XFL Mailbag #2 – In-game audio, XFL vs. AAF, Dwayne Haskins, and more!
If you’d like to participate in future editions, send your questions to XFLMailbag@gmail.com.
You can access the first XFL Mailbag from last month here.
If you’d like to contribute to future mailbags, send your questions to XFLMailbag@gmail.com. Let’s get to it! (Questions may be edited for length and/or clarity)
Alistair asks: “It appears that the stay of Dwayne Haskins in Washington is over. Will he be a good fit with any of the XFL teams in the league starting up in 2022?”
And so the great XFL QB speculation begins again. Haskins was released by Washington prior to the end of the regular season due to a combination of ineffectiveness and immaturity. The 2019 first round pick hasn’t been signed for 2021 yet, but it’s hard to imagine a head coach or offensive coordinator not wanting to sign Haskins as a low-risk reclamation project.
The question then becomes: Will it benefit Haskins more to be on an NFL team as a backup in 2021, taking limited reps in practice, perhaps learning behind a veteran; Or being the face of an XFL franchise, likely as a starting QB in an attempt to get his foot back into an NFL door?
If an NFL offer is there, it’s difficult to imagine someone like Haskins taking the XFL risk. Yes, he could play well, but that didn’t guarantee others who played well in 2020 an NFL roster spot. Staying in the NFL ecosystem, even as a backup, would likely be the preferable way to rehab his image. Nevertheless, Haskins would be an intriguing prospect for the XFL. We’ll see how aggressively the league pursues Haskins-like players.
James asks: “If they stay in the NY/NJ area, where can we guess the Guardians will play? There was talk they’d leave MetLife Stadium, which I think is the smart idea. Is Red Bull Arena an option? Or would they go the complete other end and play at Rutgers?”
Assuming the Guardians stay in New York, the metro area does give the league some options that may be more aesthetically pleasing than MetLife Stadium. MetLife gives a major-league feel, which was likely what Vince McMahon was going for in renting large stadiums, but its atmosphere paled in comparison to other, smaller stadiums throughout the league.
Red Bull Arena is the place that most have suggested for the Guardians if they return to New York in 2022. It’s mostly used as a soccer stadium, home of the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer. The MLS season begins in March, which would overlap with the XFL’s spring season. The cost of renting the stadium and converting it from football to soccer and back would have to be taken into account.
SHI Stadium, where the Rutgers Scarlett Knights football team plays, is further away from the city than MetLife or Red Bull Arena. That’s going to be a major negative. The stadium’s capacity, though, is more than Red Bull but less than MetLife. That could make it an attractive option, though while the XFL’s season won’t interfere with any Rutgers games, it will conflict with spring practices.
Hopefully the leaders of the new XFL take a look at the best location for these stadiums and make a decision based on atmosphere and aesthetics rather than size and prestige.
Robert asks: “Most of the 2020 College Football Draft prospects never got the chance to be evaluated by professional organizations; What are their options and paths to get evaluated by scouts in the XFL?”
It’s true that while most major college conferences were able to play at least a partial schedule this fall, the evaluation process for prospects leading up to April’s draft will look different than in years past. Some postseason all-star games are still going ahead with the game (Senior Bowl) while others have cancelled the game and will still have on-field activities (East-West Shrine Game) while still others have gone completely virtual (NFLPA Bowl).
The NFL Combine in its previous form has been canceled for this year, though medicals will still be taken. Pro Day activities at schools across the country may also be altered. The bottom line is, even more than last year, there is a risk of good players falling through the cracks. Scouting is an inexact science as it is; with the disruption to the process this year, it becomes more of a crapshoot.
How the XFL plans to capitalize remains to be seen. Will the infrastructure be in place in time for league scouts to attend all-star games and pro days? At this point, it seems unlikely, though the league really should have a presence of some kind in those places.
There are mechanisms in place for the NFL to course-correct when they “miss” on a player (undrafted free agency, practice squads), but hopefully the XFL will be competitive with their offers. XFL 2020 had Summer Showcases; how will the process work to find talent this time around? They may not need to go to those lengths if they invite players back that played in XFL 2.0; they may be looking for a smaller number of players this year. Not having to cast a wide net may also save the league some money. The quality of play in the league counts; it’s not something the XFL can take a shortcut around, so hopefully they’ve lined up a process to get a look at this year’s upcoming rookie class.
Billy asks: “I’m a big XFL fan. I have been blind since birth but like football as much as the sighted, especially the in-game audio that the XFL used. When the XFL returns, will in-game audio be available? I really enjoyed that very much.”
When XFL fans have discussed the in-game audio provided for fans watching at home (in both the 2001 and 2020 versions), they usually talk about how cool it is to have a front-row seat to the action and the drama happening on the sidelines. But Billy brings home another point, how crucial that aspect is for folks who are blind to enjoy the action.
The XFL is synonymous with bringing the viewer inside the game in that way, and Dany Garcia has mentioned her affinity for that part of the broadcast, so I’m sure it’ll be here to stay no matter what network ends up showing the games. I know I’ll look at the audio aspect of the broadcast a little differently in terms of its importance going forward thanks to Billy’s question.
Mike asks: “Where would you set the line for a 2019 Orlando Apollos vs. 2020 Houston Roughnecks in a clash of (sort of) champions?”
Full disclosure: I didn’t follow the AAF all that closely. That said, the Apollos were tops in the AAF with a 7-1 record at the time the league closed up shop, while the Roughnecks were 5-0. Neither team dominated every week – One score separated Houston and its opponents in three of the five games, while the same was true of Orlando in three of their wins.
At quarterback, Garrett Gilbert and P.J. Walker were both the best in the league at their position. Orlando was more balanced offensively than Houston, though Houston had talent at running back with James Butler. Would Orlando have been able to stop Cam Phillips? That’s a key question. Neither QB was sacked all that much, a testament to both offensive lines.
Houston had the slight edge in sacks per game, while the teams were nearly even in interceptions per game. That leaves special teams, and in the kicking game, the edge goes to Orlando’s Elliott Fry (14-of-14 on field goals) over Houston’s Sergio Castillo (5-of-9 kicking). Thus, I’ll give Orlando the advantage…by a field goal.