Alliance of American Football starts play in 75 days, with a big step on Tuesday

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Charlie Ebersol, the founder of the Alliance of American Football, has a clock on his office wall that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the upstart league’s inaugural game, on February 9.

“I can tell you to the second how far we are from the first snap,” Ebersol told PFT on Monday.

Much work is left to be done until that first game, 75 days from now, and one of the most important steps will be taken on Tuesday night, when the league’s eight teams divide up the quarterbacks who have agreed to play in the AAF. The league is using a draft format that is designed to prioritize having players playing for AAF teams in the same area where they played college football, while also trying to put the eight best quarterbacks on eight different teams.

Ebersol said those who watch the draft, which Kurt Warner is calling for CBS Sports Network, will be impressed with the collection of passers who are committed to getting themselves a chance in professional football.

“There are some Kurt Warner-esque stories,” Ebersol said. “One guy worked at Costco, he’s been a personal trainer, he’s moved his family multiple times, and against the backdrop of all that he still has a dream, and he’s going to have an opportunity because of us. . . . That’s why it was so important to me that Kurt Warner be the voice of our draft.”

But are these guys good enough to play football, at a high enough level that fans will want to watch? The quarterbacks who have already been announced as joining the AAF include Aaron Murray, Christian Hackenberg and Scott Tolzien. Ebersol isn’t claiming the quality of play can compete with the NFL, but he does insist that the television product will be an impressive presentation, starting with that first game on February 9.

“You’re going to see how much has gone into this. The difference between us and everyone who’s done this before is they all spent so much time marketing their league that the expectations were out of whack. We’ve managed to under-promise and over-deliver,” Ebersol said. “The football is one thing. The technology is something else. That will probably be the most shocking thing people will see on CBS on February 9. What we’ll do with data in a consumable way is like nothing people have seen before.”

By far the best-known quarterback who’s not currently on an NFL team is Colin Kaepernick. Ebersol said he has talked to Kaepernick and respects what he’s doing, but he’s not sure Kaepernick is interested in joining an upstart league.

“I’ve gotten really close with Colin over the last year, year and a half. He’s one of those guys who, I think in everyone’s eyes is the golden goose, the guy who is out there who we’d all like to see what would happen if he got back on the field,” Ebersol said. “I think Colin has a very, very challenging choice in front of him because I think he does believe he deserves to be in the NFL. He certainly played at the highest level in the NFL. I think Colin has more than just the weight of being a football player on his shoulders, I think he’s the messenger of something bigger.”

The AAF may not be a big enough stage for a quarterback who’s already a household name. But it might just be a big enough stage to help some other quarterback take the first step toward becoming a household name.

43 responses to “Alliance of American Football starts play in 75 days, with a big step on Tuesday

  1. Just a branch off of the new NFL wuss league. I’m waiting to see what Vince brings this go round of the upcoming XFL. NFL is turning into arena football and those leagues have small followins.

  2. “he’s not sure Kaepernick is interested in joining an upstart league.”

    Whereas sitting at home on the couch shows NFL executives that you’re committed to football and working to improve your craft….

    At least Manziel has the humility to try and get better by playing in the CFL. Even for an independently wealthy kid, that takes a lot of dedication.

  3. “We’ve managed to under-promise and over-deliver”

    That’s a neat trick, because so far you’ve delivered nothing. In fact, that statement itself is a pretty bold promise. So you haven’t under-promised or over-delivered.

  4. I’d watch it. It’s high time there’s a viable “minor league” for pro football that’s not gimicky or in a foreign country under different rules and field sizes. There’s a lot of quality ex-college players who need a chance.

  5. I love football, but except for identifying the ‘golden gooses’ I can’t think of another reason to watch this.

  6. Would love to see some competitiveness out there on a level above FBS college during spring. No restrictions as far as practice time should help but without rosters even being fleshed out I don’t see how the early product will be very good.

  7. Will they actually be allowed to hit each other without penalty or fine? If so, they may have found a gap in the marketplace.

  8. I can still throw a football 20 yards with out it hitting the dirt. Do I qualify for a starting QB job in this league?

  9. I have no idea if the AAF will succeed or not, but I do think that the USFL’s experiment back in the 80’s shows that there is some audience for spring football.

    What kind of makes me wonder is why so many fans, most of whom are kind of down on the NFL, also seem to hope that no rival (or in this case, supplemental) league will succeed?

    Why not at least wait until play starts and give it a chance? Sure, the players will not be NFL caliber, but millions of people watch college and high school football that is comprised almost entirely of players who have no shot at the NFL. Hell, with the number of injuries we see in the NFL, by the end of the season every roster has a number of players who aren’t truly NFL material…

    I say good luck to the AAF.

  10. What obscure sports network will air these games? Will we have to buy the top tier programming package? If so, don’t expect good ratings.

  11. Kurt Warner was a great player that everyone missed on. Just because a guy works at Costco, doesn’t make him the next Kurt Warner. If the teams get big name college players from their region, it might work. If there is an Alabama team they might want McCarron as their QB. A team in Michigan might want Conner Cook. An Ohio team should go after J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones. None of these QB’s were ever really given a legit shot in the NFL.

  12. There will maybe be four guys (per Year) who get a couple seasons in the NFL. Not Kurt Warner careers. Guys like Lindsey in Denver who was undrafted and simply missed by the NFL. This will be mostly because some guys not invited to the combine will sign here in the hopes of showing something and end up being drafted instead of being an undrafted FA.
    Then again, if you couldn’t show enough on the college level to get a combine invite, what value would succeeding against other guys who didn’t excel in college?
    The 8 QB’s, who may all have already had a shot at the NFL wont find a way back.

  13. No KO means I won’t be watching plus the fact there is interest in Kapernick means no matter what I won’t be watching.

  14. No business can prosper from no competition. I.E. Look at how the Video game Madden over the years with no competition, the game is the the same game every year. Just copy and past and everyone buys the garbage. So hopefully this can change something to better the NFL.

  15. I’m interested, but if a team signs Kaepernick, I’m gone…once cancer gains a foothold, it starts spreading rapidly.

  16. I will watch this new league about as often as I do the CFL and the Arena League (is the Arena League still in existence??), which is not at all.

  17. What a laugher. The NFL fans apparently enjoy being lied to, made fools of, and treated like cannon fodder for NFL profits. The NFL doesn’t care about you. They only care that you keep spending money for them.
    Hurray for a new venture! I guess the NFL loyalists would rather watch the ENDLESS basketball or hockey seasons than some football played by professionals.
    I was a fan of NFL Europe largely because it was football when two of the most boring sports ruled the day, basketball and hockey.
    Three cheers!

  18. There is a pretty good reason why Kapernick isn’t playing…He isn’t any good!! We know and more importantly he knows it. He’s had opportunities to play and he didn’t accept any of them because nobody is going to listen to what a crappy QB has to say.

  19. I don’t like Kapernick’s anti-police, anti-American rhetoric and political performance act – but I’d actually consider him less of a joke if he played organized football. Of course this league will be a lesser product than the NFL, but there are untold thousands of healthy strong young guys who can play professional football AND improve at playing professional football if given a roster spot somewhere.

  20. The xfl had some interesting ideas. Let hope these guys have learned from their mistakes and put a good product out there.

  21. I’m psyched about the AAF. What for other people would be called spring football is, for us in New England, a way to get through the slog of a long winter. By the time the AAF season ends in late April it will finally be spring here. If we want to get away for a winter break, almost every team is in a warmer-weather city and the league is saying ticket prices and in-stadium concessions will be reasonably priced. (We’ll see about that one.)

    There are play features of this AAF I like a lot, like no TV timeouts, a 30-second play clock, a one-foot-inbounds rule for catches, and a mandatory two-point conversion try after TDs. It’s clear they’re trying to give fans a fast-paced action-oriented game.

    Hard to tell, but it looks like the people in charge of the AAF know what they’re doing and this just might have the same excitement of the old USFL, but without the self-destructiveness. That’s partly because there are no individual team owners. Instead, the league owns and operates all the teams. They seem to be doing at least a little more than using the players like toilet paper. For every year a guy plays in the league he gets a year of scholarship money, he also gets health insurance, and an independent outfit will handle the concussion protocol.

    The opening game of the season and the championship will both be on CBS and CBS Sports Network is going to show at least one game a week. The AAF will offer its own live-streaming app, though it’s not clear to me if viewers will have to pay to watch games on the app. At any rate, it looks like we’ll have plenty of opportunities to judge for ourselves what we think of the product.

  22. When the NFL shows 2 mediocre teams on a Thursday night ratings dip. People don’t want to watch it. And those are teams that usually have some sort of established base or fan following.

    Now a new league is going to start play with NO fan following and players that are not NFL quality. I’m very skeptical of its success.

  23. Of course I’ll watch. I’m just wondering if Vegas will have lines on the games; will there be AAF on-line sites that churn out information about the teams and players; will the referees be more observant and judicious about penalties and less influenced by NFL-type contrivance and preferential calls for the home team…disputed calls always seem to favor the home team. And will something be done about the ubiquitous “block in the back” on every kick-off and punt return?

  24. mayfieldroadboy says:
    November 27, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Of course I’ll watch. I’m just wondering if Vegas will have lines on the games; will there be AAF on-line sites that churn out information about the teams and players


    According to ESPN:

    “The Alliance of American Football’s in-house tech team has built a gambling product that not only will allow the gambler to watch a game on an app while betting on it on the same screen, it will also allow the league’s exclusive gaming partner to better price the in-game odds by building a data set that correlates the likelihood of a certain bet winning.”


    “[T]he league and MGM [AAF’s exclusive gaming partner] will put wearables on players to collect second-generation stats that will be used to better assess odds for in-game betting. ”

    This will apparently allow for a lot of prop betting, and AAF says that players will get bonuses if gamblers choose to place more prop bets based on that player. The AAF in-game app will also have a league-run fantasy element.

    Personally, I have zero interest in all the gambling and fantasy stuff, but it’s probably a smart move by the new league to garner interest.

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