Many fans and experts believe the XFL 2.0 was a success, but what can XFL 3.0 learn from last season?
Rules innovation and star-studded play from P.J. Walker electrified the XFL back in February and March. The league was averaging over a million viewers a game and was consistently hitting 14,000 to 17,000 fans a game. The excitement was building from fans until the season was canceled in mid-March.
It was a crushing blow for the league, but one that many felt the foundation for spring football can be built off of. The development of the players showcased great play from less known players like Walker, Cam Phillips, and Jordan Ta’amu. Fans were attending games at high rates like in St. Louis and Seattle that was hitting over 25,000 fans each game. The kickoff rules received praise by many as a safer play for players and brought more opportunities to return a kickoff.
There are multiple things that can be pointed out as positives for the league that other leagues like the NFL can use for them. The XFL also learned a lot about themselves and what the game looked like. Not all of these things are not necessarily negatives, but improvements the league can make for the upcoming season.
Some Teams Should Play in Smaller Venues
The league saw success in cities like St. Louis and Seattle as they were able to pack NFL stadiums with fans. Even places like DC, Houston, and Dallas that had smaller fields had good attendance numbers throughout the season. DC and Dallas played in fields with 20,000 to 25,000 and were able to fill the stadiums well because they were soccer fields or baseball stadiums.
Other teams like New York and Tampa Bay who played in NFL stadiums didn’t have the look of a successful run. Both teams’ first home games saw at least 17,000 fans in the stands. Their second home games didn’t see as much success with under 13,000 fans at those games. This, unfortunately, was shown on television as there were more empty seats than the league would like to see. LA saw similar attendance issues, but they played in a soccer field instead of an NFL stadium.
Originally, former XFL owner Vince McMahon wanted to play in NFL cities and play in NFL stadiums if it was allowed. This was a good idea in putting teams in highly populated cities that love football. Cities like St. Louis and Seattle proved that they can have their teams in NFL stadiums. New York and Tampa Bay did not work out as well, but these are good lessons for the new owners to learn.
These are easy corrections to make that won’t impact them for the future. If the XFL goes into the bubble for the 2021 season, this won’t be an issue for the league to handle immediately. The new owners should consider different solutions for teams like New York, Tampa Bay, and LA.
They have two solutions to this issues. The XFL can move these teams to different cities that might be better suited for XFL teams to play. They can do that or move them to different fields that are smaller. There are going to be speculation for what will happen with these teams, but for now, these are the solutions for them to choose from and think about for the future.
Coaches Will Coach More Conservatively
The league was hoping by eliminating the extra point kick that forcing offenses to score again, it would bring more importance to the point after scores. It brought more excitement for fans to watch how teams would react to a one, two, or three-pointer. Fans did enjoy seeing offenses stay on the field right after a touchdown, but coaches didn’t do what the league was hoping they would do.
The XFL was hoping to see more three-point attempts from coaches but noticed that it might not be the case. Week one had none of the teams go for the three-point conversion as teams were most likely to go for the easier one-point conversion. It wasn’t what fans were hoping when the rule change was made.
One way the league could change that is completely eliminating the one-point conversion and forcing a two or three-point conversion. This would force teams to call more exciting plays in the red zone and add more excitement. Offenses will be more open and can open the playbook to run pass plays which are always more exciting plays to watch.
To clarify, the rule change worked and it was fun. It made the games more interesting. The last week of the year had Seattle losing to Houston by nine points, but it was a game that Seattle could have still won with a nine-point swing. In the NFL, that would be a two possession game. The XFL added more excitement by giving teams more opportunities to win.
The Right Balance During Broadcasts
This one might be a tricky subject. The XFL did something that football fans have never really seen in the past: transparency. Fans were able to watch live as players and coaches were interviewed after scores and even turnovers. They even got access to challenges and replays to hear what the officials were saying to each other to make a critical decision. Fans were in love with the transparency.
So what’s the problem? The issue comes with that too much transparency could take away from the game when watching on tv. An example is ESPN broadcasts would tend to interview players and coaches too much to the point that it would hurt the flow of the broadcasts. Two sideline reporters were too much as Fox was able to use one and got it just right.
ESPN was able to produce a good broadcast, but sometimes the excessive amount of interviews killed the flow of the game. Fox had the perfect balance between the game and the interviews. This might seem like a very picky thing to criticize, but it does make the difference in bringing in new potential fans.
Stars Drive The XFL in Different Ways
Big names like Landry Jones and Cardale Jones were the ones being marketed before the season started. They were suppose to drive the league into high ratings and gain interest from outsiders. That didn’t quite go as planned. Both were decent, but it was younger, less known players that stole the show.
P.J. Walker was a star that came out of nowhere. He battled Connor Cook hard during training camp, but Walker won the quarterback job in Houston. He became a star instantly with his spectacular throws and mobility that made him unstoppable. His top target, Cam Phillips, also stole the show after being little known to being the best receiver in the XFL.
St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu made a name for himself at Ole Miss after one season. The problem was he needed to be more seasoned and needed more development. He got that and more with the XFL as he became one of the top players in the league.
All three have signed with NFL teams since the league canceled their season. The overall point is these were guys that weren’t stars heading into the season and became stars at the end. Sure, guys like the Jones’ brought people to the seats, but guys like Walker kept them in it. Big names are nice to bring people in, but sometimes it’s the less known guys that are the real stars of the league.
The league must make sure to continue looking for hidden talents like them and build their league around them. The XFL was made to give underlooked players the platform to succeed. Build the league around the small name guys and build them into stars.