The ratings for the XFL’s opening games are coming in and will be updated here at XFL News Hub. The XFL’s debut game on ABC between the DC Defenders and Seattle Dragons on Saturday Afternoon averaged 3.3 million viewers, with a peak viewership at the end of the game of 4 million viewers.(4:45pm to 5pm ET)
It’s worth noting how strong the ratings were in the state of Ohio. (Cleveland 4.6, Columbus 4.5). No shocker there with former Ohio State National Championship Quarterback Cardale Jones as the main draw for the game itself.
The league’s attendance figures were also respectable;
NY: 17, 634
XFL CEO Oliver Luck mentioned in several interviews, before this past weekend, that the XFL’s projected attendance average for the season was in the teens. The league will initially suffer for the sins of the AAF and the original XFL. Expecting fans to trust a new football league sight unseen is no simple task. Asking the public to put down their hard-earned money to watch a league they have never seen before, will have to be earned.
There’s no denying that the XFL exceeded expectations this past weekend. The die-hard supporters and followers of the league had high hopes based on all the positive signs shown by the league in the two-year buildup.
The truth is that the majority of the rest of the football viewing population, either had the XFL on complete ignore mode or were mostly dismissive. The biggest victory by the XFL this past weekend was the overwhelming shock that turned many skeptics into true believers in one fell swoop.
XFL2020 has a chance to build their league on word of mouth. I think week one was great in selling the fact that the players are good, and the league is worth watching on TV and in person. Usually, these leagues have the reverse effect. They garner some early interest and then the novelty wears off. Judging by week one, the XFL looks like it can only get better.
The XFL is already a good football league and it’s only just begun. There was a realistic expectation that these brand new eight teams would come out the gate sluggish. The level of play in the XFL exceeded expectations from even some of the league’s harshest critics.
The difference can be seen in the quarterback play, specifically from two players who were on NFL rosters at the start of the 2019 NFL season in P.J. Walker (Houston) and Cardale Jones (DC). Two of the league’s better quarterbacks, Landry Jones and Josh Johnson didn’t play in week one. So the level of play at the position should go up as the season goes along.
The overall presentation and rules laid out were fun and innovative. Kudos to the XFL’s Director of Football Operations, Sam Schwartzstein, and the entire XFL football operations department. The entire crew worked meticulously on every single rule and feature from the kickoff to the year-long process of making the league’s football.
This wasn’t 2001. A league just thrown together with crazy marketing and tons of style. The 2020 XFL is all about substance. It showed this weekend. The TV presentation was great. The announcers had some hiccups in a few instances but overall had genuine enthusiasm and respect for the quality of the players. Even someone like Steve Levy, who seemed like a partial believer going in, seemed genuinely excited by the concepts and quality of the league’s play. The league that seemed like a joke to some, maybe even those who were working the games, is far from that.
There were some things that could be critiqued overall. The games didn’t exactly fit under that magical 3-hour window, that has been promised. Perhaps eliminating the ten minute pre-game set up before the game could be an option. Some of the interviews and access to the players seemed excessive and provided some hilarity, like the Dragons Dillon Day’s F-bomb heard round the world, but the sideline access provided genuine moments like Nick Holley explaining why he is still playing after two torn ACL’s and a broken back. There was also an excellent sequence with Defenders kicker Ty Rausa, who shanked a short field goal, and was immediately put on the spot for it, only to redeem himself later with a 56 yard field goal at the end of the half.
The best ‘inside’ football moment came during DC’s reverse flea-flicker TD to Tight End Khari Lee. It was revealed that the play-call was something that Coach Pep Hamilton and Cardale Jones did not have confidence in because of Lee’s failings to execute it in practice.
The sequence breaking it all down was terrific sports television. ESPN’s Tom Luginbill did a masterful job on the sidelines Saturday. Taking the viewer into the mindset of the coaching, the plays and adding some humor as well in several instances.
The one knock, I have against the league is really not about the presentation of the football itself. There’s never been a doubt in mind that there are hundreds of quality football players out there, that are capable of being good football players.
I loved the background given for each player, particularly their college and NFL resumes. My overall issue was the message that was sent repeatedly during broadcasts that the players are playing in the XFL to get back into the NFL. This is something that the AAF did as well in their broadcasts. It cheapens the league that they are currently playing in.
The theme is that these leagues only exist for the NFL. A testing ground for players and rules. The XFL has to be a quality standalone pro football league first, and if the by-product is that the NFL copies what they are doing, or that the big league goes after the players that the XFL scouted and uncovered, So be it.
It goes without saying that every football player’s goal is to play in the biggest sports league on the planet but instead of harping on the fact that Nick Holley wants to play in the XFL just to get into the NFL. The message should be exactly the one that Nick gave on the sidelines. He is happy to be in the XFL because he wants to play pro football. That’s what he is doing right now in the XFL.