Week 4 may have been the most historical for the XFL yet. Crowds showed out in significant numbers including in St. Louis and an uptick in Seattle. One team’s offense soared to new heights (Houston) while others bottomed out (Arlington, San Antonio).
Three franchises remained unbeaten at home going back to 2020 (Houston, DC and St. Louis). The established franchises are leaving the league’s new additions in the dust as the season approaches the midway point.
“The Battledome” is Back in Historic Fashion
Anticipation had been building for 1,107 days. That’s the last time the St. Louis Battlehawks played a match in their thunderous home stadium. Through all of the waiting and speculating as to whether St. Louis’ beloved Battlehawks would even return in this iteration of the XFL, the fans showed out in force, and then some. Sunday’s match-up against the Arlington Renegades saw a collective 38,310 ruckus people welcome back their Battlehawks in a 24-11 win over the Arlington Renegades.
This sets an XFL single game attendance record and is the biggest Spring pro football league crowd in the 21st century. It is seminal moment not only for the league, but for alternative pro football as a whole. St Louis, scarred by its precious Rams being snatched from their city, are making it known that the sport can still achieve support in The Gateway City.
Houston Has Lift Off
The Houston Roughnecks are getting so used to winning that they have to come up with new ways of scoring. On Saturday night they did just that with a spectacular double-forward pass from Jontre Kirklin to Deontay Burnett. While double-passes had occurred in 2020, this was the first instance of one going for a touchdown in the XFL. The USFL adopted the rule in 2022 and was also able to put it to great effect.
Roughnecks offensive coordinator AJ Smith stated later on Twitter that he named it the “Mike Leach” play in honor of his former teacher, and to his delight it worked to perfection. The play was part of a 44 point outburst, which is a league record dating back to 2001. More significantly in the present, the team scored on multiple possessions in the second half, something they had struggled to do at home. While their opponents’ records (including the Guardians twice) are a combined 3-9, Houston has performed as expected and sit atop the XFL’s hierarchy.
Relocation Franchises Stuck in Reverse
When the XFL was in the relaunch phase, new ownership wanted to not only place teams in markets that would thrive, but also reflect the attributes of its majority shareholders. Dany Garcia had Orlando as her hometown destination. Dwayne Johnson had his personal mascot of a Brahma represent San Antonio. Gerry Cardinale received a Las Vegas franchise out of his affinity for the city and its potential for increasing value in the league.
On paper, all of the relocated franchises seemed to be placed in markets that would draw decent if not good support. While the buy-in from local engagement have varied, the on-field product so far has been a disaster.
The new franchises are a combined 1-11 in the first four weeks of play. Whether it be inconsistent offensive play, coaching misalignment, or bad luck, all three of these franchises handpicked by ownership are falling behind the established brands. The comedy of errors for all of these teams have resulted in a miserable beginning to their franchises and their first-time head coaches.
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