Thursday, October 1, 2020

XFL: 3 things the NFL can learn from brilliant new league

It may still be very early days for the XFL, but already players, pundits and fans alike are seeing the benefits to some of the new rules and technologies. Here’s what we think the NFL could learn from so far:

XFL Keep kick-offs tidy

One of the most exciting plays in professional sports is a pro football kickoff. High speed collisions, long distances and the potential for huge kick-off returns means fans are always on the edge of their seats once the ball leaves the kickers foot. 

However, recent adjustments to the NFL’s rules means that some of the excitement has been lost. Of course player safety should be top priority, but when kick-offs begin to lose their tactical purpose and mostly end in touchbacks, it can really suck the energy out of the game. All be it with a few exceptions, kick-offs in the NFL have seen better days.

Last year the AAF got rid of kick-offs all together. This year the XFL seems to have found a perfect balance. Teams line up with only 5 yards between them, which eliminates the high speed collisions that cause most injuries. This still allows for teams to block and create gaps for big returns. Kickers also incur heavy penalties for kicking short of the 20 yard line or out of bounds.

Be transparent

In recent years, one of the big problems in the NFL has been its officiating. Some would agree that it’s not even a recent problem – just ask Raiders fans about the tuck rule.

Officials and replays once again took centre stage last year after the NFC Championship game. Referees failed to call a blatant defensive pass interference. A penalty that would have arguably changed the momentum of the game. This led to a number of changes regarding replays and the coaches ability to challenge certain rulings on the field.

The main reason behind most of this controversy is the lack of officiating transparency in the NFL. Even if a coach challenges a decision, the reasoning behind whether it is overturned or not is not always immediately shared. Leading some to believe that officials are struggling to recognise penalties, or even in collusion with one of the teams. 

The XFL has made sure situations like these don’t arise as often, by being completely transparent with their officiating. Referees and video officials are mic-ed, and their conversations regarding reviews, and subsequent decisions, are broadcast openly. This gives a clear narrative as to why certain decisions are reached, allowing everyone to see just how thorough the XFL officials are being. 

Be inclusive

Inclusive is not normally a word used to describe the NFL. Nowadays players of all races are seen taking the field, but you’d be surprised at how long it took before this became the case. The same can be said for including different genders and sexualities. 

Sarah Thomas made history in 2015 by becoming the first female official to be signed full time by the NFL. This sounds like a big step for the league, but considering it turned 100 this year, that’s fairly slow progress to say the least.

To combat this issue, the XFL have made it mandatory for every officiating team to have at least one female on board. Although this is still a far cry from the inclusivity that’s possible, it’s a step in the right direction for professional football, and certainly one that the NFL can learn from. 

Sarah Thomas, NFL's first ever female official! The XFL have one on every officiating team.
The NFLs first female official, Sarah Thomas

It’s still very early days for the XFL, but already we’re seeing ways that the NFL can gain from its existence. Different rules and new technologies that are being tried and tested throughout the spring, could easily make their way into the National Football League. Especially now that coaches and owners can see their benefits firsthand. 

For more on the XFL and NFL, click here

Adam Pettit
NFL and XFL writer. All round American Football enthusiast.

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