Upstart AAF already showing NFL where it can improve the sport

The upstart Alliance of American Football in just one weekend has probably changed the NFL without being affiliated with it.

It showed that kickoffs and extra points aren’t necessary to enjoy a game. Kickoffs are dangerous when they are returned and a waste of time when they aren’t. And eliminating kicking extra points makes the two-point conversion more exciting.

And it takes away the necessity of coaches making mistakes when deciding when to go for two. Many of them go for two too soon. John Fox lost a Super Bowl in Carolina doing that. He twice went for two in the fourth quarter and didn’t make either one. That cost him two points. And then Bill Belichick, playing with free money because the Panthers had cost themselves two points, decided to go for two and made it. That is a three-point swing in a game decided by three points. If Fox would have just kicked the extra points, he would have had overtime and if he won the coin toss probably would have won the game.

And kicking the extra point is a boring play.

The NFL will probably eventually get rid of kicked extra points and kickoffs. It will just take time.

The NFL also needs to follow the lead of the AAF and start the play clock at 35 seconds if not 30. The fast-paced game showed how clunky the NFL games are these days.

Of course, the NFL can’t cut down on the commercials because that would cost them money and the NFL would never do that. But they could present them in different ways. Maybe have a quarter sponsored and have the sponsor have a ribbon across bottom of the screen in lieu of fewer commercials. The NFL has to start thinking outside the box.

It also needs to copy the idea of letting fans listen to the replay official. It is much more transparent. And they need to make decisions quicker if it is not an obvious overturn.

Of course, the AAF has a lot of work to do. Putting a team in an NFL city like Phoenix may have been a mistake. They didn’t announce the attendance, but Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reported it appeared to be between 10,000 and 15,000.

The Atlanta team also has problems after Brad Childress quit before it played its first game for reasons that weren’t explained. And Michael Vick, who was to be involved with the team, apparently wasn’t eager to put the time in required for the job and may have a league role instead, according to founder Bill Polian.

The league also should consider delaying the start of its season to early March and have a northern team or two.

It also might play down the idea it is a developmental league for the NFL. The bottom line is that Kurt Warner was an exception to the rule. Very few of these players are going to make it in the NFL. It’s not that they just need reps to develop. Most don’t have the talent. But so what? They can still be entertaining.

It also has to be patient. It will take time to grow the audience since CBS Sports Network and the NFL Network, which will show most of the games, don’t have the audience that CBS has as a broadcast network. CBS showed the opening night but won’t televise another game until the title game in late April.

The league’s promotion and PR also need work. As Pro Football Talk pointed out, they don’t even issue box scores or game books like the NFL does.

There is also the question of what the financing is like. The NFL says it is not investing. What is the league’s budget? How much are they prepared to lose before they can turn a profit?

But that’s all for the future. For now, the AAF has already made an impact and shown the NFL needs to make some changes.

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