Sunday, October 7, 2018
Are you tired of watching NFL games where penalties seemingly are called on every other play?
Are you tired of NFL games that stretch for hours with even more replays and TV timeouts?
Are you really, really tired of flags being thrown on textbook tackles that can change the outcome of a game?
I side with Clay Matthews, who said the NFL has gotten so soft to the point of absurdity with its emphasis this season on roughing-the-passer penalties that protect quarterbacks like a baby in a crib. I’m sure Green Bay fans would agree with Matthews after a roughing-the-passer penalty against him likely cost the Packers a victory against Minnesota.
“I have been playing this game for over 20 years,” Matthews told reporters after being penalized a second time in a game for a sack against Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. “That’s how you tackle.”
Fans, coaches and players have a right to be upset with the NFL, which appears to be imploding with new interpretations of basic rules and the controversy involving players who take a knee during the national anthem. Fans who are frustrated with the NFL’s apparent effort to turn tackle football into flag football may soon have other options.
The XFL is coming in 2020, and the Alliance of American Football will kick off in February 2019, a week after the Super Bowl. No one is suggesting the two leagues will match the NFL in terms of talent, but different rules and a change of pace could make the games more enjoyable to watch.
The Alliance of American Football promises to do away with TV timeouts, and its telecasts on CBS will have 60 percent fewer commercials than for NFL games. In addition, teams in the AAF must attempt two-point conversions after touchdowns, the play clock will be 10 seconds shorter than the NFL, and coaches will be allowed only two challenges per team. No replays.
Former NFL executive Bill Polian, who co-founded the AAF with Charlie Ebersol, is confident in the survival of the new league when so many other professional football start-ups have failed.
“Many of the other leagues have either been underfunded or undermanned in terms of real professional people to run it,” said Polian, who added the length of games in the AAF will be targeted at 2½ hours. “In this case, we think we have both (covered). We have the funding and we’ve got the people. Our investors are in it for the long run.”
The eight AAF franchises include the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Orlando Appollos, Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake City Stallions, San Antonio Commander, and the San Diego Fleet. The AAF has some strong financial backers and notable coaches like Mike Singletary (Memphis Express), Steve Spurrier (Orlando) and Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake City).
“This is a brand of football you’re going to enjoy,” said Singletary, the former Chicago Bears linebacker who is now in the NFL Hall of Fame. “We’re going to play fast and we’re going to play tough.”
Singletary will go to training camp in January with a roster that includes four former Razorbacks — quarterback Austin Allen, wide receiver Javnotee Herndon, linebacker Dwayne Eugene, and defensive end JaMichael Winston. Players who make the roster for each team will be given three-year contracts worth $250,000 each.
No one is suggesting the AAF or XFL will equal or surpass the NFL as a top attraction in professional sports. Both could fold quickly or survive as a developmental league for the NFL. But success by either league could serve as a wakeup call for NFL decision-makers who’ve drifted far from the basics and made the current game harder to watch.
Hopefully, the new leagues will mark a return to real football for real fans, and without all of the nonsense that’s hurting the NFL.
Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.
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