XFL Can Learn Some Things from the AAF

XFL
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 24: Bill Polian speaks with the press after the Alliance of American Football game between the Atlanta Legends and the Birmingham Iron at Georgia State Stadium on February 24, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Logan Riely/AAF/Getty Images)

This past week another professional spring football league bit the dust. The AAF ceased operations this past week. With the AAF done, it will be up to the XFL 2.0 to try to become the first spring professional football league to succeed. While many will consider the AAF a major failure, the XFL could learn some things from how the AAF did things.

XFL Can Learn Some Things from the AAF

Not having the capital to even finish out a full season of play is downright embarrassing. AAF co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, along with chairman Tom Dundon, have become the poster boys on how not to start a professional sports league. While the league failed in many aspects, there were some things they did correctly.

XFL founder Vince McMahon and XFL commissioner Oliver Luck should take note of those things the AAF did correctly. While learning from the AAF’s mistakes will help the XFL, so will what the AAF did correctly. Here are some things that the XFL could implement from watching the AAF.

Football has to Come First

One of the biggest reasons the XFL 1.0 failed was because of the level of play on the field was so poor. The XFL 1.0 opened to big television ratings. But when fans discovered the play was so bad, they didn’t return.

That is one area where the AAF succeeded. The play of the AAF was sound. It wasn’t at the same level as the NFL, but it was competitive and kept fans entertained. A lot of that was due to having actual professional football personnel executives run franchises. Guys like Phil Savage, Will Lewis, Randy Mueller, and Billy Devaney, all men who served as top talent evaluators for NFL teams, were in charge of some of the AAF’s teams’ roster. While Dundon didn’t appreciate the talent on the field, fans certainly did. By having scouts/team executives that understood what it takes to make it in the NFL running the AAF’s rosters, it made the product on the field solid.

It appears that the XFL will use a different business model in their first season of play. The head coaches of each franchise will also serve as the general managers. Along with that, the XFL will use a scouting service to evaluate talent.

But like most that follow football know, coaches should coach and talent evaluators should evaluate talent. Putting that burden on a head coach might be too much, especially since most coaches don’t have a background scouting. No disrespect to scouting services, they might be great at watching game tape, but most services don’t have the experience that personnel men like the AAF had in place. It would seem logical to implement the same type of set up the AAF had for evaluating talent. Making sure the product on the field will keep fans coming back. To do so, putting it in the hands of real talent evaluators would seem the right bet.

Football Fans like Transparency

Football fans love feeling like they are a part of the game. That is why so many enjoyed it when the AAF allowed cameras and microphones into the instant replay booths.

Not only were fans getting to witness things they could never see while watching an NFL game, but they also got to see how things are done.  The NFL has drawn the ire of some fans who believe that they, the fans, have been taken out of the game. When it came to replays, the AAF invited the fans in.

Non-NFL Cities Deserve Professional Football

Excluding St. Louis, the XFL have placed franchises in cities that also have NFL franchises. McMahon and Luck believe the track record these cities have with their NFL teams will carry over to the XFL.

Still, the AAF showed that cities that don’t have NFL franchises could and should be in play as well. San Antonio and Orlando both supported their AAF franchises very well. If the XFL were to expand in year two, both cities could be on their radar.

XFL Has a Chance

Success is born from failures. Not only can the XFL learn from mistakes they made the first time around, but they can also now learn from the AAF. While the AAF failed at many things, they also succeeded in others. The XFL will have the benefit from learning from their own past mistakes, the AAF’s most recent mistakes, and from the things the AAF did right.

Many might not believe it, but the XFL has a strong chance in succeeding. They have a founder who has the capital and the willingness not to give up. They have a commissioner who has a track record in working in professional sports. Along with those two very important things, they now have the AAF to learn from.

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