As the NFL’s premier weekend approached, the XFL — the latest attempt at a legitimate offseason football league — unveiled its rules. The eight-team league will look different from its lackluster 2001 version, thanks to interesting rules innovations.
In the 2010s, the NFL made positive rule changes: the imperfect but better overtime; the adoption of college football’s two-point conversion return; transforming the extra point from irrelevant to watchable. The 100-year-old league can use the XFL’s relaunch to study its innovations.
Goal-line scheming revolution necessary
XFL 2.0, which opens play February 8, will use a shootout-style overtime akin to knockout-round soccer. Each team will start on the opponent’s 5-yard line, alternating goal-to-go plays. The team with the most successful conversions in a five-try format wins. Using the soccer- and hockey-themed shootout marks a useful step for a league that will need to straddle the line between a different brand of football and XFL 1.0-level ridiculousness.
For sheer curiosity, the first XFL overtime game will be must-see. This arrangement will hopefully prompt the XFL’s mix of ex-NFL head coaches and assistants and ex-college HCs to green-light cutting-edge goal-line play designs. Because if that does not happen, yikes will this be repetitive. On one hand, seeing a shootout go into the sixth or seventh round because of ties will be riveting. The counterargument: using five yards of real estate -– and, thus, similar actions from teams -– will limit an aesthetically diverse sport as 95 yards of the field go unused.
This idea is commendable and outflanks the Alliance of American Football’s OT for authenticity. But the NFL will not touch this one. It is more likely to mandate that each team has a possession in OT.