XFL quick win: Out-plan the NFL and NCAA

XFL in a Bubble
XFL in a Bubble. If the XFL can lead all football leagues in health and safety protocols, fans get their best chance to watch football and the league its best chance at success.

In the week since the new star-studded XFL ownership was announced, speculation has started to swirl about when the league may return and what it might look like. 

COVID-19 will once again play a pivotal role in an XFL season. After the virus led to the cancellation of the 2020 season, subsequent bankruptcy, and sale, COVID-19 still looms large in the XFL’s future.

But, what once led to the XFL’s demise could turn into the biggest leverage point for future success. 

Learn From Other Professional Sports Leagues

Six league’s seasons precede an XFL season potentially kicking off in February 2021. Leagues in a bubble include the NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MLS. Non-bubble leagues include the MLB, NFL, and NCAA football. 

The XFL benefits from being able to observe best practices from each league. We have reached the stage of seeing what works and doesn’t work for leagues. This is where the XFL can differentiate itself from other leagues to ensure a season happens safely, in its entirety, and as scheduled.

Other football leagues are playing checkers leaving the chessboard open for the XFL.

The return of the NBA has largely been successful. They established a bubble at Disney resorts and are isolated from society. There are strict rules about who is allowed in the bubble, along with an entry quarantine process. Zero x2: zero positive test results for two weeks leading up the play, and zero canceled games over the first two weeks of the season. 

This NBA Disney bubble is largely seen as a success at the cost of $150 million.

The return of the MLB has hit some major road bumps. Within the first week, the Miami Marlins had an outbreak of at least 20 positive cases resulting in seven games being postponed. A second separate outbreak also hit the St. Louis Cardinals with at least 16 positive cases of COVID-19, resulting in 15 postponements for the time being. 

Major League Baseball does not have a bubble. Both outbreaks are alleged to be from community exposure due to player trips to clubs and casinos. There is no required isolation, and players are using this liberty and putting the season at risk. The coronavirus has also led to over 750 minor league players being released.

Using the MLB as an example is important. They are an example of what not to do and where rules can go wrong. 

NFL training camps have opened and players have begun showing up to team facilities. There is no bubble, and the health and well being of the league are dependent on the actions of over 2,000 players, coaches, and other team personnel. The Super Bowl is still six months away. There are a lot of variables and dependencies needed for the NFL season to go on without a hitch. 

College football is at risk to not taking place whatsoever. Players are practicing without fully established health and safety protocols. UCLA players demanded third-party oversight to follow what rules do exist almost two months ago to ensure their safety; at least eight players have contracted coronavirus since returning to training camp. Players want to play, but the NCAA is caught in business decisions and logistics about how to make it safe. 

The multiple D-I conferences have already canceled their fall season, most notably the BIG10. Other major conferences are in active discussions evaluating the feasibility of the upcoming season. 

Getting it Right

Here lies where the XFL can come out ahead of the NFL and college football for the upcoming season. A well thought out plan for the next XFL season is the key to success, which does not necessarily mean a February 2021 kickoff is the correct or even incorrect answer.

With the core structure of the league already established with proven success, the XFL has time and bandwidth to establish the gold-standard of health and safety protocols. For 2021, it likely means a bubble. If that is the route the league decides to go, this may mean the new ownership group has to hedge their bet now on the league’s immediate success. As seen with the NBA, bubbles are expensive. While the XFL won’t be going to Disney, and will likely be much smaller, accommodations and facilities for players, families and team personnel are expensive. 

If the NCAA fails to protect player best interests they also risk tainting the already fragile student-athlete relationship. Unhappy college players may be willing to forgo a college career to play in the XFL where their safety is of concern, they are compensated, and still maintain a stage to display their talents for prospective NFL careers. 

If a 2021 season takes place, it must demonstrate health and safety protocols with the best interest of the community a team plays in. It must be able to keep all team personnel safe to play a full season from start to finish, XFL 2.0 couldn’t survive a shutdown and it’s likely not something worth risking for XFL 3.0.

The XFL has a significant challenge to reintroduce the league amid the pandemic. With a tactful humanistic approach they can carve out a strong path to once again establishing a secondary professional football league. The answer lies in a well thought out strategy that accounts for what coronavirus has thrown their way, and more.

The future of the New York Guardians in XFL 3.0

LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough

“We love eight teams. We love eventually having more than eight teams. I think we’ll be reviewing some of the markets as we should. There was a lot of great work that was done and was succeeding. But I think whenever you have time to reset, I think it’s an important time to just reassess.”
– New XFL Part-Owner Dany Garcia- Per The Athletic

REVIEW, RESET & REASSESS

The XFL is coming back. The when, where, and how are yet to be determined. The answers to those questions could help shape the future of the XFL’s existing eight teams. 

One of the biggest questions moving forward is: Do big-market teams like New York and Los Angeles still have a place in the new XFL? Will they be a part of the review, reset and reassess process described by Dany Garcia?

The New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats did a tremendous job building up their franchises on and off the field. The XFL’s two biggest markets were run by extremely talented executives like Janet Duch and Heather Karatz. On the field, both teams were in strong contention for the playoffs when the plug was pulled out due to the pandemic. New York and L.A. may not have produced the most massive crowds in the league, but the fanbases were excellent.

That being stated, except for perhaps Tampa, no two teams faced more of an uphill struggle to succeed than New York and L.A.

Under Vince McMahon’s vision and Oliver Luck’s leadership. The XFL took the approach of tackling the big markets. With McMahon’s background and history, in particular, there was never any doubt that New York would be in his league.

Some pundits and observers questioned the XFL’s strategy of placing teams in over-saturated sports towns with existing NFL teams.

Why do you rob a bank? Because that’s where all the money is was one of Oliver Luck’s go-to answers to why the XFL chose big cities like New York. The league’s business strategy boasted eight of the nation’s top 21 T.V. markets. Something that was a significant selling point when the league locked down T.V. deals with Disney and Fox to air its games. 

Despite the success of the undefeated Houston Roughnecks in a city with an existing NFL team. Many who were opposed to the XFL’s choice of cities will point to the league’s best success, which came in St. Louis with the BattleHawks. A market starving for pro football with an ax to grind for being overlooked. 

For some, a perfect alternate universe pro football league would consist of eight St. Louis like franchises. Cities like New York and L.A. wouldn’t fit in it into that model. 

THE BUBBLE

One of the saving graces for the continuation of New York and L.A. in the XFL is the likelihood that if a 2021 season happens, the traditional individual market model won’t be needed if the league operates in a bubble.

Unknowingly, this past January, during the league’s centralized training camp in Houston, the XFL provided the template for a COVID-19 sports bubble model. The league stationed eight franchises in one city and played their slate of games at one specific location (TDECU). The entire league operated as a single entity in a confined setting. 

Before the XFL shut down their season for good earlier this year, contingency plans for a 2021 season in a COVID world were forming. XFL Director of Football Operations Sam Schwartzstein submitted a proposal for the league to play as a single-site entity. The plan would save millions of dollars from the budget and plan for the likelihood that fans would not be allowed into games. Leagues like the NBA and NHL are operating under similar quarantined style operations right now.

If the XFL is to play in 2021, something similar to what Sam Schwartzstein set forth will need to be implemented. The XFL’s new ownership group has bought their way into a league at the worst possible time to do so. It’s part of the reason that despite having so many inquiries into buying the league, that only one substantial bidder emerged. Any owner of the XFL is inheriting a league in a pandemic sports landscape.

What the new ownership did inherit is eight ready-made teams with equity built up. If a bubble exists in 2021, the eight existing teams will be playing as their city representatives without actually having to conduct any business in their local cities, until the 2021 season has ended. Domestic ticket sales would be non-existent and thus not up for scrutiny until the league revs up for a 2022 season back in their markets. The setup may buy New York some time before the new owners decide on its future.

STADIUM

If the New York Guardians are to remain as a part of the XFL, then the apparent alteration with the franchise is moving the team away from MetLife Stadium. The Guardians averaged nearly 15,000 fans per home game in a stadium that seats 82,000. The prevailing thought is that New York would be better served playing at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., where the venue has a seating capacity of 25,000.

While many would love to see, a New York franchise play in its home state, like perhaps in Long Island or Queens, Red Bull Arena is a suitable happy medium. It’s accessible, being only 7 miles west of Lower Manhattan, and spectator friendly.

THE TEAM

The New York Guardians may be under new leadership moving forward. Does Kevin Gilbride still have one more run left in him? With the Guardians, Gilbride stepped out of self-imposed retirement to get back into coaching. The New York job for Gilbride was ideal; the ability to be close to home played a factor in his return.  Control also played a significant role. As G.M. and coach, Gilbride had to line up facilities and did all the hiring.

“My imprint was on everything. I liked that challenge. As a coach sometimes over a quarter-century of professional football, you get some frustrating experiences where personnel people are making decisions and as a coaching staff, you were not in agreement. I was in a position to bridge that.”
– Kevin Gilbride to the Middletown Press in late April.

Some of the XFL’s head coaches have publicly stated their desire to return, like Winston Moss and June Jones. By all accounts, the experience in the XFL was a positive one for Coach Gilbride, but the end of the season was abrupt, and a lot has changed since the spring.

The XFL is going to be a different league than the one Gilbride worked in earlier this year. Gone is the previous owner, Vince McMahon, who was in direct contact with Gilbride up until the very day, the league suspended play back in March.

CEO/Commissioner Oliver Luck was largely instrumental in Gilbride coming out of retirement. Luck is currently entangled in a lawsuit with Vince McMahon over his termination. It remains to be seen if he will return under the new ownership group.

When the XFL suspended play, Kevin Gilbride reached out to Luck out of concern for the members of his staff. When Gilbride asked Luck if his staff members should stay patient and wait things out, Luck’s advice to Gilbride was that they should start looking for new jobs.

Many of the great members of the Guardians front office and coaching staff are still available for hire. Whether or not they want to put their time, effort, and faith in the XFL again remains to be seen. A big part of the future will be the new ownership’s view of Kevin Gilbride, and whether he is willing to take another leap of faith. The Guardians being back in the tri-state area could be the deciding factor, although they may not be, at least until 2022.

Three Potential Coaches Who Could Replace Pep Hamilton

Steve Spurrier, Mike Martz, and Kris Richard.
Steve Spurrier, Mike Martz, and Kris Richard.

The XFL returning only means that people like Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and XFL President Jeffrey Pollack have a lot of work to do on filling out a staff. All eyes will be on who the commissioner will be in place of Oliver Luck, and how many of the head coaches will return.

Multiple coaches like Jim Zorn, June Jones, and Winston Moss have publicly stated they would like to return to the league. The XFL will focus on bringing back as many of their players, coaches, and staff as possible to make the transition easier. They will have to find a new coach to replace Pep Hamilton with the DC Defenders.

Hamilton took the quarterbacks coach job with the Los Angeles Chargers in the NFL, which leaves him out as an option for next season. With his departure, the league will have to fill at least one vacancy before playing in 2021 or 2022. The good news is they will have plenty of options to choose from.

Here is a list of three coaches the XFL could potentially bring in to replace Hamilton.

Steve Spurrier

This one makes the most sense to bring in. Steve Spurrier has plenty of experience in coaching in professional spring football leagues. He coached the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL from 1983 until 1985 and coached the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2019. Let’s not forget the fact that he won a college football national championship with the Florida Gators in 1996, and won seven total conference titles as a head coach in college.

The track record is there for Spurrier, but the desire to coach in the XFL is there as well. Back in May, he told The Athletic’s Josh Kendall, “If that XFL cranks back up, and they want me to take a team down in Florida, I would probably do it.”

There’s a simple solution to make this happen: Spurrier could coach the Tampa Bay Vipers. If Vipers coach Marc Trestman wants to coach in the XFL again, the league could move him to the DC Defenders to coach there. It’s the simplest way to fix a small problem and the league has another big name college coach in the mix.

Mike Martz

Mike Martz had the pleasure of coaching one of the greatest offenses in NFL history with the St. Louis Rams from 2000 until 2005. Martz compiled a 53-32 record during that time as he was a big reason the team’s offense was so dominant. After the Rams, he jumped around as an offensive coordinator for the Lions, 49ers, and Bears.

This is what makes him a good candidate for the XFL. His last job was being the head coach of the San Diego Fleet of the AAF in 2019. Despite the team having just a 3-5 record before the league folded, Martz found a way to make the offense click in the passing game and running game. Seattle Dragons running back Ja’Quan Gardner found early success, and Dallas Renegades quarterback Philip Nelson became popular after replacing Mike Bercovici during the season. Not to mention Martz had one of the best receivers in the AAF with LA Wildcats receiver Nelson Spruce.

Martz would have a lot of talent on the DC Defenders offense to work with. Cardale Jones and Tyree Jackson both had good and bad moments last season, but some development with an offensive genius could help. The rushing attack is deep with Jhurell Pressley, Donnel Pumphrey, and Khalid Abdullah leading the way. DC’s receiving core was among the best with Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross being the big names on the team. With a team like that, Martz would have no trouble constructing a top offense.

Kris Richard

Not as big of a name as the other two on the list, but still someone that deserves a shot at being a coach somewhere. Just a year or two ago, Kris Richard was highly regarded as one of the top potential first-time head coaches in the NFL.

Richard saw success as the defensive backs coach with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s regarded as being one of the key pieces to the creation of the Legion of Boom secondary. Richard was able to hold a defensive coordinator job with Seattle before joining the Dallas Cowboys. He was not retained after last season with the Cowboys, making him a free agent.

It’s a surprise to many that he has not been picked up by someone after Richard was interviewing for NFL head coaching jobs not too long ago. This is a chance for the XFL to bring in an assistant coach like they did with Winston Moss and Jonathan Hayes, and give him a chance to be a head coach. DC’s defense was stacked last year and could get even better with Richard as a coach.

New XFL ownership after $15M sale: starring Dany Garcia and The Rock

Dany Garcia and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Rock, paper, for sale, sold! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia look to continue building their empire as part of the new XFL ownership group.

Almost four months after the XFL shut its doors in mid-April, there is, once again, new life in the XFL. 2020 put the biggest blindside hit on the world, sports were no exception, and as quick as the XFL came to life it seemed to be down for the count.

The season started and the enthusiasm built with each passing week. Fan bases grew, national TV audiences tuned in, players like PJ Walker put on dazzling shows week in and week out, and BattleHawk Nation kawed their loudest kakaw.

But just like that, on March 12, the XFL saw its inaugural season come to a heartbreaking end with the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

Former XFL owner Vince McMahon watched as his redemption efforts for a second professional football league once again came crashing down. McMahon was the primary financier of the XFL’s return in 2020, losing the league mid-season, and all the growing momentum was too much for the famed WWE businessman to endure.

McMahon’s XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 13th.

In only a 5-week season, the XFL began to show its potential as an alternate NFL. The value from the strong start carried forward to the auction of the company.

Big Names in the Big Sale

Enough value to sell for $15 million at auction on August 3rd to the star-powered partnership of Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and RedBird Capital.

Garcia and Johnson are co-founders of Seven Bucks Productions. Seven Bucks is known for the production of movie box-office hits with the likes of Hobbs and Shaw, Jumanji, and Rampage; all starring Johnson in a lead role.

The name of their production company stems from Johnson’s stint in the Canadian Football League. After being cut, Johnson had only seven bucks to his name. The XFL is the group’s latest challenge to take from rags to riches.

Garcia is now the first woman to own an entire sports league independent from a team, and was cited as being the instrumental piece in pulling the deal together for the group.

Johnson took to Twitter to share his excitement on the deal writing:

“With gratitude & passion I’ve built a career with my own two hands and will apply these callouses to our @xfl2020 brand. Excited to create something special for the fans!”

The deal is expected to be confirmed in a hearing on August 7th and close on August 21st.

Third Times a Charm

In what will be the leagues now third attempt at establishing a secondary football league, the new ownership group will look to put all the pieces (back) together to establish and sustain the XFL one more time.

The XFL seen early in 2020 was successful though short-lived. The front office had established and respected football personnel leading the charge. A competitive product was put on the field, and arguably an even better product put on TV.

Garcia has already shown early agreement at the potential to bring back operational talent that supported the XFL earlier this year. This emphasizes that this comeback is not tearing the league down by any means but will look to build on the momentum that was once taking the industry by storm.

The success seen in the 2020 season is the new baseline for the league. The game that returns by no means can be less polished than the previous. To re-engage the XFL fan base and have any shot at bringing more to the league an even better, more refined, and more game pioneering innovation needs to hit the field.

Surely discussed as part of the purchase, is the status of the TV deal the XFL had with Fox and ABC/ESPN. Last week, it was reported by Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com that the TV partners were trying to get out of the TV deal citing the looming sale. Fox/ABC/ESPN gave the XFL legitimacy through their familiar football broadcasting. National coverage on these stations brought the XFL into homes, and gave the league more exposure than previous alternate NFL leagues.

As more details around the deal and future league proceedings come to light, the broadcasting deal will be a significant development to watch .

There is plenty to look forward to with the new rebirth of the XFL. The league has retained its potential as an alternate football league and excitement should be back in the air.

Additions/Changes the XFL Should Consider for 2021 Season

Year one of the XFL is considered by many to be a success. The level of transparency, rule changes, and the play on the field made fans feel optimistic about season two going well for the league. Even with all the good things fans were able to see, nothing ever goes perfect the first time around. The league will be examining everything that went well and didn’t go well in its first season. Here are some things the league might want to consider when they start to plan out the 2021 season.

Review the Point After Touchdown Rule

This was one of the rules that stood out to experts and fans before the season as an intriguing rule. It was fascinating to some to see how coaches would strategize how aggressive or conservative they would be. In the beginning of the season, coaches were on the more conservative side of going for just one or two point conversions. By week five, teams were more willing to go for the three point conversion, but it wasn’t happening as much as fans were hoping it would happen.

The simple solution to this is reviewing the rule to see if they just want to make it only a one point play or a two point play. Teams seemed to be unwilling to go for the exciting three point play as it was too much of a risk. Going for it at the two or five yard line makes it a higher percentage of a chance to get points after their touchdowns. It might be easier if they make teams just convert from one place only. The league might decide to keep the rule the same and hope coaches will be more aggressive or change it to force only one decision for coaches to make.

Expanding the League to Ten Teams

It may not be the smartest decision since the league took a hit financially from COVID-19, but it’s at least a fun topic to have for fans. Many people have been speculating that the XFL has considered adding at least two more teams to the league for the 2021 season. There are cities that fans have said to be good choices including San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia among others.

Birmingham has already been working on plans to try to make a run at the XFL to put a team in their city after seeing success with the Birmingham Iron in the AAF. San Diego and San Antonio were two cities that saw success in the AAF in terms of attendance before the league folded. Many have speculated that if it wasn’t for the AAF, the XFL would have a team playing in San Diego. As for Philadelphia, there were rumored to be one of the 21 finalists to land an XFL team so they might be considered in the future.

Change Start Date to Later

Once again, COVID-19 may have something to say about moving their start time back if the NFL is forced to start later. If COVID-19 doesn’t push the NFL start date back, it should be something the XFL still considers. While the TV ratings performed well with the games average over one million viewers per game, the league would have seen a hit in the ratings because of the NCAA March Madness and the NBA/NHL playoffs coming around as well as the start of the MLB season.

If the league wants to see success, it could consider starting play in April or May to move pass March Madness. The NBA and NHL playoffs would be tough to compete with, but the ratings for those games wouldn’t really change from the regular season until the finals came around. The league could have their championship game in late June with only the MLB to compete with on a national television scale. Most likely, this change wouldn’t happen, but it is something to consider if they want the most success in the TV ratings.

Add More Mobile Quarterbacks

Defenses proved to have too much speed for some of the offenses to handle. It showed on the field that any quarterbacks who were able to escape from the pocket and make plays with his feet were more successful than just pure pocket passes. The top four passers in the XFL (PJ Walker, Josh Johnson, Jordan Ta’amu, and Taylor Cornelius) are all considered mobile quarterbacks. They all proved to be viable starters in the XFL and made major impacts on their teams. Pocket passers like Landry Jones, Cardale Jones, and Brandon Silvers all took hits with either turnover issues or low completion percentages.

The game is evolving and it was shown in the XFL. Quarterbacks with fast legs were more successful in invading fast, athletic pass rushers than ones that stay in the pocket. That’s why the XFL has to consider building the league around mobile quarterbacks who are playmakers. PJ Walker and Jordan Ta’amu are off the board as they signed with NFL teams, but we saw the emergence of mobile quarterbacks like BJ Daniels, Quinton Flowers, and Tyree Jackson so flashes of big play potential. Those are the young quarterbacks the league needs to build around for 2021.

Create More XFL-Themed Shows

The XFL Pre-Game show that Jonathan Coachman and Alyse Ashton hosted before games on Saturdays and Sundays were fun for fans to watch. They gave good insight on upcoming games, breaking down previous games, and gave good player profiles when shown. The level of good production shown by the league should give fans more of a craving to see more great content like that shown on TV or the internet. The documentary the league was shooting giving fans behind the scene looks at moments like St. Louis’ first home game or the Seattle-DC season opener was fun to watch as well. A great way to do that is for the league to consider creating more shows that has the experts breaking down games and teams like NFL Live or Sunday NFL Countdown.

Creating more shows could lure more outside fans into watching the XFL as they can learn a little more about the players and coaches that make up the league. Hiring exclusive XFL insiders to have a show that is completely dedicated to inside knowledge of the XFL and breaking down film tape would be great for fans. Individual teams could locally host coaches shows to engage the community more to get to know their local team. Post game shows would also be beneficial as fans would love to see more of those type of contents to fuel their love for the XFL.

Season in Review: 2020 Dallas Renegades

The Dallas Renegades huddle in preparation for their final game against the New York Guardians (Credit XFL.com)

A season filled with high expectations, the Dallas Renegades were hoping for big things from their team. They were the first team to hire their head coach and general manager in former University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. During his time in the first offseason, Stoops was able to bring top assistant coaches like offensive coordinator Hal Humme. He was able to convince quarterback Landry Jones to join the XFL and the two were paired together in Dallas.

The team was able to draft some key players including Derron Smith, Jeff Badet, Donald Parham, and Frank Alexander. All the talent was displayed during training camp and made fans and experts believe they were the team to beat. While things didn’t go as according to plan, the team did have themselves within contention for the playoffs before the season ended after five games. Here are the top storylines for the team.

Bob Stoops Returns to the Sidelines

It was a great moment for the XFL as they hired their first head coach in the new league as they hired former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He was the biggest name to be brought in the league and added a lot of attention to the XFL. Stoops was able to build a formable team starting with Landry Jones at quarterback. Adding in the talent on offense with Cameron Artis-Payne, Lance Dunbar, Jeff Badet, and Donald Parham. His coaching staff was built well with legendary offensive coordinator Hal Mumme and defensive coordinator Chris Woods leading the team.

The 2020 season didn’t start out as well as the team was 2-3 before the season ended. The offense didn’t perform as well as expected with all the speed at receiver. Mumme’s offensive play calling was also put into question as the running game wasn’t used as well as fans would have liked. The Renegades’ defense turned out to be the strength for the team as they were able to keep the team in most of their games. Stoops had a good start to the coaching staff and the players on the team, but key pieces to receiver and play calling could put the team over the top next season.

Quarterback Play Was Inconsistent

Landry Jones and Philip Nelson both started at least two games this season for the team. Both quarterback played the position differently throughout the season. Nelson was safer with the ball and wasn’t as likely to throw it down the field. Jones was more aggressive with his passing which resulted in multiple turnovers. He was also better at moving the ball down the field and scoring touchdowns. Nelson struggled to get the offense in the end zone. It might have been a result in play calling, but the quarterbacks played inconsistently. They were accurate with the ball, but mistakes were made by both players.

Donald Parham Led Receiving Attack

The receivers on the Renegades did not leave an imprint on the offense as much as experts expected. It was their star tight end who stole the show in the passing game. Donald Parham impressed at training camp with his size and reliable hands. He showed those off this season as he caught 24 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He led the team in yards and touchdowns and made it clear he was the top target on the team. As he heads to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers in the NFL, Parham proved to be a reliable target and will have a chance to make it in the final roster.

Defense Kept Renegades in Games

Statistically, the defense of the Renegades wouldn’t blow you away with the numbers. They ranked no higher than fourth in a specific defensive team stat. Fans can make the argument that the defense was able to keep them in most of their games. The problems came with the offense turning the ball over too much and putting the defense in bad spots. In three of the five games, the defense allowed six or less points in the first half. Every game this season the team was within six points of their opponents heading into the second half.

Derron Smith and Josh Hawkins provided strong play in the secondary with shutdown coverage and big turnovers. Their linebacking core was one of the best in the league with speed and sure tackling helped the defense perform well. Asantay Brown and Greer Martini led the team in tackles and were both exceptional in coverage. The pass rush of the defensive line was inconsistent at times as the team was second to last in sacks with six.

Road Warriors, Home Sick

It was an odd sight to see as the Dallas Renegades went 2-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. The Renegades thrived on the road as they came from behind in both games at one point to beat LA and Seattle. Dallas’ offense struggled in two of their three home games not being able to produce more that 12 points in those games. Landry Jones threw three interceptions in the first quarter of the other home game against Houston that resulted in a 27-20 loss. It’s a rare sight in sports to see a team struggle at home, but performing well on the road might have helped the team out late in the season if the league was still going.

Dallas Renegades 2020 Schedule

Week One: St. Louis BattleHawks 15, Dallas Renegades 9, Record: 0-1

Week Two: Dallas Renegades 25, LA Wildcats 18, Record: 1-1

Week Three: Dallas Renegades 24, Seattle Dragons 12, Record: 2-1

Week Four: Houston Roughnecks 27, Dallas Renegades 20, Record: 2-2

Week Five: New York Guardians 30, Dallas Renegades 12, Record: 2-3

Dallas Renegades Stats

Passing: Landry Jones: 83-119, 70% completion percentage, 784 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, 77.2 QB rating

Philip Nelson: 62-94, 66% completion percentage, 439 yards, three interceptions, 63.2 QB rating

Rushing: Cameron Artis-Payne: 47 carries, 241 yards, 5.1 avg, two touchdowns

Lance Dunbar: 30 carries, 146 yards, 4.9 avg, one touchdown

Philip Nelson: six carries, 25 yards, 4.2 avg

Austin Walter: four carries, 19 yards, 4.8 avg

Landry Jones: five carries, 15 yards, 3.0 avg

Marquis Young: three carries, 12 yards, 4.0 avg

Receiving: Donald Parham: 24 catches, 307 yards, four touchdowns

Flynn Nagel: 26 catches, 217 yards, one touchdown

Lance Dunbar: 26 catches, 154 yards

Jeff Badet: 16 catches, 108 yards

Cameron Artis-Payne: 23 catches, 101 yards

Josh Crockett: five catches, 86 yards

Sean Price: six catches, 78 yards

Freddie Martino: four catches, 58 yards

Jazz Ferguson: nine catches, 54 yards

Austin Walter: two catches, 31 yards

Marquis Young: four catches, 20 yards

Jerrod Heard: one catch, ten yards

Top Five Tacklers: Asantay Brown 28, Greer Martini 28, Tegray Scales 24, Tenny Adewusi 22, Ray Ray Davison 17

Top Sacks: Tegray Scales 1, Ray Ray Davison 1, Micah Abernathy 1, Frank Alexander 1, Hau’oli Kikaha 1, Gerald Rivers 1

Top Interceptions: Josh Hawkins 2, Derron Smith 1

Kicking: Austin MacGinnis: 10-10, 46 long

Punting: Drew Galitz: 18 punts, 775 yards, 43.1 avg, nine In20

Kick Return Leader: Austin Walter: 17 returns, 431 yards, 25.4 avg, one touchdown

Punt Return Leader: Flynn Nagel: six returns, 97 yards, 16.2 avg

TE Donald Parham, head coach Bob Stoops, and OT Pace Murphy pay respect to the national anthem prior to the Renegades final game against the New York Guardians. (Credit XFL.com)

Jeff Jagodzinski Promoted to OC for Dallas Renegades

Due to a leg injury incurred during a game, Dallas Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme had to step down. (Credit: XFL.com)

After suffering a broken leg in the week four loss to the Houston Roughnecks, Dallas Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme is unable to continue his role. The Renegades have promoted Jeff Jagodzinski to offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

“We appreciate Hal’s hard work and efforts with our squad, particularly after his injury last weekend,” noted head coach Bob Stoops. “Unfortunately, it prevented him from performing in the way we needed for the Renegades.”

Mumme was in the coaching booth Saturday in the loss to the New York Guardians as he was calling the plays there. He made headlines when he decided to stay on the sidelines the whole game after a Renegades player collided with Mumme during the Houston game that broke his leg.

Jagodzinski is no stranger to running offenses as he was previously an offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Georgia State. He’s well known for his stint as head coach for Boston College where he want 20-8 as the head coach in two seasons.

Renegades running back coach Bobby Blizzard added the position of assistant offensive coordinator and will be the main play caller for the team. Blizzard has experience as well at offensive coordinator as he led the Memphis Express of the AAF as their offensive coordinator for most of the season before the league folded.

A lot of the focus on this season has been the inconsistency of the offense and how they have gotten off to slow starts throughout the season. Jagodzinski and Blizzard will have their work cut out for them as they travel on the road this weekend to take on the 3-2 DC Defenders. A game that could be seen as a season-defining moment for a team that has lost three straight at home, but undefeated on the road this season.

What We Learned After Dallas’ Third Loss

Dallas Renegades quarterback Philip Nelson (Credit: XFL.com)

Saturday was suppose to be a pivotal moment in Dallas’ season as quarterback Philip Nelson was suppose to jump into the starting lineup and lead them to a win in front of 15,950 fans at Globe Life Park. The defense was suppose to shut down the running game and pressure Luis Perez. Coach Bob Stoops was suppose to get his first home win of the season with the Renegades. None of that happened.

Dallas lost a third straight home game to the New York Guardians 30-12 to drop their season record to 2-3 on the year. The team will be spending the next two weeks on the road going to DC and Tampa Bay. Landry Jones is expected to miss at least one more game before possibly returning in week seven against the Vipers. Even though the final score looked to be a complete blowout for Dallas, they surprisingly were in the game for the most part. Fans did get to learn a little bit more about this team that will need to be addressed as they head into the back half of their schedule.

Should the Quarterback Situation be Evaluated?

It’s natural and normal after a loss like Dallas suffered that fans would want to see a change at the quarterback position. Arguably, Philip Nelson did not fair well in his second start of the year. He finished the game 28 of 49 for 210 yards and two interceptions. The offense with Nelson was not able to produce much in the second half. Dallas looked good in the first half as they were able to move the ball down the field, but ultimately could not get in the end zone similar to week one against St. Louis. That is a combination of play calling being conservative and the offense just not being able to establish the passing or running game.

From the fans’ perspective, changing a quarterback would not make a difference in how the team looks. Eric Dungey can jump in the game and make some plays with his arm strength and feet. Dungey brings a different dynamic into the offense that could give them the spark they need. Plus, it would only be for one week before Jones returns in week seven. What’s the harm in giving Dungey a shot at quarterback? The team could also trade for someone like Connor Cook or Quinton Flowers, but it might be too late to bring someone in from the outside to learn the offense in one week.

Looking at the other side of things, Nelson is more comfortable in the offense than Dungey or Brogan Roback. Both guys have been in and out of the team. Dungey has been dealing with personal issues off the field during the season that has kept him from being with the team. Roback has bounced back and forth from Team Nine and the Renegades so he hasn’t been with the team for half of the season. Nelson is the only healthy quarterback who has been with them since the beginning so go with the one that has the most experience and give him an opportunity to redeem himself.

Hal Mumme Abandoned the Running Game

The Air Raid offense is designed to throw the ball often and use their running backs in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme has perfect it for decades as a coach, but something is missing in this offense. The lack of a running game is evident and it’s frustrating for the fans. Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar had establish themselves as one of the best duos in the league. They combined for eight carries for 31 yards. It seemed like once they had a bad run, the Renegades would throw it multiple times in a row. The two never had a chance to get it going.

Moving forward, play calling needs to adjust to the weapons that the backfield offers. Artis-Payne is a solid runner who has proven to be one of the best in the XFL when he is fed the ball. Dunbar is a great runner on the outside as he can use his speed off the edge to get past the front seven. Mumme has to know what he has and use them more often. Especially since the passing game is struggling to pick up so they need the running game to help open up the offense.

Receivers Need to be More Involved

It’s been the Donald Parham and Lance Dunbar show for the most part in the passing game. The only consistent receiver for the Renegades through five games is Flynn Nagel. All the other ones have been under used and somewhat not involved in the offense. Most of the plays being called are screen passes and short passes in the flat. Explosive plays was suppose to be the identity of this team since they have so much speed at receiver. That clearly hasn’t happened so far. Freddie Martino did have a big 32 yard catch in the first half that gave fans some hope for the best. That was it for the team though.

With play calling once again being questioned by fans, they can hope that bigger plays can be developed during the game and take more shots down the field. Jeff Badet was brought in to Dallas to create those long pass plays down the field and he has yet to explode onto the scene. Nelson and Jones aren’t afraid to bomb the ball so let them do it and create a play that can get Badet down the field.

Rush Defense Needs to Bounce Back

Dallas’ linebackers are athletic as they can cover with the best of them along with the secondary. The problem with them along with the defensive line is not being able to stop the running game. New York Guardians’ running backs Darius Victor and Justin Stockton was able to break out nice runs as Dallas didn’t have an answer for them in the second half. This is becoming a common problem for the team as they struggled to stop St. Louis, but since then was good until Saturday. While they may not allow as many yards on the ground as other teams, it’s a small thing that could become a big problem if it isn’t addressed right away.

Secondary Continues to be a Strength

Josh Hawkins and Derron Smith have been so important to the defense all season and have been playmakers for the secondary. They have made PJ Walker look human and have been able to shut down many passing games. Even though New York won, outside of the 80 yard touchdown pass play from Luis Perez to Colby Pearson, Perez was not able to get much going. Good pressure by the defense and shutdown coverage made Perez’s life miserable. Defense has been the strength of this team and has kept them in every game this season. If the offense can reduce the turnovers and hold on to the ball longer, the defense could be even better.

Special Teams Has Been Strong All Season

Austin MacGinnis has been the most consistent scorer for the team as he remained perfect on the season in field goals as he is now 10-10. He has been called upon early in games to get the offense some points on the board. Austin Walter broke out a huge 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against New York to get them back in the game. It was all for nothing, but big plays is what this team has been missing and he provided that.

Bob Stoops is Handling This Team the Right Way

This season has the potential to get out of hand for Dallas, but Bob Stoops has provided the leadership this team has needed to avoid that. Stoops has said all the right things in taking responsibility for this season and showing frustrating for not being able to bring home a win at Globe Life Park. If there was any coach in the XFL that can get their team back on track, it’s going to be Stoops. He knows how to win and what it takes to do it. They have an opportunity to get it done against DC in the nation’s capitol in week six.

XFL Roughnecks Cool Down Dragons

Quarterback PJ Walker led the Houston Roughnecks to their fifth win. (Credit: XFL.com

The Houston Roughnecks took down the Seattle Dragons 32-23 Saturday afternoon in what was a closer game than anyone expected. Houston went in as an 11.5 favorite, but they actually trailed for most of this game. This was BJ Daniels’ first start, PJ Walker’s first game with multiple turnovers, and this was the first game that the Roughnecks would be down by multiple touchdowns. The 14 point deficit the Roughnecks faced Saturday was the largest deficit they have faced all season. They were either going to crumble, or they were going to dig deep and fight. Luckily for all Roughnecks fans, it ended up being the latter. The Roughnecks came back to win the game, and with that they will remain perfect on the season at 5-0. Let’s see how they did it.

First off, let’s talk about PJ Walker, because this was probably his worst game of the season by far. Don’t get me wrong, he still threw for three more touchdowns, he still had some big time plays that were able to bring the Roughnecks back to victory. But he is also the reason that the Roughnecks were in a tough spot to begin with. The Dragons offense looked better with Daniels at the helm, but let’s not act like they were dominating or anything. Two of their touchdowns came from extremely short fields due to Walker turnovers. The first came on a Walker fumble, where he didn’t notice the defender behind him, and he got strip sacked. That lead to Seattle’s first touchdown. Then, later on, he threw probably the worst pass he has thrown all season, where it looked like he was throwing it right to the Dragon defender, who nearly took it back for a pick 6, if it weren’t for PJ tackling him down at the goal line. That lead to another Seattle touchdown. He then threw another interception later on in the game, to bring his turnover total to three. But even after all that, he still made the big time plays to rally his team back to victory. So we got to see how PJ Walker would deal with adversity, and he seemed to deal with it really well. He threw 2 interceptions, and still wasn’t afraid to sling it downfield. Very Brett Farve-ish. He finished with 351 yards, which is a career high, and he did that while completing 71% of his passes, and tossing 3 more touchdowns. So if this is the worst PJ Walker we are going to get, there are a lot of teams that would take that in a heartbeat.

But like always, he wasn’t the only one making plays out there. Welcome back Cam Phillips! Phillips, after being pretty much shut down against Dallas, bounced back with a huge game. He finished with 10 receptions for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was sensational, and he came through big time in the clutch moments, catching what would end up being the game winning touchdown. Sam Mobley, Nick Holley, and Kahlil Lewis were all big in the passing game as well.

But where I was really impressed, was how well the Roughnecks ran the ball. James Butler had himself a game. He ran for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also was very involved in the passing game. Andre Williams also had an excellent game, running for 54 yards. and he was moving the chains all game long. If the Roughnecks can continue to build on their ground game, to go along with what is already an elite passing game, I just don’t see how you can stop this offense. The Dragons defense was very good Saturday, and the Roughnecks still managed to score 32 points. Good luck to anyone trying to stop the “Firework Show”.

The Houston Roughnecks will travel to New York to take on a revitalized Guardians team next Saturday, so we shall see if they can maintain their perfect season going for 6-0. For right now, they are STILL the best team in the XFL, ’til somebody can prove them otherwise.

What Philip Nelson Needs to Do to Win

Philip Nelson (9) will start at quarterback for Dallas against New York. (Credit: XFL.com)

The Dallas Renegades have a great opportunity to win one of the most important games of the season Saturday against the New York Guardians and put their record over .500. One challenge they face is they don’t have their starting quarterback Landry Jones for at least the next two games. Opening game starter Philip Nelson takes over for his second start of the XFL season.

In his first start, he showed the ability to protect the football. Something that fans are still waiting for with Jones. Nelson finished the game going 33-42, 218 yards and one interception on the final drive of the game. Deep ball accuracy was left to be desired for Nelson as he had trouble completing passes past ten yards. The exception was the last offensive drive of the first half when they went no huddle and Nelson was able to easily hit receivers on multiple mid range completions.

Nelson showed fans some good things and some bad things. There were time that he looked confident in the pocket, but with him being more of a pocket quarterback, he took a lot of hits by the defense. So what does Nelson have to do to win his first start in the XFL?

Continue to Protect the Ball

Nelson was safe with the ball, sometimes to a fault. Despite that, it was nice to see for fans to have a quarterback who wasn’t forcing passes into tight coverage. He only turned the ball over once in the loss to St. Louis and that was on the final drive of the game when they needed a score to win. Nelson will make sure to hit the open receiver which is what the offense needs for Dallas. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme will most likely be conservative with his play calling and rely more on the running game. The running backs are in a better place now than they were in week one which is a benefit for Nelson.

Take Some Shots Down the Field

Seems odd since Nelson’s deep ball accuracy was in question in week one, but more shots could mean more confidence. Dallas’ receivers have not been as involved in the offense as tight end Donald Parham and running back Lance Dunbar have been getting all the targets. Look for Flynn Nagel to get more targets on third down which is where he succeeds the most at. Jeff Badet gained some momentum with a couple of big catches in the second half of the Houston loss last week. Getting him more involved with other receivers like Jazz Ferguson and Freddie Martino could open up the offense.

Push for More Power in Play Calling

Dallas has found their identity in running the ball effectively. Nelson will be in a more established offense that should help the team get into the end zone. He should ask for more input in the offense with Mumme and have control of the play calling. Trust is something the quarterback and coach should have together. A potential issues is Mumme broke his leg in last week’s game so he will be calling the plays from the booth for the reminder of the season. If Nelson gets off to a fast start to the offense in the game, Mumme might let him control the calls in the second half.