Nineteen years after its debut, the XFL has finally returned to your television sets and the timing couldn't be better. Week 1 of the XFL 2020 starts this Saturday, Feb. 8 -- one week after Super Bowl LIV -- so you won't have to skip a beat if you find yourself already deprived of weekend football. It also returns one year after the Alliance of American Football, a pro football league that tried to fill the spring football space, came and went. The AAF was a tragic falling star, burning brightly momentarily before extinguishing due to financial and leadership instability. Still, for all its drama and shortcomings, the AAF provided real, actual football in a time when there normally isn't any.
Hopefully, the XFL will survive more than a season. Unlike the AAF, which tried to tether itself to the NFL as a D-League of sorts, the XFL is re-entering the marketplace as a stand-alone league. I'm a firm believer that, between niches like fantasy and betting, and the love for football, there's room for more than one pro football league.
Like the AAF, the XFL will have eight teams and play a 10-week schedule from Saturday, Feb. 8, to Sunday, April 12. The top two teams from the East and West divisions will play in their respective playoff games on April 18 and April 19 with the championship game being held on Sunday, April 26.
With kickoff less than a week away, here's everything you need to know to get ready.
People to know
Owner Vince McMahon: If you don't know who McMahon is by now, it's probably easier for you to head on over to Google and look for yourself. But the head honcho for WWE has been dipping his toes in the pro football pool for a while now. Some reading this know about his first XFL launch in 2001 alongside NBC producer Dick Ebersol. In ESPN's 30 for 30 "This was the XFL," McMahon openly implied he was thinking about rebooting the league with an official announcement coming in early 2018.
Commissioner Oliver Luck: The first order of business for McMahon was to make sure he didn't repeat the same mistake as the first XFL. This time, the XFL is much more about football. Enter Luck, who has a background in football as the former president of NFL Europe. He also was the athletic director at his alma mater, West Virginia, from 2010-14, and was the President/General Manager of the Houston Dynamo of the MLS. Luck, the father of retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, is in charge of making sure the XFL actually, you know, looks like a football league and not a branch of the WWE.
President Jeffrey Pollack: Named the league's President and Chief Operating Officer in 2019, Pollack previously spent time with the (then) San Diego Chargers as the franchise's Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and Special Advisor. He was also the former chairman of the Epic Poker League and the commissioner of the World Series of Poker. As president of the XFL, he'll be in charge of more business-related and marketing strategies for all eight teams as well as the big-picture planning to make the XFL sustainable long-term.
Head of Officiating Dean Blandino: You've seen him on FOX as a rules analyst and he was an officiating consultant for the AAF. Now, he's the guy who will help break down all the new rule changes for the XFL. Speaking of which ...
Key rules to know
Like the AAF, the XFL is tweaking the rules of traditional football to improve the pace and excitement of the game while helping to better protect the players. Here are the big rule changes to know.
Kickoffs: This is one of the biggest changes and they're intricate. They can be hard to explain and the entire breakdown can be found on the XFL's website. Basically, the kicker lines up at his own 30-yard line while the coverage team will line up at the receiving team's 35-yard line while the receiving team will line up at its own 30. Other than the kicker, no one else can move until the kick returner touches the ball. Still confused? Blandino explains it below in this visual, but the idea is to create more returns and minimize big hits.
Point after conversions: There will be no extra points. Instead, the offense will line up at either the 2-yard line, 5-yard line or 10-yard line. Successful conversions from those spots are worth one, two and three points, respectively. If the defense causes a turnover and returns the ball to the opponent's end zone, the resulting score is equal to the number of points the offense was attempting to score on its PAT.
Punting: Basically, a punting team can't kick a coffin corner, as any ball that goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line or through the end zone is considered a "Major" touchback. The ball would then be moved up to the 35-yard line. However, downing a deep punt in opponent territory will be harder, as a punting team's gunners cannot cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked, though they can move laterally. Defenders are also not allowed to cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
The double forward pass: This is illegal everywhere else in American football, but the XFL is allowing it. As long as the first forward pass is made behind the line of scrimmage, that team can throw a second forward pass provided it is also behind the line of scrimmage.
Overtime: The XFL will use five rounds in its overtime to determine a winner. Think shootouts in the NHL or penalty kicks in soccer. Each team will have an opportunity to score two points from the opponent's 5-yard line. If after five rounds both teams are still tied, overtime will move to a single sudden death style rounds until there is a winner.
- 25-second playclock
- Each team will have 2 one-minute timeouts per half
- There will be no coaches' challenges and all plays will be subject to review from the Replay Official.
- Catches will require only one foot to be in-bounds, like college football.
- 10-minute halftimes
The XFL'sbegins on Saturday, Feb. 8 between the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders at 2 p.m. ET at Audi Field in Washington on ABC. There will typically be two games every Saturday and Sunday on either the ABC/ESPN or FOX family of networks. The only time there will be three nights of football is in Week 10 when the Los Angeles Wildcats and Dallas Renegades play on Thursday, April 9. That will be followed by a game on Saturday, April 11, between Houston and Seattle, along with the final two games on Sunday, April 12.
Dallas Renegades (Schedule)
Stadium: Globe Life Park
Head Coach/General Manager: Bob Stoops
Players to know: RB Cameron Artis-Payne, DB Derron Smith, LB Ray Ray Davison, RB Lance Dunbar
DC Defenders (Schedule)
Stadium: Audi Field
Head Coach/General Manager: Pep Hamilton
Players to know: QB Cardale Jones, DB Matt Elam, RB Donell Pumphrey, RB Jhurell Pressley, WR Rashad Ross, DT Jay Bromley
Houston Roughnecks (Schedule)
Stadium: TDECU Stadium
Head Coach/General Manager: June Jones
Players to know: QB Connor Cook, LB DeMarquis Gates, DE Kony Ealy
Los Angeles Wildcats (Schedule)
Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park
Head Coach/General Manager: Winston Moss
Players to know: WR Nelson Spruce, OL Storm Norton, LB Tre Williams, TE Brandon Barnes, RB Elijah Hood
New York Guardians (Schedule)
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
Head Coach/General Manager: Kevin Gilbride
Players to know: WR Mekale McKay, CB Jamar Summers, RB Darius Victor, LB Ben Heeney
St. Louis Battlehawks (Schedule)
Stadium: The Dome
Head Coach/General Manager: Jonathan Hayes
Players to know: WR De'Mornay Pierson-El, LB Terence Garvin, DB Will Hill, CB Kenny Robinson
Seattle Dragons (Schedule)
Stadium: CenturyLink Field
Head Coach/General Manager: Jim Zorn
Players to know: QB Brandon Silvers, WR Keenan Reynolds, RB Kenneth Farrow, DT Will Sutton
Tampa Bay Vipers (Schedule)
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
Head Coach/General Manager: Marc Trestman
Players to know: QB Aaron Murray, WR Tanner McEvoy