Ebersol, McMahon hint at return of XFL, or something like it

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It’s previously been suggested in this space that the current political climate in America could be conducive to an old-school football league that embraces the big hits and disregard for personal safety used to be commonplace in the NFL. As demonstrated by a lengthy Sports Illustrated article from November regarding the current state of football in America, fans seem to want it.

“Those attitudes from fans coupled with the messages that invariably will be sent by the incoming Commander-in-Chief,” we wrote at the time, “suggest that the time may be right for someone to roll the dice with $250 million or so in the hopes of launching a football league that would essentially operate like a modern-day XFL — loud, proud, violent, brutal, bloody, and everything that the NFL was before political, legal, and social sensitivities forced the league to change.”

Coincidentally, a dinnertime conversation between XFL pioneers Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon attached to the tail end of ESPN’s 30-for-30 treatment of the Extinct-F-L hints that they may be cooking up an idea for something that may smell like football the way it once was played — with a not-so-subtle hint that one of the NFL’s most prominent figures may throw a third ladle into the stew.

“Do you ever have any thoughts about trying again?” Ebersol asks McMahon.

“Yes I do,” McMahon replies. “I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know if it’s gonna be another XFL or what it may be or how different I would make it. It seems like in some way it would tie in either with the NFL itself or the owners.”

“Well certainly the most adventurous owner is Jerry Jones,” Ebersol says.

McMahon nods and smiles. “Yes.”

“We both know him pretty well,” Ebersol continues. “You’ve just had a Wrestlemania with him. Jones is and was a real fan of what we tried to do and speaks of it even fondly still today as something that really was trying to fill a need.”

That need may not include a need to have sold-out stadiums right out of the gates.

“Why wouldn’t they want to continue with the product, and if the stadium is 25-percent full, it’s better than zip?” McMahon says. “So you need to come out of retirement, put the headset back on . . .”

“We’ll have to use our own money, because I don’t work at NBC anymore.”

“I’ll do it with you,” McMahon says.

“Yeah, absolutely,” responds Ebersol.

“I don’t know what else we could do that the NFL isn’t doing now,” McMahon explains, “but I’m sure we could find a way.”

With that, the 90-monute look at the XFL ends. And it surely was no accident that Ebersol’s son, Charlie, opted to cut the hours of interviews together in a way that culminated in McMahon and Ebersol rekindling under music that slowly became louder and louder the sparkle that they brought 17 years ago when the idea for the XFL was hatched.

Whether the goal was to put a compelling bow on the documentary or to plant a seed remains to be seen. Regardless, an argument could be made that, in several respects, the XFL was ahead of its time. With plenty of people wanting football to be played like it used to be, maybe the time has come for a comeback.

44 responses to “Ebersol, McMahon hint at return of XFL, or something like it

  1. Yeah, yeah… I still miss He Hate Me and Jim Ross commentating and all the rest of the madness that made the XFL so darn cool. Bring it back, Vince!

  2. Do it! If i had known then what the NFL would become I would have continued watching the XFL after Week 3. Just keep the wrestlers or any hint of wrestling like announcers out of it and attempt to properly find talent who can play football!!! Right out the gate you have options like Tebow, Manziel, Young, Vick, Rice etc. Do it!!!

  3. “I don’t know what else we could do that the NFL isn’t doing now,”
    -Well you can allow the scoring player/team celebrate getting into the end zone.
    -Speed up the game by cutting the play clock to 25sec from ball placement.
    -Cut the instant replay time to 1min. As a fan we can see on tv w/in 10secs if the call was good or not. On avg only 36% of reviewed calls are overturned.
    -Add sensors into the ball and field to accurately show where the ball should be placed. This game is one of inches after all. Take human error out of the placement equation.

  4. In spite of how poorly things have gone for the NFL under Goodell, it is still light years ahead of the XFL.

    Whenever a new commissioner takes over things are certain to get better.

  5. Vince did it originally to spite Ted Turner, who had said he thought a summer league would work. So Vince getting that off the ground first, and, at all, was huge for him and his ego, given the direct competition his WWE and Tuners WCW were battling weekly for the wrestling programs.

    No way the WWE does it the same now, now that they have shareholders as a public company.
    From that ending conversation, clear that they knew that the organization on football operations side was lacking, which brought the league down. But if they can make it like a farm system, and get the right backing and organization from better people on the football ops sod

  6. There are 128 schools in the FBS.
    Only 256 guys get drafted into the NFL each year.

    Surely, there is a wide supply of decent enough players. Whether the teams would be accepted and supported by cities is the main question. I think they would need to put teams in NCAAF cities, former NFL cities (St Louis, San Diego, Cleveland), and major non-NFL cities (San Antonio, Vegas, Memphis, Birmingham, Quad Cities).

  7. McMahon should have kept himself and his wrestlers out of the XFL if he wanted it to be successful. Football fans are not necessarily wrestling fans and they don’t like it when somebody insults their intelligence.

    If Vince tries this again and walks onto the field talking in his “wrestling voice” again, I’ll turn it off immediately, just like last time.

  8. Lmao !!!

    Call it the NFL senior league so Brady can pass Hulk Hogan in career championships

    Vince McMahon = Roger Goodell

  9. A good companion piece to the 30 For 30 is the latest Something To Wrestle with Bruce Prichard podcast. He was part of Vince’s inner circle at the time. Had nothing to do with Ted Turner. Vince tried to buy the CFL but they weren’t interested so that’s when he got the idea for the XFL.

  10. Love how the end of the documentary says that McMahon “united” the wrestling world by bringing together WCW and WWE. Umm, not sure how you get the term united out of one company putting WCW, and for that matter all other opposing organizations out of business,

  11. murphyslaw40 says:
    Feb 12, 2017 3:41 PM

    Get back to me when you find an NFL owner who has ever gone broke by owning a franchise. In history.
    I’ll wait.

    Billy Sullivan and Art Model come quickly to mind. The league forced both to sell their teams

  12. I remember David Letterman discussing the first XFL game. Something like:
    “I expected a running back to come through the line and Ka-Wham!! a linebacker would hit him with a steel folding chair. Instead the first score was a 35 yard field goal. A field goal?!”

  13. Two Ideas:

    1. Make a league that is all 180 lbs and under. a midget league. Guys who were high school heroes running for 2oo yards a game but major colleges ignored them bc they’re 5’2. Imagine how fast that game would be. And all the OL and DL/LBs would all be the same size, so the hitting would be tremendous. None of this fat guy running downfield on a screen and just doing a belly slide like NFL linemen. If everyone is the same size every hit is fast and furious, none of this 6’7 fatg uys banging heads then taking the rest of the play off. The speed and the hitting would make the league.

    2. Make a league of all ex-cons. Guys who ruined they’re chances of playing big time college ball by doing hard time. It would be part of their line. Player introductions: Joe Smith, Anywhereville USA, Grand larceny and possession of narcotics. The announcers: “And that’s the second touchdown of the day for John Doe, who was famously seen on Cops 4 years ago and now instead of running from them, he’s now outrunning defenses. Good for you Joe for turning it around”. And the cheerleaders would be strippers. Every player would have a parole officer as his agent. And after every loss you have to get a tattoo to live with that the rest of your life. Now that’s be a league that there’d be no tanking.

  14. Honestly, I like the idea of a minor league, especially if you can get NFL support on board. MLB has somewhere to let talented but unready players hone their skills, and to test new rules and systems, but the NFL doesn’t.

  15. Regardless of what you think of the guy, McMahon was ahead of his time on this one, that and unable to resist putting in too many gimmicks.

    They did have talent in the league, it was just a couple years before people couldn’t get enough football… and now thanks to NFL with Breakfast in London. and TNF games. Some people feel they have too much.

  16. Just make NFL Europe here. Play in crappy stadiums like Oakland, San Diego, St Louis, etc. 8 teams, keep it fun but football.

  17. “Billy Sullivan and Art Model come quickly to mind. The league forced both to sell their teams”
    Art Modell put up $250K of his own money to buy the Browns, and sold them for $600M.

    Billy Sullivan bought into the AFL for $25K, and sold them for $83M. His failure as a tour promoter is none of NFL’s business.

  18. WCW put itself out of Business….

    McMahon, very smartly, just purchased it’s library…
    Basically controlling all of Wrestling history

  19. As for the midget league, to clarify, picture this:

    (and no I’m not gonna go google heights and weights etc, just making a general type of point)

    A league where all your receivers are Desean Jackson-s.

    All your running backs are Darren Sproles.

    All your quarterbacks are Doug Flutie-s

    And all the OL vs DL and LBs are all the same size. Every fight is an even fight. (remember how everyone loved watching Runyan v Strahan? Yes they weren’t the exact same size but generally speaking, with all the front 7 and OL the same size EVERY battle would be like that)

    Are you kidding me? You wouldn’t watch that?

  20. If done properly this could succeed. The public has never been more ready for an alternative to the NFL.

  21. “Football fans….don’t like it when someone insults their intelligence”.

    Judging from some PFT posters, combining football fans with intelligence is a contradiction in terms.

  22. At this point I’d say Vince McMahon has more integrity than Roger Goodell

    Goodell and several owners have attempted to alter the outcome of the NFL seasons several times – framing the Saints in Bountygate, framing, slandering and falsely suspending the GOAT in Deflategate/Framegate

    Under Goodell and the owners this might as well be the WWE

    Might as well have the real thing instead

  23. How about some combination of Rollerball and American Gladiators. Real carnage. No helmets or pads either.

  24. Honestly, I like the idea of a minor league, especially if you can get NFL support on board. MLB has somewhere to let talented but unready players hone their skills, and to test new rules and systems, but the NFL doesn’t.”


    Yes they do! It’s called Division 1 of the NCAA. And, they don’t have to pay them, they just let them play for nothing, get some quality coaching and then come to the NFL.

  25. I had SF Demon season tickets. Loved it despite some of the goofy antics. Funny how the NFL bashed it, yet poached a few ideas, one being the overhead field cam.

  26. Vince McMahon is 71-years-old. I’m not sure he has it in him to try this again. But it would make for good exclusive content that the WWE Network could get subscribers from.

  27. At first when I saw the 30 for 30 I was like “yeah maybe that would be interesting” then I went back and watched the entire 2001 season over and thought “that might have been the worst thing I ever saw on a football field. Half the fans weren’t alive the 1st time to see it suck live and nostalgia has affected the memories of many who were. I mean it’s not the MLB senior league (look it up kids) but it wasn’t far off.

  28. Actually, I kind of liked the MLB Senior League some. I didn’t expect great baseball, but it was nice to see some of the “old guys” playing and a lot of them were still pretty good. The big difference between that and the XFL was, the baseball guys were former MLB players. Several of them were All Stars back in “the day”, while the XFL guys were “never waz” players and they showed it. The Arena League had much better players and it finally folded a few years ago. I think that the Lingerie League had had better success than the XFL did and could today.

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