Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jan 2018

This Is The XFL, Version 2.0

In this Sports Business Journal article, Vince McMahon suggests that he's more interested in a serious football league this time around, not the crazy half-wrestling/half-football hybrid he attempted with the original XFL. The plan is to spend two years putting it together instead of just one, starting play in the spring of 2020 with 8 teams and a 10-week season. McMahon is hoping for faster games and more simplified rules when it comes to stuff like "what is a catch." He's planning to sign players who just missed NFL rosters, not to compete with the NFL for players. "It’s an opportunity to really re-imagine football -- not reinvent it," he says.

Can Vince McMahon really control himself and be humble enough to build... a spring developmental league? That's effectively what this sounds like. It sounds like the UFL with more stable ownership and better broadcast quality.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Jan 2018

34 comments, Last at 01 Feb 2018, 10:00am by Theo


by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 4:36pm

"Can Vince McMahon really control himself and be humble enough to build... a spring developmental league?"

All signs point to "no" from his career of..well, everything, from the WBF to the acquisition and subsequent destruction of WCW and it's intellectual property to his tendency over the past decade to flit from obsession to obsession, leaving things half-finished and ignoring or actively fighting against the demands and desires of his fanbase, to the point where all but the hardcore fans have drained off and gone to other interests.

But hey, a high-quality developmental league is something we could really use, so we'll see!

by lenny65 :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 6:31pm

1. No one anywhere is clamoring for "family friendly" pro football, whatever that is.

2. No player who thinks he has a legit shot at making an NFL roster is going to risk his health by playing in a slipshod pro football league a few months before the draft and UDFA signing period which means XFL talent will be strictly players with no real shot at making an NFL team.

3. Vince may be a pro wrestling genius but his carny ways never translate into success with anything else.

by Seattle-Brian :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 7:21pm

I actually can't wait to see how his league defines a catch. Probably will never watch a game. But I want to hear that rule description.

by Alternator :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 7:26pm

If XFL 2.0 is willing to tolerate catch-and-fumble becoming a common thing, they could just remove the whole "Control it through landing" bit that's caused most of the debated catches.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:07am

It's not like college football has a huge controversy about this.

by Scott P. :: Sat, 01/27/2018 - 1:29pm

That's only because less attention is paid to it -- the rules are exactly the same as in the NFL.

From the NCAA handbook:

"Airborne receiver A85 grasps a forward pass and in the process of going
to the ground, first contacts the ground with his left foot as he falls to
the ground inbounds. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground, the
ball comes loose and touches the ground.
RULING: Incomplete pass.

An airborne receiver must maintain control of the ball while going to
the ground in the process of completing a catch."

by Scott P. :: Sat, 01/27/2018 - 1:30pm

And also this:

Receiver A85 is airborne and in bounds in the end zone and grasps
a forward pass, but while airborne he is hit by a defender, which
causes A85 to fall to the ground. Immediately upon A85 hitting
the ground, the ball comes loose and strikes the ground.
RULING:Incomplete pass.

An airborne receiver contacted before completing all
the requirements of a catch must still maintain control of the ball after
hitting the ground.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:22pm

That's where the XFL should be looking at getting their talent long term. They need to sell themselves as the NFL developmental league and supplant college football. Play for us and get PAID! But I don't see it happening. In order to actually be a legitimate developmental league for the NFL they'd have to create a track record. They won't draw away any college kids until they do. Sorta like the chicken and the egg. They need the college talent to get the developmental track record and they need a track record of developing talent to get the college talent.

But for the short while I expect them to exist, they might get a rep for being a kids avenue of last hope and a handful of kids might make it into the NFL that way.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:27pm

But if you're coming straight out of high school and you can get paid instead of going to college ... that could well be enticing

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 02/01/2018 - 2:16am

And lose 4 years of eligibility? Not likely in the foreseeable future. Now guys who get kicked out of college for disciplinary reasons or whatever, they'll be all about this

by Theo :: Thu, 02/01/2018 - 10:00am

There are enough players.
NFL cuts, euro players, undrafted free agents, comeback players... if the xfl can get a tv deal or an online streaming platform... then the players will follow where the money is.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:26pm

Call me a cynic, but I will bet you a shiny nickel the XFL never actually has a single game.

by andrew :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:30pm

I'll take that. But we donate that shiny nickel to the charity of the winnner's choice.

To be fair we'll give it a time limit, say by the end of 2020.

by lenny65 :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 10:04pm

I agree. There's no market for "family friendly" football and it's been proven time and time again that in all but the most extreme cases no one cares about the personal character of the players either. It's an awfully flimsy premise that does nothing to address why it failed so horribly the first time around, that being the quality of the games which was abysmal.

by andrew :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:29pm

recommendations for catches to make the league more intersting:

1 - all players are eligible receivers
2 - all passes behind the line of scrimmage are live (i.e., if it hits the ground it is a fumble, empty hand or no).
3 - if the ball hits the receiver before it hits the ground, it is a live ball.

by Sixknots :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 11:00pm

Like 1 & 2 but #3 could give receivers alligator arms unless they are absolutely sure they can make the catch.

edit: sorry... reply to 6

by Digit :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:05am

Dump punting and kicking / eliminate the special teams. No specialists.

Make it purely offense vs defense.

Allow anyone to drop-kick or drop-punt on any down, if they -really- need some sort of field position thing. A drop-punt by any player in lieu of kickoffs.

Go for two, or drop-kick for three on PAT conversions

by rj1 :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:03am

Ball is too pointy to have a consistently controllable drop kick. It works in rugby because the ball is larger and rounder than a regulation American football.

by Digit :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:12am

That's pretty much why I think it'd be interesting to see -and- be worth more points. Whether the change in field position would be worth risking a drop kick by a non-specialist. I'd bet on 'nope' for the most part unless it's fourth down and you don't want to risk the odds of just turning over the ball in the red zone on downs.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:25pm

Which is why ALL FG's should be drop kicks and worth 4 points. and all PAT's should be drop kicks period and still only worth 1 point.

and the web site is NOT sorry about the spam filter cuz they haven't fixed it yet so stop saying you're sorry.

by bigpoppapump :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 5:11am

catch controversy would go away if they just went with the onfield decision

by Not Jimmy :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:57am

All replays should be at real speed. No slow motion allowed.

Wait - That should be an NFL rule.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by rj1 :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:02am

The notion of dropping halftime does intrigue me.

It's easy to dismiss this, but I feel there are certain powerful people also behind this and McMahon is the front. Vince Verhei can say more about this, but McMahon sold $100 million worth of stock in WWE to fund this, so this is not a fly-by-night operation, and this is not being ran by WWE, it's ran by a separate company from them called Alpha Entertainment.

Also, let's be honest, this past NFL season was pretty bad for the league when it comes to public image. This is 2 years down the road so who knows how the world will look then and I give this thing as much of a chance as any spring league, but the NFL at the moment has probably more chinks in its armor now than it did at any point since the 1980s.

by johonny :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:38am

The problem with all these spring football leagues is that they expect them to be profitable right away-huge crowds, huge TV deal. It costs big money to put a quality team on the field in college or the pros. It takes time to develop a front office. More than that, the XFL is always going to shed players to the NFL just like college so the leagues model needs to be flexible. The NBA, MLB, NFL etc...were not overnight success stories. It could take years to build a real XFL fan base to the point it generates profit. There's no way I think the people involved are up for that. They weren't the last time.

by lenny65 :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:52pm

IMO the only way to attract instant buzz is to place franchises in cities and metro areas with no competing pro football presence. Portland, OKC, Alabama, New Mexico, Cleveland, places like that. Bears fans aren't going to instantly rally around an XFL team in Chicago, Giants fans aren't going to flock to the NY team's games, you need the novelty effect to attract a new fan base. The problem with that, though, is that you're essentially regionalizing the league, making a TV deal more difficult and less profitable (in theory). But if you can manage to make an 8 or 10 team league work to the point where it gains national respectability, then you can expand into larger markets. But like you said above, this approach would require patience and time as well as an ability to work in the red for a while.

by eagle97a :: Sat, 01/27/2018 - 3:39am

I don't know if it was intentional or not but that is one sick burn mentioning Cleveland as having no NFL presence.

by serutan :: Sun, 01/28/2018 - 4:22pm

I hope it was intentional because that would make it positively brilliant.
Was wr

by Theo :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 2:38pm

The key word there was 'competing'.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 6:40pm


I know there's a no politics rule for a reason, but, well, this.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/29/2018 - 10:13am

Yeah, as far as I can tell the "family friendly" thing means a protest ban. It's a dumb move to make that the cornerstone of the league. It's going all-in on the premise that declining NFL ratings are due to huge flocks of people boycotting the NFL to protest the protests. Trying to build your whole audience around what I believe is a small group of people is not going to be a winning strategy.

There hasn't been a worse time since the merger to found a competing football league. Football TV viewership is declining for basically the first time ever. The major networks are all signed in for NFL broadcast contracts through the 2021-22 season, which means those networks are going to be experiencing some pains in the next few seasons as their contracts with the NFL stay the same but their revenue from broadcasts declines. They simply aren't going to be willing to throw even more money at broadcasting contracts for pro football.

In my opinion, ratings are down primarily because TV viewership in general is down. Already, about 22 million adult Americans have cancelled their cable/satellite TV subscriptions simply because better entertainment options are available for cheaper. On top of that, football in particular has been suffering due to head injury awareness and the huge rate of catastrophic injuries that took away so many superstars this season. This isn't a short-term bump due to protests/injuries/Patriots dominance/overexposure/whatever, this is the start of a long-term decline. The XFL is trying to climb on board of a slowly sinking ship.

The Arena Football League is a good example to look to here. In 2014 they had one team leave to another league and two teams simply fold. In 2015, they had another team leave and two more fold. In 2016, two more teams left and two more collapsed. In 2017, another team collapsed and a second went on a two-year hiatus. It's been a slow-motion collapse. There's just no reason to think there's enough appetite for pro football to sustain a second major league.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/29/2018 - 2:15pm

I read that as mostly being an over-reaction to the things that got the XFL in trouble the first time around.

Vince appears to have decent accuracy, but poor precision.

by Theo :: Thu, 02/01/2018 - 9:55am

Most articles try to burn the XFL alrrady for either the first experience or because of some comments Vince made with the introduction.
It shows he talks and acts faster than he thinks.

This spam filter, man.

by Theo :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 2:45pm

I think this will not be an XFL like the first time around, which gives me hope to something good.
The declining ratings of the NFL have much to do with the NFL not changing with the times.
Make a game 2 hours by less stoppage, shorter quarters, clock rule changes and more exciting by new camera work. I dunno, show me a safety on the screen from time to time...

by Theo :: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:33pm

If this league can strike a middle ground between the arena league and the nfl and mix it with some more accessable platforms it could succeed.

Yes the spam filter is STILL annoying.