By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Pro Bowl is terrific because it affords one time to eat, doze and think.
Here are 10 ways the XFL could show NFL how to solve some key problems
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Somewhere among Sunday’s half-hearted tackles and insipid play-calls I got to thinking about the NFL’s problems, the XFL’s 2020 return and how one might benefit the other.
Then, I got to thinking about how when I hear the surname “McMahon” these three come to mind: Ed, Jim and Vince.
Interestingly, there is a tie-in.
Ed, the longtime “Tonight Show” sidekick to Johnny Carson, had a sassy, cutting-edge humor that played well off Carson’s clever, sarcastic, rapid-fire wit.
Ed was like the in-your-facemask AFL: A wild, pass-happy, life-on-the-edge existence that had a certain maverick flair to it. Johnny was like the old NFL – always funny, incredibly dependable and (within certain boundaries) tastefully done. Carson’s appeal – like the NFL’s – relied on longevity, reliability and first rate, state-of-the-art quality.
There was that, of course, and the TV networks to promote it.
Jim McMahon, the former Chicago Bear and Green Bay Packer, was an outspoken lightning rod. He never failed to express his views on life, liberty and the pursuit of a good time.
The quarterback also won Super Bowls with the Bears and Packers, but in vastly different roles. In Chicago, he was the man. In Green Bay, he was a shadow of the man. In Chicago, they loved him when he played for the Bears and despised him when he played for the Packers. In Green Bay, they pretty much despised him both home and away.
Then there is Vince, the pro wrestling entrepreneur, who is bringing back the XFL for a return visit.
Vince’s rerun league is planned to open in 2020.
There will be eight teams, 10 games and no cheerleaders. There also will be no sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem. That is according to the XFL’s news release last week.
While some choose to ignore the XFL (and I can’t say I blame the NFL), and others choose to make fun of it, I prefer to view a new league as an opportunity to fix the current one.
Here is what the XFL needs to do to sell tickets, secure a crazy TV contract and remind the NFL what it should be.
If I’m the XFL, I take the best that Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson had to offer: In other words, the best of the old and new. I’d take the best of what the NFL could be and I’d combine it with the best that it used to be.
The rules, rosters and games would be immediately recognizable as the best of what the game of football should be.
Forget all the mega-substituting, sub-packages and trickery because at its best, at its core, it is a controlled series of collisions. Ultimately, it is a brutish primal battle of 11-on-11, a test of wills against each other and the elements.
Therefore, the XFL should be a basic game of 11-on-11, just like our fathers and grandfathers once watched. There are two receivers, a tight end, a quarterback, a fullback, a running back and the line on offense. That’s it.
On defense, it’s two ends, two tackles, a middle linebacker, two outside linebackers, two corners and a pair of safeties.
The only in-series substitutions are for injuries. If a player leaves due to an injury he can’t return until the next series.
It’s a man vs. man game of wills. The quarterbacks call the plays in the huddle. The headsets are gone. Look, a coach and quarterback spend the entire week together preparing, installing and practicing the game plan. After all of that the quarterback ought to be able to call the game based on what’s happening during plays and what his teammates are saying in the huddle.
Excluding timeouts, breaks and halftime, the players should execute the game plan on game day. The coaches already had their say.
Replays would be eliminated. I would also get rid of in-stadium replays, too. It’s not fair to the officials. Let the refs do their best and allow all of us to get on with the rest of our lives.
That’s about it.
The NFL has become too specialized, too replay-delayed and too arbitrary: “What’s a catch? What’s a penalty?”
Sometimes, it’s tempting to say, “What’s the use?”
Frankly, I believe the XFL will soon be the EX-FL. I just hope it has some fresh ideas – revolutionized (face-mask-less?) helmets, all natural grass fields, officials’ quicker whistles for safety – that the NFL might be wise enough to consider adopting.
Thank goodness for the Pro Bowl. It only comes once a year, and it forces one to consider what “fake” football looks like, and how perilously close we might be to actually becoming it.