I was finally able to attend my first XFL game for the Week 3 match between the DC Defender’s and the LA Wildcats. My brother, a casual football fan, only came with to see Cardale Jones and Shawn Oakman. Like most casual football fans I’ve talked to, Cardale and Oakman are two of the few “known” players in the XFL. Most casual football fans know Cardale Jones for winning the National Championship for Ohio State and may know the name Shawn Oakman due to his memed 2015 jumbotron picture. Other nationally recognized players in the XFL are longtime Raiders punter Marquette King, Oklahoma Quarterback Landry Jones and various amounts of other kickers.
For people like my brother, that’s it. Those are the only name’s he, and many casual CFB and NFL observers recognize. Of course people recognize players from their local teams, but nationally the casual football fan won’t know many more.
The 2020 XFL has clearly placed a lot of emphasis on play quality, the main reason it failed in 2000, which they’ve done a tremendous job putting on quality football. However, in order to grow to influence more fans, XFL owners need to find a happy balance between talent and serviceable big names.
Quarterback play in the XFL, like most football, has been hit or miss thus far. Matt McGloin and Aaron Murray, both generally unknown guys, have been downright painful to watch. So here comes my annoying example for the week. I was disappointed to see that Johnny Manziel wasn’t offered a tryout. To be clear, this is not a pitch for Johnny Football to be in the XFL, I’m merely using him as an example.
Commissioner Oliver Luck sited Manziel’s lack of success at the NFL and CFL levels for not offering him an invitation, which is understandable. However, most of America (including myself) would love to see Johnny Football, at least as a backup, being on field interviewed during game and doing his patented Money Manziel celebration. There’s no question from a marketing standpoint that the character that is Johnny Manziel would be great for the league. Talent wise, it would be hard to believe that an inshape, relatively sober, 26 year old Heisman Trophy Winning quarterback wouldn’t be at least a serviceable backup XFL quarterback.
Between popular college players and older NFL players, the list of potential big names the XFL could go after are endless. It was disappointing to see Tim Tebow declined a tryout to continue his baseball dream. The XFL has been a success thus far, but as with everything in entertainment, ratings fluctuate randomly. Going forward, at least extending tryout invitations to to bigger name guys to see if they can cut it could help the league get over the hump to prosper for years to come.