Over the weekend, the Orlando Apollos broke a league record, scoring 40 points against the Atlanta Legends. Meanwhile, the Birmingham Iron shut out the Memphis Express in a dominant performance.
Just another classic weekend of February football?
NFL fans used to the content drought following February’s Super Bowl and craving more football would be wise to give the Alliance of American Football a watch. Founded by Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, this new league offers ten weeks of professional football played by ex-NFL players and young hopefuls looking to keep playing their favorite sport.
To add credibility, the league’s founders looked for coaches with impressive backgrounds. Each of the eight AAF teams is led by a coach with NFL experience and many of whom have championship experience. AAF executives include many former NFL players including Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, and Justin Tuck. The league is partnered with CBS, NFL Network, and Turner Sports. Since the AAF will have competition from the XFL in 2020 it looks to establish itself first by providing a well-made product that puts quality football in front.
The commitment to professionalism provides football fans with an exciting and skillful spring league. For Green Bay Packers fans, the AAF offers three enticing reasons to watch: the ability to watch pro football in the spring, seeing how rule changes might affect the NFL in the future, and seeing former Packers players in action.
The AFF had a successful first weekend because of how fun the games are. The games are fast-paced: refs keep the game moving and don’t slow the game down with unnecessary penalties, commercial breaks are quick, and there is no kickoff. Similarly to the way I play Madden, teams can’t take extra points and must go for a two-point conversion. Contrary to how it may seem, the AAF isn’t a purely offensive league. Defenses are allowed to play real football, and turnovers were plenty. AAF reps are important for young players and can be a true gateway into the NFL. Ascetically, the uniforms are crisp and unique with exciting logos.
No kickoffs or extra points may seem odd, but this is something we could see in the NFL in the future. Kickoffs are considered some of the most dangerous plays in football. The way opposing teams run full force into each other like Mongol hordes is unsurprisingly not super safe. I found myself not missing the kickoffs at all. Special teams are still important for punting and kicking field goals. The AAF has a very specific set of rules for an offside kick-like opportunity: when conditions are met a team can attempt a 4th-and-12 conversion from a team’s own 28. While it’s still early in the season, offenses will start getting creative and NFL teams will be looking for new concepts and ideas to take to the NFL.
Another delightful rule change is being mic’d into call changes. This shows the thought process in making important officiating calls and is absolutely refreshing. While wrong calls will always be part of the game, at least this way fans can see the logic being used. Finally, the AAF features a “Sky Judge.” This judge has a birds-eye view and can make calls other officials miss. If the NFL had one, maybe we’d be celebrating a New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory this year.
Packers fans also get the opportunity to see many well-liked players in action once again, including OLB Jayrone Elliot (San Antonio Commanders) and CB LaDarius Gunter (Orlando Apollos). In addition, four NFL teams are assigned to each AAF team, meaning if a player spent time on a team’s roster or practice squad their rights are given to certain teams. The Packers are linked to the Salt Lake Stallions, with former Packers Adonis Jennings, Joel Bouagnon, Chris Odom, and Greer Martini on the roster (#FullSteedAhead). Some of these players wowed during training camp and it’s a treat seeing them in action again.
The AAF isn’t perfect and will have its growing pains. Offensive line play has been below average and there is a large difference in talent between quarterbacks. It will face competition from the XFL in 2020. But I enjoyed the heck out of the first week of AAF and look forward to watching more. For any Packers fans wanting to keep watching meaningful football, see how rule changes could affect the NFL, or see former Packers in action, I put my personal stamp on the Alliance of American Football.
The Alliance of American Football handbook can be found at http://sg-dbooks.com/AAF/2019-Media-Guide/Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.