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.