New York Jets add LB Edmond Robinson, waive WR Matt Cole

New York Jets

Robinson previously played a single game with the New York Jets in 2017 and reunites with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

The New York Jets announced the signing of linebacker Edmond Robinson on Friday, waiving receiver Matt Cole in the process.

Robinson, 29, has partaken in 35 NFL regular season games since entering the league as a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2015 out of Division II Newberry. That includes a single game with the Jets in 2017 when he partook in special teams endeavors in the team’s opening weekend tilt in Buffalo.

More recently, Robinson appeared in 13 games with the Atlanta Falcons last season, earning a career-best 15 tackles. His return to New York also reunites him with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who moved to the Jets from Atlanta last year.

Before his arrival in Atlanta, Robinson spent time as a starter with both the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football and the undefeated Houston Roughnecks of the rebooted XFL. In terms of his spring affairs, Robinson is perhaps best known for his simultaneous sack, strip, and touchdown during the Roughnecks’ “Texas Throwdown” against the Dallas Renegades.

The addition of Robinson coincides with the release of Cole on the Jets’ training camp roster. Cole was a second-year receiver out of Division II McKendree that had spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers and was added to the Jets’ affairs in May.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets add veteran QB Josh Johnson to backup mix

New York Jets

Johnson previously spent part of the summer of 2015 with the New York Jets with his last regular season experience coming in the XFL.

The New York Jets were in desperate need of experience in the quarterback room. One could technically say the signing of Josh Johnson qualifies as overkill.

New York announced the signing of Johnson on Wednesday. The University of San Diego alum is one of a handful of picks left from the 2008 NFL Draft, originally chosen in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a record-breaking career under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage at USD, Johnson has embarked on a well-traveled professional journey, spending time with 16 different teams over four leagues. This marks Johnson’s second tenure with the Jets, spending just over a week with the team during the 2015 preseason.

Johnson notably went eight seasons between starts, earning his first win as a primary quarterback with Washington in 2018. More recently, Johnson spent last season on San Francisco’s practice squad. It was his third stint with the 49ers (2012, 2014), one that allowed him to spend time with current Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He was released by San Francisco in June.

In addition to his NFL service, Johnson has also spent time on rosters in the UFL, AAF, and XFL. In the latter-most endeavor, Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Wildcats. In a slightly ironic twist, Johnson played a major role in the most recent sporting event held in front of fans at MetLife Stadium. Johnson threw for 325 yards and two scores, though the Wildcats fell to the New York Guardians by a 17-14 final.

The Jets were in desperate need of experience in their quarterback room. New York is set to debut Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from April’s draft, as their new franchise thrower. Behind him, the Jets also have young veterans James Morgan and Mike White to compete with Johnson for the primary backup role.

In a corresponding move, the Jets released defender Brendon White, an undrafted rookie safety out of Rutgers.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia say XFL will return in Spring 2022

Dwayne Johnson

New XFL owners Johnson and Garcia gave a timetable for the return of the star-crossed league, which hinted at a return to the NYC area.

Metropolitan football fans seeking liberation from gridiron defeat will have to be a little patient.

Actor and businessman Dwayne Johnson unveiled the timetable for the return of the XFL, which is set to make a third attempt at alternative professional football. According to Johnson, who headlined an August purchase from Vince McMahon, the league will return to action in the spring of 2022. Johnson made the announcement through a video on social media showcasing various images of XFL football from their latest incarnation from earlier this year. The video is narrated by Johnson and business partner and co-owner Dany Garcia.

“Our work is cut out for us,” Johnson admits in his narration. “But we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“This will be earned,” Garcia adds before promising “We’ll give it every last ounce of football-loving energy in the tank.”

The video’s imagery hints at a return to the New York City metropolitan area, featuring images of both the city itself and of the most recent team, the Guardians. New York is one of two markets that appeared in both the 2001 and 2020 version of the XFL, the other being Los Angeles. The Guardians went 3-2 in a season that ran in February and March, one that was shut down early due to the ongoing health crisis. New York won both of its games played at MetLife Stadium, the most recent being a 17-14 triumph over the Los Angeles Wildcats on February 29.

“The XFL represents the idea of ultimate opportunity; it’s a league of soul and culture, anchored by the pursuit of dreams and love for the game, that we couldn’t be more proud to lead,” Garcia and Johnson said in a statement. “Every XFL player, coach, city, and fan is our top priority and we couldn’t be more excited to champion them in an electrifying 2022 season. We are the new XFL—hungry, humble and no one will outwork us.”

“For the love of football and for the safety of our players and fans, we’ll be back on the field in 2022,” Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and COO, added in the same statement. “The opportunity in front of us, with our new ownership, is simply too big to rush back.  We want to do this properly with care and thought for everyone who loves football, especially our players, coaches, partners, and fans.” 

The XFL was originally formed by McMahon in 2001, in association with his World Wrestling Federation property and NBC. This original version attempted to thrive on shock value and wrestling-style kayfabe and lasted only a single season due to poor reviews and low ratings. Johnson, a former WWF wrestler, would make appearances at original XFL games under his persona “The Rock”. The New York/New Jersey Hitmen played their games at Giants Stadium and finished with a 4-6 record.

McMahon resurrected the property in January 2018 with a more straightforward approach to football that nonetheless featured new innovations like a modified kickoff process and overtime format. It appears that Johnson will likewise bide his time when it comes to the league’s debut. The Guardians were locked in a three-way tie for first place in the XFL’s eastern conference at the end of the abbreviated return. Three New Yorkers currently reside on NFL practice squads. Offensive linemen Jarron Jones and Anthony Coyle are with the Pittsburgh Steelers while kicker Matthew McCrane recently joined the Cleveland Browns. Praise was bestowed toward the league’s game presentation, where sideline reporters from the networks of ESPN and Fox Sports would interview players and coaches while the game was ongoing.

Johnson, who is currently filming the action-comedy film Red Notice for Netflix alongside Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, has hinted that the league’s eight teams, including the Guardians, will return for the new edition. The XFL was the latest league to test the usually murky waters of alternative professional football. Other recent attempts include the Alliance of American Football (which folded in the midst of its only season in 2019) and the United Football League (which ran sporadically for four seasons).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC Head Dana White Urges The Rock To Get XFL Moving Again

Sports this year has been heavily disrupted by COVID-19, and we’re in the middle of some interesting results from that.

The future of the XFL isn’t entirely certain after the league was forced to suspend its season due to the virus, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for it as it’s supposedly getting bought out of bankruptcy by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Johnson is part of a team buying the league for only 15 million. It’s a relatively cheap price considering the value of more established leagues. But it remains to be seen how The Rock will actually handle his newfound position.

Dana White’s idea for the league

UFC executive Dana White is outspoken on a lot of things, and apparently, the XFL is one of them. While talking to TMZ Sports, he offered some advice to Johnson for running the league. His main idea? Get things moving again soon, and take advantage of the lull in other sports.

“If I was The Rock, I would try to get that rolling as fast as I could. I’d try to get that on television ASAP. I guarantee you there’s a ton of networks that would do it,” White said enthusiastically.

He continued by saying that the XFL could take attention away from leagues whose athletes don’t want to play. That’s increasingly a concern in the NFL, which is on shaky ground as far as its handling of the current pandemic. Multiple players have already opted out of the season on the Giants, and other players around the league have joined in opting out.

“Don’t be surprised if The Rock slides right into that slot with some great programming. ‘Cause let me tell you what, people are dying to watch live sports right now,” White stated. His own league, the UFC, has continued to operate through the pandemic. It’s gone relatively well so far, even with some matchups needing changes because of it, and the loss of ticket sales from fans attending the events.

White is willing to use his own experience on the subject to help out Johnson with the XFL.

“I’m actually gonna call him today and walk him through what I think he needs to do on the COVID side of this thing. And, I have some ideas for him.”

A plus for New York sports

Sports fans in the New York area should be happy about Johnson’s acquisition of the league. It means that the New York team in the XFL, the Guardians, has a chance to survive into the future. The Guardians had a winning record at the time of the season’s suspension, but obviously the continued existence of the team depends on having a league to play in.

It’s not clear what form the XFL will take in the future, and what new changes will happen, but it doesn’t look like the league is going to go away entirely.

The team has some Giants DNA with Kevin Gilbride serving as the first and current head coach, so there’s some reason for fans of the New York Giants to care about the fate of the Guardians. Also, the team shares a stadium with both the Jets and the Giants.

And with new ownership for the league, the Guardians might just be able to take the field again in a renewed XFL.

How XFL 3.0 can (finally) work in New York

Third time’s the charm? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new endeavor could bring the XFL back to the metropolitan area…again.

Fans of the prematurely axed XFL are loving the smell of what The Rock is cooking.

On Monday, Dwayne Johnson announced that he and businesswoman and film producer Dany Garcia have united with RedBird Capital LLC to purchase the XFL, the football brainchild of WWE chairman Vince McMahon. Johnson, a WWE wrestler, and star of several blockbuster films and franchises, is set to oversee the third attempt of the star-crossed league. He made several guest appearances during the league’s first, professional wrestling-styled incarnation that ran for a single season in 2001.

McMahon later revived the league, aiming for a more traditional football experience. The reboot’s 12-week season kicked off in February but was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bankruptcy and employee layoffs followed, and Johnson, Garcia, and their partners made their $15 million purchase shortly before a bankruptcy auction was set to be held.

With gratitude & passion, I’ve built a career with my own two hands and will apply these callouses to our (XFL) brand,” Johnson said in a statement on Twitter. “Excited to create something special for the fans!”

The more recent attempt at the XFL had little in common with the previous incarnation, though a franchise in the New York City metropolitan area was rare middle ground in the Venn diagram. East Rutherford, NJ has played host to both versions, with the New York/New Jersey Hitmen at Giants Stadium in 2001 and the New York Guardians residing at MetLife Stadium for two games. The fate of the XFL’s eight active teams is ambiguous, but it stands to reason that Johnson’s version would also include New York in the proceedings, either through the Guardians or a replacement.

How can the XFL and New York survive in yet another relationship? ESM investigates…

Red Bulls Give You Wings

It’s fair to say that the cathedrals of New York football are disappearing. Giants Stadium stood for over three decades, hosting the Giants, Jets, and plenty of startups in between (i.e. the Hitmen, the New Jersey Generals, the New York Sentinels). Fallen baseball locales in The Bronx and Queens likewise hosted the NFL. Giants, Jets, and their garish recent ledgers aside, the biggest football event in the metropolitan area would probably be the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. It’s safe to say that the annual matchup between mid-tier invitees from the ACC and Big Ten pales in comparison to the games hosted at its predecessor, which often hosted games of utmost national importance.

The Guardians were the first non-NFL team to call MetLife Stadium home. Setting up headquarters on Route 3 was understandable. It’s the New York area’s current hub of pigskin activity. But side effects included the optics of a mostly empty stadium. The last XFL incarnation drew its share of fans, but backdrops of empty seats are never ideal, even by necessity (which is why you see modern MLB games play with cardboard cutouts. That’s why any potential metropolitan reboot of XFL football should stay in North Jersey but migrate to Harrison.

Red Bull Arena has played host to the titular New York Red Bulls of MLS since 2010 and was set to welcome the NWSL’s Sky Blue FC this year before their season was shortened to a Utah-based tournament earlier this summer. The stadium has earned mostly positive reviews from MLS supporters and media. In a 2018 ranking of the league’s stadiums (then numbered at 21), Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian placed RBA in sixth place, remarking that there “is no bad view in the house and the proximity to the field creates an amazing experience for fans in the lower bowl”. A report from Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal indicated that the Guardians were looking into playing at RBA in 2021, though sources with the team denied this was the case while the season was ongoing.

The perfect case study for a different kind of football in Harrison comes in the case of the DC Defenders. Though several larger outdoor venues were available in the capital area, the Defenders played their home games at Audi Field, the newly formed home of the D.C. United soccer club.  The Defenders were able to create a decent homefield advantage in the confined settings of about 20,000, earning one of the most loyal fan followings in the XFL, perhaps evidenced by the massive “beer snake” created during their final showing in March. New York can create a similar advantage in the more confined settings out in Harrison.

Jersey Core

One thing that could truly make this potential incarnation of New York XFL football standout is perhaps focusing on a new aspect of the metropolitan area: New Jersey. If one were to simply say “New York”, you’re presented with a plethora of teams, several of whom (including the two football teams that bear the title) play in the Garden, not Empire, State.

Embracing the team’s Jersey roots, should they make a return to play, would truly work in the XFL’s favor and help them work the best of both worlds: they could make an impact in an essential media market while also standing out in cramped sports scene. A “New York” squad not only had to compete with their NFL counterparts but also the ongoing seasons of the area’s NBA and NHL squads. Meanwhile, only one Jersey-branded remains in the four major sports, the struggling Devils of the NHL. It’s perhaps a small thing, but could a long way in terms of marketing and outreach. The Alliance of American Football appeared to have the right idea, particularly in the form of the San Antonio Commanders and Orlando Apollos. The short-lived league saw was able to situate two of their most successful teams in well-populated states that adore football and were packed to the brim with NFL squads (Texas and Florida).

The state has previously produced some of the more popular and successful attempts at alternate professional football. Antics of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals are still fondly spoken of to this day (the exploits of owner and future U.S. President Donald Trump notwithstanding). Former Giants Joe Morris, Harry Carson, and Carl Banks oversaw the New Jersey Red Dogs at the height of the Arena Football League’s popularity at the turn of the century.

Dwayne Johnson
(Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Don’t Be Afraid to Think Beyond the Metropolitan Box and Embrace the Fun

One thing the powers that be at the new XFL tried to do was try to establish some local connections among the new personnel. The Guardians, for example, made longtime Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride their head coach. The Dallas Renegades went with a coach known for his victories in the area, former Oklahoma boss Bob Stoops.

But if another metropolitan squad wants to give hope to its pigskin faithful, they should focus more on building a winning team instead of turning things into a local tribute band.

At the same time, the New York XFL squad should certainly embrace the inherent sense of fun when it comes to spring football. Their predecessors in alternate professional pigskin certainly knew how to do so. This doesn’t mean you have to try and “poach” elite talent from the NFL, but the door is certainly open to hiring some new, interesting talents that can build a winning football team. If you want to truly start fresh, perhaps we could see yet another new name in New York football.

With a man like Johnson at the helm…New Jersey Scorpions, anyone?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Dwayne Johnson reportedly partners with investor group to buy the XFL

Dwayne Johnson

The future of the XFL is trending in the right direction, as Hollywood superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has reportedly teamed up with the investment firm RedBird Capital Partners to purchase the football league for $15 million, according to a news release issued Monday morning.

Vince McMahon’s football league was off to a solid start early in 2020, averaging nearly 2 million TV viewers per game and $20 million in gross revenues, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut down the league five weeks in. The XFL then had to let go of nearly its entire workforce on April 10 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 13. This isn’t the first time the XFL was forced to shut down, as the league’s initial launch suffered the same fate back in 2001. However, McMahon was determined to get this league going and invested $200 million in its revival back in 2018, and it probably would’ve lasted had the pandemic not come around.

This new deal has to be approved in bankruptcy court on Friday, but if all goes well, it could be finalized before the end of August. According to reports, The Rock and Dany Garcia, who is his business partner and ex-wife, and RedBird Capital Partners, led by Gerry Cardinale, are expected to be 50/50 partners in the deal.

This is a testament to how difficult it has been for alternative football leagues to survive, as the AAF (Alliance of American Football) league also didn’t make it through one season in 2019.

The XFL was supposed to hit the auction block on Monday, but The Rock and his partners were able to get a deal done before then. It is unclear when the new owners plan to relaunch the league, as the pandemic has made things difficult for sports leagues. So far, the NBA and NHL seem to be having the most success with their bubble format, so that seems to make the most sense for the XFL. Here is what The Rock had to say about the plans for his new purchase:

The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things — my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans. With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.

The Rock played Division I college football for the University of Miami for four years and then became a global pro wrestling legend in McMahon’s WWE. Since he retired from his wrestling career, he has become one of the biggest and most successful actors in Hollywood.

New York Giants Sign Former XFL Defensive Back Dravon Askew-Henry

New York Giants, Dravon Aksew-Henry

The New York Giants are signing former XFL defensive back Dravon Askew-Henry. Askew-Henry was most recently with the New York Guardians, prior to the new football league suspending operations and filing for bankruptcy.

The XFL shutting down left a large sum of employees jobless. Until today, Dravon Askew-Henry was one of those left jobless by the XFL’s bankruptcy. Now, the 24-year-old defensive back from West Virginia University is signing with the New York Giants.

Dravon Askew-Henry Stats And Highlights

Dravon Askew-Henry, a former New York Guardian, is being added to the Giants’ youthful secondary. New York has invested plenty of assets and draft capital into their secondary in recent years. Askew-Henry is the latest addition.

With the sports world being halted by the world pandemic coronavirus, NFL teams are unable to administer medical tests to free agents. So even though the Giants and Askew-Henry have come to an agreement, the transaction is contingent upon Askew-Henry passing a physical when travel restrictions are lifted.

Dravon Askew-Henry played in four games for the New York Guardians this season. In those games, he totaled 12 combined tackles. Askew-Henry stands in at 5-11 and weighs 187 pounds. This will not be Dravon’s first stint with an NFL team.

Askew-Henry went undrafted in 2019, despite impressive performance at the collegiate level. With West Virginia, Dravon started 51 games in four seasons, totaling 215 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 10 passes defended. Dravon Askew-Henry was later signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent.

Now, a year later, Dravon has signed with the New York Giants. He will be brought in as a solid depth piece in the secondary. He is a safety but could potentially slide in at slot cornerback, one of New York’s weakest positions. This is a quality, out-of-the-box signing by Dave Gettleman and the Giants. Dravon Askew-Henry is a low risk, high reward player that could compete for a starting role on the defense.

The XFL was working and will be missed

Comparisons between the XFL and other football failures like its 2001 version and the AAF are misguided. The league was serving a purpose.

There appear to be four certainties in life…death, taxes, Giants-Cowboys on Sunday night, and spring football failing to last.

The XFL, a reboot of the 2001 league of the same name, more or less called it quits on Friday. Its 2020 season had already been called off to the COVID-19 pandemic but the cancellation statement expressed hope to return next year. That possibility was seemingly brought down by Friday’s proceedings, which laid off nearly all of the league’s employees.

Such an announcement immediately prompted endless waves of jokes and comparisons to the campy 2001 attempt and other short-lived football leagues like the Alliance of American Football. Some noted that even the horribly mismanaged AAF made it to eight weeks of action. Others unleashed waves of memes and cries of “I told you so” and prayed there would be no further attempt at spring football, which never really gained long-term traction outside of the World Football League/NFL Europe. Even the niche brand Arena Football League finally bid farewell in November after years of financial difficulties.

But, make no mistake. The XFL had a purpose. Its impact can even be traced beyond the players that have found new jobs in the NFL. Even disregarding the fact that it took a global pandemic to shut the new XFL down, the league did something other the other failed attempts at football didn’t: it made us think.

Much like the AAF, the XFL’s biggest problem was not, as commonly believed when it comes to spring leagues, a lack of viewers. While things were trending downward, they were still numbers hovering the seven-digit range. Viewers love to complain about ideas like Thursday Night Football and the Pro Bowl, but these events continue to be staged because there’s no denying the stranglehold football has on our imaginations. The XFL invited viewers to give into that grip, while at the same time, introducing and encouraging an open mind toward ideas and that made the experience even more enjoyable.

Subsequent new attempts at football have tried to bill itself as an NFL alternative, creating gimmicks for gimmicks’ sake. The old XFL, for example, tried to get by solely on shock value, glorifying big hits, shady wrestling-inspired kayfabe, and outright debauchery. It introduced concepts that would never sniff the NFL, like an opening coin toss replaced by “the scramble“. As any horror movie franchise will tell you, the concept of shock value can only get you so far before people tire of it. The AAF might’ve close to being the thinking fan’s spring football league, but its laughable financial strategies perhaps ensured that it was never going to have a lasting impact.

New York Guardians
Feb 23, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; The St. Louis Battlehawks square off against the NY Guardians during the second half of an XFL game at The Dome at America’s Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

XFL brass, however, had firm strategies, ones that took, again, a global pandemic to overrule. The powers that be ensured that games would appear on major networks, including the main networks of ABC and Fox. Vince McMahon sold off $270 million of WWE stock to fund the league (the pandemic closing off all additional revenue sources).

In essence, the XFL was set up for the relative long-term. Would we be preparing for an XFL season in 2030? That probably would’ve been a stretch, but the league was able to build a legacy in a short amount of time. A combination of the population’s appetite for football and just enough rage against the NFL machine was enough to ensure that.

Instead of trying to steer fans away from the NFL, however, the XFL operated on a mantra of “For the Love of Football”. Comparisons were mostly unwelcome. Instead, it was a fun little attempt to carry on gridiron antics after the Super Bowl, to keep the momentum going. It was all about enjoying football for a few more weeks, if you were into that sort of thing.

The XFL’s lasting trait will be its transparency. AAF replay reviews got the ball rolling in that regard, but the XFL took it several steps further. It retained the live look-ins into the replay booth while also putting reporters on the sidelines for instant analysis from the playmakers. Interviewers were on the scene immediately after big plays both good and bad. It led to some awkward situations, like the Los Angeles Wildcats’ defense cursing up a storm after being asked not to by ESPN’s Molly McGrath. The league was perhaps never going to get by name-brand recognition (though several players, like quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu, gained cult followings), but there’s no denying that the average television consumer will grow attached to someone on TV. They’ll root for their redemption or hope they fall in a sense of schadenfreude. Of course, adjustments may have to be made…interviewing the kicker who literally just missed a field goal could be a bad idea…but a step toward transparency makes for a more enjoyable game experience.

Wherever their rooting preferences were, the transparency was a stark contrast to the almost secretive operations of the NFL. Time will tell if some of the transparency innovations are adopted by football or other leagues. But when it came to getting fans involved in the game, the XFL was on the fast track to doing it best.

Other league legacies could lie in innovations that could keep the game safer and faster. While the AAF did away with kickoffs entirely, the XFL kept them in an attempt to make them safer. Rather than running starts creating the potential for devastating collisions, this system lined up competitors at five yards apart, with only the kicker and returner allowed to move in “lonely island”-like settings. Thus, the two vocal groups of football fans were satisfied: the purist who wants the kickoffs to stay and those who advocate for a safer game.

Rob Manfred, perhaps, would enjoy the idea of the XFL’s unseen overtime system, one designed to be done in a timely fashion. All 20 games of the new XFL’s tenure ended in regulation, denying the concept of their “shootout-style” overtime. Again, almost all groups of football fans would be satisfied in the sweetest of compromises: both teams would get a chance with the ball while the emphasis of a defensive stop remains intact.

Of course, the XFL wasn’t perfect. Typical pratfalls of spring football were surely on display, primarily a rollercoaster of quality play. But it was a thinking man’s spring league, a league that made far more of an impact than its “extreme” predecessor. We may never truly know how high the XFL was destined to fly. But to compare to the abject failures that came before is unnecessary at best and crass at worst.

A team of those who knew the game, led by commissioner Oliver Luck, had things going in the right direction. In a time period dominated by the exploits of basketball and hockey, we were talking about gridiron antics. It’s possible we’ll continue to do so as we try to inch back toward normalcy. Perhaps when there’s no spring football to fill the void. The XFL showed it could be done in a matter that was not condescending and could play a role in the sports spectrum beyond it’s February through April time period.

Not bad when you remember it was made simply for the fun of it…or for the love of football.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

XFL suspends operations, lays off employees

Despite initial plans to return for a second season in 2021, the XFL’s second attempt at spring football has suspended operations.

It comes under completely different circumstances, but the second attempt at XFL football appears to be destined for the same fate as the first.

The league has reportedly suspended operations and has laid off almost the entirety of its team and league employees. XFL officials informed employees in a conference call hosted by Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Pollack.

XFL social media manager Bailey Carlin confirmed the departures in a series of tweets. Under Carlin’s watch, the XFL Twitter account reached nearly 400,000 followers. Carlin kept his good spirits, posting a self-deprecating meme from the television series The Office. 

This crushing blow comes just over a month after the XFL halted regular season games in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league canceled the remainder of the season (which had played five of its ten regular season games and was set for a four-team postseason) shortly after but was committed to returning in 2021. Players from the XFL’s eight teams were allowed to sign with NFL and CFL squads shortly after the cancellation.

Thus likely ends the era of the rebooted XFL, nearly two decades after another league under the same moniker lasted a single (full) season in 2001. This new XFL was similar in name only, eschewing the campy kayfabe techniques inspired by its World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) overseers. The new league nonetheless introduced several in-game innovations focused on pace of play and a sense of fun. For example, a tiered point-after-touchdown system allowed teams to score as many as nine points on offensive possessions. The league also showcased a shootout-style overtime system that never came to fruition (all games ended in regulation).

Oliver Luck served as the commissioner of the new XFL, whose resurrection was overseen by Vince McMahon. This marks the second year in a row that a spring football league has met an early demise, though the XFL was hardly at fault. The Alliance of American Football shutdown in April 2019 and later filed for bankruptcy.

On a local level, the New York Guardians likely end their brief history with a 3-2 record, good for a three-way tie for first in the XFL’s East division. The team played their home games at MetLife Stadium. New York won each of their two games in East Rutherford, the latter being a 17-14 triumph over the Los Angeles Wildcats on February 29. Los Angeles and New York were the only were two markets retained from the XFL’s original version. Back then, the New York/New Jersey Hitmen went 4-6 and played their home games at Giants Stadium.

Several Guardians have already found new homes in the NFL. Cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry was added by the Guardians’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants (the New York Giants), while offensive lineman Jarron Jones and defensive lineman Cavon Walker were each signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Walker led the XFL in sacks with 4.5.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

Top 5 XFL New York Guardians players from last season

New York Guardians

The XFL New York Guardians had a lot of ups and down in their five games played in the 2020 season. They had a mix of good and bad players during the season, which impacted the outcome of the games they played. Here are the top 5 Guardians’ players this season that made a positive impact:

5. RB Darius Victor

Victor, at first, struggled to get the Guardians running game going, as he rushed merely under 50 yards the first two games. In the next three games, he boosted the backfield as the lead running back and helped the running game achieve over 100 yards per game. Victor finished the season fifth in the league in rushing yards with 238. Although he never scored a touchdown, his boost at the end of the season will be something the Guardians and their fans will look forward to next season.

4. K Matt McCrane

This man was not recognized well enough for what he did on the field for the Guardians. When the offense (most of the time under Matt McGloin) struggled to get to the end zone, McKrane saved their bottoms and put three points through the goal post. His field goal made the difference in the game vs. the LA Wildcats. He was 8 for 8 with field goals on the season, which was 5th in the league. If this were the NFL, he would have likely made a Pro Bowl. 

3. WR Colby Pearson

Colby Pearson was ultimately the number one target for the Guardians last season. Most people expected Mekale McKay to be the number one target, knowing how successful he was in the AAF with the San Antonio Commanders. However, many would say McKay underachieved and Pearson took the spotlight. 

Pearson caught 16 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. One of them was the remarkable 80-yard pass from Luis Perez against the Renegades that likely sealed the game. With more games next season, it will be interesting to see if Pearson could thrive more as the Guardians’ number one target.

2. QB Luis Perez

Before taking over for the Guardians in Week 3 for the injured Matt McGloin, we knew what Luis Perez was capable of outside of the NFL. Perez did well for the Birmingham Iron of the AAF before the league disbanded in April of 2019. The offense seemed to be bland when McGloin was the quarterback and the offense struggled to put points up on the board. With McGloin starting the team went 1-2. 

Once Perez started Week 4, Guardians’ fans had playoff hopes again, as Perez would lead the team to two more wins before the close of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Perez in three games (two started) tossed three touchdowns, 418 yards, one interception and finished 6th in completion percentage (62%) in the league. If the league would have gone on, it was best to say that Perez would have been the starter through the remainder of the season.

1. DT Cavon Walker

This player had a major role in Jim Hermann’s defense and is arguably the team’s best player from 2020. The team’s secondary drowned in a lot of games, giving up most of the yards in the passing game. But when the secondary covered well, you often saw Cavon Walker force pressure or get a sack. Walker led the league at the end of five games with 4.5 sacks. Unfortunately, the Guardians won’t see him next season, as he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of weeks ago.

Alex is on Instagram (@alexgajovich) and Twitter (@AlexProtich)

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