Can They Survive? 7 Keys to AAF & XFL Success
The NFL season is over, but if you turn on your TV, at least here in America, you might still see some intense football (American) action. The Alliance of American Football (AFL) quietly come onto the scene before reaching millions of people after several exciting games and a monstrous hit. We've seen many football leagues rise and fall quickly, and there's nothing to say that the AAF or the soon to return XFL will be a success. But they have to have a chance, right?Here are 7 things that I believe need to happen in order for the AAF and XFL to succeed. Before I jump into my points, let me clarify what I deem as "success." Since semi-professional leagues start and fold quickly, sucess for me is a 10+ year existence. That may not be comforting to the owners and investors in these leagues, but lasting 10 years would be a minor miracle for these leagues in my opinion. However, it's possible, and here's how.Poach TalentThere are other football leagues out there. In order to be successful, both leagues need to attract talented players away from other leagues, including semi-pro leagues, CFL, NCAA, and maybe even the NFL. Sure, the AAF will never poach a top player from an NFL team, but there could come a time when backup quartbacks and practice squad running backs decide to start for an AAF team instead of riding the bench to get their names known throughout the country and to attract a larger contract in the future.The Continued Decline or Collapse of the NCAAI'm open to the idea that other leagues don't need to fail in order for the AAF and XFL to succeed, but the collapse of college football would open the door for other leagues to succeed. You may be saying, "But Mikey, college football is doing just fine," and to some degree you would be right. However, college football has become less and less important to future NFL stars, as players have been leaving school early, skipping bowl games, and finding ways to avoid playing for free in college while protecting their future. We have also seen high school football decline and schools less likely to take on the risk of having a student get seriously injured or die on the field. If high-profile prospects start choosing to play in the AAF or XFL instead of college football, we could see a major shift in the sport.NFL Success for AlumniWhile any type of football will compete in some way with the NFL, they also need to piggyback off of its success -- partner in a way. One of the major stories from the once-failed XFL was a running back, Rod Smart, known as "He Hate Me." Smart broke through the NFL ranks and had a successful career. Scouts began to take it seriously and look for potential players to fill their franchise's roster.If an AAF player can make a name for himself in the league and then have success in the NFL, teams and fans will start paying attention to see what players from AAF teams could make an impact for their team.Capitalize Where the NFL Has Failed or Annoyed Their FansWhile I'm highly skeptical that it will work, the XFL is trying to capitalize on areas and within fan bases that the NFL has failed to appeal to. The XFL has been adament that no kneeling will be allowed in their league, attempting to rally former NFL fans who have sworn off the NFL for apparently being unpatriotic.Marketing is important for every professional sport, so exposing and correcting issues in the NFL could be a key to their survival.Deliver Something DifferentThe video of the massive QB sack above received a million views and thousands of comments in less than a day. Not only was the hit itself impressive, people were pleasantly surprised that not a single flag was thrown on the legal hit. This gives the audience something a little different than the NFL. The XFL is also known for shaking things up a bit. Their scramble for possession of the ball and mandatory kick returns drew NFL fans into the league because it was different. If you only try to copy the rules and style of the NFL, you're going to fail because you will never be able to compete with them head-to-head.Deepen Your PocketsStarting a professional or semi-professional sports league is a very expensive endeavor. It requires initial and ongoing investment until it's at a point (if it ever reaches that point) where the league is generating a surplus (profit). The AAF allegedly was already at-risk of shutting down before it even really got started. The new chairman of the league, Tom Dundon, invested $250M to avoid the new leagues financial troubles (alleged...but it certainly looks like the league was in trouble).Have Room to GrowIn Bwar's discussion of where the CFL went wrong, he mentions that the CFL missed opportunities to grow, including forming a partnership with the NFL and becoming a feeder league of sorts. The AAF must find ways to grow like the NFL has with television coverage, the NFL Draft, games in Europe and Mexico, etc. Looking for more on this subject? Check out @bwar's article on where the CFL went wrong here.I'd love to hear your thoughts on the two leagues and what they need to do to succeed. What do you think? Comment below.
The True Genius of the NFL (Super Bowl LIII brief recap)
About ten days after what many have considered to be the most boring Super Bowl in recent memory, much talk has been made about Brady getting his 6th ring, Gurley being completely obsolete (for reasons unknown) and McVay’s genius being stymied. But true students and fans of the game will know the truest take away from Super Bowl LIII is that the true genius of the NFL resides somewhere inside the hooded sweatshirt of Bill Belichick. Now, he may not have been wearing that trademark, self-cut short-sleeve sweatshirt, but he proved once again that he is one of the best, if not the best, coach of all time. And how has he done that? By doing the thing that every analyst who has ever covered the Patriots says he will: take away his opponent’s best offensive option. I refrained from saying player, because this Super Bowl was strange in the fact that the Rams didn’t use their best offensive player. I’m not going to speculate on any mysterious injuries or whatever might have kept Gurley out (especially because the Rams have been adamant about Gurley being healthy), but the Rams didn’t use their number one option. Plain and simple. Todd Gurley had his second straight All-Pro year, rushing for over 1200 yards, and had 17 touchdowns in 14 games. In order to have any shot in this game, the Rams needed to rely heavily on the run, given that they were the number three rushing offense in the league during the regular season. Now, CJ Anderson is no scrub. Prior to this year where he bounced around between teams, he rushed for over 1000 yards on a bad Denver team. And in the playoffs, he rushed for 167 yards in two games. But they needed Gurley to be that All-Pro. And the glimpses of him on the sideline, watching as his team struggled to gain any momentum on offense, was difficult to watch. For all the brilliance of McVay’s offensive mind, he looked like a middle schooler that wandered into a calculus class. Yet, through all the dilemmas of the Rams offense, it really comes back to Belichick and the Patriots defense. Gurley or not, the emphasis for the Patriots was twofold: stop the run, and pressure Goff. That might sound obvious and creating a game-plan is easy to do from the locker room, but executing that game-plan in the biggest game of the year, maybe even these players’ lives, is a completely different animal. As for the carrying out of the game-plan, the undeniable presence of the Patriots’ defensive line was impressive to watch. Overall, the Patriots held the Rams to 62 yards on 3.4 yards per carry. And even more impressive, when the Rams tried to run to the left, where Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn reside, they only gained 18 yards. Speaking of Clayborn, he was a wrecking ball in the pass game too, with an average separation from the quarterback of 3.62 yards (league average is 4.49 yards). Continuing with the second part of their game-plan, my MVP Donta Hightower made Goff’s life a nightmare, with 2 sacks and an average of 3.93 yards from the quarterback. Goff was obviously confused on most drop-backs by the consistent pressure Belichick was able to get from his defense. There was one singular play which was a living embodiment of how Belichick’s defense completely took control of the game: Duron Harmon on a blitz made a beeline into Goff’s chest, which led to a Stephon Gilmore interception. This game was not pretty for the fans. It wasn’t the flashy performance of gunslinging offense that the NFL has promoted. But it was a perfect example of the Belichick way. He is going to beat you by taking away what you do best and force you to adapt. In McVay’s case, he may be a genius but…well let’s just say he’s no Doug Pederson. If you enjoyed this, have any suggestions or any topics you'd like to hear my thoughts on, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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