What the NFL can learn from the XFL’s style of football

Feb 11, 2020, 9:37 AM | Updated: 11:16 am

XFL Seattle Dragons...

The XFL had a great debut, with the Seattle Dragons' game bringing in 3.3 million viewers. (Getty)


The second installment of the XFL kicked off this past weekends and was a resounding success.

Moore: Dragons lose opener, but XFL wins over football fans in Week 1

Per ESPN, the first game of the season between the Seattle Dragons and the D.C. Defenders averaged 3.3 million viewers. The matchup of the St. Louis Battlehawks and the Dallas Renegades averaged 2.495 million.

Not only did the on field product surprise many with its quality, but several aspects of how games operated got people talking on social media, including to the point of questioning whether the NFL should adopt anything from the XFL in the near future.

Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy said there were two key features she thinks the NFL could look at adding.

“I like the new kickoff rule,” she said. “I think it deincentivizes touchbacks and just makes it more safe.”

On kickoffs in the NFL, the kicker kicks the ball from their own 35-yard line to the opposing field. Players on kickoff coverage line up at the 35 and can run downfield when the ball is kicked.

In the XFL, kickers kick from the 30, and players on coverage line up at the opposite 35-yard line while the return team’s blockers are at the 30, just 5 yards away. Coverage players can’t advance downfield until the ball is caught.

“I don’t think the NFL is going to quickly adopt any of these rules, but that was one I really liked,” Rost said.

Another key talking point was how the XFL’s officials handled replay reviews.

Both the lead official and the replay official have microphones that the TV networks have access to and you can hear the two talk through the call.

“I just think this would be a fascinating addition to the NFL,” Rost said.

An example of where that would have come in handy in the NFL was in Week 17 when the Seahawks played the 49ers, when a late play that many thought should have been pass interference wasn’t reviewed by officials on the field.

After the game, reporters learned that the league office in New York did review the play, but told officials on the field that there shouldn’t have been a flag and to continue the game. That meant and fans who were watching, listening or were in attendance had no idea unless they saw the league’s answer on social media well after the game concluded.

The process for just getting the NFL’s statement seemingly wasn’t the most transparent.

“We had to send a pool reporter from the media room over to talk to (NFL head of officiating) Al Riveron and we got this big, long statement back,” Rost said. “It was just this huge ordeal to try and just to get feedback on what they saw, and of course no one agreed with it. I think the more transparent you can make these reviews, even if people don’t agree with it, being able to see the process of that judge overlooking everything would be fascinating.”

Can the XFL keep it going?

The best football players in the world are in the NFL. But is the drop-off that big to the XFL?

Jake Heaps said after watching the first weekend of the XFL, he thinks the talent is there, but there’s one key issue that needs fixed.

“I think they have the talent, but overall, they have to continue to clean up the play,” Heaps said. “It was sloppy at different points and I think that’s expected in Week 1.”

Heaps also expects the audience level to stay high heading into the league’s second week.

“There was enough intrigue by the rules and everything else to keep everybody back for Week 2,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to see how the viewership continues to go throughout the rest of the season.”

The Seattle Dragons have their home opener this Saturday at 2 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Vipers. The game will be broadcast on FOX.

Listen to the conversation at this link or in the player below.

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