Everything you need to know about the Alliance of American Football league
Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots brought the end to the NFL’s 2018 season, but this weekend marks the beginning of another, alternate professional football league: Alliance of American Football.
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is one of two new professional leagues that was announced in early 2018, the other being the return of Vince McMahon’s XFL. While the XFL is set to kickoff in 2020, the AAF will commence play for its inaugural season on Feb. 9.
Will it rival the NFL? Nope. Will play continue beyond the 2019 season? No clue. But for sports fans looking to scratch their football itch, it might be a product worth watching.
Here’s a quick primer on the league and its rules, coaches and key players:
What is the Alliance of American Football?
Co-founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, the Alliance of American Football will act an alternative professional football league to the NFL. It won’t work quite the same – there are significantly fewer teams, different rules, a 12-week season, and the player pool is made up of NFL athletes who have been cut, former CFL players, and undrafted college players.
Unlike the United States Football League (USFL) of the 1980s, the AAF isn’t meant to compete with the NFL – at least not directly. Instead, it’s meant to offer a form of televised football with a fantasy league option during the NFL’s offseason, and paid opportunities for athletes who find themselves out of the NFL.
“Our objective is to take some of those people who can’t quite make it and make them into quality NFL players,” Polian told ESPN in August.
How many teams are there?
There are eight teams between two conferences. The Western Conference houses four teams: the Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, and San Diego Fleet. The four teams making up the Eastern Conference will be the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, and Orlando Apollos.
Are the rules the same as the NFL?
The AAF will look like a typical football game, but with a few notable rule changes. For example, games will feature:
• A shorter play clock. The play clock will be 30 seconds, compared to the NFL’s 40-second play clock.
• No extra-point kicks. All teams must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.
• No kickoff and no onside kick. Instead of receiving a kickoff, teams will start from their own 25-yard line. In lieu of an onside kick, a team will have the option to convert a fourth-and-10 play from their own-35.
What are some names you might recognize?
Each team will carry a roster of 50 players, and a many names will be familiar to NCAA and NFL fans. That includes former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (Atlanta Legends), former Washington Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson (San Diego Fleet), former Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Memphis Express), former Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger (Memphis Express), former Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight (Arizona Hotshots), and former NFL running backs Matt Asiata (Salt Lake Stallions), Trent Richardson (Birmingham Iron), and Zac Stacy (Memphis Express).
A few former NFL stars will be involved in coaching, advisory, and executive roles. Former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will serve as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Legends, former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward will act as Player Relations Executive, and former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu will be Head of Player Relations.
Head coaches will be Kevin Coyle (Atlanta), Tim Lewis (Birmingham), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona), Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake), Mike Riley (San Antonio), Mike Martz (San Diego).
There will also be a few players with local ties, including former Washington Huskies running back Bishop Sankey (San Diego Fleet), quarterback Keith Price (San Diego Fleet), and linebackers Azeem Victor (Orlando Apollos) and Travis Feeney (San Diego Fleet).
Former Seahawks include tackle Terry Poole (San Diego Fleet), linebacker Eric Pinkins (San Diego Fleet), quarterback B.J. Daniels (Salt Lake Stallions), long snapper Tanner Carew (Salt Lake Stallions), linebacker Jacob Pugh (Orlando Apollos), linebacker Terence Garvin (Orlando Apollos), center Patrick Lewis (Arizona hotshots) and cornerback Trovon Reed (Birmingham Iron).
Will there be any relationship between the AAF and the NFL?
There’s no established partnership or relationship, but for NFL front offices, the new professional league offers one interesting perk: the chance to re-evaluate talent.
“We’re all kinds of excited about it,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of the AAF in 2018. “We’re going to take it in and do the evaluations where they allow us to, when we can see them and all that. We’ll do all the film work. We’ll do everything. We’ll break all those guys down. We’ll just take it as (another) whole aspect of a feeding system to give us information. The only way we know how to do it is totally go for it, so we’re going to really embrace the whole setup.
“It’s an exciting venture, as always, and we think it’s necessary,” Carroll continued. “We think it’s a necessary opportunity that’s been created and we’re really excited to see what it turns out (to be). We’re going to learn stuff. We’ll learn a lot about these guys, and some of these guys are going to play. I think it’s great. I hope it works out.”