Are We All Football Addicts or is the AAF a Keeper?
True or False?
The real football season ended after the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl?
How you answer that question likely will be the gauge of your interest in the Alliance of American Football (AAF), which began it's season just one week after the Super Bowl ended and surprised quite a few people.
Perhaps the biggest headlines came from opening night when 2.9 million people tuned in to watch the leagues very first game on Saturday Feb. 9th. That number was larger than the NBA drew on the same night at the same time on the dame day.
Those ratings drew headlines and the inevitable speculation---"Is the AAF for real?" "Is the AAF the Next Big Thing?"....
The answer is not very simple--but starts with "Simmer down, let's wait and see".....
Kudos to Charlie Ebersol (yes, son of former NBC Exec Dick Ebersol) and the people in charge for quietly putting together a nice game to watch. Ebersol had the smarts to bring in a ton of former NFL players to help streamline the game and make it more appealing than the often slow, ponderous, over-run with commercials game broadcasts the NFL stuffs down our throats.
The league also got some high profile coaches like Steve Spurrier and Mike Singletary to lead teams.
The teams themselves feature mostly fringe guys, players who are or were on the edge of an NFL roster or practice squad or guys who were late cuts from NFL teams.
The quality of play is spotty. It isn't always high end, NFL caliber, but you've also got a league full of guys hoping to make impressions on NFL scouts with the idea of getting on a roster come July when training camp opens.
Essentially, the idea is to function like a potential NBA D-League or MLB AAA Squad. Which is where this all I believe will eventually end.
The games feature some things the NFL should SERIOUSLY look at adopting:
--No kickoffs. After a Touchdown or Field Goal, the opposing team gets the ball at the 25 to start the next series.
--No Extra Point kicks. 2-point conversions after touchdowns only.
--No Onside Kicks. Instead, depending on circumstances, the team wanting an onside conversion can get the ball on their own 28, with a 4th down and 12 yard conversion attempt. Convert it, you keep the ball, don't make it, you give it up.
--Overtime: Each team gets the ball on the 10, with 4 plays to score and convert a 2-point conversion....
--No secondary blitzes. Only 5 players can rush at a time. This was enacted to take the onus off Offensivle Lines which apparently is a weak spot in league talent.
--Replays: The official speaks with the replay judge in a booth in real time. Both are mic'd and the on-field ref, doesn't go "Under a Hood". We hear the discussion as to what is or will happen in real time....
All of these rules were designed to speed up play and in week one, it worked well. Very, very well.
One of the biggest complaints about NFL games is the god-awful delays, commercial breaks and various other things to slow down play. Outside the blitz rule, I'd love to see every single one of these other rules be adopted by the NFL.
Are the games worth watching?
Well, if you need a football fix, yes they probably are. No, it is not the "Best of the Best" competing out there, but it is entertaining and a decent product.
The AAF did not go big on the Self-Promotional Hype Train, they did drop some commercials and social media promotion but nothing crazy.
The AAF also got a nice head start on the Vince McMahon vanity project known as the XFL. Which, yes, means in the Spring of 2020, we get not one, but two Spring Football leagues.
I can't imagine McMahon being able to replicate what the AAF has done.
Over time, I believe the AAF, if it can survive its initial growing pains, will end up serving as an NFL training ground. There are far too many former NFL people involved in the league and it fits perfectly with what the NFL says it wants to do.
Sometimes someone comes up with the right idea at the right time and makes it work. I think the AAF may be headed in that direction.
And for anyone who wants a yearly dose of Professional Football, it may be exactly what the doctor ordered....