AAF: The NFL’s New Competitor?

Matt Fields, Writer

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Coming only a week after Super Bowl 53, a new football league was created. The Alliance of

American Football (AAF) kicked off its inaugural season on February 9th with a total of eight

teams. While football fans are excited for a new way to watch football, the creation of this league

has lead experts to question whether the AAF can be a serious competitor to the NFL or fall to

the wayside similar to how the Xtreme Football League did in the early 2000’s.

New Markets: The AAF’s total of eight teams pull form a variety of different areas across the

United States. The AAF is split into two conferences with the Western Conference having the

Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, and San Diego Fleet, while

the Eastern Conference has the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, and the

Orlando Apollos. Out of the eight teams present, six of them are in an area that doesn’t have a

professional football team. This setup now allows for football to be brought to more football fans

and ultimately give more representation to different areas of the country. While this is a

tremendous upside for the league, the lack of representation in established football markets may

eventually diminish the interest in the league. Massive sports markets like New York,

Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. aren’t represented and it ends up alienating fans. States like

Alabama and Utah don’t have an established fan base in the state or the surrounding area, so it is

hard for new football fans in established markets like New York and Washington D.C. to have a

reason to become a fan of the team. Ultimately, establishing these teams in new markets is an

exciting prospect that may begin to bring professional sports to areas of the United States

without football and get more people involved in football.

New Rules: Due to the dangerous nature of football, people are always concerned regarding the

rules and how they will impact the safety of the game. The AAF has kept most of the basics of

football, but the league has changed a few aspects of the game with some being for the better and

some being for the worse. The first and biggest rule change in the AAF is that there are no more

kickoffs. Usually, kickoffs are used to either start off a new half or after a team scores on a

possession. During a kickoff, the kicker kicks the ball to the returner and the kick returner tries to

run to the opposing team’s end zone. Kickoffs have drawn a lot of safety concerns from medical

professionals as the fast paced nature of kickoffs can often lead to injuries on both sides of the

field. Instead, the AAF will follow the NFL in placing the ball at the 25 yard line to start out

team’s possessions. This is a pretty big rule change as it completely eliminates positions in

football like kick returners and gunners. Not to mention, plays like onside kicks won’t exist

anymore. While onside kicks were a relatively small part of the game of football, they have still

been among the defining plays of football’s history such as the Saints’ onside kick in Super Bowl

  1. The trade off is that the NFL still has kickoffs and onside kicks in their league so those that

want to keep that aspect of the game can enjoy it in the NFL, while being able to see what

football would look like without kickoffs in the AAF. One of the things that the AAF improves

upon is the play review system. The AAF has a new ninth judge called the sky judge. This judge

reviews questionable plays from a sky box and corrects errors and missed plays from the

referees. This change to the officiating is something that football fans have been begging for due

to the amount of egregious officiating errors in big games like the missed pass interference call

on the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game this past January. This new method of

officiating will ensure that games will be played as they should and the outcome will be fair.

Protecting the quarterback has been a concern of the NFL following the research on the serious

effects that CTE can have on individuals that are afflicted with it. The AAF has taken this one

step further by implementing new rules regarding pass rushing. In the NFL, there is no limit to

the amount of people that are allowed to blitz the quarterback. The AAF changed this rule so that

opposing defenses can blitz no more than five players on a play, unless the quarterback ends up

leaving the tackle box. While it emphasizes safety, this rule ends up hindering how defenses can

call their plays. Opposing defenses can’t send all out blitzes anymore and that really takes away

the strategy of short down defense.

Redemption: The NFL is a very fast paced league that can be very demanding. This can lead

some players that were stars in college football to falter and ultimately fail in the NFL. Before

the creation of the AAF, players that failed in the league were mostly designated to be career

backups or take their chances and go up to Canada and play in the CFL. Now, those that are not

cut out to make it in the NFL can take their chances in the AAF. Players like Johnny Manziel and

Tim Tebow were players that were drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft and failed in the

league despite being touted as the next great players in the league. With the AAF, players like

them can have a chance to revive their football careers and make a name for themselves. The

AAF is making strides toward being an overall safer football experience, so players that had their

careers derailed by injury may look to this league to play safer football.

Overall, The AAF will bring a new way to experience football to the multitude of football fans.

The variation in rules and gameplay may end up being influential in changing the rules to create

a safer football experience. This fun experiment may be the new way football is played.