The Seattle Dragons are two weeks away from playing their first game Feb. 8 at the D.C. Defenders and training camp in Houston wrapped up Friday.
XFL commissioner Oliver Luck was in Seattle on Friday, helping promote the league. He said the league would like to average at least 10,000 per game in attendance, but the hopes are much higher than that in Seattle, which is expecting more than 20,000 for its home opener Feb. 15 against the Tampa Bay Vipers.
Here are some of the commissioner’s thoughts in a Q&A.
Seattle Times: Seattle is reportedly leading the league in season-ticket sales, according to NBC Sports Northwest (the league has not announced numbers). What do you think about that?
Oliver Luck: Seattle is doing remarkably well. When we looked at Seattle, we saw this marvelous sports town, and people love anything that is Seattle related, and they come out. They’re supportive — that’s why the NHL is obviously moving in here. The Sounders and the Seahawks knocking it out of the park — that’s what we saw and the manifestation of that through season ticket sales that the Seattle Dragons are having is awesome. There are some other markets too. We’re doing well in both the Texas cities (Houston and Dallas), and St. Louis is really doing well and nipping at Seattle’s heels.
ST: Do you expect more scoring than in the NFL?
OL: It will probably be pretty similar to NFL scoring, but more important for me early on is to have parity. I would like to have as many games as possible go into the last three or four minutes as one-score games. That’s critical. I do know that a significant share of NFL games are one-score games in terms of their final scores, and if we can approach those metrics, I think that’s a good start for us.
ST: What were your biggest impressions from watching training camp?
OL: One was how teams were dealing with our up-tempo 25-second clock. And I was pleased that while we did have a handful of delay-of-game calls, teams really absorbed that. Coaches were calling their plays quickly, they were getting in and out of the huddle fast — and a lot of teams didn’t even use a huddle — and they were snapping the ball with 10 seconds, eight seconds or five seconds left. So it seems like teams have really internalized the 25-second clock.
The second thing I was impressed with is the quarterback play. We spent extra money — we’re paying our quarterbacks more than other players — and we targeted guys going back to the spring of last year, guys like Landry Jones (of the Dallas Renegades) and others. Based on training camp, we were happy with the quarterback play. Getting in and out of the huddle quickly and calling those plays with the 25-second clock, that’s a large part attributable to the play caller but also the quarterback. I was happy with the quarterback play — it struck me as pretty good quality.
ST: What were your impressions of the Dragons?
OL: I watched everybody and I thought everybody looked pretty equal. I thought (the Dragons) looked solid, and they’ve got a pretty solid offensive line. I thought (quarterback) Brandon (Silvers) threw the ball pretty well, and I thought (quarterback) B.J. (Daniels) played fairly well.
ST: What are you most excited about?
OL: Just getting into a stadium like CenturyLink — a great venue — and if there are 22,000 or 24,000 people in the lower bowl, and that atmosphere of being something new, that’s pretty cool to be a part of. … And just to get the games kicked off.
ST: Is there anything that keeps you up at night?
OL: The only thing is weather. … Weather-wise, you never know in February. Last year, I think there were 4 or 5 inches of snow in Seattle. I worry about weather in some of our markets — like New York and D.C. That’s really about it. I feel like our players and coaches are raring to go. They are really excited. So I worry about the weather even though there is nothing I can do about it.
ST: The league will be successful long-term because of … ?
OL: It will be successful long-term because the quality of play will be such that people will tune in and watch. The passionate and die-hard football fans that feel despondent after the Super Bowl, that they have found 12 weeks of solace with good quality football in the XFL.