The XFL is back, and the 2020 season is set to begin on Saturday, Feb. 8. The eight-team league (with a ninth practice squad-type team), owned by the WWE’s Vince McMahon, is making a comeback of sorts. It’ll be playing its first season since 2001. That lone XFL season ended just a month after the league’s conference championship game.
Although we’ve seen alternative leagues to the NFL fail — most recently the American Alliance of Football that folded in the spring of 2019 — the XFL’s model will try to remain viable.
One of the more interesting parts about the new XFL is its rules. The league will also have the most diverse officiating crew in pro football history, and alternative camera angles to conduct replays that will drastically set it apart from its NFL counterpart.
Let’s highlight some of the more fun aspects of the XFL, shall we?
Several XFL rules are in place to make offenses more exciting, as well as to speed up the game
You can read the full list of the XFL’s rules here. Here are a few that stand out:
- The point-after touchdown
This rule gives teams the opportunity to be creative with how many points they put up. After scoring a touchdown, a team has to run a play from either the 2-, 5-, or 10-yard line. Those are worth one, two, or three points, respectively.
Yup, that’s right — there are no extra-point kicks allowed in the XFL. HELL YEAH, SCREW EXTRA POINTS AND GIVE US MORE OFFENSE.
Additionally, if a defense forces a turnover on this play and returns it to the opposing end zone, the defense is awarded the same number of points the offense was going for.
2. The double-forward pass
The XFL will let offenses throw two forward passes, as long as the first pass happens behind the line of scrimmage. Here’s what that looks like:
Now I only wish an offensive genius like Steve Spurrier were coaching in the league. He ran a play similar to the Philly Special last season in the AAF, so just imagine what he could do with his team allowed to pass behind the line of scrimmage!
3. Overtime rules
How the XFL will handle overtime might be my favorite aspect of its rulebook. It’s much better than the NFL’s terrible overtime, during which a team can score a touchdown first and win the game without the other team getting a possession.
However, the defense can’t score in OT in the XFL, unlike in college football or the NFL.
The XFL’s OT goes into five “rounds” of one offensive play per team. It’s similar to NHL shootouts or MLS penalty kicks in extra time. Each team will get the ball at the 5-yard line with one chance to score; a successful score is worth two points. The team that has the most points after each round wins the game. If it’s tied, the rounds will go on until there is a winner.
Count me in, folks.
4. The comeback period
The XFL also has what’s called a “comeback period,” which only goes into effect inside the two-minute warning of each half. The clock will stop until the ball is spotted and after five seconds run off the 25-second play clock.
Just like you’re used to in the NFL, the clock will stop on incomplete passes and plays that have gone out of bounds. Essentially, the clock stopping on each play inside two minutes gives teams more time to make plays late in the game if they need a quick score.
5. Clock differences
Three small rule changes will also help the game move faster:
- 25-second play clock as opposed to the NFL’s 40-second one
- Each coach will get just two timeouts per half
- Halftime period is just 10 minutes
The NFL might not be quick to adopt any of these, but can you imagine if the league’s overtime period was like the XFL’s? It would be a blast.
The league is using some innovative technology, too
For replays, the XFL will rely on Hawk-Eye technology, which is used primarily in professional tennis for reviews.
In the XFL, coaches won’t be able to challenge plays, but all plays can be reviewed by a replay official, who will be above the field in a booth during games. All plays will be reviewed using Hawk-Eye.
“[Hawk-Eye] allows us to have independence from the broadcast networks. We don’t have to rely solely on them for the timing of the angles,” the XFL’s head of officiating Dean Blandino said in a January press conference. “We can bring in multiple camera feeds immediately. At the end of a play we can look to six, eight, 10 different angles and pick the right angle to make a decision and not have to wait for the network to show it. We feel like it will make our process very efficient.”
Viewers will also be able listen in on referee and coach-to-player communication, too. Broadcast booths will have access to coaches calling plays into players’ helmet headsets. They’ll also be able to hear officials communicating with the replay official while they are reviewing plays.
“To hear a play call and the verbiage, is the biggest thing that people will be talking about,” Fox analyst Joel Klatt said via the Associated Press. “How often can you see a coach call plays? When you are able to hear the play calls, you can see the philosophy of a team and coach.”
This would definitely be an interesting to have during NFL games. Imagine how cool it would be if we could hear Patrick Mahomes telling his offensive coordinator he wanted to run Super Bowl 54’s biggest play live!
The XFL will feature diverse officiating crews
In each game, there will be one official solely to determine the spot of the ball on the field. The XFL will also have six women work as officials. Since there are four games per week, each game will have one referee who is a woman. The decision is part of the XFL’s desire to promote inclusivity within officiating staffs.
“We’re trying to create more opportunities for female officials and minority officials,” Blandino said The Football Girl Podcast in July 2019. “The XFL is going to be a showcase for officials all over the country to get more looks and potentially have the NFL look at them. So, we’re going to put together an inclusive [officiating] staff.”
One of those includes Amanda Sauer-Cook, who made history as the first openly gay referee in professional football history when she worked for the AAF last year. Here’s more from Outsports:
Sauer-Cook got her start in officiating when a fellow spectator overheard her shouting about a missed illegal block call while she was watching a high school football game with her daughters. The person recommended Sauer-Cook start attending meetings to become a high school referee in Westchester County, New York, which she did. Since then, she’s proudly worn the zebra stripes, and quickly began working her way up the officiating ladder.
Sarah Thomas, the first permanent female referee hired by the NFL, introduced Sauer-Cook to retired NFL referee and former Monday Night Football rules analyst Gerald Austin, who also serves as the supervisor of officials for Conference USA. Shortly thereafter, Sauer-Cook started working Conference USA games, before moving on to the Big Ten Conference.
The AAF employed three women as coaches last spring, two of whom coached on NFL teams last season, including Lo Locust and Jennifer King. The XFL could potentially bring exposure to the women in officiating which could perhaps lead to the NFL to hiring more women refs, like Thomas.
The XFL probably won’t be perfect, and there’s no guarantee what the league’s future will hold.
But there are some new and different rules that can make the games entertaining, and it could give the NFL the opportunity to borrow some of these rules at a later date. More importantly, it’s one way football fans can get their fix during the NFL offseason.