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Ten things to like about the new Alliance of American Football

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Alliance of American Football

Saturday was the debut of yet another in a long line of alternative professional football leagues. It was the first games of the inaugural Alliance of American Football. But right away there was something different about this new league. A lot different, in fact. In ways that all seem to be a recipe for prolonged success.

Not relying on gimmicks

Remember a few years back when Vince McMahon tried starting the XFL? Yes, he’s starting it again in 2020 and if he didn’t learn anything from his first go ‘round, his new one will fail too. The first one was trying to sell the league with a series of gimmicks that got old fast. NO FAIR CATCHES! HALF NAKED STRIPPERS... I MEAN CHEERLEADERS! CRAZY NAMES ON THEIR JERSEYS!

Even the most testosterone porn crazed dudes were like ‘Ok, cool it.’ From that league we got Rod “He Hate Me” Smart and... a cautionary tale for starting a league. The AAF doesn’t rely on gimmicks. They understand what they are and have gone about trying to make sensible decisions that the viewing audience may like, along with a few things fans consistently complain about with regard to the NFL. You gotta like that, because if the NFL sees the public approval, maybe they’ll take note.

Run by NFL people

From the jump, this league has executives and coaches who are well known NFL people. Former longtime NFL GM Bill Polian is co-founder and Head of Football. Other higher-ups in the league offices include Troy Polamalu (Head of Player Relations), Hines Ward (Player Relations Executive), Jared Allen (Player Relations Executive), and Justin Tuck (Member of Player Engagements Board Of Advisors).

Former NFL head coaches include Mike Martz (Fleet), Mike Singletary (Express), Steve Spurrier (Apollos), and Dennis Erickson (Stallions). You get this many NFL people involved and it lends credibility to the league.

The NFL Network has even signed on to carry two games per week and a total of 19 games this season.

Not shying away from being NFL D-league

Again, we look at leagues like the XFL and the Arena Football League, and the like, the AAF is not trying to compete with the NFL or be an alternative to the NFL. They make it quite clear what they would like to be — an NFL developmental league.

That designation is not official, but with the way they’re going, it’s easy to predict the NFL could soon make an investment in it. NFL teams will certainly be watching as they see several of their hopefuls from recent training camps and practice squads are given another chance to prove themselves.

Season timing

Their opening games are the weekend after the Super Bowl. The season is ten games with two playoff games, which will have their championship game the weekend after the draft. This will make all their players available to join an NFL club for the start of their OTA’s in May. And what better way to earn a spot on an NFL team’s offseason roster than to show up big for your AAF championship team? No private workout. A public, nationally televised tryout for all 32 teams just in time to come in with the new rookie crop.

Speeding up of play

They have less commercial breaks and more often will pop in an ad during the broadcast to make up for it. Fewer TV timeouts means the game moves faster. They can get through a game in 2.5 hours whereas an NFL game will last closer to 3.5 hours.

They also speed up play by eliminating kickoffs and instead just starting possessions on their own 25-yard-line.

Officials don’t leave the field for replays. They communicate directly with the booth through an earpiece. Replay in the NFL has become tedious.

Hitting

There were several big hits in the games Saturday night that harkened back to the kind of hits that had us all fall in love with NFL football over the years. The same hits in the NFL now would draw a 15-yard penalty and punish a player for making a play rather than reward him. These are borderline NFL talent players. Many of whom were highly touted college prospects. They can lay the wood. And in the NFL they’ve been told that’s no longer allowed.

Like this sack which would have resulted in prison time at the NFL level, but didn’t draw a flag in this game.

No extra points

No extra points! No one likes extra points. The NFL tried to remedy it by moving them back. The AAF eliminated them altogether. All teams go for two. So, they get six points or eight. That’s it.

Officiating

There is a transparency to the officiating in the AAF that is enjoyable that simply will never happen in the NFL. Firstly, they have the ‘eye in the sky’ giving a booth official the ability to overturn what they deem to be officiating errors. The egregious missed pass interference penalty in the NFC Championship that sent the Rams to the Super Bowl is still very fresh in our minds. That would have been remedied by this approach. You think Drew Brees would have been able to score more than 13 points on the Patriots? I digress.

Bridging the gap in the long offseason

Football has always had an excruciatingly long offseason. At least for the fans anyway. Games that matter last for four months for most teams, five if you’re lucky enough to see your team make the Super Bowl. But either way, you’re looking at 7 months of no football to watch. Even College Football happens in the same months as the NFL, but ends a month earlier. So, if you’re dying to see more football, here you go — three more months of it.

Local star players

My favorite part of the league is how they decide which players are assigned to which teams. If you watched, you may have noticed a lot of local school players or local NFL players on certain teams. That is not an accident. It’s pure genius honestly as it helps drum up local support from fans who recognize their favorite college players.

As ESPN explained it:

First, the league figured out the top 30 NFL-producing colleges over the past 10 seasons (USC is No. 1), and gave each team three high-producing schools. Then they gave teams up to 30 other area schools in a certain range to pull allocations from.

If a player doesn’t fit that grouping, they also assigned four NFL teams to each AAF team; if a player played for a team or was in training camp with a team, then his rights were given to the respective AAF team. This was done with both geographic and population data (for instance, San Antonio has the Cowboys, Texans, Chiefs and Eagles).

For the Raiders, this is would put recent former players on the San Diego Fleet, which is why Saturday night’s game saw several former Raiders including DE Damontre Moore, and TE Marcus Baugh. Moore spent two games last season with the Raiders. He had a sack in the game against the San Antonio Commanders. Baugh spent training camp with the Raiders and was featured heavily in the Fleet’s passing game. The Fleet staff also features former Raiders Lamont Jordan and Eric Allen as assistant coaches.

Two games were played on opening night featuring the San Diego Fleet vs San Antonio Commanders and the Atlanta Legends vs Orlando Apollos.

There are two more games on Sunday with Birmingham Iron vs Memphis Express at 1pm Pacific (4pm ET) on CBS and Arizona Hotshots vs Salt Lake Stallions at 5pm Pacific (8pm ET) on NFL Network.

To see which former Raiders are on which AAF teams, click here.