Many football fans, myself included, need more football, especially after Sunday’s lackluster Super Bowl. Look no further. Tomorrow, the Alliance of American Football kicks off its inaugural season. With eight teams divided between two conferences, the AAF brings professional football to seven cities without NFL teams of their own.
The alterations to the gameplay and rules of the game are the most intriguing aspect of this new league or any new league for that matter. A new form of football needs to separate itself from existing leagues.
The NFL’s rules are some of the most scrutinized aspects of the League. The AAF looks to change that, while maintaining the core aspects of the game. After touchdowns, there will be no extra point; you have to go for two. As such, kickers are almost rendered useless, as there are no kickoffs either. Somewhere, Skip Bayless is grinning from ear to ear. Wipe off that smile, Skip Nation — field goals will still be a part of the game.
Instead of allowing everyone on the field to get CTE on a single play, the opposing team will inherit the ball on its own 25-yard line. The scoring team will have an onside kick equivalent. If a team wants to attempt to maintain possession of the ball, it will start on their own 28-yard line and will have to convert a 12-yard play on one down.
“[The 4th and 12 play] is going to be a really exciting play,” Head of Football Operations J.K. McKay said. “We did it a couple of times in our preseason games, and it allowed a couple teams to make some pretty good comebacks at the end of the game.”
These changes are desperately needed. Amateur football enrollment is declining every year because parents know they are essentially signing their kids’ death certificates.
According to McKay, the AAF saw no reason to try and keep a kickoff in the game.
“The NFL has changed their kickoff rules to the point where 75 percent of kickoffs are touchbacks,” McKay said. “We thought, why not just get it out. It is a health and safety concern. The onside kick is even worse than the kickoff.”
The other main change is to the way overtime works. While I would have opted for a college football-style overtime, the AAF strikes a middle ground. Each team will get a chance to score from 10 yards out. If the score is still tied after both attempts, the game will end in a tie. However, the overtime rules will be identical to the NFL’s in the playoffs.
The AAF is committed to keeping the start-to-end time of its football games consistent. This overtime format will not only allow for that, but it also grants both teams a chance to score.
To further shorten the games, the AAF has tweaked its system for commercials, the play clock and replays.
Both the NFL and the AAF have four 15-minute quarters, but the AAF looks to cut down game time by cutting out TV timeouts. The average NFL game lasts 180 minutes, while the AAF is aiming for an average of 150 minutes. To make up for this revenue loss, the AAF will pursue higher commercial prices and product placement in game. Moreover, the play clock has been decreased to 35 seconds from the NFL’s 40.
Thank God. As a die-hard sports fan, I don’t mind watching more football, but that’s not what the NFL is. It’s waiting. While this 30-minute difference may seem small, it makes football games infinitely easier to digest.
Lastly, replays can only be initiated by challenges from coaches. I really don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it will prevent replays that are seemingly unimportant from stopping the game. On the other hand, if a team scores a game-winning touchdown and the opposing coach is out of challenges, there is no way to retroactively correct the call.
The first week of the 14-week season kicks off Saturday with two games, followed by another pair on Sunday. The AAF separates itself from the NFL and other startup leagues in that there is a lot to be hopeful for, not to mention that it is run by an elite staff, that includes the likes of Charlie Ebersol, executive producer of NFL Characters Unite; former USC and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu; former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and five-time Pro-Bowler Jared Allen, among others.
Perhaps the AAF will see the inaugural season of the next powerhouse football league. I’m surely willing to give it a chance.
Sam Arslanian is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.