A couple of weeks ago the reformulated XFL followed the lead of other sports leagues in the face of the Coronavirus crisis and shut things down, canceling its halfway-finished regular season
. There was an initial possibility that some type of postseason could still occur, but as a of a couple of days ago that wasn't happening, either
The XFL left open hope of playing a postseason when it suspended its season March 12. It has become clear that won’t happen, and with XFL players interested in signing with NFL teams, the league has pulled the plug on the rest of the season.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the most recent local and state regulations, have left the XFL no choice but to officially cancel the remainder of the 2020 season,” XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said in a statement. “This decision has been made with the health and safety of the entire XFL family as our top priority.”
Luck reiterated in the statement that the league plans to return in 2021.
It sucks, because the Houston Roughnecks were the only team remaining undefeated in the new league after five weeks of play. (Does this mean that the Roughnecks are league champions
I attended all three Roughnecks home games at TDECU Stadium and had a fun time. The play was sloppy at times - too many dropped passes, missed tackles and penalties - but Roughnecks quarterback P. J. Walker was fun to watch (and will probably be playing in the NFL
this fall, provided the Coronavirus crisis is over by then). Here are a few pictures I took of the action:
Roughnecks QB P. J. Walker throws a pass from the 50 yard line at TDECU Stadium.
The Roughnecks line up for a red zone play against the St. Louis Battlehawks.
Fans fill up the lower bowl and second deck of TDECU Stadium to watch the Roughnecks play. The Roughnecks actually saw their highest attendance of the season in what would be their final game.
I also enjoyed the wrinkles that the XFL added to the rulebook: the kickoff formations that were designed to make the game safer, the after-touchdown conversion attempts that would be worth one, two or three points depending on where the ball was placed, and the faster play clock designed to speed up the game. I commend the XFL 2.0 for taking these chances to improve the game of football in general.
The XFL says it's committed to returning in 2021. But will it be able to do so? Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports is confident that
the league will return, but Awful Announcing's Joe Lucia is more circumspect
, especially given the nation's uncertain financial future:
Overall, the XFL is in a precarious position. The first five weeks went about as well as anyone could have expected, yet the league was unquestionably trending in the wrong direction over those five weeks. The way this debut season ended, in lockstep with the other sports across the country and the world, does give the XFL something of a mulligan. But there are so many other factors regarding the league’s second year (including the length of the state of emergency surrounding the coronavirus, to the inevitable resumption of the other major sports leagues in America, to even the NFL’s new CBA and the sliding stock market) that we can’t even begin to process what a second year for the XFL would look like. On the bright side for the XFL, McMahon didn’t torpedo the league like he did 19 years ago, and if the XFL doesn’t return, you can’t put all the blame on the league and its decision makers.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert surveyed the state of the XFL
right before the season was canceled and was generally positive about the league's overall state but expressed concern about uneven quarterback play and declining attendance and television ratings. Viewership for the latest incarnation of the XFL started out well but declined as
the season wore on. (It suspended operations before it ever had to go up against the spring's premier sporting event, the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament.) While the Seattle and St. Louis franchises did well at the gate, the Los Angeles and New York teams struggled. (Given that football-hungry fans showed up to support the XFL in St. Louis, one wonders if it makes sense to move the Los Angeles team to San Diego?)
Spring football – whether it be the USFL, the WLAF/NFL Europe, the first iteration of the XFL or the AAF – simply does not have a good track record. Why should the new XFL be any different? We'll find out in February of 2021.
I hope the Roughnecks return in 2021, because this city's football fans are going to need something to cheer about after Houston Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien, fresh off his spectacular quit-while-ahead loss against Kansas City in the playoffs, once again managed to show the world how much of a idiot he is by trading three-time all-pro wide receiver
DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.
Trading one of the best wide receivers in the league and, along with Deshawn Watson and J.J. Watt, one of the faces of the franchise, is a stunningly idiotic move. Especially since all the Texans got in return was an injury-prone running-back and a couple of draft picks.
But don't take my word for how stupid this decision was. Here's Sean Pendergast
, who calls the deal "a soul-crushing, disastrous move" Or ESPN's Bill Barnwell
, who describes it as a "jaw-dropping, mind-bending, inexplicable trade."
It's probably bad form to spend a lot of time getting worked up over this - again, who knows if there will even be an NFL season once this Coronavirus crisis is all over - but the Texans franchise clearly has two problems on its hands: Bill O'Brien, and a fanbase that enables him.
As long as Texans fans continue to blithely support the franchise, paying big bucks for their season tickets and buying overpriced merchandise, they will get what they deserve: a crappy, underachieving team helmed by an utterly incompetent head coach/general manager.
Sportsmap's Paul Muth is "punting" on the Texans
, and urges others to do the same:
So I declared that day that until Bill O'Brien is gone, I will take my fandom elsewhere. And that's what it's going to take from everyone.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of [terrible coaching/ownership] is for good [fans] to do nothing."
-Edmund Burke, sort of.
It's true though. I've been called a quitter and a fake fan (of 18 years I guess) since I made that announcement. But if anything is going to ever actually change, it's going to need to come from the stands. Only when the McNairs see a change in their balance sheet at the end of the season will they consider removing O'Brien from the obscene amount of power he currently holds. If you truly love your Texans, the best thing you could do is not "weather the storm," but walk away. Most wont, though, and that's why Grumpy Bill will keep his job.
Unfortunately, he's probably right; Houston's is a notoriously fair-weather, front-runner sports town except
when it comes to the Texans, who somehow manage to keep their fans coming to games no matter how crappy they are.
That has to change. As O'Brien continues to run this franchise into the ground, and as the losses continue to pile up, it just might.