For the love of football. This is the creed in which the reborn XFL lives by. Far less extreme for extreme sake and more polished than its 2001 iteration, the XFL finally began their first (ish) season last weekend. I spent my weekend absorbing the re-imagined league.
The first thing that jumped off the screen and caught the attention of curious viewers everywhere, were the kickoffs. The revolutionized kickoff rule set social media ablaze. Everyone seemed to love the kickoff, despite some skepticism from people before even seeing how it would look in real time. This new kickoff rule produced a 90 percent return rate and, to this point, seems to be much safer than the traditional kickoffs we see in the NFL. (Time will tell though. It’s only Week 1.)
Once the scoring began in the first (ish) game of the new XFL, between the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders, the point-after touchdown was the next exciting revolution from the new (ish) league. No kicks. (Traditionalists are gasping.) Teams must run an offensive play from the 2, 5, or 10-yard line, for 1, 2, or 3 points respectively. This rule really didn’t play a big factor in any of the four games this weekend, but I have a feeling it will later in the season.
The Houston Roughnecks put up 37 points against the LA Wildcats, which lead to Wildcats defensive coordinator, Pepper Johnson’s, firing. (No, they don’t waste time.) This was a good performance, but it wasn’t the best for me. That honor goes to the DC Defenders this week. Quarterback Cardale Jones seems to be quickly developing chemistry with his receivers, hitting big play after big play. DC’s defense came up with points of their own, with multiple pick-6’s. It was an impressive performance all around.
The DC Defenders were able to score points with their defense. It’s hard for me to put another defensive performance from the weekend over this one, but there was another one that caught my eye. The New York Guardians turned in a stout performance. The Guardians tallied 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and only gave up 3 points in their 20-point victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers. Tough.
Overall, it was a great opening weekend for the XFL. The production, presentation and on the field product was phenomenal. Following this league from it’s first version, to the announcement of its return, to the meetings, study sessions, testing and finally opening weekend, has been quite the journey. It’s not the NFL and they aren’t pretending to be. They are in their own lane and people are enjoying it. A good product, is a good product. Period.