Why the new Alliance of American Football is Worth Your Time

Orlando Apollos safety Will Hill III runs onto the field during player introductions for the team's Alliance of American Football game against the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

If you weren’t watching for it, you may have missed it. A new professional football league called the Alliance of American Football debuted on Saturday.

Like everyone else, I was skeptical, but any football is better than no football, so I gave the AAF a chance.

I have to say, it’s not so bad! The quality of football was pretty high, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are some pretty big names associated with it. It was co-founded by former NFL general manager Bill Polian, who is highly respected around the league.

Here’s a good summery of notables from CBS (who has a TV deal with the league)

Team: Arizona Hotshots
Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Players: QB Trevor Knight

Team: Atlanta Legends
Coach: Kevin Coyle
Players: QB Aaron Murray, QB Matt Simms, WR Stephen Hill

Team: Birmingham Iron
Coach: Tim Lewis
Players: QB Blake Sims, QB Scott Tolzien, RB Trent Richardson, CB JaCorey Shepherd, K Nick Novak

Team: Memphis Express
Coach: Mike Singletary (!!)
Players: QB Christian Hackenberg, QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Zac Stacy, WR Chris Givens

Team: Orlando Apollos
Coach: Steve Spurrier
Players: QB Garrett Gilbert, QB Stephen Morris, WR Frankie Hammond, DB Will Hill

Team: Salt Lake Stallions
Coach: Dennis Erickson
Players: QB B.J. Daniels, QB Garrett Grayson, RB Matt Asiata

Team: San Antonio Commanders
Coach: Mike Riley
Players: RB David Cobb, RB Daryl Richardson

Team: San Diego Fleet
Coach: Mike Martz
Players: QB Josh Johnson, RB Bishop Sankey

Side note: A local kid from Joliet Catholic Academy and Michigan Wolverine star Ty Isaac is a running back from the Birmingham Iron.

These are all guys who are still trying to prove themselves and get back into the league. That means the effort and want-to is still there, as opposed to guys on the downslope of their careers just looking for a few more bucks.

And it seems they used some of the animosity pointed at the NFL for their own good. The AAF has adopted a few tweaks to the rules and game operations to give fans a better experience (and test them out for the NFL).

For instance:

– There is a ninth referee in the press box who uses an “eye in the sky” camera to review plays and player safety issues. I bet the New Orleans Saints wish the NFL had that a few weeks ago.

– No kickoffs. Teams get the ball at their own 25.

– That means no on-side kicks. Instead:

A team trailing by at least 17 points can try a conversion, and both teams can do it inside five minutes left in a game. To keep the ball, a team trying a conversion must convert a fourth-and-12 from its own 28. If it succeeds, it keeps the ball.

– Different overtime:

In overtime, each team will get the ball once, at the 10-yard line. Field goals aren’t allowed, only touchdowns and conversions. If the game is tied after that, it ends in a tie. “We’re not afraid of ties,” Mike Pereira, a consultant for the AAF, told The Associated Press. “It creates some excitement.”

– The games will be faster. There will be a 35 second play clock (as opposed to 40 in the NFL). No kickoffs and shorter TV timeouts will save time, as will fewer reviews. Games are averaging about 2.5 hours.

So far so good. I’ll be watching!

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