About a month ago, the Vikings saw their season end in the typical kick-in-the-crotch fashion that we've come to expect from our favorite football team. Just when I was cringing about the thought of watching regular-season NBA basketball or reading spring training articles until my head spins, Vince McMahon of all people helped save the day.
McMahon, of WWE fame, has rebooted the XFL, which in the early 2000s was a victim of McMahon trying to merge the worlds of sports entertainment and real-life football.
Although the initial product lasted just one season, it produced some of the broadcast techniques we see in NFL games today, like the skycam, or putting microphones on players so fans can hear the yell "OOOOOOHHHH YEAAAAHHH BOY LET'S GOOO!!"
The opening weekend of the 2020 version of the XFL was a rousing success, with early signs indicating that it might stick around a bit longer than the Alliance of American Football league that was crumpled up and tossed in the trash at about this time last year.
Not only was the product on the field OK, the in-game deliverables provided amazing access to players, coaches and referees. Imagine if the NFL adopted some of those ideas for television broadcasts and we were able to hear arguments on the sidelines and the real explanations behind awful calls and challenges. It would be epic.
Some of my ideas for the NFL...
Transparent instant replay process
One of the key initiatives for the XFL this time around was speeding up the game. While they only took about a half-hour off the average time of an NFL game, one of the things they did was streamline the instant replay process so that it only comes down from an on-site official up in the booth.
The kicker here is that the official is also mic'd up along with the referees and explains the entire thought process on live television when reviewing a play.
This is really intriguing and the NFL should do it immediately, but imagine this being applied during a Vikings game.
Take the Vikings' visit to Green Bay in Week 2. Minnesota appeared to cut the Packers lead down to 21-13 late in the first half on a Stefon Diggs touchdown, but as a scoring play it was automatically reviewed. The next thing you know, Dalvin Cook was called for pass interference and the touchdown didn't count.
Imagine how interesting this exchange would be if the replay official's transmission was on the broadcast. Would "Lambeau Magic" be exposed as a bunch of fraudulent officials that actually love how Aaron Rodgers and Matt LeFleur are BFFs that offered them a six-pack of Miller Lite for some good calls? Who knows? But it would be fun to find out.
Mic'd up coaches
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Vikings has been who is running the offense. With the Vikings looking like a team that's willing to throw downfield at times and trying to hide Kirk Cousins at other times, it's hard to tell if the offensive coordinator is running the offense or Mike Zimmer is overriding the play calls.
Well, in the XFL, there's no question who's making the calls. Head coaches and coordinators are mic'd up so we could be treated to an exchange that might have gone something like this in Week 16 against the Packers.
Kevin Stefanski: "Alright, we're going to run Wide 8 right, Minny Special..."
Zimmer: "MINNY SPECIAL!?!? WHAT THE F***, KEVIN!! I TOLD YOU WE RUN THE BALL AND PLAY DEFENSE!!!"
Stefanski: Um...well, I'm going to run it anyway.
There are times where the playcalling on this team is enough to drive everyone up a bleeping wall and we don't know who to blame. If we can hear the calls as they happen, we would know exactly who to throw under the bus and maybe understand why Zimmer is on his fifth offensive coordinator heading into his seventh season in Minnesota.
White Claw victory ragers
We all saw how Aaron Rodgers couldn't chug a beer at a Milwaukee Bucks playoff game (Why does Wisconsin love this guy, again?), but we still don't know if Cousins can out-chug him because we haven't even seen him with a beer in his hands. My theory? He's a White Claw guy.
The XFL knows where it's at. After the St. Louis Battlehawks picked up a victory over the Dallas Renegades on Saturday, former Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke got an early start on White Claw Summer 2020 by pulling a Stone Cold Steve Austin in a victory celebration in the locker room.
If I didn't know better, I'd say his chugging form has something to do with him severing a tendon while kicking in his friend's apartment window a couple of years ago, but I digress.
The PAT rule
You know what I really like about the XFL? They've pretty much told kickers to go kick rocks. Kickoffs now have penalties for kicking the ball out of bounds, kicking it into the end zone and kicking it too short to prevent a return. In addition to this, they've eliminated the need for kickers to determine the PAT by having a new conversion rule.
After a touchdown, a team has the option to go for one, two or three points depending on the ball being placed for an untimed down at the two, five or ten-yard line. This helps keep teams that are buried in the game and causes people to not sprint to their fridge immediately after a score.
This is good for the Vikings in two-fold. Every year, the Vikings have their trademark lethargic performance which has them getting destroyed at home to a mediocre to bad team (Buffalo, Denver). This would have given Minnesota a shot during the infamous Buffalo game during the 2018 season as a 27-0 deficit would have been a three-score game.
Also, taking the kicker out of any situation is a win for the Vikings, so I'm definitely on board.
Pat McAfee in the Monday Night Football booth
This has nothing to do with the Vikings, I just want Booger McFarland off my television and McAfee is really good at commentary. If he gets this excited about punting, how excited will he be over a Cousins MNF meltdown?
Mid-game player interviews
Woooo, boy would this be fun! With a team that has as much drama as the Vikings do, it would be great to get our daily gossip as it happens. Why do we need to wait for Diggs to drop another cryptic tweet saying "You don't know what you have until it's gone," when we can know he's gone in real time?
Quick side note: Diggs had another cryptic tweet late Sunday night.
Let's go back to the Vikings playoff win in New Orleans, where they held a ten-point lead, but Diggs didn't seem to care when he launched his helmet toward the sideline. This sounds like a perfect time to stick a microphone in his face and ask him about trade rumors only to have Zimmer or Cousins run in just as he's about to tell Stefanski to burn in Hell.
Speaking of Cousins, he would be another prime target for this. Imagine Pat McAfee running up to him after checking down to C.J. Ham on a free play only to have Cousins say something like "Ah, jeez," before pulling a page out of McMahon's book by peeing his pants on live television.
This is entertainment.