XFL Week 1 Review: Good Enough to Come Back for Week 2

St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta'amu (10) hands off to running back Matt Jones. Photo: JEROME MIRON, USA TODAY SPORTS

Alright, what a weekend. Well actually, a crazy week of Minnesota sports news overflowed into an interesting weekend… and now we’re left with a hangover on Monday.

But beyond the plethora of the headlines we had here locally, there was football being played nationally. I didn’t watch every game (or all of any game) but I did watch enough XFL football this weekend to know one thing…

… I’ll be tuning in next week.

That’s all the XFL wants. That’s all they should want, at least. They need this football experiment to be a marathon, not a sprint. Having Vince McMahon and his money behind the league helps, but getting viewers to come back week-in and week-out will decide the league’s fate in the end.

And if you have good football with names that people know, you’ll get viewers… especially when there isn’t any other football on TV.

It’s Real, Professional Football:

This is the key to everything. Does the XFL look like professional football? Does it even look like high-level D-1 college football? If it doesn’t, this whole thing isn’t going to work.

People want to watch high-level football, not garbage they could watch at the high school down the street.

And, the XFL delivered. I knew the quarterbacks. That was key, as well. If the QB’s can’t complete passes or make plays, then the product isn’t going to be good enough.

There were familiar names all over the field, if you pay attention to college and preseason NFL football. Hell, if you are a Minnesota football fan, there were plenty of names that should look familiar.

Minnesota Gophers:

  • QB – Philip Nelson – Dallas Renegades
  • LB – Jonathan Celestin – DC Defenders
  • DB – Jalen Myrick – DC Defenders

Minnesota Vikings:

  • WR – Jeff Badet – Dallas Renegades
  • OT – Willie Beavers – Dallas Renegades
  • S – Jack Tocho – LA Wildcats
  • QB – Taylor Heinicke – St. Louis Battlehawks
  • WR Stacey Coley – Tampa Bay Vipers
  • TE Nick Truesdell – Tampa Bay Vipers
  • DT Will Sutton – Seattle Dragons

That’s right. You can see former Gopher QB (for a little bit) Philip Nelson, throw passes to former Viking, Jeff Badet. I actually did. That’s fun.

I watched Jonathan Celestin make a bunch of plays on Saturday too. It’s cool to see some of these names actually get some run with professional teams playing on ESPN and FOX.

Taylor Heinicke is a backup, even in the XFL, but he doesn’t backup anyone at shotgunning alcoholic seltzers. Who doesn’t want to watch Taylor Heinicke shotgun seltzers?

The answer is, “nobody”, because everyone wants to watch that.

If only for one moment in time… Aaron Rodgers was watching the TV from his mansion far far away from Green Bay and his family, and he was wishing he was Taylor Heinicke.

Rules to Watch For:

Sure, some of the rules are a little out there, but that’s what the XFL is going for. They want to shake things up a bit. Some of the ideas will work, and some won’t.

One big rule change vs the NFL that does work, is the kickoffs.

The kicker lines up the football at one 30-yd-line and he’s all by himself. The receiving team lines 10 guys up on the opposite 30-yd-line. The kickoff team lines their remaining 10 players, 5 yards away from the receiving team, at the 35.

The kick-returner sits behind that double-layered wall of 20 players, and waits. Are you still paying attention? Because here is where things get weird…

The kickoff MUST land between the 20-yd-line and the endzone, from the air, on it’s first contact with the ground. Here is the XFL to explain it, and then some video of kickoffs from this weekend.

This is a rule the NFL should adopt IMMEDIATELY.

2 or 3 or 4-Point Conversions:

I’m not sold on the extra points or 2,3,4 point conversions after every touchdown. It’ll be interesting to see if those things grow on me or if they end up eliminating some things and replacing it with more traditional models.

XFL Replay is Revolutionary:

The replay system is awesome. You get to listen to everyone involved with the decision-making process. It’s 100% transparency. The NFL needs more of that obviously, but it also gives you full-insight into WHY officials make the rulings they make.

When looking at differences vs the NFL, the XFL replay system + transparency and the new kickoff rules were the two biggest wins on the weekend. Both changes could be initiated with relative immediacy by the NFL too, if they chose to do so.

But, to wrap this thing up with the same sentiment I started it with…. it’s about the football, at the end of the day.

The XFL was pretty damn good football. I had fun watching it, I went “oh wow” a few times, and didn’t change the channel, in preference of watching “National Treasure” for the 468th time. That’s what the XFL should focus on.

We are playing the game proven to be most popular in America, BY A LONG SHOT… how do we keep people from turning on something else when we’re on TV…?

I’m all about jobs and entertainment. The XFL gave a lot of people both of those things over the last two days. I’ll be back to see if they can do it for two weeks straight.

Let’s take this bad boy one week at a time.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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