More ball, less stall.
That’s the XFL’s talking point as the league’s rules were officially announced Tuesday morning.
The league wants its games to look much like the football everyone is used to, it just wants it to be quicker. And safer, and more exciting.
It will certainly be different, yet also the same.
“We wanted to create a game that was familiar, but unique,” said XFL commissioner Oliver Luck. “When people watch the games … they will see a game they very easily recognize: 11 on 11, four downs, the same dimensions and 99 percent of the rules that we have are the same rules they follow (in the NFL). But we have some innovations and they all have rationale, which we think is important.”
The differences range from minor to extreme.
Gone are extra-point kicks, touchbacks on kickoffs, the 40-second play clock and the overtime rules that no one seems to like.
The league has said it spent 18 months working on the rule book, getting input not only from players, coaches and medical professionals, but also from the fans, with a nationwide survey of more than 6,000 football fans.
“We started this process by listening to fans … and what do fans want,” Luck said. “What they came back with was basically, ‘we love the game of football. It’s being played at a very high level but there are things as fans that we don’t like. There is too much idle time, too much dead time and make the games go a little faster.’ As we did this, we tried to align with what fans wanted.”
Over the past year, the XFL has tested its rules in game situations. It’s confident it got it right, beginning with the 25-second play clock once the ball is spotted, which takes about six to seven seconds.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the elimination of the kicked extra point. Teams will have three options after a touchdown: to run a play from the 2-yard-line (one point), 5-yard line (two points) or the 10-yard line (three points).
That means a team trailing by nine points can potentially tie the score with one touchdown and a 10-yard conversion.
Overtimes will bear no resemblance to what NFL fans are used to. In the XFL, both teams will always get a chance to be on offense. Multiple chances in fact as overtimes will look a lot like shootouts in hockey and soccer with teams alternating plays from the opponent’s 5-yard line.
There will be five rounds unless a team has been mathematically eliminated beforehand or the teams are tied after five rounds. If there is still a tie after five rounds, the first team to win another round is the winner.
The league wanted to bring back kickoff returns, and it did so with the hope of making them much safer in the past. It will not look anything like fans are used to. Kickers will kick from their team’s 25-yard-line and put the ball in play from the end zone to the opponent’s 25-yard line.
The return team will be lined up at its 30-yard line and the coverage team lines up 5 yards away at the 35-yard line. No players, other than the kicker and returner, can move until the ball is caught.
The XFL said this rule “will encourage more kick returns while making the play less dangerous by eliminating the 30-yard sprint to collision.”
Safety was also behind the XFL rule in punt coverage. Gunners won’t be able to release downfield until the ball is kicked. In the NFL, they can release when the ball is snapped.
Punts kicked into the end zone or out of bounds inside the 35-yard line will be placed at the return team’s 35-yard line. This should lead to more teams going for it on fourth down inside an opponent’s territory because pinning a team deep in its territory with a punt is much more difficult.
Luck, as a former quarterback, said he is particularly fond of the double-pass rule in which teams can throw two forward passes on a play as long as both are behind the line of scrimmage.
Many of the rules were designed to create more action and less idle time, including 10-minute halftimes, instead of the 15 minutes at NFL games and 20 minutes at college games.
There will be a running game clock — not stopping on incompletions or out-of-bounds plays — until the final two minutes of each half. In the final two minutes, the game clock is stopped on incompletions and out-of-bounds plays. And to aid to the offense in the final two minutes of halves, the clock will temporarily stop on plays that finish in-bounds, with the game clock not restarting until the ball has been spotted and five seconds has run off the play clock.
The replay system also promises to be faster. There will be no coaches’ review, with all replay reviews coming from the replay official in the booth, and decisions will be made within 60 seconds.
Dean Blandino, head of officiating for the XFL, said the 60-second limit is a fast rule. He said the league’s officials are experienced Division I college officials and the eight referees at each game will “have major bowl game experience and national-championship game experience.”
The officials are in Houston where XFL training camp is being held, learning the new rules in the classroom and on the field.
“I think they’ll be very prepared for the start of the season,” Blandino said. “Pace is important. … Fans want football. They want to see more plays and I think that’s what we’re going to give them.”
For a closer look at all of the league’s rules, go to XFL.com/rules.