The NFL season has just come to an end, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the XFL season to begin. They have teams. They have names. They have uniforms, and coaches, and rosters. They have stadiums, and tickets have been sold, broadcast deals worked out. Are you ready for some (Xtreme) football?
The XFL is the second upstart league in as many years to attempt to initiate a power play to fill the gap left in the winter and spring months between the end of the NFL season and the beginning of the next. The last one was a spectacular failure.
That would be the AAF, or the Alliance of American Football, the brainchild of Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. Because of unsound financial backing, they folded before their inaugural season even reached the playoffs. We covered the league each of its eight weeks, highlighting the performances of former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We will do the same this year.
In contrast to the AAF, the XFL is well-funded courtesy of its owner, Vince McMahon, the sports entertainment mogul who has accumulated a net worth in the billions, largely through World Wrestling Entertainment.
McMahon initially attempted to revitalize the off-season football landscape in 2000, but that lasted just one season before he shuttered it, realizing that he had overshot his market. He has learned a lot in the past 20 years, hopefully, about how to do it right.
The XFL should bear many similarities to the AAF, because, in fact, many of the players will be the same, including many members of the Steelers from past rosters (including offseason rosters), such as Terence Garvin, Steven Johnson, and some AAF standouts like Jamar Summers and Jack Tocho.
Some more prominent names with Steelers ties will be participating this year, the most significant being quarterback Landry Jones. Former wide receiver Eli Rogers, as well as safety Shamarko Thomas, are also among those on the eight-team league’s 52-man rosters.
Last year, after the AAF folded, the Steelers signed six refugees to their 90-man roster, the most notable of them being Kameron Kelly and J.C. Hassenauer. The former spent most of the season as the third safety on the 53-man roster before he was waived following an arrest. Hassenauer spent time on the practice squad and could make a push to make the roster this year as an interior reserve.
The AAF and XFL will still have many differences, however. For one thing, the XFL isn’t looking to be the NFL’s minor league, with players free to sign with NFL teams during the XFL offseason. That’s why the Steelers were unable to sign Jones after Ben Roethlisberger was injured last year.
The XFL will also be experimenting with the rules more—though perhaps not so drastically as the first incarnation did—in an endeavor that will be overseen by former NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino, and general manager Oliver Luck.
There are plenty of NFL alumni among the head coaches, as well, including Kevin GIlbride and Pep Hamilton. Marc Trestman and Jim Zorn are among the others, as well as prominent collegiate head coach Bob Stoops, who will coach Jones’ team.