Vince McMahon is planning on resurrecting the XFL by the year 2020. While there’s plenty of reason to doubt he will actually do so - a countless number of things can go wrong - it’s quite possible that one of the worst ideas in the history of professional sports will make a comeback. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. The idea of another professional football organization in America isn’t an awful one. The problem was that Vince McMahon seemingly went out of his way to ruin the XFL by filling it with every awful idea he could think of.
That brings us to the new XFL. If it is going to succeed, it’s going to succeed based on Vince McMahon's ability to make right decisions and avoid the wrong ones. Yes, we actually believe that the reincarnated XFL can achieve a bit of success so long as Vince McMahon sticks to a few simple good ideas. At the same time, he’s going to need to avoid the seemingly insatiable temptation to muck it all up by doing some of those incredibly stupid things that have WWE fans everywhere scratching their heads ‘till their raw and bloody. These are the eight ways Vince McMahon can make the new XFL work and seven ways he can screw it up again.
15 Make it Work - Let The Defense Actually Play Defense
It’s not easy to be a defender in the modern-day NFL. As some players have put it, defenders have to worry more about being fined than they do about getting hits. While some of that is done in the name of player safety, it’s becoming difficult to tell what is a legal hit anymore.
One way the XFL can immediately distinguish itself is to let defensive players do their thing.
That doesn’t mean you let them destroy the competition - more on that later - but there’s really no reason why defenders in the XFL shouldn’t be able to have a little more freedom. Let cornerbacks hassle receivers, linebackers attack the backfield, and defensive linemen aim above the waist. Basically, let defenders do their jobs.
14 Mess it Up - Trying to Incorporate WWE Into the XFL
The last time Vince McMahon tried to start a professional football league, he also so happened to be the owner behind one of the hottest shows on television. Yes, the XFL launched around the same time that WWE was at its popularity peak. As such, it kind of made sense that Vince McMahon would incorporate the WWE into the XFL whenever possible. However, that proved to be a huge mistake. It made the XFL feel gimmicky and like an extension of the WWE. We know Vince has said that he’s going to distance himself from the day-to-day operations of the XFL this time around, but does anyone really believe he won’t shove WWE stars down XFL viewers’ throats? It’d honestly be a minor miracle if he let the XFL operate independently.
13 Make it Work - Let Players Have Fun
The original incarnation of the XFL was a complete disaster, but that doesn’t mean everything the league did was wrong. Actually, one of the great ideas Vince McMahon had when he started the XFL was his desire to let players have fun. That meant custom jerseys, elaborate end zone dances, and general “tomfoolery” as McMahon put it.
The NFL has gotten better about letting its players have fun in recent years, but many still view it as the “no fun league.”
While the new XFL will want to tweak how it approaches the idea of players having fun, the XFL does need to be a place where players can be themselves. That alone might appeal to people who feel like the NFL has grown stale.
12 Mess it Up - Constantly Attacking the NFL
If you watched the original incarnation of the XFL, you might have walked away with the opinion that the NFL owed Vince McMahon money. McMahon and the XFL broadcasters wasted no time in taking as many shots at the NFL as possible. While that makes sense given that the XFL is supposed to be an NFL alternative, it ultimately felt similar to when Impact Wrestling calls out WWE on-air. It just kind of reminds you that you’re watching the other show. We know Vince is going to find it hard to not attack the NFL as often as possible, but the new XFL shouldn’t be that. It should just be another football organization that will attract viewers based on its own merits. Let the football speak for itself.
11 Make it Work - Keep the Games Short
Vince McMahon touched upon this during the XFL announcement, but we can’t really emphasize enough just how important this is. Even if you’re a die-hard NFL fan, you have to admit that watching NFL games can feel like a real time commitment. Between challenges, eating the clock, and commercial after commercial, you’re looking at a three hour plus program that contains only about an hour - at best - of actual football. The question is, “How do you cut down on the length of a football game without cutting down on the action?” XFL executives are going to have to ask that question with every rule they make. We don’t think they’re going to cut down on commercials, so the time cuts have to come through rule changes.
10 Mess it Up - Bringing Back the Stupid Ball Scramble
The NFL has a kickoff problem. They’ve rightfully determined that having players charge at each other at full speed is the surest way to have one of them get seriously injured. So, they’ve taken steps that help ensure players don’t actually want to return kickoffs. Of course, that makes kickoffs feel kind of unnecessary. The original XFL featured an alternative to kickoffs. They had two players scramble for the ball, fight over it, and the winner’s team got to choose if they were going to start on offense or defense.
As you might imagine, this method led to many unnecessary injuries. In fact, the XFL's first game saw a player break his collarbone on the opening scramble.
We know the kickoff system isn’t great, but there’s no way that the scramble can return if the XFL is going to be taken seriously and grow.
9 Make it Work - Focus on Markets Without NFL Teams
If you live in a major city like New York or Los Angeles, you have access to an almost infinite amount of entertainment options. Among those options is the chance to watch several professional sports teams. That being the case, it’s hard to believe the XFL is going to be able to make a dent in cities that are saturated with professional sports teams. Instead, the organization should focus on markets that don’t really have professional sports teams to call their own. The citizens of cities like Austin, San Antonio, Portland, Memphis, and Oklahoma City would probably be more willing to go to an XFL game simply because they can invest themselves in the fact they now have a team to root for.
8 Mess it Up - Trying to Do Everything Differently From the NFL
We understand that if you’re going to try to cut into the NFL’s iron grip on the football industry, you’re going to have to be different. There’s no way you’re going to beat - or even compete with - the NFL by doing exactly what they do. But they went too far.
The original XFL left you with the impression that some overpaid people sat in a room and started thinking of ways that they could do absolutely everything differently from how the NFL does things.
There are very good reasons why certain rules are in place in the NFL. For that matter, there’s probably a good reason NFL stadiums don’t feature things like cheerleaders in hot tubs. The new XFL needs to worry more about putting out a watchable product than it does putting out a product that’s just different.
7 Make it Work - Make Live Games More Enjoyable For Fans
Going to an NFL game is not as much fun as it’s cracked up to be. First off, unless you’re willing to watch two non-contenders from the nosebleeds, you’re going to have to pay a month’s rent just to get into the stadium. Once you’re there, you can expect to pay twice as much as you should for food and drinks, spend most of your time staring at the jumbo screen in the stadium, and dealing with those dreaded lulls between the action. The XFL can immediately distinguish itself from the NFL by ensuring that fans have fun when they go to XFL games. That means lower ticket prices, great views for everyone, reasonable concessions, and in-stadium features designed to appeal to the live audience.
6 Mess it Up - Filling It With Nothing but B-Grade Players
It’s not easy to get into the NFL. While it may seem like you’re constantly hearing stories about guys coming in off the streets to make NFL teams, the truth is that there are a lot of great football players out there who will never play for a professional football team. As such, XFL teams will feature some genuinely talented players.
However, if the XFL really wants to grab people’s attention, they have to attract a few players that had the option to go to the NFL but chose the XFL instead.
That’s part of the reason why the USFL lasted as long as it did. We’re not saying the XFL needs to steal first round draft picks, but even some third and fourth round players would help improve the league’s stature.
5 Make it Work - Emphasize Production Values
The best thing about the old XFL - by some margin - was its production values. It may have been inferior to the NFL in a lot of ways, but you felt like you were watching a professional production when you watched it. The XFL also featured a few production tricks that the NFL would eventually copy (sky cam, putting microphones on the players, etc.). This new XFL can’t afford to have anything less than stellar production values. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that this is one way that the XFL can be objectively better than the NFL. No, they don’t have quite the same resources to work with, but with a few clever production tricks designed to enhance the experience, the XFL can find ways to spice up the NFL’s sometimes dull presentation style.
4 Screw it Up - Politicize the League
Vince McMahon made it very clear in his XFL announcement that this league was only going to be about football. There's been a ton of tension surrounding the NFL, as the country remains divided on players protesting racial injustices during the national anthem. McMahon said he wants the league to only be about football and not political and social issues. At the same time, he was quick to say players would be required to stand for the national anthem. With McMahon's well known friendship with President Donald Trump, who's a divisive figure himself, it may be possible that Trump will endorse McMahon's XFL product. However, the XFL must do everything it can to keep political figures and views away, because they can't afford to alienate viewers.
3 Make it Work - Let Players Make Circus Catches
The NFL’s catch rules are without a doubt the single worst on-field aspect of the organization. In the past, players used to be able to make incredible “circus catches” that certainly looked like catches to the majority of people watching. Now, new rules concerning ball control and possession have negated a great number of incredible grabs in big moments.
Put simply, nobody is quite sure what an NFL catch is anymore.
Some of the NFL’s best athletes are forced to play much more conservatively just because they need to be 100% sure their catch will not be in doubt. The XFL needs to do things differently in that respect. Their catch rules should allow for juggling, bobbling, and fingertip grabs. Their product will be more entertaining if they simply allow for circus catches once more.
2 Mess it Up - Not Taking Care of Players
Earlier, we mentioned how hard it is for defensive players to play defense in the NFL with the mountain of rules they have to climb over just to complete a tackle. Well, this is the logical inverse to that statement.
Simply put, the XFL can’t become a place notorious for a large amount of injuries.
We know that isn’t what some fans of old football want to hear, but it’s true. However, this goes beyond just ensuring the safety of players on the field. The XFL needs to make sure its players are paid well, have access to health benefits, and can enjoy expert medical attention. XFL players shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens just because they’re not in the NFL. They need to be treated like professionals.
1 Make it Work - Sign Recognizable Names
Unlike the NFL, the XFL will not be franchised out to multiple owners. There will be eight teams to start, all under a single entity. That means the league itself has the power to allow the players they want into the league. While the GMs and coaches of the league will have their own ideas of the teams that want to build, the XFL needs star power to attract attention. That means any big college name that couldn't quite cut it in the NFL has to be targeted as a potential signing. A name like Tim Tebow would make perfect sense, as his NFL games always drew high ratings and got people talking. McMahon has to find a way to get these kinds of players to play football for him.