What the NFL Can Learn From the XFL


The 2020 XFL season is officially over. According to an official press release, the startup league won’t finish their inaugural season due to the widespread Coronavirus. While the league ended sooner than anyone would have liked, the XFL gave fans plenty of exciting, fun, and memorable moments. The NFL should take note of some of the XFL’s best ideas and incorporate them into the highest level of professional football.

XFL Ideas That Would Improve the NFL

Sideline Interviews

The XFL brought fans up close and personal to the game in a way the NFL never could. After every series, camera crews would cut to the sideline and interview a player involved in the previous drive. Whether it was Matt McGloin trying to defend himself during an atrocious Week 2 performance or defenders celebrating after a big play, this broadcast style brought the fans closer to the game than ever before.

While the actual NFL players may not like this change, it would dramatically increase the excitement during the in-between moments of an NFL broadcast. These are real games being played by real people, and that added intimacy helps the fans gain a greater appreciation for the athletes they’re watching.

Spreads, Over/Under Information

Not every broadcast did this, but the XFL by and large incorporated gambling lines and spreads into each game. Whether you had money on the line or not, adding this bit of information made it each game more interesting to watch, especially when your favorite team wasn’t playing. The XFL had a few ugly games during their shortened season, and adding the over/under and spreads to the broadcast graphic gave fans a reason to keep the TV on instead of tuning in to a different channel.

The NFL used to have a strong outward stance against gambling, but that appears to no longer be the case. If the NFL fully embraces the gambling aspect of professional sports, it would make a 1PM matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars all the more interesting.

Kickoff Changes

The XFL kickoff wasn’t the most exciting play in sports, but it was certainly a step up from the NFL. Ever since the NFL started kicking off at the 25-yard line, kick returns in the NFL have been remarkably boring. The additional five yards allows coverage units to get further downfield and the shorter distance to the endzone leads to more touchbacks.

The XFL did what they could to address this problem in 2020. The startup league forced kickers to place the ball between the 20-yard line and the endzone, ensuring a return on each play. To minimize the chance of injury, the returning team lined up at the 30 while the coverage team lined up at the 35. This turned the kickoff into nothing more than a glorified running play, which cut down on high-speed collisions while still bringing the exciting possibility of a big return. To reiterate, this was far from the best part of the XFL. However, it’s still a notable step up from how the NFL does it.

XFL Transparency in the NFL

The NFL is notorious for bad calls with no accountability. Every season, there are a handful of terrible calls that dramatically turn the course of the game and can even have Super Bowl implications. Back in the 2018 postseason, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints should have proceeded to Super Bowl LIII if it weren’t for one of the most blatant missed calls in recent memory. Mistakes are going to happen – we’re all human, after all. However, ignoring bad calls and hoping the public forgets is a poor way to handle these situations.

The XFL had their own officiating blunder in the Roughnecks-Dragons game last Saturday. Nursing a nine-point lead with two seconds left, quarterback P.J. Walker took a knee on fourth down. Seattle should have gotten the ball back with a chance to score a touchdown and convert a three-point conversion. However, the refs erroneously ruled the game over, denying Seattle of a last-second chance at an improbable victory. Instead of staying quiet, the XFL released a statement acknowledging the mistake and re-assigned the officiating supervisor. The NFL would never do something like this, and the accountability was a breath of fresh air for the fans.

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