Tonight, the Alliance of American Football has the chance to change the model of football, forever. Previously, college was the make-or-break for football players. One chance to make the NFL. Otherwise, your potential career is left up to chance.
With the Alliance of American Football, the brainchild of Charlie Ebersol, a developmental league, at the professional level, is alive. Attempted previously with the XFL (which will soon be back in 2020), developmental football was never an option – gimmicks, calendar placement, and television reach made a league financially impossible. Now, it has a chance. Filling the void left between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, the AAF aims to provide fans with an enjoyable 21st century style of game – faster paced, more data, more fun. It is also a return to normalcy – what happens on the field is what we care about; less penalties, less referees dictating games, and less arguments.
The new league is far from the same style of football we watched with the NFL. Three unique rules are:
- No kickoffs; teams start at their own 25-yard line.
- No onside kicks; instead, teams will need to gain at least 12 yards on one play from their own 28-yard line.
- No extra points; teams must go for two-point conversions.
Other rules are similar to college: one foot in bounds and red zone overtime (although each team only gets one possession and must score a touchdown). Others are pace of play style rules, such as no TV timeouts and only a 35 second play clock. One of the more interesting changes is that of a sky judge – a referee that has the ability to make changes to the call on the field in respect to penalties (would have been useful in the Rams-Saints game).
Eight teams will contest the inaugural season: Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Orlando Apollos, Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, and San Diego Fleet. Longtime coaches make their return to the sideline, with Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona), and Mike Riley (San Antonio) leading the pack.
And of course, on the field, you will see many familiar names from college and the pros:
- Atlanta Legends – Matt Simms, Tarean Folston, Tavaris Barnes, Doran Grant, Damian Swann
- Birmingham Iron – Trent Richardson, Rory Anderson, Brandon Greene, Devin Taylor, Nick Novak
- Memphis Express – Christian Hackenberg, Zac Stacy, Brad Wing
- Orlando Apollos – Charles Johnson, Tre’ Jackson, Andrew Tiller, Ryan Davis, Will Hill
- Arizona Hotshots – Josh Huff, Will Sutton, Trenton Thompson, Scooby Wright III, Edmond Robinson, Rahim Moore, Sterling Moore, Nick Folk
- Salt Lake Stallions – Matt Asiata, Chris Odom, Mike Purcell, Will Davis, C. J. Smith
- San Antonio Commanders – Marquise Williams, Greg Ward, Jr., Cyril Richardson, Deion Barnes, Derron Smith
- San Diego Fleet – Tani Tupou, A. J. Tarpley, Ron Brooks, Demetrius Wright
At the end of the day, the AAF gives these players a chance to redemption, whether its proving themselves for a shot at the NFL or capping off a career that ended just too short for them. Tonight, we see if this league can be the next step – a chance for players and a chance for fans – cause who doesn’t want more football!
Of course, it wouldn’t seem fair if I didn’t have predictions for the season, so here we go:
Week One Game Picks:
Orlando over Atlanta: Garrett Gilbert and Akeem Hunt will be a dangerous duo on offense and a pair to watch this year for the Apollos. Give me Charles Johnson to throw to and this could be one of the best teams in the league on offense. Their defense is greatly lacking, but in a league where offense comes first, I won’t be too worried.
San Diego over San Antonio: a battle of offenses should be on display in the Alamodome. Dustin Vaughan and Greg Ward Jr. are going to be a good one-two punch for the Commanders and Mike Riley. Watch out for LB Nick Temple on defense – one to watch this year.
Birmingham over Memphis: although the Express may have the QB of the year with Christian Hackenberg, the Iron will be a run and gun offense led by Trent Richardson, who will be one of the top players in the league. The Iron look on paper to have the best defense coming in (the Iron Wall?) and could be a team to watch.
Arizona over Salt Lake: a ground and pound style of play will be seen here from both sides – both with strong running backs and a tough defensive line. If you like old school hard knock play, this is the game for you. I have my eyes on the Hotshots with one of the elite defensive lines and a very dangerous slate of RBs and WRs. MVP of this team could be on defense with Scooby Wright III.
Post Season Selections:
Eastern Conference Winner: Birmingham Iron
Western Conference Winner: Arizona Hotshots
Champion: Arizona Hotshots