The fletching Allegiance of American Football debuted this weekend and reviews amongst the WTP crowd were mixed:
I love this league!!! @TheAAF
— Todd Serbent (@TSerbent) February 10, 2019
People are really trying to force the AAF and try to make It cool when It kinda just… sucks lol
— Vinny Bonaccorso (@VinBonaccorso) February 10, 2019
That’s pretty much as wide a range as you’re going to find. Credit to Vinny though, because he toughed it out and watched every second of the action. And there was plenty of action to watch. We saw everything you could possibly want in a football game; huge hits, acrobatic catches, and terrible QB play. Below, you what stood out most amongst the action.
The Broadcasts: CBS did a great job with their broadcast teams. Keeping steady, veteran presences such as Kurt Warner and Tiki Barber kept the broadcasts on track while getting fresh insights from the like of Marvin Lewis, Maurice Jones-Drew, and others. The broadcast had the feel of a professional football game rather than a sideshow. The AAF’s commitment to transparency also boosted the broadcast, via unparalleled insight into the replay procedure. Honestly, the NFL needs to adopt this immediately. Having the replay official verbally walk us through the decision fosters a feeling of understanding, even when a call goes against us.
How poetic is it that the very first touchdown of the AAF league came via the league’s review system using common sense in ways the NFL does not because of their own rules pic.twitter.com/lKaLplSNHg
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 10, 2019
The Pace of Play: A major point of emphasis for this league was to cut game times by eliminated wasted time. There were no commercial breaks at every timeout or score. The play clock was cut to 35 seconds instead of 40. Both seem like minuscule changes, but the result was noticeable. Official game times have not been made public, but as a fan, the games felt quicker.
The Defenses: One major theme throughout the weekend was the defenses being ahead of the offenses. Three teams didn’t even manage to score a touchdown against these defenses. Orlando LB Terrence Garvin was the best of the bunch, with 11 tackles and 2 INTs. Garvin was so good, the media for at least three NFL teams claimed him as their own.
The defenses were consistently breaking through the offensive line and causing all sorts of havoc for the offense. In some cases, the results were decapitating.
— Todd Serbent (@TSerbent) February 10, 2019
Quarterbacks Garrett Gilbert and John Wolford: These two were by far the best at the position this week. Gilbert was 15/25 for 227 yards, 2 TDs, a 2-point conversion, and also caught a 5-yard score on an “Orlando Special”.
From the Voice of the Apollos @jamieseh the “Orlando Special” 🔥
— Orlando Apollos (@aafAPOLLOS) February 11, 2019
Arizona QB John Wolford would not be outdone though, going 18/29 for 275 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 2-point conversions. Each QB stood head and shoulders above the rest despite receiving little buzz heading into the weekend as names such as Aaron Murray, Matt Simms, and Christian Hackenberg dominated headlines.
Bad NFL Players: Speaking of Christian Hackenberg, remember how bad he was in the NFL? He was even worse in the AAF, which was the best possible case scenario for the league. Had Hackenberg stepped in and dominated for the Memphis Express, the attention would have been put on how poor the quality of play is in the league. Instead, Hackenberg got knocked around to the tune of 10/23 for 83 yards and a pick.
Hackenberg wasn’t the only other former NFL Bust to struggle in the AAF. Birmingham RB Trent Richardson averaged 2.5 yards/carry despite 2 touchdowns. Salt Lake RB Matt Asiata managed only 4 yards on 4 carries, which is certifiably horrible. Instead, it was the guys who never had a fair chance in the NFL that stood out such as Gilbert and Wolford.
Quarterback Consistency: Every single game this weekend featured a backup QB. Atlanta benched Matt Simms in favor of Aaron Murray. San Diego Benched Mike Bercovici in favor of Philip Nelson. Memphis benched Hackenberg in favor of Brandon Silvers. Matt Linehan replaced the injured Josh Woodrum for Salt Lake City. That’s not an ideal scenario for a league where the “Haves” outshined the “Have Nots” at QB in every single game. Wolford and Gilbert are likely the only QBs that will get calls from NFL teams this offseason. Woodrum, San Antonio QB Logan Woodside, and Birmingham QB Louis Perez were all solid enough for their respective teams, but aren’t going to carry the squads any time soon. Bercovici, Simms, and Hackenberg were downright terrible. The league will need an upgrade under center if it wants to survive.
The Website: The AAF boasts about being a tech-based league, but so far the technology has been underwhelming. The only functions the website serves is to live-stream and give “Live Data” in the form of helmets sliding across the screen. The live-streams were glitchy at times and frequently timed-out. The website has nowhere to check stats in real time. Individual stats from Sundays games are still not out as of Monday night. (If you want boxscores I recommend noextrapoints.com). When stats are finally posted, they come in the form of grainy screenshots of whatever database the league is using. I’m sure the live data will turn into something impressive in the future, but you have to nail the basics first. That means to date box scores, scoring summaries, and functional live-streams.
The App: Somehow, the app was more useless than the website. Live-streams worked a bit better on mobile, but still encountered issues. The predictive stats the league brags about were nowhere in sight. The promise of enhanced fantasy and live betting was left unfulfilled. The only feature the app had was a game where users can guess the next play. Unsurprisingly, it also didn’t work. AAF’s IT department needs to get it’s shit together ahead of what may be a make-or-break week 2.
All in all the league was as advertised. Nobody was expecting NFL football out there, but the level of play was pretty clearly between college and pro. It’s watchable football in the early spring, which is all we can really ask for.