XFL returns with limited star power

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The eight teams of the XFL will play this weekend, as the resurrected spring league gives it another go. And it will try to get things rolling with a collection of quarterbacks who fall squarely into the category of journeymen and/or complete unknowns.

Consider the list of starting quarterbacks to start the season: Brandon Silver, Seattle; P.J. Walker, Houston; Jordan Ta’amu, St. Louis; Cardale Jones, D.C.; Landry Jones, Dallas; Matt McGloin, New York; Aaron Murray, Tampa Bay; Josh Johnson, L.A.

Johnson is a game-time decision due to injury. If he can’t play, Charles Kanoff gets the start. (Whoever that is.)

To survive, the league needs to attract or cultivate star players that will compel fans to tune in. Johnny Manziel still moves the needle, but the XFL has inexplicably ignored him. Colin Kaepernick would be worth every penny that he’d command. And Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who still must wait one more year before entering the draft, should be making $1 million (or more) to be the face of the XFL for the next two seasons before entering the draft.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the XFL will resonate without recognizable names and faces. Maybe it will be about the game and the uniforms and the rules and the not-so-subtle efforts by broadcast partners to get the audience to repeatedly try the veal.

Maybe it will last more than a season. Maybe Vince McMahon truly is committed to pouring hundreds of millions down what could be a dry hole.

To get the most out of that money, however, McMahon should be spending it on players that people will tune in to watch. And the easiest supply of players who will move the needle comes from the college ranks, where guys who already have developed a reputation for being quality players aren’t getting paid and aren’t allowed to get paid until they are at least three years removed from high school.

So we’ll see how it goes. The AAF drew some early attention last year, but it quickly imploded due to a lack of cash. The XFL has the cash. But will it have the cachet?

Based on the roster of starting quarterbacks to start the season, the answer for now is no.

50 responses to “XFL returns with limited star power

  1. No Manziel? The high-road of keeping players clean will not work, people don’t care. Go get all the retreads, the kicked out of the NFLers, the 1st round washouts. That’s what we want to see.

  2. The only way a Spring League works is if every NFL team has a team much like NBA summer league. You get to watch Rookies, 2-3rd year guys that are developing to contribute to help the franchise you cheer for. Run a 6 week schedule add a full league seeded tourney that leads into Training camp. New revenue stream and keeps fans interested in their team.
    Who really cares beyond opening weekend of XFL? Guys surely will be playing hard, but fans just finished their football watching and are able to return to the world until next September.

  3. There’s no snowball chance in heck that Trevor Lawrence would risk injury for a few months and pocket change with XFL that could ruin his multi-million collar career in the NFL

  4. There will be a couple of players who shine through & get another shot in the NFL. This is a big tryout. Kap should go for it, but he doesn’t want to play. He just wants to play victim.

  5. There is no compelling reason to watch the XFL other than it is football. Maybe that will be enough to get and hold a decent audience. It’s a risky bet.

  6. It would probably be fiscally irresponsible to throw the kind of money at Manziel/Kaepernick/Tebow/Lawrence it would take to land those players during year 1. Those are only four names in an eight team league. I don’t know that those four guarantee the first season’s success. Maybe in year two or three, they’d have the cache to bring in someone like that. In year 1, keep your potential losses at a minimum until you have proof of concept.

    The XFL’s fiscal responsibility is already drastically different from the AAF. Combine that with the XFL’s partnership with Fox and ESPN/ABC puts them in a very advantageous position compared to the AAF. I’m looking forward to some football in February. This month is gross.

  7. At least one team is already working on next year’s draft, right? (Wait, do they draft or does Vince just assign the players?)

  8. I would tune in to see how Kanoff looks. He spent a few years on the Cardinals PS and saw action in preseason games. Actually looked pretty good.

    UFA out of Princeton in 2018.

  9. I watch a lot of college football. All these guys played in college. Its a step up into the Pro’s even though it is not the NFL. I’ll watch and I’ll enjoy….

  10. I watched NFL games where David Blough and Devlin Hodges started and enjoyed them just fine. I just want to see entertaining games. That’s something that can be accomplished at any level of football.

  11. Can’t wait to watch, these over paid NFL Stars and their huge egos get old. Can’t wait to see some humble guys that just want to play ball. If the player ball out they will become bigger names and get an opportunity to get invited to a NFL camp.

  12. It would be smart of the Bears to outsource Trubisky to the XFL for the extra reps so maybe be can mature into a starting NFL QB lol

  13. gimmickface says:
    February 7, 2020 at 10:35 am
    There’s no snowball chance in heck that Trevor Lawrence would risk injury for a few months and pocket change with XFL that could ruin his multi-million collar career in the NFL

    Yet he’s about to risk injury and his multi-million dollar NFL career for a few months playing at Clemson for free.

  14. “And Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who still must wait one more year before entering the draft, should be making $1 million (or more) to be the face of the XFL for the next two seasons before entering the draft.”

    This exemplifies why startup leagues have such an uphill climb. Every single league before that has tried to “out-star-power” the NFL by handing out big salaries failed. The only way the XFL can ever make it is to start small with small expenses. But there’s a big segment of both fans and media who will shortly brand them a disappointment if they don’t have tons of big-name guys.

  15. Will never understand those who take great offense and/or get openly hostile at the idea of more football. Interesting psychology.

  16. The USFL getting Walker and Dupree who weren’t allowed in the NFL yet, where huge for getting eyeballs.

  17. They dont need the names mentioned here they just need to play good football. People will tune in to check it out initially but if the games arent exciting and if the level of football is closer to high school than to a random college game people will tune out.

  18. “Can’t wait to watch, these over paid NFL Stars and their huge egos get old. Can’t wait to see some humble guys that just want to play ball.”

    How do you know that they are humble?

  19. I’m bored and & done most of the urgent stuff on the honey-do-list. Time to chill out with a brew,
    turn on a REGULAR TV channel, and watch some football! How can this NOT be good for football fans?

  20. Could be a good spot for Carli Lloyd to cut her teeth as a kicker before her potential NFL tryouts this summer. Has the XFL called her?

  21. “Colin Kaepernick would be worth every penny that he’d command”…
    What does he have to offer?
    The 49ers have gone full circle (good to bad back to good) since the last time he played.
    People would only tune in to see if he is going to derail another career opportunity.

  22. Just do what the old USFL did. They were entertaining and competitive. They did struggle to maintain teams but interest in the league was gaining while certain cities were initially volatile. Their downfall was not product or talent. It was because their owners treated each other as competitors rather than partners and they directly challenged the NFL. They won but got screwed by the absurd damages of $1…trebled to $3.

  23. Only bad decision is the start times. Put these games on at night, when there’s absolutely nothing else to watch (except dreadful college basketball) and the ratings would be 3-times what they’ll get with 2p and 5p kickoffs.

    I guarantee these games will be as/more entertaining as WAC and PAC-10 games – and those are a great watch at 11p ET on Saturday nights. I’ll be DVRing them – and watching later.

  24. Conducting the same experiment over and over hoping for different results is insanity according to Einstein. But if Vince wants to set half a billion dollars on fire it’s his money.

  25. I’m excited to watch and attend games. The drought that we have between NFL season needs something in it’s place and definitely room for the XFL to capitalize on the market during that time. Let’s just hope it is a hit this time around.

  26. Why would Trevor go play with a less talented team than he has at Clemson? It would do less for him and his draft status. He will be playing for another national championship this year in college.

  27. The AAF played one game on CBS, I liked it but then decided they would only show them on cable networks. Well guess what, A whole bunch of us have cut the cable and with 30+ channels of Broadcast, and Roku giving thousands of channels which most are free made me think they thought they were something they weren’t.
    Here is a hint, just because there is a Football is involved doesn’t mean viewership! You need to get a following before trying to break into our wallets! Especially with a bunch of washouts, wanna-be’s, and never were players! I’d rather see Undrafted FA’s playing their asses off than a bunch of cut players who think they are worth millions..
    BUT that is just my opinion.

  28. Well, today is the big day. OPENING DAY OF THE XFL. We need to rally as a nation to support the league. Fans need to fill the stadiums and many millions need to watch on TV. If you have a local sports bar or restaurant, request XFL football. Invite friends over for an XFL football party. The league is going to be great. don’t miss out.

    Today the Seattle Dragons take on the D.C Defenders at 2pm. It will be an epic battle. If the NFL loses a season or part of a season due to a lockout/strike, the XFL could take over as the dominant football league.

  29. I dont know what’s worse. The article, or the comments. Why would Trevor Lawrence play 2 seasons in the practice squad league when he will be a top 3 pick in the NFL? Why would anyone even expect any player to do that at all? And who would expect Kaepernick to come player 5 years past his prime? Those comments are proof of the ignorance in this article.

    And then all the super tough know-it-all in the comments expecting the XFL to cater to their specific wants over common sense. People think so much of their opinions. It’s a joke.

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