The 2020 XFL season debuted this weekend to encouraging ratings and warm public reception. Names from the past lined up aside lesser known college players for what has widely been regarded as good quality football. But the XFL didn't just pump the professional debut of quarterback Phillip "PJ" Walker into millions, they also showed off rules that make their game differ from the NFL.
And many were an improvement.
Vince McMahon has always had a knack for satisfying the public's appetite when it comes to sports entertainment, but who would have thought his football league would not only do everything in it's power to promote a more exciting game, but also, a safer one.
Safety is the biggest topic in football right now, so any methods that improve that aspect of the game are open for widespread adoption. Here are the XFL rules that might have the governing bodies behind college, high school and youth football re-considering the way they play ball.
A few years ago the NFL tried to limit the injuries incurred on kickoffs by moving the kicking team up to the 35 yard line. This encouraged more touchbacks and fewer returns. It seems the NFL has tried to reduce the risk of kickoff related injuries by reducing kick returns in general.
The XFL has taken a different approach, which aims to keep the amount of kick returns while making the game safer.
The kicker kicks off from his own team's 30 yard line, the spot the NFL used to kick from, but his team does not line up next time him like they do in the NFL. Instead, the kicking team and returning team forms two opposing lines on the returning team's side of the field, the kick coverage team on the 35 and the return team on their own 30. Only the kicker is allowed to move before the returner catches the ball. Once he does catch it, both lines engage one another from five feet away and the kick return continues as usual.
Lessening the distance between the coverage guys and returner and his blockers is meant to reduce the speed of impact on kick returns and make the game safer. You certainly notice the different in the speed of these plays, but in the long run that sacrifice might be worth it. The way that the NFL was heading the kickoffs might have been reduced out of the game completely. Eric LeGrand, former Rutgers player was paralyzed on a kick return, but still endorsed them strongly as a critical part of the game and an avenue for football players who don't start on offense and defense to continue to make a living in his interview on The Spotlight Podcast.
The NFL has also created several rules intended to spice up the game including the ability to attempt two forward passes on a play and the the placement of touchbacks at the 35 yard line on punts. The punting rule is meant to entice teams to go for it on more fourth downs, which were certainly add excitement to the game, but the jury is still out of whether it will devalue punters too much.
The overtime rules in the XFL are a complete overhaul of what you see in an NFL game. In XFL's overtime each team gets five attempts to score from the other team's five yard line. At the end of overtime the team who has converted more attempts into scores wins.
Penalties in this overtime format have huge implications as well. If a team commits an offensive penalty before the snap the ball is moved back the distance customary for that penalty (false start = five yards, etc.). If the offense commits a penalty after the snap that play counts as an unsuccessful attempt with no redo.
This overtime format provides a more traditional football approach and puts the game in the hands of the players whose performance effects the majority of the game anyway, but kickers can't be happy to be relegated to cheerleaders in these situations. There's also something to be said for the amount of suspense that comes from a team lining up for a game winning field goal. That level of tension isn't necessarily equally replaced by the XFL format.
The XFL again attempts to reward the bold with their game clock rules for plays occurring inside of two minutes. The XFL deems the final two minute of each half a "comeback period," where the clock not only stops for all plays that end out of bounds, but also for plays the end in bounds. For plays that end in bounds the clock will stop until the ball is spotted and only five seconds have run off the game clock. This rules opens up the field for the offense to attempts more passes over the middle of the field, particularly deep passes where the offense typically fears wasting too much time getting down the field with the clock still running.
Only time will tell if these rules are received well over the course of an entire season, but particularly where safety is concerned football has been keeping an open mind in the pursuit of progress. What do you think of the XFL rules? Do you want to see them adopted at other levels of football? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think.
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