With the USFL’s season quickly approaching, the league is going to have decisions to make on their approach to gameplay. Officiating, rule alterations, innovations, etc. will have to be in place before the season begins on April 16th.
An important question that comes to mind is: Will the USFL bring something new to the table? If so, how will it differentiate itself from the NFL?
Now, the USFL certainly does not want to stray from the fundamentals of football that make the game enjoyable to watch. That being said, if they want to consistently generate viewers, incorporating some innovations into their own version of the game could prove to be beneficial.
XFL’s Innovations Proved To Be Valuable
During the XFL’s 2020 season, the league debuted several rule changes that separated itself from other leagues.
One of its major innovations was their new version of the kickoff, which allowed for more returns, while lowering the potential amount of injuries. It turned out to be an excellent move, and provided the viewers with exciting moments.
🚨 THE WINNER OF THE BEST MOMENT BRACKET 🚨
The #1 seed: @XFLBattleHawks' first kickoff return TD in XFL history. pic.twitter.com/Pb0dmFG1vt
— XFL (@XFL2023) April 6, 2020
The PAT (point after attempt) system was also altered to increase excitement for the fans. Teams had the choice to go for a one, two, or three point conversion, which completely changed the way the game was played. For example, a nine point lead was still a one score game in the XFL.
Another unique idea was their creation of overtime rules, although we never got to see them in play. Each team would get five possessions from the five yard line, with a chance to score two points on each possession. Whoever scored more during the overtime period would win the game. I’m sure Buffalo Bills fans would’ve preferred this style during the…ah, nevermind.
Generally speaking, the XFL provided plenty of fresh ideas to the game of football, and it was entertaining to watch the rule changes during the league’s short tenure.
How Should The USFL Approach Potential Changes?
The USFL has an opportunity to bring a whole new brand of football to millions of viewers come April. The last thing the league wants to see is bland, uninspired gameplay that doesn’t capture the attention of fans across the country.
As previously mentioned, the XFL brought some genius innovations to the game. The USFL needs to do the same, without directly copying from the XFL. Remember, the XFL plans on returning in 2023, so the USFL has to find a niche between both the NFL and the XFL.
The league can take ideas from previous spring football entities, without stealing their blueprints. For example, the USFL may want to try a different version of overtime, but it doesn’t have to be exactly what the XFL did.
Another element that the USFL should absolutely implement is the sky judge, along with allowing viewers to see and hear everything the referees do on the field. The XFL did a fantastic job at being an open book, which fans were thrilled by.
Ever wonder what the officials in the booth are saying during a review? Now you don't have to!
Listen to the XFL's live review audio feed from the Sky Judge.
(via @ABCNetwork)#XFL | #DragonsAtDefenders pic.twitter.com/9eVJxAUMxZ
— XFL Moment (@XFLMoment) February 8, 2020
The USFL can also take advantage of the sports betting scene, which seems to be one of FOX’ goals with the league. More football means more opportunities for bettors, and we should expect the USFL to capitalize on this area.
What Do We Know So Far?
There have been some recent developments on changes the USFL plans to employ during their debut season. Mike Pereira, Head Of Officiating for the league, discussed a few of the new rules on the Greenlight podcast early last week:
🚨USFL Officiating News🚨
Via Mike Pereia on @greenlight
-Mike Pereira will be “a rules committee of almost one”
-Roughing the passer/hit on defenseless receiver will be reviewable
-Pass interference will be a 15 yard penalty if the spot of the foul was over 15 yards ⬇️⬇️⬇️
— USFL News (@Newsusfl) January 19, 2022
-DPI will be a spot of the foul penalty over 15 yards if the defender deliberately tackles the receiver
-32 of 35 officials are from the NFL Developmental List, “the next group up”
— USFL News (@Newsusfl) January 19, 2022
One of the major differences is the pass interference (PI) penalty automatically being 15 yards, no matter where the flag occurs on the field. This eliminates PI calls from giving up massive yardage. The only way it could be over 15 yards is if the defender “deliberately tackles the receiver”.
Another change that fans will appreciate is roughing the passer, and hits on defenseless receivers being reviewable. All too many times this season in the NFL we saw flags flying for roughing the passer, on hits that seemed to be legal football plays.
Being able to review these penalties can only benefit the league’s officiating, and will prevent games from being won or lost on questionable calls.
At the end of the day, we can only speculate. That being said, more announcements should be on their way soon. The season debut will be here before we know it, and we look forward to seeing how the USFL revolutionizes spring football.
What XFL rules should the USFL implement, if any? Will you be watching the USFL in 2022? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!