The XFL had a solid start its first week on television, and while it still has a way to go before it's pulling in NFL ratings, fans seem to be interested in the league's various changes to football. Meanwhile, coaches are adapting, and some were a little floored after watching Week 1 when they realized how much of their sideline chatter was going out on the airwaves.
Granted, it wasn't like any of these coaches were swearing or anything, but they were calling plays that, ideally, they'd continue to call all season. Now, with those plays and their execution being broadcast to the masses, they're out there for the world as well as their competitors to see, and those competitors can now have a better understanding of their opponent's play-calling. Seattle Dragons coach Jim Zorn told The Seattle Times he understood the appeal of giving viewers a better understanding of the game, but didn't seem to be a big fan of it overall.
I think it gave a fan a chance to hear and see something they’ve never heard before, but I felt very exposed. Information on a football team has to be guarded a little bit, so we just got it right out there. I know it had to be fun for everybody, but not super fun for me to reveal all that stuff. But I was glad I didn’t stutter or fumble the play calls.
As XFL viewers may have heard, there's a lot of code language used in play-calling. Unfortunately, that code's effectiveness for some is less useful now as an opponent can see the play executed and cross examine other plays to decipher another team's play-calling. It creates an unfair advantage, and sets up the teams that have had their plays exposed on television for potentially disastrous results should they try to run them again.
Per D.C. Defenders' coach Pep Hamilton's conversation with NBC Sports Washington, the XFL coaches weren't necessarily aware just how much broadcast teams could be listening in. After watching the game, he's making some adjustments to what his team will be doing, and may be hoping for just a little less mic time going forward.
I've been up overnight trying to change some of the calls. I think everybody in D.C. knows by now that 'even' is [running] to the right and 'odd' is to the left. So 3.3 million people know whether we're running to the right or running to the left. We knew that would be a factor, but not until I watched the broadcast late [Sunday] night where I said, 'Oh, man. We got to do something different.'
The level of sideline access in the XFL is unprecedented in professional football, and one won't hear a coach's detailed play-calling nearly as much if at all in collegiate or NFL games. This might be why the coaches were shocked by just how much and how often it happened during the first week of games, and why they may make changes to their plays going forward. Who knows? Perhaps the XFL will tighten the reins just a bit on this element going forward just for the sake of fairness and to prevent stuff that ultimately hurts the product and leads to the league folding.
The XFL season is only just getting started, with games beginning again Saturday, February 15 at 2:00 p.m. ET and on Sunday, February 16 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Continue to stick with CinemaBlend for more on television in 2020, and for a look at what's happening in movies as well.