As of this writing, with training camp underway, the prospect of a new XFL has me very excited. We all went through a pandemic that prematurely shut down our first attempt at the XFL season. Over the last couple of years, many have reevaluated what is truly important to them; many have lost friendships. Many things have changed, but one thing that has remained unaffected is my love of football. Whether going to Tallahassee to watch my Seminoles, watching SEC football, or playing fantasy football on Sundays, the love of football has been something that has kept some reality in uncertain times.
I look back fondly at the 2020 season, with some disappointment that we never received closure on the storylines that were taking place. That disappointment, however, is fading rapidly as the relaunch is a few short weeks away. As we look forward to the future, I want to take the following paragraphs to talk about the things that have me the most excited for the upcoming season.
Where will the new P.J. Walker come from?
Many fans of the 2020 season, myself included, remember P.J. Walker fondly. Many of the rosters had exciting potential, and there were many quarterbacks that we were excited to see on the field. Many thought an NFL-experienced Landry Jones would dominate this league. Cardale Jones dominated headlines, more because of his Ohio State legacy than anything. Others were excited to see Josh Johnson get the starting nod in his hometown. Imagine all of our surprise to see that halfway through the season, P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu were the talks of the town. When discussing and breaking down these rosters, these two guys were both big question marks heading into the season. What happened next was quite a shock.
Two weeks into the season, P.J. Walker was receiving comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. For those unfamiliar with his exploits, you can find them here. His elusiveness and ability to extend a play became second to none within the XFL. Jordan Ta’amu became a very effective quarterback in the most quarterback-friendly offense that season. The BattleHawks resembled modern-day San Francisco with their strong defense and running game. Jordan fit like a puzzle piece into that system. Which begs the question, what surprises await us this year? What player is going to come out of obscurity this season to command the respect of the entire league? Only time will tell for sure.
The St. Louis BattleHawks
Back in 2020, the first two weeks were amazing. Games were receiving higher-than-expected attendance numbers, and the ratings also topped expectations. I remember looking at attendance numbers in week 3 with disappointment as they were showing noticeable declines, but something sparked my interest. The St. Louis BattleHawks attendance numbers were not declining. On the contrary, stadium management was opening the upper deck to accommodate extra fans. One thing became apparent, St. Louis was behind their new football team.
The passionate fan base in St. Louis gave the BattleHawks the closest thing in this league to a 12th man, and it was fun to watch. Many would argue, including me, that St. Louis put the NFL on notice. BattleHawk fans showed their love of football, which was amazing to watch. Looking to 2023, I hope the same passion becomes infectious across the entire league.
The new presentation of the XFL
Anyone who watched an XFL game could sense a different feeling about it. Sidelines reporting has changed drastically. During XFL games, sideline announcers talked to players regarding the previous plays. The result was some really well-done interviews and more than a few uncomfortable interviews. Coaches and Coordinators were equipped with microphones, making those at home feel like part of the action.
Replay officials had microphones as well, allowing us to hear their rationale for the decisions that were about to be made. Fans watched with great enjoyment as this league gave us unprecedented access. A glimpse of the college football playoff coverage this past season has its roots in the XFL. You could watch the traditional broadcast, a sideline crew covering the game on the field. Each team also had its own live radio cast.
New XFL rule changes
Not only was the broadcast different, but so were the rules. Drastically altered kickoff rules were exciting to see. New regulations allowed for the potential of a double pass, and the extra point procedures made every post-touchdown play meaningful.
Looking forward to 2023, one big question to answer is how the XFL set a new standard for innovation.
This time, I want to see coaches more willing to take chances within the new regulations. In many discussions, it seemed coaches were content to call a more traditional football game, only going for 2 and 3 when they absolutely must, and none that I can remember taking advantage of the new double pass rules. How will a league that has already done a great job of immersion continue to innovate? What can we expect next? I genuinely look forward to finding out the answers.