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Impressions Week 1 XFL: The Good, The Great and The Not So Bad

@MMXFLWriter

The ratings for the XFL’s opening games are coming in and will be updated here at XFL News Hub. The XFL’s debut game on ABC between the DC Defenders and Seattle Dragons on Saturday Afternoon averaged 3.3 million viewers, with a peak viewership at the end of the game of 4 million viewers.(4:45pm to 5pm ET)

It’s worth noting how strong the ratings were in the state of Ohio. (Cleveland 4.6, Columbus 4.5). No shocker there with former Ohio State National Championship Quarterback Cardale Jones as the main draw for the game itself.

The league’s attendance figures were also respectable;

DC: 17,163

HOU: 17,815

NY: 17, 634

DAL: 17,206

XFL CEO Oliver Luck mentioned in several interviews, before this past weekend, that the XFL’s projected attendance average for the season was in the teens. The league will initially suffer for the sins of the AAF and the original XFL. Expecting fans to trust a new football league sight unseen is no simple task. Asking the public to put down their hard-earned money to watch a league they have never seen before, will have to be earned.

There’s no denying that the XFL exceeded expectations this past weekend. The die-hard supporters and followers of the league had high hopes based on all the positive signs shown by the league in the two-year buildup.

The truth is that the majority of the rest of the football viewing population, either had the XFL on complete ignore mode or were mostly dismissive. The biggest victory by the XFL this past weekend was the overwhelming shock that turned many skeptics into true believers in one fell swoop.

XFL2020 has a chance to build their league on word of mouth. I think week one was great in selling the fact that the players are good, and the league is worth watching on TV and in person. Usually, these leagues have the reverse effect. They garner some early interest and then the novelty wears off. Judging by week one, the XFL looks like it can only get better.

The XFL is already a good football league and it’s only just begun. There was a realistic expectation that these brand new eight teams would come out the gate sluggish. The level of play in the XFL exceeded expectations from even some of the league’s harshest critics.

The difference can be seen in the quarterback play, specifically from two players who were on NFL rosters at the start of the 2019 NFL season in P.J. Walker (Houston) and Cardale Jones (DC). Two of the league’s better quarterbacks, Landry Jones and Josh Johnson didn’t play in week one. So the level of play at the position should go up as the season goes along.

The overall presentation and rules laid out were fun and innovative. Kudos to the XFL’s Director of Football Operations, Sam Schwartzstein, and the entire XFL football operations department. The entire crew worked meticulously on every single rule and feature from the kickoff to the year-long process of making the league’s football.

This wasn’t 2001. A league just thrown together with crazy marketing and tons of style. The 2020 XFL is all about substance. It showed this weekend. The TV presentation was great. The announcers had some hiccups in a few instances but overall had genuine enthusiasm and respect for the quality of the players. Even someone like Steve Levy, who seemed like a partial believer going in, seemed genuinely excited by the concepts and quality of the league’s play. The league that seemed like a joke to some, maybe even those who were working the games, is far from that.

There were some things that could be critiqued overall. The games didn’t exactly fit under that magical 3-hour window, that has been promised. Perhaps eliminating the ten minute pre-game set up before the game could be an option. Some of the interviews and access to the players seemed excessive and provided some hilarity, like the Dragons Dillon Day’s F-bomb heard round the world, but the sideline access provided genuine moments like Nick Holley explaining why he is still playing after two torn ACL’s and a broken back. There was also an excellent sequence with Defenders kicker Ty Rausa, who shanked a short field goal, and was immediately put on the spot for it, only to redeem himself later with a 55 yard field goal at the end of the half.

The best ‘inside’ football moment came during DC’s reverse flea-flicker TD to Tight End Khari Lee. It was revealed that the play-call was something that Coach Pep Hamilton and Cardale Jones did not have confidence in because of Lee’s failings to execute it in practice.

The sequence breaking it all down was terrific sports television. ESPN’s Tom Luginbill did a masterful job on the sidelines Saturday. Taking the viewer into the mindset of the coaching, the plays and adding some humor as well in several instances.

The one knock, I have against the league is really not about the presentation of the football itself. There’s never been a doubt in mind that there are hundreds of quality football players out there, that are capable of being good football players.

I loved the background given for each player, particularly their college and NFL resumes. My overall issue was the message that was sent repeatedly during broadcasts that the players are playing in the XFL to get back into the NFL. This is something that the AAF did as well in their broadcasts. It cheapens the league that they are currently playing in.

The theme is that these leagues only exist for the NFL. A testing ground for players and rules. The XFL has to be a quality standalone pro football league first, and if the by-product is that the NFL copies what they are doing, or that the big league goes after the players that the XFL scouted and uncovered, So be it.

It goes without saying that every football player’s goal is to play in the biggest sports league on the planet but instead of harping on the fact that Nick Holley wants to play in the XFL just to get into the NFL. The message should be exactly the one that Nick gave on the sidelines. He is happy to be in the XFL because he wants to play pro football. That’s what he is doing right now in the XFL.

I'm a lifelong football fan. A credentialed reporter and writer as well. Despite being an ardent College and NFL fan for over three decades. I've also covered and followed alternative football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Robin Ray

    February 10, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    The XFL can do without broadcasting the coaches’ and coordinators’ play calls, though. Not only are they distracting to the average viewer but no one understands their coded verbiage except the players on the field.

    • Doug

      February 10, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      I agree with that. I don’t need the live play calls.

  2. Brad

    February 10, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I would agree with the last comment and also I hope the players start thinking this could be better then the NFL

  3. --Mike White--

    February 10, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Although I can see what you guys are saying, I partially disagree.
    Being a Coach myself…I pick up on most of the call verbiage and its cool to hear what they are running. Then see how it plays out on the field.

    To make it more practical and enjoyable… Perhaps there could be some explanation on the call so people understand more. Just a thought.

  4. Keith

    February 10, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    COMPLETELY agree that it cheapens the XFL to present it as a steppingstone to the NFL. If they take that approach, the XFL will die. It needs to be its own football entity. Doesn’t have to be NFL level out of the gate, or maybe ever, but it does have to be stand-alone, self-sufficient, compelling, engaging and fun. I thought the first week was great, will be back for more…

  5. Know more me too

    February 10, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    I was actually truly impressed with the overall quality of football being played.

  6. Coach Zo (Northeast Raiders)

    February 11, 2020 at 3:15 am

    The broadcasting of the play call helps a create a unique identity for the XFL. Much in the same way of the player interviews. I agree that consistently mentioning that the players are working their way to the NFL was very corny. Vince McMahon is a billionaire and America was birthed in competition. Imagine a world with only McDonald’s as a fast food burger option! Sure some of you love the idea…but many cannot stand it, lol.

    The NFL has had it’s fair share of issues and controversy that definitely opens the gate for alternatives! Regardless it will remain a staple. However, the XFL can be great in itself. Thus far, there are some players who are representing the league well!

  7. mfreeman225

    February 11, 2020 at 4:26 am

    I hate the live play calls and interviews. just give me football and shut up

  8. Chazz Lawrence

    February 12, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Excellent article. And your one Knock was very insightful of you as well. I agree that most (if not all) of the XFL players would like to play in the NFL, but the fact is that right now they are in the XFL doing what they love. Be thankful to be playing football in the XFL and build your league up as a stand-alone league, and if the NFL eventually comes calling, great. I am completely hoping that the XFL succeeds long-term, because I would much rather watch three more months of football than anything else going on at this time of year. I believe that the way they built the XFL, it has the best chance to succeed of any of the past Spring Leagues in my opinion. LONG LIVE THE XFL!

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