, who recently resigned at Michigan, is now expected to become Head Coach and General Manager of the XFL franchise in Washington, D.C.
Hamilton has plenty of football experience, with eleven seasons coaching in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Colts, and most recently with the 2016 Cleveland Browns.
However, the rumors did not end there.
On Sunday, radio personality Benjamin Allbright alluded to the fact Jim Haslett would likely be signed by the XFL, although he did not indicate which city he would coach for.
Haslett, a Linebacker and former Indiana University of Pennsylvania alum, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft. He played for the Bills, until 1985, and then continued with the New York Jets until 1987. As a coach he held the position of linebacker’s coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, and then Head Coach of the Florida Tuskers (UFL), New Orleans Saints, and St. Louis Rams.
Keep in mind, Allbright was correct when he dished that Bob Stoops would be hired as Head Coach of the Dallas franchise. We fully expect that he has the inside track on this information as well.