AAF off to a solid start


The Alliance of American Football is underway, and the early verdict is this: It’s pretty good.

The football was fun and fast-paced, they’re trying some new innovations like transparency on instant replay that might translate well to the NFL, the TV production was well done, the fans sounded like they thought they were getting their money’s worth, and, most importantly, it’s football at a time of year when we otherwise wouldn’t have any to watch.

The quality of play is comparable to the second halves of preseason games, with players who look like they’re about good enough to be on NFL practice squads. That might sound like a product you wouldn’t want to watch, but the players on NFL practice squads are better than most college football players, and tens of millions of fans watch college football every autumn Saturday.

The difference, of course, is that college football has a long history and tradition that makes those tens of millions of fans feel connected to it. The AAF doesn’t have that. But the fans in the two home stadiums, San Antonio and Orlando, seemed to be into it. The AAF will obviously have to grow its fan base, but the fans it has now seem enthusiastic.

Both home teams won the two premiere games on Saturday night, with the Orlando Apollos beating the Atlanta Legends 40-6 and the San Antonio Commanders beating the San Diego Fleet 15-6. Neither game was particularly close or competitive, and in both games we saw breakdowns on the offensive line and with quarterback-receiver communications that led to some shoddy offense. Fans like high-scoring and close games, and neither of the first two AAF games were that.

Still, this was a solid start. Saturday night won’t be the last time I watch the AAF.

113 responses to “AAF off to a solid start

  1. Gotta admit I liked it. Obviously new, some things to work out (like their communications feed), and the QB play degenerated for me towards the end of the game. Much better than watching two AFC East play, or like Arizona and San Fran.

    In particular I did like the transparency in replay. In fact something about the whole officiating game seemed a little more…advanced? NFL could learn a few things, and I believe some of these men could play there.

    All I know? I will be watching tonight. Keeps my need for football going, and Arena was never it.

  2. Oh and kudos to PFT for covering it. It is a professional football league, and while I really don’t want regular CFL or Arena, I think the more direct link from AAF to potential NFL makes it a nice fit. Nice job PFT.

  3. I still think it’s a myth that fans like high scoring games. Fans like good games that are competitive even if the final score is 24-17.

  4. I watched the first half of the San Antonio/San Diego game and was pleasantly surprised.

    It’s not the last time I’ll watch as well. In my opinion, the writer’s take is spot on.

  5. The NFL will never let you in on replay conversations because fans will end up finding out the circus extends to the booth.

    “OK this is what I got, wait I really don’t know what I got”‘ “Hold on, you say yes and I say no, you say stop and I say I don’t know”?
    “Wait anyone have a plug nickel I can flip”. Great thanks.

  6. AAF has a chance, the quality of play is certainly higher than what we saw from the World League of American Football and XFL. The games were blowouts but were played at a higher level than what you usually see on Saturdays.

    I can see the league succeeding as a minor league and drawing ~25K fans. You may see players earning up to ~500K. Major League Soccer is probably a decent barometer of AAF’s potential.

    I think XFL may be canceled as a result, there probably isn’t room for two spring leagues. Part of its business plan was hoping that AAF wouldn’t catch on.

  7. The Fleet/Commanders game was no different than the super bowl being a defensive struggle. Meanwhile the Apollos actually showed up for game day.

    Can’t wait to week 2.

  8. Both home teams won the two premiere games on Saturday night, with the Orlando Apollos beating the Atlanta Legends 40-6 and the San Antonio Commanders beating the San Diego Fleet 15-6. Neither game was particularly close or competitive, and in both games we saw breakdowns on the offensive line and with quarterback-receiver communications that led to some shoddy offense. Fans like high-scoring and close games, and neither of the first two AAF games were that.


    So, one game was a blowout and the other game had a score close to what the SB score was, you know the SB that a lot of people said was horrible because there was no scoring…but the league is off to a good start somehow?

    If either of those games was a Thursday night NFL game, everyone would be saying the NFL was dead.

    There is absolutely no tie in what so ever for me for this league.

  9. Not all fans like high scoring games. The problem with them for me is they make field position nearly meaningless. Hell, they make defense near-meaningless. And you can thank the Polian-Manning Colt bannermen for that early attempt to defeat Pats D by changing the rules.

    Add to that the fuzziest of catch rules wherein the ball can now even hit the ground, and where defenders can’t be physical, every series becomes one of slo-mo replays, and whether refs see something (real or not).

    And where every series has to end in a score or you lose the game, those ref decisions become everything, and also make defenders prepared to deliberately foul a guy and accept a penalty.

    When I heard all the wailing about the SB being “boring” I realized a majority of people are
    now clueless about football. And if you now also want to remove kickoffs and extra-points, you’ll lose the excitement of special team play – & any residual right to call it foot-ball at all.

  10. Knowing that it is a development league for the NFL will make it watchable. Showing the games on obscure sports channels will make it impossible to watch for a lot of people. Oh well. I saw it.

  11. Watched some…it was okay…but all the teams are from the south.____________________________________________________________

    It’s a little warmer down here in Florida this time of year …. making it more enjoyable for the players and the fans.

  12. The coaches and players seemed happy to be there. It was like watching the Replacements. I wish them well, let’s be OK with just loving a sport without the rest of the nonsense.

  13. I enjoyed it more than I thought, but at this point I’d rather watch a CFL game. The AAF is watered down NFL. At least the CFL has some rules that still make it look like football, but with enough differences with the NFL to make it enjoyable.

  14. this is better than the NFL at least we don’t have to see New England winning Super Bowls every year. I like this league will watch tonight. I can see this league having a better home field advantage than in the NFL. Also the colored shirted teams play better in this league than the NFL does, excellent job AAF!

  15. I like it! You know why? I saw men playing their asses off for the love of the game.
    There might be a few players who stand out and get to go to the big game because of this. There are a few kinks to work out but I felt I was watching a Professional game., Well done, I’ll be back.

  16. The AAF was better than expected. Less commercials, fewer reviews, and no kickoffs. I loved the faster pace of the game. Oh, and no Tom Brady. This is such a plus.

  17. Michael E says:
    February 10, 2019 at 7:20 am

    No required 20+ commercial breaks per game like the NFL. That alone makes it worth watching.
    If a telecast has high rating it will have a lot of commercial breaks. Basic economics.

    If you want to watch football with no commercial breaks, your local high school time has none.

  18. Kelly’s rancid jaw says:
    February 10, 2019 at 5:41 am
    The Bills might finish in third place in this league, that’s a step up

    Same with the Jets and Dolphins. Man, the Pats sure do have it easy.

  19. I enjoyed the quality of play and the officiating was somehow better than the NFL in week one of the league ( though the ref who had to have the female ref explain to him that the game doesnt end on a defensive penalty should be ashamed) . However, the best thing they had was the CBS platform, I don’t think it’s in a fledgling leagues interest to hide the rest of their games behind cable pay walls like the NFL Network or CBS Sports Network. You want to have as many eyes as possible watching the sponsors ads.

  20. Only watched about three fourths of one game but the best thing I saw was minimal calls by the refs. Seems like every three plays in the Nfl results in a flag.

    Also like the fact qbs weren’t off limits.

  21. If the NFL adopts the AFF rules…it will die a sudden death. That was completely boring football Saturday Night and that’s called solid start…OMG!!! I would rather watch curling!!!

  22. Didn’t realize Michael Vick was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Legends. I thought he was the one that just through game plan DVDs into the backseat of his car (under Jim Mora Jr.). I see he still must be throwing his game plans into the back seat of his car, because the Legends offense looked horrible.

  23. worldizending says:
    February 10, 2019 at 7:23 am
    Watched some…it was okay….but all the teams are from the south.

    Not only is the weather warmer, but the league knows once March Madness and MLB begins, Cities like NY, Boston, Chicago etc etc will have ZERO interest in this league. Stadiums would be empty, Ratings would be awful…

  24. It was really fun. Lacking a local option, I am on duty with the Fleet, who hopefully have already decided to move on from their Mark Sanchez clone at QB. We have not yet begun to fight!

  25. AAF = real football where you can hit the QB. Not a flag fest NFL featuring referees making obvious bogus calls that influences the game.

    I will watch more AAF games.

  26. One thing that stood out was the hunger and toughness of the players.

    The shot that QB Mike Bercovici of San Diego took was harder than any hit I’ve seen in the NFL in years, and he just bounced right back up and didn’t miss a snap. Half the quarterbacks in the NFL would have had to be carted off the field.

  27. Watched the San Antonio/San Diego game and it was about as good as I hoped.

    :I liked the 30-second play clock, the transparency of the officiating (especially the broadcast of what the review official said), the lack of commercial interruption (there were ads, but on split screen with the field), the professionalism of the broadcast team.

    I thought the no-kickoff thing would be OK, but just starting on the 25 is a letdown. They need to come up with something a little more exciting. Having Hines Ward prance out to place the ball for the opening isn’t going to cut it. I was dubious about the limitations on blitzing and I’m still not sure about that one. Production values were high, except for the frequent audio drops–and no, they weren’t because of the seven-second delay to edit out forbidden words, they were clear glitches.

    I don’t want to start some political thing, but I was glad to see the AAF doesn’t start with the national anthem. Let’s just have football, without any ceremonies to delay the start of the game.

    I’m going to check out the AAF app, though I think it may be all about betting, which I’m not into. And I’ll be watching today’s games.

    PFT, thanks for deciding to cover the AAF.

  28. I watched some of the San Diego/San Antonio game, and it was sloppy but entertaining. The sloppy is to be expected, given that these guys just met a month ago, if that. I’ll keep watching. There really isn’t a market for spring football though, not a major level, otherwise the CFL would have taken hold here, what with their wide open football and some recognizable names (pretty much every QB), but it’ll be fun to see these folks try.

    Penny for the thoughts in the McMahon family right now.

  29. refreshing. the teams are …. not so good. on the plus side. you can play football and tackle. commercials are few and show the game at the same time. no kick off. lots of improvement over the NFL in a lot of categories.

  30. I just want to see a Rules Package that doesn’t favor the passing game to the point of making the Running Back position an afterthought. Stud running Backs made the NFL, and the absence of the running game and the Superstar Running Backs has taken away much of the excitement and anticipation. I hope the new league down’t follow this path and understands the power of watching the best athletes on the field work their magic.Run the Damn Ball. #RTDB

  31. I enjoyed the 1st half before I went onto other things. One big thing the league did was have STARTER do the uniforms and logo designs…thank goodness NIKE was not envolved. Like the player numbers on one side of the helmet and the Logo on the other..cools concept. Best logos? So far San Diego and Orlando.

  32. Its really early so to expect high quality would be premature. Every team has a new system with players that have barely played together. It takes time to jell especially the offensive lines. As the season goes on the play should get better.

  33. The bar I was at, had it playing on a lot of TV’s and people seemed genuinely engaged in watching it. I think it definitely got people’s attention and was fun to watch. Mostly because, the stupid Patriots weren’t playing.

  34. I think the AAF is promising, especially since the NFL is totally on board and promoting it in order to cultivate talent.

  35. Maybe we could all get a break if Peter King would cover the AAF instead of the NFL. I think, I think Newman could write 10 to 20 pages of AAF every Monday.

  36. Glad you could also watch the full games on youtube (for non-US fans). Not close games or that in week 1 but it was fun to watch, some nice plays and performances.

    Again its a bit like NFL Europe, next year if NFL teams ‘allocate’ (Would be a good idea if the NFL allowed that) the experience for those 3rd stringers in the league would be great.

    Its something to watch in the offseason and will only get better throughout the season. Was very polished with the kits, okay crowds and overall most of the plays (Its only week 1 so there were issues). Good start

  37. The product was awful and they didn’t look like a team that could challenge a good college team. Sorry but if the QB play looks like that this league doesn’t have a chance. That football was almost unwatchable.

  38. Mike Martz Offense is still a turnover machine. Reminiscent of his 49er days with JTO at QB. Martz and Singletary made a good combination though.

    I’m going to watch the Mike Singletary’s team today if it’s on TV. If there’s one thing that you could depend on from a Mike Singletary team is that they’re going to be……..Relentless, Disciplined, Physical(with an F), Tough, and Smart.

  39. I watched a little of the Commanders/Fleet game. The QB play was horrible.

    Here’s what I liked: it was football and this might be where high school players end up in a few years instead of pretending to go to college for an education. In other words, this could be the NFL’s Minor League.

    Here’s what I didn’t like: the uniforms looked awful, and the caliber of play was terrible. If high school graduates are allowed to play in this league down the road, it will be a big blow to college football. On one hand, that would be bad. But on the other hand, maybe it would be good. Because we could all stop pretending that college football programs aren’t factories for NFL talent.

    I guess I’ll watch it again, but I’m not thrilled about it. I remembering watching AFL games in the early 60’s and I thought they were a lot more exciting than what I saw last night. Maybe it’s because I was a kid, or maybe it’s because their uniforms were so much sharper and they started bringing in top talent almost right away. One player in the old AFL I remember as if it were yesterday was Ed “Wahoo” McDaniel, who was a Native American. He was a very good defensive lineman and whenever he made a tackle, the PA announcer would say, “tackle made by…” and the crowd would respond by yelling “Wahooooooo!”

    One more thing I think comes into play here. The NFL is way over-saturated, in my opinion. The season is too long (counting pre-season and all the playoff games) and they play too many games during the week. I think it’s part of the reason why the ratings are down. With this league adding to it, it might make even more people bored with football.

  40. I watched the games and they were good. The AAF reminds me of football how it was before Roger Goodell showed up and changed everything. It is however missing the feel and aura of being rigged, like the NFL, but other than that I am excited to keep watching.

  41. It’s still early, but based on what I’ve seen I think it’ll survive at least 3 seasons. Maybe they can negotiate with the XFL and announce a merger at that time, should be an easy way for the league to expand and add another 2-4 teams.

    I was skeptical coming in but the quality of play is good enough, at least for a minor league sport.

  42. One thing is for sure the game was roughly 20 minutes shorter than an NFL game. Granted they cut the time of the two minute warning to save some time and removed time between kickoffs. Maybe they need to move down to 12 minute quarters??

    What I did see was a half filled stadium for that Sand Diego game that did have that one major QB sac.

    Ratings are going to be key for this league to succeed unless the NFL wants to make this new like AAA baseball league for the NFL and not fully care about ratings for now.

  43. I watched and was entertained. And I will watch more AAF; its football! I wish the league and the players the very best in spite of these virtual critics who hate everything and everybody on social media.

  44. Bring back football. No one likes injuries in the process… but its the game…it’s why the outrageous salaries are somewhat acceptable even though teachers should make more than these guys. Imagine if we just told firefighters to show up when the fire was over to avoid the risking of injury…. they’d tell you wtf…. its what i signed up for. If these guys cant deal with the risk of injury…. go find another career….that simple

  45. I hope this league survives, and I think it will because they have the blessing of the NFL. The best spokesman in the world for a league like this is Kurt Warner, and he was front and center. This was the first broadcast, so I’m not foolish enough to believe there won’t be improvements made. I admit, I did fall asleep a couple times, and I never fall asleep during a game. I was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t impressed with the new technology. I’m here for the football. I also think refs wear black and white stripes so they’re easy to see, not those uniforms they were wearing that blend in with dark colored jerseys. I was more interested in seeing what the league has been preaching, an opportunity for players, coaches, etc. But the announcers didn’t say hardly anything about the individual players. Who were these players? Most fans of a league like this are diehard football fans. Draftniks. Wannabe GM’s. Guys that likes scouting and team building. Guys that play in dynasty Fantasy Football leagues. I just think they need to focus on the players more, and I’m sure they’re getting an earful about that right now. These teams also need better scouting departments, and I’m sure that’s also a work in progress. I mean, none of the QB’s have a chance to play in the NFL except Trevor Knight and possibly Aaron Murray as a backup, and Scott Tolzien as a 3rd guy. And these aren’t really the right coaches. But it’s the first game. I’m sure they’ll be much better next year, and even in 5 weeks from now. But they need to highlight the players more. The girl on the sidelines was pretty, but that’s only going to go so far holding the audience, but she’s smart too, and she’ll actually end up with a good job out of this. I don’t need to hear from a GM during the middle of a play, who’s standing on the sidelines. Talk to those guys at halftime. I love the league. I’m only saying this stuff because I want them to succeed. The leagies that raid college kids before they’re eligible will fail.

  46. I totally disagree. We were promised a league where the “quality of play” would be paramount, and instead we got one blowout, and another game where no touchdowns were scored in the first half and only one touchdown scored in the entire game.

    I hope it gets better.

  47. I liked it, they were allowed to hit with out flags involved, and the refs did not control the whole game like they do in the NFL. The NFL and Vegas are joined at he hip, so obvious.

  48. I enjoyed it because it was just football and it was presented well. The added bonus was I got to see my hometown team play.

  49. I hope this league sticks around, not just for me, but to watch the players, the ones that may or may not make it, but they were giving heart and soul, not like the multi-millionaires cry babies playing “not to get hurt”!
    It needs some tweaking. It wasn’t perfect, but I am not alone in saying it was fun watching.
    I hope CBS sticks with them. Lets get behind this thing and try to keep it going against long odds.

  50. It was entertaining. But whoever designed these uniforms must be fired asap. There are plenty of high school uniforms that look better than these…Looks like they have a contract with Starter. Starter? The haven’t been relevant since the 90s. If this catches on I think at the end of that contract Nike, UA or Adidas will and should get involved.

  51. Anybody notice at 11:35 in the 4th quarter of the Orlando/Atlanta game, the mention of Bob Sanders, Orlando’s DC, being the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year?? AAF’s announcers and TV crew better fact check before making blunders like that. Ol Ball Coach’s longtime assistant DC at Florida didn’t play for the Colts…

  52. Make it like English Soccer. The top team gets to come into the NFL. The last place NFL team goes to the AAF. This would make every game matter and make people from these areas truely care and become fans of these AAF teams. It would also make NFL only fans care about both leagues.

  53. respectfortampabay says:
    February 10, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Anybody notice at 11:35 in the 4th quarter of the Orlando/Atlanta game, the mention of Bob Sanders, Orlando’s DC, being the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year?? AAF’s announcers and TV crew better fact check before making blunders like that. Ol Ball Coach’s longtime assistant DC at Florida didn’t play for the Colts…
    There’s a highlight replay of the game. They didn’t say what you said. They said he was the DC of GB in 2005 and 2006. He was actually GB DE coach in 2005 and defensive coordinator 2006-2008.

  54. “I’ll bet many NFL personnel types are watching to see if-there are any players they can pick up on the cheap.”

    Nothing gets past you. Like, that this is the entire purpose of the AAF.

  55. After watching a bit, it confirmed my opinion the Bills will be “re-locating” to San Antonio. Those folks are hungry for NFL football.

  56. Loving all of the Siskel and Ebert reviews!

    I’ll have to check it out. But remember, the NFL took a couple of things from the XFL too. The overhead camera in every stadium? That was the XFL. There were also a few XFLers that got either a shot (He Hate Me) or another shot (Tommy Maddox) in the NFL. So whether you like the AAF or not, these guys spilling their guts looking for a shot at the big time. Enjoy it for what it is.

    And personally, I thought McMahon pulled the plug on the original XFL too soon. I thought he should have given it one more year with a full off season, draft, training camp and preseason. They never really had an “off season” before the first season. They had their draft, training camps,and preseason in a matter of weeks not months. I went to a game at the end of the first season, and the football was way better than it was at the beginning of that first season. I think the XFL would have taken a jump football wise in year 2. But, alas (or is it Halas?), it did not happen. Maybe the XFL will be better in 2020.

  57. It’s essentially a practice squad league for the NFL. And if a player can improve, he has the chance to advance to the big league. And the schedule fills in the gap between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. I think the idea is solid to begin with.

  58. “I don’t watch the NFL anymore so maybe I will switch to the AAF”


    One, you are lying about not watching the NFL anymore. Since when? The Super Bowl? Congrats on your powerful revolution👏

    Two, you are failing at trying to make a statement to the NFL. They don’t care about your fake boycott, and possibly watching a different league. It’s called “The Alliance of American Football” because it is aligned with the NFL. They work together.

    Keep posting on Pro Football websites and watching every Pro Football league. The NFL thanks for your support and lining their pockets👍

  59. Special shoutout to the naming and logo design of the Arizona Hotshots. This was chosen in reference and dedication to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a crack Arizona firefighting team that was lost as they battled a mountain fire in AZ when the winds suddenly shifted. Twenty or so good men lost their lives that day protecting others. Great name, better men.

  60. The players might be preseason quality… but its the Brains behind the outfit I like. Lets hire their GM and fire the clown we have!!!!!

  61. Honest answer I am in. The talent might not be NFL caliber (and some is, even if not on a team) but there’s a whole bunch of NFL people that shouldn’t be either. But the speed of the game, people just playing hard (I think that is a contract equalization thing)…Sorry it’s fun. I will be back on Saturday too.

  62. 250dollarnflowner says:
    February 10, 2019 at 8:21 am
    Everyone complaining about the communication feed. It’s on a delay and they are cutting out swear words coming across the mics. It’s obvious

    Actually no, that wasn’t it – especially because they didn’t cut some stuff out today. The problem I had was that the announcers would be talking and they would cut to live field feed in the middle. Lost on both counts. Besides that live feed wasn’t adding anything for me anyway.

  63. I enjoyed the games this weekend.I sensed the players were doing there best to build individual audition tapes they can send to the 32 teams. Good play,no cheap shots,general sportsmanship and little or no prima dona displays. Yes, there is a reason some of these players will never be in the NFL, but it was certainly a contrast to some of the Thursday night games we have seen in the past. I intend to watch all season.

  64. the pace of the game was great.

    the no kickoff thing, meh.

    I like the fact that there’s was a very short turnaround on the change of possession. It’s quick, right back to the action.

  65. No one said the players would be current NFL quality players. The league (and XFL) are not trying to compete with the NFL but to provide an alternative to watch in the offseason. Once you accept that this will be minor league football and temper your expectations, you can watch the league for what it it’s designed to do. It provides an outlet for players to continue playing the sport they love and want to make a living doing. Perhaps they’ll get a shot at the NFL again. Not every player develops at the same rate and once their college eligibility runs out, they have few alternatives. It’s pretty harsh that you only get one shot in rookie and fall camps to make a roster and that’s pretty much it for you.

  66. Felt like MAC football to me.

    Maybe more practicing could solidify how bad offensive lines looked… but the lack of time in the pocket hid how bad defensive coverage was.

    I was surprised to hear that the league is paying 250k 3 year contracts (I know this isn’t new news, just new to me). That’s more than I was expecting.

    Much like the semi-pro baseball in my city, if just a few of these guys get a shot, and fans show up to games, this league will thrive.

  67. I tried watching, it was pretty boring. The league is filled with mediocre at best, talent. For me it was like watching a minor league hockey or AAA baseball game. No interest in seeing anymore. But, to each their own.

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