The XFL is coming in hot.
When they debut in February, it will be taking a brand new approach of going where no football league has gone before.
The eight-team league will have options for extra points worth one, two or three points. It will allow double forward passes behind the line of scrimmage.
You read that correctly, as ESPN explains in details.
- A kickoff designed to discourage touchbacks and increase the likelihood of a return: The ball will be kicked off from the 30-yard line, but the coverage and blocking teams will line up at the receiving team’s 35- and 30-yard lines, respectively. Only the kicker and returner can move until the ball is caught, or three seconds after it hits the ground. A touchback will be spotted at the 35-yard line. Kicks out of bounds will go to the 45-yard line.
- Players can’t leave the line of scrimmage on punts until after the kick. Any kicks that go into the end zone or out of bounds will be marked at the 35-yard line or wherever the ball went out of bounds, whichever is better for the receiving team. The idea is to discourage fair catches and “coffin corner” kicks, while providing more incentive to go for it on fourth down.
- Three options after scoring a touchdown: a 1-point play from the 2-yard line, a 2-point play from the 3-yard line or a 3-point play from the 10-yard line. There is no option to kick an extra point.
- A shootout-style overtime: Each team will get five single-play possessions from the 5-yard line. If the game is still tied at that point, the rotating possessions will continue until there is a winner. The XFL hopes that overtimes will be rare, in part because of the multiple options for points after touchdowns.
- A rule that allows two forward passes on one play, providing the first doesn’t go past the line of scrimmage. The purpose is to encourage creative trick plays without the risk of losing possession of a lateral or backward pass, which is a live ball if it hits the ground.
- A requirement for only one foot to be in bounds for possession. XFL director of football operations Sam Schwartzstein said the change is easier to officiate quickly. It also is better for player safety, Schwartzstein said, because players take more unbraced falls while trying to place both feet in bounds.
- A total of nine officials on the field, one of whom will be dedicated solely to spotting the ball to minimize downtime between plays. XFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said most XFL officials have experience at the Division I college level. Blandino, the former NFL officiating chief, has been consulting with the XFL for more than a year. He performed a similar function for the Alliance of American Football (AAF) last spring.
- A video official who can intervene on significant non-reviewable plays when involving player safety, or on any calls inside of five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. There will also be booth-initiated reviews of traditionally reviewable plays using Hawk-Eye technology that ingests video directly from the broadcast truck.
- Allowing offensive linemen to be up to 2 yards downfield when a pass is thrown, with the hope of minimizing flags on run-pass option plays.
- A series of tweaks that the XFL hopes will cap game times at 2 hours, 45 minutes. (NFL games typically run about 3:06.) The tweaks include a running game clock that won’t stop after incomplete passes or when players go out of bounds, except inside of two minutes in each half. Additionally, there will be a 10-minute halftime, two timeouts per team per half and no coin tosses. The home team will always make the choice to kick, receive or defer to start the game. The visitors will make that choice to start overtime.
“From research we had done, fans think there’s too much downtime and dead time. I suppose games have gotten longer,” Luck says. “We wanted to take a step forward by going back to games under three hours based on all our fan research. More action and more plays speed it up.
“Our data analysts looked at hundreds of games. This makes sense from a flow perspective, TV perspective and fan perspective. And I am looking forward to as we launch, will our players be required to be in better shape? They’ll be moving fast and playing with tempo. That is going to be neat; conditioning may play more of a role in our game.”
“When you look at the college rule versus the NFL,” Blandino says, “it definitely is still a skilled play, but an easier play. But I will say there will be less replay reviews; it’s easier to officiate looking for that one body part. I see less controversy in terms of catch/no catch.”
Adds Luck: “As we went through this process, we had to keep in mind that players in our league will have played in college, and a vast majority spent time in the NFL, some in the CFL. We had to be somewhat selective in terms of innovations to adopt. They need to be teachable to our players to play fast. We have had our coaches working with the players on all these innovations to make sure they don’t black out and think they are in a different league or back in college.”
In the XFL, a nine-point lead can be a one-possession game.
The XFL will kick off their 10-week regular season Feb. 8.