The Alliance. Another Gimmick or a Real Contender?

Most football fans over the age of 25 remember the original XFL. For those who don’t, it was a failed gimmick put together on the fly by WWE head honcho Vince McMahon. This gimmicky “Extreme” version of professional football lasted all of one season and was mercifully put to death afterward. It featured players who weren’t talented enough to make a practice squad in the NFL, coaches who had no business being head coaches and “comical” at best team names as well as player nick-names on the back of the jerseys. It wasn’t all bad though. You can thank the XFL for the way we view football on TV today, as it featured the sky cam as well as putting microphones on the field on players.

Credit: Memphis Express

Now, 18 years after the XFL made a mockery of professional football a new league will kick off its inaugural season. The Saturday following what has been known for years as the “Saddest Sunday in America” the Alliance of American Football will attempt to stake its claim to the hearts and dollars of football fans nationwide. For 12 weeks eight teams, featuring many familiar names, will battle for glory on the gridiron.

The Atlanta Legends, coached by Kevin Coyle and Offensive Coordinator Michael Vick. The Birmingham Iron forged with Head Coach Tim Lewis. The Arizona Hot-Shots follow head man Rick Neuheisel. Memphis Express and Mike Singletary. The Orlando Apollos guided by the Head Ball Coach himself Steve Spurrier. The San Antonio Commanders under command by Mike Riley. The San Diego Fleet with Mike Martz at the helm. The Salt Lake Stallions ride in with Dennis Erickson. Not a bad bunch of guys to start a league with.

CEO and Co-Founder Charlie Ebersol met with Co-Founder/Head of Football Bill Polian, and together they came up with a staff of some very highly respected and intelligent football minds. J.K. McKay, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Dick Ebersol, Justin Tuck, and Jared Allen, to name a few, have put together what looks to be a league that is geared for success. Success by their definition though seems to differ slightly from that of the NFL. Player safety and fan involvement have been put ahead of marketing. Post football vocations are a real goal of the league outside of just what a man gives while playing.

This will be a single entity league meaning all the teams are league owned. Starter (yes the Wal-Mart Starter) will be providing “state of the art” uniforms and protective gear for all teams. A large focal point in the creation and two and a half year development of the AAF has been player safety and putting the player in position to succeed after football. Players will be provided a comprehensive bonus system as well as post-football career planning. There will be counseling available with players receiving a year-long scholarship for vocational training with each year they play in the league.

Credit: AAF

As for the fan aspect, the league has a free app set to release across multiple platforms sometime in early February. The app will feature live streaming of each tilt as well as a custom integrated fantasy option featuring real rewards for the fans and players alike. In multiple interviews, Charlie Ebersol has quoted his father Dick saying ” A good story should be given out in small pieces.” He may be taking his father’s words just a bit too literally though. Information about the league and advertising of the brand has been extremely limited. With the start of the inaugural season just a week away there are too many people still unaware of the new guy in town.

With a deal now finalized by the AAF to broadcast games by Turner as well as CBS Sports Network and the NFL network games will be easily accessible to fans everywhere. CBS will have coverage of the opening day games Saturday, Feb. 9. The Sunday games may be viewed on CBS Sports Network and Bleacher Report-Live. After what many fans felt was a less than entertaining Superbowl, the prime opportunity is at hand for the Alliance to seize incredible fan support.

2019 schedule
Credit: AAF

There are some major rule differences between the NFL and AAF as well. There are no kickoffs. Most concussions reported in the NFL occur on kickoffs, so the AAF has done away with them. Teams will start drives from their 25-yard line. Onside kicks? Nope, they are gone too. If you want to keep the ball after a scoring drive, then gain 10 yards in one play from your own 35. This isn’t a kicker friendly league, no extra point kicks. Convert a 2 pointer after every touchdown or take six and go play defense. The play clock will be only 30 seconds, and TV timeouts are persona non grata. Another major difference will mirror the college and CFL rule of one foot in bounds to complete a catch.

I believe this league has a grand opportunity to succeed. So long as they stay true to the ideas that they are founded upon. Also to not try and compete with the NFL and play during spring in markets with high volume consumption of the sport is a very wise move. The market is there. The brain trust is one to revere. This will be taking football in a direction the NFL won’t.

It is ” opportunity for some, redemption for others” to quote a league promotional point. Stick by that and don’t abandon the desires of the fan base or alienate the player and you have a recipe for success. The impending NFL strike in 2021 could also be very beneficial from a talent standpoint.

Week one banner
Credit: San Diego Fleet

On Saturday, February 9, 2019 football will be played at a professional level in cities that have long begged for it. The Alliance of American Football will bring a quality football product at a time when football is supposed to be nothing more than a talking point. The questions remain but time will bring those answers sooner rather than later. Will you be a part of the Alliance? 

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