It's easy to think of the Alliance of American Football as a pro sports league because, well, it is. But at its heart it's a start-up. It's a business. And like any business, there are things it does well and areas where it falls short.
Even though the AAF existed long before its football season kicked off two weeks ago, CEO Charlie Ebersol is going to learn a lot about how to make his product better over the next three months as the inaugural season unfolds. As a single entity, the AAF can make decisions quickly that will affect how it operates moving forward.
After two weekends of games, we already have information rolling in helping us decide what we love, and what we don't love, about the AAF. Think of the following list as a Yelp! review for the AAF as it continues to roll out spring football. Here are five things I've loved -- and not loved -- about the Alliance.
What I love: Second-chance stories
The AAF is about giving players another chance to excel at football. For most of them, that second (or third?) chance is with the NFL; for others, it's about squeezing out the last little bit of football they have left in them. Regardless of the background, everyone in the AAF has a story. Yes,, but he's not the only one. Trent Richardson's , as are the in the Alliance. Getting to know the names that make up the AAF is part of the appeal.
What I don't love: Limited blitzing
Offense sells, so it's totally within reason that the AAF would limit blitzing to five players within a box on passing situations. (Pro Football Talk explains the rules in further detail.) And given that the defenses are ahead of the offenses coming out of training camp, call the rules a handicap. Still, the offenses aren't being asked to play with one hand behind their backs, why should defenses? There are offensive plays that can counter a blitz. Coaches can install that part of their offense without overwhelming the players with too much information. Let both sides play uninhibited.
What I love: Mic'd up instant replay
I dove, but I'm a huge fan of peeling back the curtain on instant replay. I'd be so bold as to say it is the best thing the AAF does on game day. Keeping fans engaged is important and replay is traditionally a period of the game when it becomes easy to disengage. The replay officials are still human, and thus they'll still make calls people don't agree with or in some instances be flat-out wrong, but the transparency is refreshing.
What I don't love: Not enough SkyJudge
Christopher Walken needed more cowbell like I need more SkyJudge. The ninth member of the AAF's game-day officiating crew is an all-seeing, almost omnipresent set of eyes designed to overturn "obvious and egregious" officiating errors. Well, through two weeks, there have been some obvious and egregious officiating errors. And, yet, I haven't heard much from the SkyJudge, namely on some pass interference penalties that should never have been overturned. I get that the AAF wants to keep the flow of the game going as efficiently as possible, but there's also a balance of getting calls right.
What I love: Games like Orlando-San Antonio
Sunday's large human being touchdown. That was the vision of the AAF realized. Not every game is going to have that level of hype and drama, but if the product is really going to be as good as Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian have promised, then more will have to resemble it.between Orlando and San Antonio was all the things the AAF should be: high-scoring -- at least by comparison -- with momentum swings, standout individual performances and a raucous home crowd to boot. If you missed it, you missed the best game of the first two weeks (and maybe of the season). They even had a
What I don't love: All the dropped passes
Look, it would be foolhardy to expect a finished product after two weeks. It might be foolhardy to expect a finished product ever. This league is for player development and so you're going to get football that isn't as sharp as what you see in the NFL. However, the dropped passes have been frustrating -- almost infuriating, even. Birmingham has been, but by no means are they the only offender. Timing routes take, um, time to develop, but there have been a noticeable amount of yards and points left on the field.
What I love: Steve Spurrier back and as sharp as ever
Every sport needs a personality. Not a villain, per se, but someone to stir things up a bit. Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier is that person for the AAF, and thank the heavens he's here. The AAF is not the NFL. It doesn't need to be as buttoned up as the NFL. Putting microphones on players and coaches isn't new, but when you mic up Spurrier, good things are bound to happen.
What I don't love: Shaky quarterback play
The fact that the bottom four teams -- Atlanta, Memphis, Salt Lake City and San Diego -- are averaging fewer than 16 points per game isn't solely the fault of quarterback play. Most quarterbacks are as good as their protection allows them to be. However, it's no coincidence that the four aforementioned teams have question marks at quarterback -- which, fine, not everyone's going to have the next Kurt Warner. Injuries, as is the case with the Salt Lake Stallions, play a role, too. Moving forward, though, the AAF needs to take a long look at how it selects and develops quarterbacks. Maybe that means adjusting schemes to fit their talents; so much of what football runs flows upwards anyway. Or maybe that means finding ways to get true No. 2 guys in the NFL to come and get reps. It'll be one of the strongest offseason storylines for the interest in this league.
What I love: Social media presence
The AAF gets highlights out on Twitter pretty quickly and game clips are easy to find on YouTube. That makes digesting the most interesting parts of the game easy. The AAF app is also remarkable in that it allows fans to follow the action of the players on the field in real time (not a #sponsored blurb, I swear). In terms of covering its own games, the AAF is accessible with its content. That's a huge plus for a company that doesn't button itself up like some other pro leagues.
What I don't love: The lack of organized stats
The AAF finally has a team-by-team stats page on its website. It's helpful if you want to know raw data after the fact, but as a supposedly more tech-savvy football league, it's been a little slow getting real-time stats uploaded to a central, official location. All the stats are compiled after the games. Furthermore, while relying on sites like Pro Football Focus for advanced analytics is good, it'd be nice if the AAF had a similar service to help with matchup breakdowns and fantasy football. You can certainly find those numbers if you dig on your own, but that's a service that's missing.