To cleanse the palate, the short version of the rules is here and the much longer version is here but you’re better off carving out five minutes to watch the nifty visualizations below that the league put together.
I need to think on them further but offhand I’m inclined to say that at least three of the five are improvements on the NFL rules. The kickoff and punt rules are aimed at discouraging touchbacks and fair catches, which is all to the good. More actual returns means more excitement. (They’ve also tweaked the rules to make it less physically dangerous for receivers to return the ball.) I like giving teams one-point, two-point, and three-point PAT options after touchdowns too to make comebacks more feasible. It feels gimmicky on first sight, but so did the three-pointer in the NBA initially, I’m sure. They’ve eliminated the one-point PAT kick, another nod to making the game more exciting and faster-paced by culling tedious plays, forcing teams to run a play from scrimmage near the goal line instead. Although it feels like a bit of a cheat to award only one point for scoring from the two-yard line when in the NFL that’s worth two.
The double forward pass rule sounds amazing at first — until you read the fine print and realize that the first pass needs to be to a receiver behind the line of scrimmage, not past it. (Imagine throwing a 15-yard completion to a receiver who then turns around and tosses a 30-yarder to a teammate racing down the sideline.) In reality it’ll function like a lateral, except the receiver will be a few yards in front of the QB instead of a yard or two behind him. Laterals might actually work better since tossing the ball to a player who’s behind the quarterback will buy that guy an extra second or two to find a receiver downfield. Try catching a pass just short of the line of scrimmage and then having to complete a pass of your own with defenders swarming all around you to make the tackle.
So that one’s sort of a wash.
Most of the arguments to come will have to do with the overtime rules. The eternal debate with NFL overtime is whether regular game play with the added quirk of sudden death is sufficiently dramatic to atone for the potential unfairness of one team losing without ever having the ball in OT. The XFL chose to do away with regular game play entirely and follow soccer’s lead by opting for the football equivalent of penalty kicks instead. Each team gets five possessions here from the five-yard line; the side with the most scores after those five possessions are over wins. It’s … interesting, but I strongly prefer settling games by continuing regular game play since only regular play involves all of the skills that define excellence in the sport. (Soccer matches should continue indefinitely until someone scores, with unlimited substitutions to spell tired players.) The XFL scheme sort of does that since it pits each team’s offense and defense against each other in the red zone. But it doesn’t require either to put together a drive. And I think starting each possession from the five will favor offenses that rely more heavily on passing.
But you might be able to sell me on it. The NFL scenario in which a team receives the kick to open overtime, has a nice runback, and makes one big play to set them up for a touchdown is an unsatisfying way to see the game end. Not a ton of skills on display in a short sequence like that, after all. I think I’d prefer a rule in which the teams play on in OT in regular fashion, alternating possessions until one team scores and the other doesn’t. If the team that receives the kick scores a TD, the other team gets the ball and has to match. No gimmicky shootout stuff from the five-yard line. Drive the length of the field and prove you can play.
Exit question: How exciting will it be when Kaepernick connects with Antonio Brown for a three-point PAT in the XFL Bowl?